Print
Category: Buddhism and Science
Hits: 5401

 

 

Remebering that in Italy will be a Tummo retreat and his master geshe

gelek was one of the Monks that partecipated to experiment of benson

in Normady I post these scientific article

___________________________________________________________________

Tumo

Tumo (also spelled Tummo, or Tum-mo ) is a Tibetan term for a type of

contemplative practice that causes an intense sensation of body heat

to arise. It is one of the six yogas of Naropa. Stories and

eyewitness accounts abound of yogi practitioners being able to

generate sufficient heat to dry wet sheets draped around their naked

bodies while sitting outside in the freezing cold, not just once, but

multiple times. These observations have also been discussed in

medical studies (Ding-E Young and Taylor, 1998).

 

One of the most famous practioners of tumo was perhaps the Tibetan

Buddhist saint, Milarepa[1]. The biography of Milarepa is one of the

most popular among the Tibetan people (Evans-Wentz, 2001). Modern

western witnesses of this practice include the adventurer Alexandra

David-Neel (David-Neel, 1971), and Lama Anagarika Govinda (Govinda,

1988).

 

While the practice could be said to have some practical benefit in

the frigid climate of Tibet, it cannot be said to be cultivated

merely for the sake of keeping warm, but is rather a side-effect of a

religiously oriented intensive meditation practice, and is understood

to be the outward manifestation of an inward state of religious

ecstasy or divine union. Similar experiences of a mystic fire have

also been described among practitioners of other contemplative paths,

such as the Sufi Irina Tweedie, and among practitioners of Kundalini

Yoga.

 

An attempt to study the physiological effects of tumo has been made

by Benson and colleagues (Benson et.al, 1982; Cromie, 2002) who

studied practitioners in the Himalayas and in India in the 1980s. In

the first experiment, in Upper Dharamsala (India), Benson et.al

(1982) found that these subjects exhibited the capacity to increase

the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 8.3°C. In the

most recent experiment, which was conducted in Normandy (France), two

monks from the Buddhist tradition wore sensors that recorded changes

in heat production and metabolism (Cromie, 2002).

 

______________________________________________________________________

_________________

HARVARD GAZETTE ARCHIVES

 

 

Meditation changes temperatures:

Mind controls body in extreme experiments

By William J. Cromie

Gazette Staff

 

In a monastery in northern India, thinly clad Tibetan monks sat

quietly in a room where the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees

Fahrenheit. Using a yoga technique known as g Tum-mo, they entered a

state of deep meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in

cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators'

shoulders. For untrained people, such frigid wrappings would produce

uncontrolled shivering.

 

If body temperatures continue to drop under these conditions, death

can result. But it was not long before steam began rising from the

sheets. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during

meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour.

 

Attendants removed the sheets, then covered the meditators with a

second chilled, wet wrapping. Each monk was required to dry three

sheets over a period of several hours.

 

Why would anyone do this? Herbert Benson, who has been studying g Tum-

mo for 20 years, answers that "Buddhists feel the reality we live in

is not the ultimate one. There's another reality we can tap into

that's unaffected by our emotions, by our everyday world. Buddhists

believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for others

and by meditation. The heat they generate during the process is just

a by-product of g Tum-mo meditation."

 

Benson is an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical

School and president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Beth

Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He firmly believes that

studying advanced forms of meditation "can uncover capacities that

will help us to better treat stress-related illnesses."

 

Benson developed the "relaxation response," which he describes as "a

physiological state opposite to stress." It is characterized by

decreases in metabolism, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood

pressure. He and others have amassed evidence that it can help those

suffering from illnesses caused or exacerbated by stress. Benson and

colleagues use it to treat anxiety, mild and moderate depression,

high blood pressure, heartbeat irregularities, excessive anger,

insomnia, and even infertility. His team also uses this type of

simple meditation to calm those who have been traumatized by the

deaths of others, or by diagnoses of cancer or other painful, life-

threatening illnesses.

 

"More than 60 percent of visits to physicians in the United States

are due to stress-related problems, most of which are poorly treated

by drugs, surgery, or other medical procedures," Benson maintains.

 

The Mind/Body Medical Institute is now training people to use the

relaxation response to help people working at Ground Zero in New York

City, where two airplanes toppled the World Trade Center Towers last

Sept. 11. Facilities have been set up at nearby St. Paul's Chapel to

aid people still working on clearing wreckage and bodies. Anyone else

who feels stressed by those terrible events can also obtain help at

the chapel. "We are training the trainers who work there," Benson

says.

 

The relaxation response involves repeating a word, sound, phrase, or

short prayer while disregarding intrusive thoughts. "If such an easy-

to-master practice can bring about the remarkable changes we

observe," Benson notes. "I want to investigate what advanced forms of

meditation can do to help the mind control physical processes once

thought to be uncontrollable."

 

Breathtaking results

Some Westerners practice g Tum-mo, but it often takes years to reach

states like those achieved by Buddhist monks. In trying to find

groups he could study, Benson met Westerners who claimed to have

mastered such advanced techniques, but who were, in his

words, "fraudulent."

 

Benson decided that he needed to locate a religious setting, where

advanced mediation is traditionally practiced. His opportunity came

in 1979 when the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, visited

Harvard University. "His Holiness agreed to help me," recalls Benson.

That visit was the beginning of a long friendship and several

expeditions to northern India where many Tibetan monks live in exile.

 

During visits to remote monasteries in the 1980s, Benson and his team

studied monks living in the Himalayan Mountains who could, by g Tum-

mo meditation, raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as

much as 17 degrees. It has yet to be determined how the monks are

able to generate such heat.

 

The researchers also made measurements on practitioners of other

forms of advanced meditation in Sikkim, India. They were astonished

to find that these monks could lower their metabolism by 64

percent. "It was an astounding, breathtaking [no pun intended]

result," Benson exclaims.

 

To put that decrease in perspective, metabolism, or oxygen

consumption, drops only 10-15 percent in sleep and about 17 percent

during simple meditation. Benson believes that such a capability

could be useful for space travel. Travelers might use meditation to

ease stress and oxygen consumption on long flights to other planets.

 

In 1985, the meditation team made a video of monks drying cold, wet

sheets with body heat. They also documented monks spending a winter

night on a rocky ledge 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas. The sleep-

out took place in February on the night of the winter full moon when

temperatures reached zero degrees F. Wearing only woolen or cotton

shawls, the monks promptly fell asleep on the rocky ledge, They did

not huddle together and the video shows no evidence of shivering.

They slept until dawn then walked back to their monastery.

 

Overcoming obstacles

Working in isolated monasteries in the foothills of the Himalayas

proved extremely difficult. Some religious leaders keep their

meditative procedures a closely guarded secret. Medical measuring

devices require electrical power and wall outlets are not always

available. In addition, trying to meditate while strangers attempt to

measure your rectal temperature is not something most monks are happy

to do.

 

To avoid these problems, Instructor in Psychology Sara Lazar, a

Benson colleague, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan

the brains of meditators at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The subjects were males, aged 22-45, who had practiced a form of

advanced mediation called Kundalini daily for at least four years. In

these experiments, the obstacles of cold and isolation were replaced

by the difficulties of trying to meditate in a cramped, noisy

machine. However, the results, published in the May 15, 2000, issue

of the journal NeuroReport, turned out to be significant.

 

 

Herbert Benson, who developed a simple relaxation technique to reduce

stress, enjoys a quiet moment at a placid stream near his office in

Boston. He directs a study of advanced meditation to uncover

capabilities that may help treat stress-related illnesses. (Staff

photo by Kris Snibbe)

 

"Lazar found a marked decrease in blood flow to the entire brain,"

Benson explains. "At the same time, certain areas of the brain became

more active, specifically those that control attention and autonomic

functions like blood pressure and metabolism. In short, she showed

the value of using this method to record changes in the brain's

activity during meditation."

 

The biggest obstruction in further studies, whether in India or

Boston, has always been money. Research proceeded slowly and

intermittently until February 2001, when Benson's team received a

$1.25 million grant from Loel Guinness, via the beer magnate's Kalpa

Foundation, established to study extraordinary human capacities.

 

The funds enabled researchers to bring three monks experienced in g

Tum-mo to a Guinness estate in Normandy, France, last July. The monks

then practiced for 100 days to reach their full meditative capacity.

An eye infection sidelined one of the monks, but the other two proved

able to dry frigid, wet sheets while wearing sensors that recorded

changes in heat production and metabolism.

 

Although the team obtained valuable data, Benson concludes that "the

room was not cold enough to do the tests properly." His team will try

again this coming winter with six monks. They will start practice in

late summer and should be ready during the coldest part of winter.

 

Benson feels sure these attempts to understand advanced mediation

will lead to better treatments for stress-related illnesses. "My

hope," he says, "is that self-care will stand equal with medical

drugs, surgery, and other therapies that are now used to alleviate

mental and physical suffering. Along with nutrition and exercise,

mind/body approaches can be part of self-care practices that could

save millions of dollars annually in medical costs."

 

Meditation... Here the heart/May give a useful lesson to the head. -

Cowper

 

 

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Body temperature changes during the practice of g Tum-mo yoga

 

 

Herbert Benson*, John W. Lehmann*, M. S. Malhotra†, Ralph F.

Goldman‡, Jeffrey Hopkins§ & Mark D. Epstein

 

 

*Division of Behavioral Medicine, Department of Medicine, Harvard

Medical School, Charles A. Dana Research Institute, Harvard Thorndike

Laboratory, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA

Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Patiala 147001, India

US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick,

Massachusetts 01760, USA

§Center for South Asian Studies, Cocke Hall, University of Virginia,

Charlottesville, Virginia 22903, USA

Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

 

 

Since meditative practices are associated with changes that are

consistent with decreased activity of the sympathetic nervous system1–

7, it is conceivable that measurable body temperature changes

accompany advanced meditative states. With the help of H.H. the Dalai

Lama, we have investigated such a possibility on three practitioners

of the advanced Tibetan Buddhist meditational practice known as g Tum-

mo (heat) yoga living in Upper Dharamsala, India. We report here that

in a study performed there in February 1981, we found that these

subjects exhibited the capacity to increase the temperature of their

fingers and toes by as much as 8.3°C.

 

 

 

References 1. Wallace, R. K., Benson, H. & Wilson, A. F. Am. J.

Physiol. 221, 795−799 (1971). | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

2. Wallace, R. K. & Benson, H. Scient. Am. 226, 84−90 (1972). | ISI |

3. Benson, H., Beary, J. F. & Carol, M. P. Psychiatry 37, 37−46

(1974). | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

4. Beary, J. F. & Benson, H. Psychosom. Med. 36, 115−120 (1974). |

PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

5. Benson, H., Steinert, R. F., Greenwood, M. M., Klemchuk, H. M. &

Peterson, N. H. J. hum. Stress 1, 37−44 (1975). | ChemPort |

6. Benson, H. The Relaxation Response (Collins, London, 1976).

7. Hoffman, J. W. et al. Science 215, 190−192 (1982). | PubMed | ISI

| ChemPort |

8. David-Neel, A. Magic and Mystery in Tibet, 227 (Dover, New York,

1932).

9. Maslack, C., Marshall, G. & Zimbardo, P. G. Psychophysiology 9,

600−605 (1972). | PubMed |

10. Roberts, A. H., Kewman, D. G. & MacDonald, H. J. abnorm. Psychol.

82, 163−168 (1973). | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

11. Newman, R. W. Am. ind. Hyg. Ass. J. 36, 610−617 (1975). | ISI |

ChemPort |

12. Lynch, W. C., Hama, H., Kohn, S. & Miller, N. E. Psychophysiology

13, 219−221 (1976). | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

13. Taub, E. & Emurian, C. S. Biofeedback Self-Regulation 1, 147−168

(1976). | ISI | ChemPort |

14. Jacobson, A. M., Manschreck, T. C. & Silverberg, E. Am. J.

Psychiat. 136, 844−846 (1979). | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |

15. Hatfield, J. A. Lancet ii, 68−69 (1917).

16. Jevning, R., Wilson, A. F., Smith, W. R. & Morton, M. E. Am. J.