Research shows that the bodies of Buddhist monks decompose very slowly after death

Research shows that the bodies of Buddhist monks decompose very slowly after death
Research shows that the bodies of Buddhist monks decompose very slowly after death
Anonim

It is believed that one of the most remarkable effects of lifelong meditation may be the relatively slow aging process of the body. A recent proof of this was the death of Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Lhundub Sopa on August 28, 2014 at the age of 91.

Geshe Lhundub Zopa, who was the mentor of the Dalai Lama in Tibet, moved to Wisconsin in 1967. There he co-founded the Deer Park Buddhist Center and taught South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, becoming a friend of the eminent American neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson.

According to Daniel Burke, former editor of CNN's religion department, Davidson recalls the scene as follows:

Three days after his cardiac arrest, Geshe Lhundub Sopa was leaned against the wall, his odorless body completely motionless, his skin fresh. He looked like he was meditating …

Zopa died on 28 August 2014. Five days later, two days after Davidson's first visit, the neuroscientist returned to Deer Park and examined his friend's body a second time. “There was absolutely no change. It was really very amazing,” he said.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that such monks have not died yet, but are in a deep, final meditative state called tukdam, during which consciousness is gradually transformed into clear awareness ("clear light"), after which the body begins to decay. Seven days later, Sopa's body began to decompose and he was cremated.

Davidson and colleagues investigated the tukdam phenomenon with neuroscience tools.

Curiously, their original work, published earlier this year, found no brain wave activity in the deceased monks. Here's the annotation:

Recent EEG studies in the early postmortem interval, which indicate the preservation of electrophysiological coherence and connectivity in the brains of animals and humans, reinforce the need for further study of the relationship between brain activity and the dying process.

Currently, neuroscience has the ability to empirically assess the long-term dying process and, more specifically, to investigate the possibility of brain activity after the cessation of cardiac and respiratory function.

Under the direction of the Center for Healthy Mind at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in India, research has been carried out on a posthumous meditative state cultivated by some practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism in which decay is supposedly delayed. For all healthy subjects presented here, we collected resting state electroencephalographic data, mismatch negativism (MMN), and auditory brainstem response (ABR). In this study, we present HB data to demonstrate the feasibility of EEG configuration with sparse electrodes to capture well-defined ERP waveforms from living subjects in highly challenging field conditions. While living people showed well-pronounced MMN and ABR responses, no recognizable EEG forms were found in any of the tukdam cases.

In short, regardless of whether monks meditate posthumously or not, it is unclear why their bodies do not decay for such a long time. Typically, decomposition occurs within hours of death.

There is also a practical side to this:

Western medicine must already change its conventional definition of death, argue John Dunn and Davidson. As Tibetan Buddhists have long believed, biological death is more like a process - or a journey through various states - than a simple switch.

In short, regardless of whether monks meditate posthumously or not, it is unclear why their bodies do not decay for such a long time. Typically, decomposition occurs within hours of death.

There is also a practical side to this:

Western medicine must already change its conventional definition of death, argue John Dunn and Davidson. As Tibetan Buddhists have long believed, biological death is more like a process - or a journey through various states - than a simple switch.

Of course, this phenomenon raises questions about the nature of consciousness:

As the Dalai Lama said: "What science considers to be non-existent, we should all accept as non-existent, but what science simply does not find is a completely different matter."

Consciousness itself is an example. Although intelligent beings, including humans, have been conscious for centuries, we still do not know what consciousness really is: what is its overall nature and how it functions."

It is worth recalling that researchers have already demonstrated that Tibetan monks can alter their metabolism. For decades, it was believed that claims that meditating monks in the Buddhist tradition could significantly raise their temperature or slow their metabolism were exaggerations that lend themselves to scientific explanation. It turns out that the scientific explanation is that they can do just that.

Tukdam is a more complex puzzle, but it points to the possibility that consciousness is not connected to the brain in exactly the way we thought.

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