Filed in Mahayana, Science, Health

This is Your Brain on Buddhism

Kate Wheeler finds new inspiration at the Dalai Lama's thirteenth Mind and Life conference.Kate Wheeler

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Landscape Before Dying (Heaven & Earth #2), 2001, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 14 inches

SOMETIME IN THE 1980S while residing at a meditation center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I heard of Tibetan yogis being tested with rectal thermometers for increased body temperature, a side effect of the meditation called tumo, the inner heat that burns up subtle obscurations. The yogis, apparently, were uncomfortable with the experiment; someone told me one of them had died not long after returning to India and that the pool of tumo practitioners willing to participate in Western research had dried up for several years as a result. These were merely rumors, yet they revealed the beliefs and prejudices of both sides, as rumors tend to do, making the Westerners sound crude and ruthless, the yogis ignorant and superstitious.

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