If you haven’t been under a rock for the past week or so, you may have heard of the 200 year old mummified monk who as yet to be presumed dead! Not only is he not dead, but Buddhist expert and physician to the Dalai Lama Dr. Barry Kerzin claims to know exactly what he is doing.
[Dr. Barry Kerzin] has insisted the human relic is actually in ‘very deep meditation’ and in a rare and very special spiritual state known as ‘tukdam’. Over the last 50 years there are said to have been 40 such cases in India involving meditating Tibetan monks. ‘If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks – which rarely happens – his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes. Usually in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. This means that he has found a ‘rainbow body’. This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha’. He added: ‘If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha. Reaching such a high spiritual level the meditator will also help others, and all the people around will feel a deep sense of joy’.
So What is Tukdam?
Sogyal Rinpoche describes it in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying an honorific term for meditative practice and experience that is frequently used to refer to the period following the death of a great master, during which time they are absorbed in luminosity.
A realized practitioner continues to abide by the recognition of the nature of mind at the moment of death, and awakens into the Ground Luminosity when it manifests. He or she may even remain in that state for a number of days. Some practitioners and masters die sitting upright in that state for a number of days. Some practitioners and masters die sitting upright in meditation posture, and others in the “posture of the sleeping lion.” Besides their perfect poise, there will be other signs that show they are resting in the state of the Ground Luminosity: There is still a certain color and glow in their face, the nose does not sink inward, the skin remains soft and flexible, the body does not become stiff, the eyes are said to keep a soft and compassionate glow, and there is still a warmth at the heart. Great care is taken that the master’s body is not touched, and silence is maintained until he or she has arisen from this state of meditation.