A study investigating different forms of concentrative meditation on an object (such as on a mantra or the breath) have shown that this technique radically differs from descriptions of objectless meditations, such as focusing on a feeling of compassion.
The control subjects had no previous meditative experience, but had declared an interest in meditation. The monks also understand meditation to be a process of familiarization with one’s own mental life leading to long-lasting changes in cognition and emotion.
The diversion from focus on a particular object is achieved by letting the very essence of the meditation that is practiced become the sole content of the experience, without focusing on particular objects. The study found a gradual increase of gamma activity during this type of meditation which is in agreement with the view that neural synchronization, as a network phenomenon, requires time to develop. Another observation during the study indicates that the endogenous gamma-band synchrony could elicit a change in the quality of moment-to-moment awareness, as claimed by the Buddhist practitioners and as postulated by many models of consciousness. More than 3,000 Buddhist monks in 100 monasteries throughout Southeast Asia have learned the Transcendental Meditation technique, as a result of the work by a revered Japanese Buddhist monk, Reverend Koji Oshima, who is a longtime TM practitioner and certified TM teacher. During Maharishi’s many tours of Asian countries, he often visited monasteries and spoke personally to many Buddhist leaders. Young students practicing the TM technique as part of their daily routine at a Buddhist monastery in ThailandReverend Oshima said the younger monks are especially inspired by Maharishi’s integration of modern and ancient knowledge. Reverend Oshima has been awarded an honorary doctoral degree by Maharishi University for the significant contributions he has made to society by promoting the experience of Nirvana—the spiritual foundation for the achievement of the goals of Buddhism.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. A Buddhist monk has his vital signs measured as he prepares to enter an advanced state of meditation in Normandy, France. In a monastery in northern India, thinly clad Tibetan monks sat quietly in a room where the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Some Westerners practice g Tum-mo, but it often takes years to reach states like those achieved by Buddhist monks.
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. The researchers also made measurements on practitioners of other forms of advanced meditation in Sikkim, India.


To put that decrease in perspective, metabolism, or oxygen consumption, drops only 10-15 percent in sleep and about 17 percent during simple meditation.
Working in isolated monasteries in the foothills of the Himalayas proved extremely difficult. The biggest obstruction in further studies, whether in India or Boston, has always been money.
The funds enabled researchers to bring three monks experienced in g Tum-mo to a Guinness estate in Normandy, France, last July. 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.
The phenomenological differences suggest that these various meditative states (those that involve focus on an object and those that are objectless) may be associated with different EEG oscillatory signatures. The monks underwent mental training in the same Tibetan Nyingmapa and Kagyupa traditions for 10,000 to 50,000 hours over time periods ranging from 15 to 40 years. The control group underwent meditative training for one week before the collection of the data. By using similar techniques during the meditations, the practitioners let their feeling of loving-kindness and compassion permeate their minds without directing their attention toward particular objects.
Typically, the transition from the neutral state to this meditative state is not immediate and requires a certain amount of time, depending on the subject and the length of years the practitioner has been meditating. This information also corroborates with the Buddhist subjects’ practice of measuring time accurately, or chronometry. Oshima, the Buddhist monks appreciate the simplicity, effortlessness, and profound experience of transcendence, which is gained almost immediately after starting the TM practice.
One prominent monk in Sri Lanka, who is now the leader, or “Shan Kara,” of one of the three streams of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, has been instrumental in encouraging monks throughout the country to take TM instruction from Reverend Oshima. Through Reverend Oshima’s travels and teaching of the Transcendental Meditation technique he has helped enliven the knowledge and direct experience of Absolute Being in the lives of thousands of Buddhist monks—an influence that helps heighten the peace, happiness and sustainable progress of these monasteries and the world around them. During meditation, the monk's body produces enough heat to dry cold, wet sheets put over his shoulders in a frigid room (Photo courtesy of Herbert Benson).
They also documented monks spending a winter night on a rocky ledge 15,000 feet high in the Himalayas.


He directs a study of advanced meditation to uncover capabilities that may help treat stress-related illnesses. The length of their training was estimated based on their daily practice and the time they spent in meditative retreats. That does not surprise most of us who have experienced difficulties with clearing our minds for meditation. Other monks soaked 3-by-6-foot sheets in cold water (49 degrees) and placed them over the meditators' shoulders. As a result of body heat produced by the monks during meditation, the sheets dried in about an hour. Travelers might use meditation to ease stress and oxygen consumption on long flights to other planets. 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.
Both groups, however, experienced an increase in loving kindness during, and for certain periods after, objectless meditations. Oshima adds that transcendence provides the natural basis for the monk’s subsequent prayers and practices. Buddhists believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for others and by meditation. 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. That visit was the beginning of a long friendship and several expeditions to northern India where many Tibetan monks live in exile.
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.
In addition, trying to meditate while strangers attempt to measure your rectal temperature is not something most monks are happy to do.



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