Thukdam research project: is it about Jhana?

Hi All ,

There is a quite recent article which may be of interest to some.

This article details how some Tibetan Buddhist monks apparently may enter thukdam at the time of physical death and for some time, usually a few days, their body does not seem to decompose.

The related medical research so far (January 2021) is described in the following article:

There are a couple of interesting points, at least.

  1. This thukdam experience reminds in part the description of jhana.
    As far as I know, the only medical test on jhana so far is reported in this paper:
  1. It is interesting that the Dalai Lama has involved some of the monks in this project and in related scientific research.

Whatever is going on inside thukdam meditators, His Holiness would dearly like to know. He’s been asking scientists to study the mysterious state for nearly 20 years, with little apparent success—until recently, when his friend Davidson and other researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds created “The Thukdam Project.”

Prof Svyatoslav Medvedev of the Russian Academy of Sciences and founder of the Institute of the Human Brain, St Petersburg summarized what his team have done so far. They have established research laboratories in the Tibetan settlements in Bylakuppe and Mundgod. They have examined 104 monks in meditation and were recently able to observe a monk who was in ‘thukdam’ for 37 days at Gyutö Monastery. They invited a forensic physician to examine the physical body at various stages after death. They have demonstrated that the body of a person in ‘thukdam’ is in a quite different state from the body of someone undergoing the ordinary process of death. This is their first scientific evidence.


  1. What is the relationship between thukdam and jhana?
  2. Do the EBT describe anything resembling thukdam?
  3. Is anyone aware of other medical research into similar states of mind?

Many thanks in advance!
With Metta


Interesting. I was just reading a passage from the Abhidharmakosha which cites a sutra that speaks of the Buddha’s ability to expend his life (ayus) and life force. Of course we know the Mahaparanibbana sutta mentions this ability, though it doesn’t explain it as something that happens after the “death” of the body. Perhaps this is somewhat related to this kind of ability.

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Maybe indeed, thanks for the references.
Since it is mentioned that in thukdam the body is still warm and that reportedly there is a vision of light (changing from whitish, to reddish to black), I would tend to think that this may be a jhana state reached just before the physical death, preceded by a nimitta. In this case, someone who has mastered the jhanas may be able to get it at the right time. This may also explain your quote.