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In first scientific evidence, Russian scientists have demonstrated that the body of a person in the rare spiritual meditative state of ‘thukdam’ is in a quite different state from the body of someone undergoing the ordinary process of death. The scientists have established research laboratories in the Tibetan settlements in Bylakuppe and Mundgod in Karnataka where they have examined 104 monks in meditation.
They are carrying out a project of research into ‘thukdam’, the phenomenon that sometimes occurs when an accomplished meditator dies and their subtle consciousness remain in the body, even after clinical death. Recently the scientists were able to observe a monk who was in ‘thukdam’ for 37 days at Gyuto Monastery.
They invited a forensic physician to examine the physical body at various stages after death. These facts came to light in a virtual conversation between Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and Professor Svyatoslav Medvedev of the Russian Academy of Sciences and founder of the Institute of the Human Brain on Wednesday. On the query of Professor Medvedev that what value the study of ‘thukdam’ could have for humanity in general.
The spiritual leader replied Tibetan Buddhists believe that people go through a process of dissolution in the course of death. Once some accomplished meditators cease breathing, the process of dissolution they go through includes three visions — whitish appearance, reddish increase, and black near attainment.
In the course of these three stages, 80 different conceptions dissolve, 33 during the vision of whitish appearance, 40 during reddish increase, and finally seven during the stage of black near attainment. “We need to undertake more research and investigate more cases of ‘thukdam’ to establish whether the visions are associated with the dissolution of the coarser elements.
“Since it is observed that the body of a person going through this process can remain warm, it may be that the dissolution of the earth, water and fire elements do not coincide with the three visions. “When an ordinary person dies, there is a dissolution of the elements. Buddhists believe that beings go through past and future lives, so there is some bearing on this too. My own senior tutor Ling Rinpoche remained in ‘thukdam’ for 13 days. Recently, a monk at Kirti Monastery remained in this state for 37 days.
“This is an observable reality, which we need to be able to explain. “There is evidence to see and measure. We can also find a detailed explanation of the inner subjective experience of the process of death in the Guhyasamaja Tantra texts. I hope scientists can take all this into account and come up with an explanation,” His Holiness said.
Professor Alexander Kaplan, Head of the Laboratory for Neurophysiology and Neuro-Computer Interfaces, Moscow State University (MSU), asked what Buddhist ideas could help Western scientists to understand the workings of the brain? At this, the elderly Buddhist monk replied that in the past, modern science as it had developed in the West had tended to focus on external phenomena, things that can be seen and measured.
“Gradually people have begun to recognize that peace of mind has an important role to play in our day-to-day lives. Consequently, scientists have also begun to show an interest in how to develop the peace of mind. Mental afflictions like anger, fear, and frustration detract from our good health, so, never mind about our next life or our reaching enlightenment, all seven billion human beings alive today need peace of mind here and now.
“In order to achieve and maintain peace of mind, we need to understand the workings of the mind and the whole system of emotions. Buddhism outlines 51 mental factors in six categories: five ever-functioning mental factors; five ascertaining ones; 11 constructive emotions; six root disturbing emotions and attitudes; 20 auxiliary disturbing emotions and four changeable mental factors.
“On the basis of understanding these, we can learn to tackle destructive emotions as they arise, even under difficult circumstances. Peace of mind is within our reach.” Konstantin Anokhin, Director of the Institute for Advanced Brain Studies, MSU, wanted to know about the evidence for the existence of past lives. The spiritual leader told him that he has heard of cases of children who belong to communities that give past and future lives no credence, who apparently describe memories of past lives.
Among Indians and Tibetans, people who accept the idea of past and future lives, children with such recollections are not unusual. “There was a boy born in Tibet, who, once he could talk, insisted to his parents ‘This isn’t where I belong, I want to go to India’. They brought him to India and came to Dharamsala. But even here he said, ‘This isn’t my place. So, they took him to Mundgod Tibetan Settlement in South India.
“When they reached Ganden Monastery, the boy told them, ‘This is where I belong’ and led them to one of the houses. They went inside and pointing to a drawer, he said, ‘My glasses are in there. They looked and they were. “In my own case, as a small boy, I recognized monks in the party searching for the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. I was able to remember their names. One of the principal procedures employed when seeking to recognize the reincarnation of a Lama is to show the candidate a number of possessions.
“If a child is able to recognize and select those items that had ‘belonged to them before, it is taken as a positive indication. However, these memories fade as the children grow up. “Something else that could be regarded as significant is that some children are able to study and learn much more readily than others. This is taken to imply that they are already familiar with the material from their studies in their previous lives.
“In my case, I learned easily, which could be a sign of revising what I had learned before.” His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for Tibet. He was awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in October 2007, even in the face of protests by China. The Dalai Lama now lives in exile in this northern Indian hill station along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet. (IANS/JC)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)