After several Artificial Intelligence (AI) missions to Mars, nations are now planning for the first human mission to the red planet. To accomplish this far-fetched feat, Russian scientists are relying on the ancient form of yoga practised by Tibetan monks. Experts from Moscow State University are conducting research on the technique of putting the human body in deep slumber or ‘hibernation’ in hope of garnering cues for astronauts on future long-distance space missions such as on Mars.
A team of researchers has been examining the phenomenon known as ‘Tukdam’ – or ‘posthumous meditation’ - when monks who are clinically declared dead remain sitting upright with no sign of body decay for days or even weeks. The researchers are examining the electrical activity in the monks’ brains during deep meditation as they are of the view that ‘hibernation’ may be critical for reaching Mars.
“We are looking for possible methods that can help us,” Professor Yury Bubeyev, a leading planner for long-distance space travel, told Daily Mail. “One of them is the use of practices of altered states of consciousness, in which Buddhist monks have been most successful.”
Altered states of consciousness or deep concentration are achieved by long hours of meditation, isolation, monotonous recitation of mantras. Studying this technique is of great interest for scientists as a person practising this can change the speed of his body’s metabolism and his brain can completely switch off from the external stimuli.
This method along with other techniques can prove fruitful for cosmonauts on a long-distance space mission. They can reach “prolonged sleep” during the flight making them use fewer resources and thereby increasing their resistance to radiation, decreasing chances of friction in cramped surroundings on a spaceship and fewer chances of interpersonal conflicts.
“We asked the Dalai Lama to give us the opportunity to study the electrical activity of the brain of the most successful monk practitioners. In turn, the Dalai Lama proposed that we study the phenomenon of posthumous meditation,” said Professor Bubeyev.
A team of researchers has been working with the Tibetan monks since 2017 and hope to resume the study when the pandemic ends.