Tukdam: Between Worlds
Copresented with the Center for Buddhist Studies and the UC Berkeley Anthropology Department, cosponsored by the Institute for South Asia Studies and the Himalayan Studies Initiative
Donagh Coleman is a Finnish-Irish-American filmmaker whose award-winning films have received wide international festival and television distribution, with shows at museums like the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Donagh is also a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley.
David Perlman, PhD worked ten years in neuroscientist Richie Davidson’s lab, where he designed and managed the first phase of the Tukdam research project.
Jacob Dalton is a professor of Tibetan Studies in the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley.
Is it possible to die in a consciously controlled way? The Tibetan Buddhist tradition of tukdam, a practice of meditating at the deepest level of consciousness right before death, has been shown to delay rigor mortis and other postmortem decay for days or even weeks. The bodies of those in tukdam remain warm and in the meditation position even after they are declared medically dead. Through interviews with Western scientists, Tibetan medical professionals, the Dalai Lama, and respected bhikkhus, Coleman’s fascinating documentary explores current research into the practice, in which the cessation of brain function, breathing, and heart activity is not necessarily life’s clear-cut end but instead a pliant threshold.