Religion Wiki


34,305pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Talk0 Share
Tanumanasi Los seis yogas de Naropa Tumo Tummo

Tummo in practice - Pyrenees, Spain

Tummo (Tibetan: gtum-mo; Sanskrit: caṇḍalī) is a practice associated with the subtle body of energy-channels, energy-winds and energy-drops. The practices are taught in a suite of advanced sadhana, the Six Yogas of Naropa, which describe contemplative practices, spiritual energetic work or meditations such as those used in the Himalayan traditions of Vajrayana and Bön. This discipline is key to all advanced (completion stage) spiritual practices in Tibetan Buddhism.[1] Himalayan disciplines such as Yantra Yoga, where yantra is the synonym for asana, also work with this "inner heat".

Tummo-meditation is commonly associated with descriptions of intense sensations of body heat, which are a partial effect, rather than a goal, of the practice. Stories and eyewitness accounts abound of yogi practitioners being able to generate sufficient heat to dry wet sheets draped around their naked bodies while sitting outside in the freezing cold, not just once, but multiple times. Observations have also been discussed in medical articles (Ding-E Young and Taylor, 1998). Not unproblematic, Tummo must be practiced in conjunction with appropriate empowerment and under the direction of a traditionally qualified Tantric Guru. Extensive preparation and pure motivation, most specifically bodhichitta, are absolutely essential both to beneficial results and to the avoidance of physical pain and discomfort in rlung disorder or other imbalances.[2]

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Tummo (gTum mo in Wylie transliteration, also spelled Tumo, or Tum-mo; Sanskrit caṇḍālī) is a Tibetan word, literally meaning fierce [woman]. Tummo is a Tibetan word for inner fire.[3] The terms drod and tummo are synonymous though the former is used in Traditional Tibetan medicine, whilst the latter is employed in tantric spiritual disciplines. The Sanskrit terms caṇḍalī and kuṇḍalinī are clearly etymologically related.


Tummo may also be orthographically rendered in English as 'Dumo'[4] which approximates its phonemic enunciation for a standard speaker of English.

Kundalini and tummo

Kundalini is etymologically linked to candalī, the Sanskrit term for tummo, or inner fire. The two practices are also related. Miranda Shaw clarifies:

Kuṇḍalinī-yoga offered a range of techniques to harness the powerful psycho-physical energy coursing through the body... Most people simply allow the energy to churn in a cauldron of chaotic thoughts and emotions or dissipate the energy in a superficial pursuit of pleasure, but a yogi or yogini consciously accumulates and then directs it for specified purposes. This energy generates warmth as it accumulates and becomes an inner fire or inner heat (candālī) that [potentially] burns away the dross of ignorance and ego-clinging.[5]

Kundalini, therefore, is the energy that when accumulated and directed can become tummo. The two are essentially similar in nature but applied in somewhat different ways in the Hindu Kundalini Yoga practice and the Vajrayana Buddhist tummo practices, such as the Six Yogas of Naropa.

Numerous non-buddhist tantras of the Shakta and Shaiva traditions (generally termed Hindu by westerners) speak of Kundalini, which is generally described as a coiled energy at the base of the spine[6][7][8], at the first chakra. The image of celestial partnership is common within the Shiva-Shakti treatment of Kundalini union. As the serpent energy, or "shakti", ascends to the Crown chakra, Shiva, the cosmic consciousness permeates the body-mind of the sadhaka. It is important to remember that the language of directionality encoded within this process is only metaphorical and that the 'higher' awareness states are typically nonlocal, unbounded and uncontained.

Whereas tummo is generally described within the context of various Buddhist tantric systems, particularly the 'Mother tantras' (Wylie: ma rgyud), and most widely taught within the Kagyu lineages, although a popular manual was written by Tsongkhapa, founder of the strictly monastic Gelug sect. The context for the practice is rooted in the Mahayana precepts of universal compassion and the experience of the transcendental wisdom of Sunyata (Emptiness). The Buddhist tantric systems present several different models of the chakras, and for tummo the 'energetic winds' (prana, rlung) are being accumulated at the navel chakra, four fingers below the navel.[9][10] In Tibetan Buddhism the primary purpose of tummo is to gain control over subtle body processes as a foundation for very advanced mystical practices analogous to Completion stages of 'highest yoga tantra' (Anuttarayoga Tantra). Such refined internalized yogas are practices to support entry into the highest contemplative systems, for example the Dzogchen or Mahamudra systems.[11]


Kurt Keutzer (2002) discusses the Kundalini yoga, Vajrayana, Nath Sampradaya, Mahasiddha and Milarepa:

Kundalini yoga in the Natha Sampradaya and Vajrayana in Tibetan Buddhism both take their origin from the Mahasiddhas who were active in India from the 8th century to the 12th century. Kundalini yoga practices formed the core of the teachings of a number of these Mahasiddhas and are strongly represented in both Tibetan Buddhist practices and contemporary kundalini yoga practices. Kundalini yoga was spoken of as ``Candali yoga by these Mahasiddhas and became known as gTummo rnal 'byor in Tibet. Candali yoga was a key practice of the famous Tibetan yogin Milarepa.[12]

The Tummo practices were first described in writing by the Indian yogi and Buddhist scholar Naropa, although the Tibetan Buddhist tradition holds that the practice was actually taught by Shakyamuni Buddha and passed down orally until the time of Naropa. The Tummo practice is also found in the Tibetan Bön lineage. One of the most famous practitioners of Tummo according to the Tibetan tradition was held to be Milarepa. The biography of Milarepa is one of the most popular among the Tibetan people (Evans-Wentz, 2001). Modern western witnesses of this practice include the adventurer Alexandra David-Néel (David-Néel, 1971), Lama Anagarika Govinda (Govinda, 1988), and anthropologist Dr. John Crook.

Dr Arya (2006) in discussing the "life airs" (Tibetan: rLung) states that historically: "The rLung practitioner (yogi) uses special colors of clothes to improve the power of the Tummo fire."[13]

Dr Arya (2006) describes the raising of drod or tummo through the tsa lung vortices (Tibetan: khorlo; Sanskrit: chakra) in a manner comparable to the "serpent fire" (Sanskrit: kuṇḍalinī; caṇḍalī) and mentions Vajrayogini and bodymind making reference to English renderings of marigpa, sahasrara and Traditional Tibetan medicine:

The psychic heat Drod is produced by the space particles and the heat manifested from the friction of the wind element. This is another fundamental element as it supports and gives power to the consciousness, like the power of the fire that can launch rockets to space. The power is called medrod or 'digestion fire' in medicine and Tummo in yoga tantra. The heat (fire) sustains life and protects the body/mind. The psychic fire increases the wisdom, burns the ignorant mind of the brain and gives realization and liberation from the darkness of unawareness. That is why yoga describes Tummo as the aggressive fire which ignites from below navel, pierces the chakras one by one and reaches the sky of the crown chakra. The tummo burning arrow married with the celestial bride leads to enjoy the life of transformation of samsara. They give birth to the son of awareness from the blissful garden of Vajrayogini.[13]

Tummo is taught currently in both Asia and the West by a few qualified Tibetan lamas, typically to students who have mastered other 'preliminary meditation practices' (ngondro). There are also several books published in English in the 20th century that described the practices with appalling mistakes of translation. Current texts such as those by Lama Yeshe or Glenn Mullin are highly accurate and go into some detail.

However. Intensive spiritual practices, associated with Asian traditions, are not unproblematic. Psychiatric literature [14] notes that "Since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously". Among the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice the authors mention kundalini awakening,"a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition". (For more on this, see article on Kundalini Syndrome.)

Scientific investigation

An attempt to study the physiological effects of Tummo has been made by Benson and colleagues (Benson et al., 1982; Cromie, 2002) who studied Indo-Tibetan Yogis in the Himalayas and in India in the 1980s. In the first experiment, in Upper Dharamsala (India), Benson et al. (1982) found that these subjects exhibited the capacity to increase the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 8.3°C. In the most recent experiment, which was conducted in Normandy (France), two monks from the Buddhist tradition wore sensors that recorded changes in heat production and metabolism (Cromie, 2002).

While the physiological effects of Tummo are well known, they are not the primary purpose of the meditation practice. Tummo is a tantric meditation practice that transforms and evolves the consciousness of the practitioner so that 'wisdom' (prajna) and 'compassion' (karuna) are manifested in the individual.

Present day information

In January, 2008, Wim Hof of Holland set a world record[15] for exposure to ice. Wim Hof is a self-described Tummo master who set a world record by spending one hour and 31 minutes in a tub of ice wearing minimal clothing. He hopes to beat his own record, and is training to do so currently.[16]

See also


  1. Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang (1992). Clear Light of Bliss. England: Tharpa Publications; Second (Revised) Edition, p.35. ISBN 978-0948006135
  2. Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang (1992). Clear Light of Bliss. England: Tharpa Publications; Second (Revised) Edition, p.37-8. ISBN 978-0948006135
  3. Yeshe, Lama Thubten (1998). The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Boston: Wisdom Publications. p. 22. ISBN 0-86171-136-x. 
  4. Chang, G.C.C. (1993). Tibetan Yoga. New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8065-1453-1, p.7
  5. Shaw, Miranda (1995). Passionate Enlightenment::Women in Tantric Buddhism. Princeton University Press. p. 31. ISBN 0-691-01090-0. 
  6. Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996). ISBN 0-521-43878-0), p. 99.
  7. Harper, Katherine Anne; Brown, Robert L. (2002). The Roots of Tantra. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-5306-5. , p. 94
  8. McDaniel, June (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press. p. 103. ISBN 0195167902. 
  9. Yeshe, Lama Thubten (1998). The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Boston: Wisdom Publications. p. 22. ISBN 0-86171-136-x. 
  10. Tsongkhapa; Glenn H. Mullin (2005). Glenn H. Mullin. ed. The Six Yogas of Naropa. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-55939-234-1. 
  11. Gyatso, Tenzin; Alexander Berzin (1997). The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra. New York: Snow Lion Publications. p. 265. ISBN 1-55939-072-7. 
  12. Source: kundalini-faq (accessed: December 27, 2007)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Arya, Pasang Yonten (2006). Tibetan Tantric Yoga. Source: [1] (accessed: December 27, 2007)
  14. Turner et al.,pg. 440
  15. Washington Post


  • Benson, Herbert; Lehmann, John W.; Malhotra, M. S., Goldman, Ralph F.; Hopkins, Jeffrey; Epstein, Mark D. (1982) Body temperature changes during the practice of g Tum-mo yoga. Letter to Nature Magazine, 21 January 1982. Nature 295, 234 - 236, Text online [2]
  • Cromie, William J. (2002) Research: Meditation changes temperatures: Mind controls body in extreme experiments. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Gazette, 18 April 2002
  • David-Neel, Alexandra (1971) Magic and Mystery in Tibet. Dover Publications
  • Ding-E Young, John and Taylor, Eugene (1998) Meditation as a Voluntary Hypometabolic State of Biological Estivation . News in Physiological Sciences, Vol. 13, No. 3, 149-153, June 1998
  • Evans-Wentz, W. Y. Editor (2000) Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa: A Biography from the Tibetan being the Jetsün-Kabbum or Biographical History of Jetsün-Milarepa, According to the Late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering. USA:Oxford University Press
  • Govinda, Lama Anagarika (1988) Way Of White Clouds. Shambhala Publications
  • Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang (1982). Clear Light of Bliss: The Practice of Mahamudra in Vajrayana Buddhism . London: Wisdom Publications.
  • Mullin, Glen H. (2006) The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa, Snow Lion Publications.
  • Mullin, Glen H. (2005) The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa's Commentary, Snow Lion Publications.
  • Turner, Robert P.; Lukoff, David; Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany & Lu, Francis G. (1995) Religious or Spiritual Problem. A Culturally Sensitive Diagnostic Category in the DSM-IV. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease,Vol.183, No. 7 435-444
  • Yeshe, Lama Thubten (1995) The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa, Wisdom Publications.

Further reading

  • Mullin, Glen H. (2006) The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa, Snow Lion Publications.
  • Mullin, Glen H. (2005) The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa's Commentary, Snow Lion Publications.
  • Yeshe, Lama Thubten (1995) The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa, Wisdom Publications.

External links



Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.

Also on Fandom

Random Wiki