Kindle the Fire Within Kindle the Fire Within
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Photo by: Tanumanasi/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Breathe In

Kindle the Fire Within

The Tibetan Practice of Tummo
Aleksandra Kozłowska
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time 9 minutes

What is the cure for a sick soul? Yoga, of course. But this time practised in unusual conditions—in the snow or in a bathtub filled with ice.

The snow, the winter hurricane, on one side, and my light clothing, on the other, fought on the White Mountain. As it fell, the snow melted on me, changed into a stream. The roaring storm broke against the thin cotton robe that enclosed a fiery heat. The wrestler’s life-and-death fight can be seen in this place. And, having won the victory, I left there, for the hermits, An example demonstrating the great virtue of tummo.

These are the words of Milarepa, the famous Tibetan master of Diamond Way Buddhism, who lived at the turn of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The ‘great virtue of tummo’ (tummo , g-tummo ) he talks of is a famous Buddhist practice, also known as Inner Fire Yoga. Tummo in Tibetan literally means ‘wild, angry’ energy, and inner fire. But the warmth in the adept’s body is only a side effect. The purpose of this meditation is to experience bliss and emptiness.

Mental Gymnastics

It is probably no coincidence that this fragment of Milarepa’s poem was quoted in the book Mystics and Miracle Workers of Tibet by a woman of inexhaustible inner energy, Alexandra David-Néel. In the course of her more than 100 years of life (1868–1969), this emancipated

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Some treat extreme cold as an opportunity to test their mental strength, while others derive their mental strength from contact with extreme cold.

It’s hard to confirm that Alexandra David-Néel really was the first European woman to reach Tibet. But she was definitely the first significant promoter of Tibetan spirituality and the mysterious culture of the roof of the world. Quite clever (let’s recall that she arrived in Lhasa disguised as a beggar – a man) and truly fascinated with Buddhism, more than 100 years ago David-Néel visited Tibet’s capital and the monasteries, where she met lamas and yogis who were intriguing, to say the least. It is thanks to this incredible traveller that the West learned for the first time of the unique qualities of this country, surrounded by mountains. One such quality, which readers could find out about from the book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, published in 1929 in France, is tummo.

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