By June 11, 2013 5 Comments Read More →

Buddhist Claims Levitation Ability Through Meditation?

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In the West, the Buddhist tradition is typically viewed as more intellectual and legitimate than many other other Eastern religious traditions. But many of our impressions of Buddhism in the West are based on the the presentation by famous Western proponents of Buddhism and the way in which they packaged the varied traditions as sometimes more monolithic as well as devoid of anything not already accepted and explainable by Western models and paradigms.

In the East, it is not uncommon to hear Buddhist claims that defy our understanding of science. Whether they are true or not is another story, but in the Buddhist world, such claims of solid, crystalized salis in the lower abdomen, of healing, spirits, levitation and the like are hardly unheard of.

In previous articles we have presented numerous accounts, documented by Western sources, based in such Eastern traditions. Our purpose was not to endorse these views and practices as legitimate, but to cause readers in the West to consider something outside of their paradigm. If not, then the purpose is at least hoped to be one that causes a reevaluation of Western assumptions regarding such traditions.

We would be hard-pressed to discredit a Harvard Study Finds Buddhist Meditation Can Produce TREMENDOUS HEAT Drying Wet Sheets in Freezing Temperatures, but we are also at a loss to fit the findings of this study within the framework our existing understanding of science. Other reports, like that of the Buddhist Monk Who Died in 1927, being “alive” (sort of), are perhaps more easily explained. Maybe this was the result of how his body was preserved, but would that have preserved the body so well? Without studies that replicate this process it is premature for us to assume a conclusion rather than a hypothesis.

What if there is something else going on? Are such accounts legitimate? Is there a way to quantify such claims of “Qi” and “magic” within a scientific model? Perhaps not… but perhaps they are. And if they are, can the Western viewer find a way to reframe what they are seeing as possible within the framework of science, and within the boundaries of Natural Law, rather than against it: “natural” rather than “supernatural”? Initially, of course, the discoveries of Einstein were rejected, not because he had not made his case, but because they required a complete overhaul in how we looked at physics. Might this happen again as Western science and Medical Studies continue to discover the benefits of various Eastern methods of bio-energy training, such as Tai Chi and Qi Kung?

In the video that follows, illusionist Dan White seeks out a reclusive Buddhist monk, in Nepal, who he claims is not himself an illusionist (like White), but has legitimate powers of levitation.

See the full-length documentary below.

This is not the only example of such things. This isolated monastic hermit did not seek out skeptics, or illusionist Dan White for that matter. What’s his angle? On one hand, if he was looking for fame, glory, money or the like, we should not expect him to hide away and refuse demonstration.

But on the other hand, one could argue that there are tricks which some who are deeply invested in meditation use to “inspire” lay folk into practicing their disciplines of the mind. Perhaps they feel that by creating such an illusion they are doing something good, getting people into a path of inner discipline and spirituality, so that eventually, when they find out there is nothing to the illusions they were shown, they will still be happy that such illusions got them to embark on their path of spiritual refinement…

If that is true, however, it would seem illusionist Dan White is the most unethical, for going along with the trick and promoting it as real, even while admitting his own illusions are not as they are perceived… Perhaps he isn’t in on it, and he is being tricked too… But perhaps there is something else going on beyond all of that, something scientific which Western models have not had enough data to fit within our existing scientific paradigm.

Once again, we are just presenting this unusual case, we are not here to make up your mind for you one way or the other. Is it real, or an elaborate hoax? You decide.

Posted in: Religion

5 Comments on "Buddhist Claims Levitation Ability Through Meditation?"

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  1. Jared says:

    My default setting is to think that it’s fake. I’m a skeptic/cynic at heart and I always look for the trick when it comes to supernatural powers and/or religion. Although I do believe that *some things* are beyond the explanation of Western medicine or science, I don’t believe that levitation is one of them. Faith-healings and the ability to make the body not bleed, etc., is one thing–since they can be controlled by the mind–but overcoming natural elements is another.

    If you look at it from a Bayesian perspective, you might ask: What are the odds that he can overcome gravity? Second, what are the odds that he’s levitating through natural means (a hidden cable or a seat behind the curtain)? Third, prior to seeing this video did I have any firm reason to believe in levitation?

    Viewing it in this light, even though there is the small possibility that Western science is wrong about levitation, there’s a far better chance that this is a trick–as tricks have been done countless times before, and quite well at that (for instance, by David Copperfield http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wChk5nY3Kzg). Lastly, if this guy is legitimate, why is he the first legitimate person to successfully levitate on film?

    Considering combination of the first, second, and third parts of this equation, statistics suggest that he’s a fake. And if you throw in the fact that both Dan White and this man stand to gain from the attention…it nails that coffin lid home for me. Sorry.

    • MBD says:

      Yeah, i hear you for sure. The only thing i can’t figure out is what the monk gains by faking it… Unless the entire thing was a hoax, in which case, shame on the Discovery Channel for producing a hoax. But yes, your comments are all quite on point and relevant. It is worth noting, however, that he is not the first to be seen doing things like this. There are some videos of Buddhist nuns doing similar things in swimming pools, African shamans doing similar things, etc. Is it all fake? Perhaps it is. Typically, however, it is discouraged or forbidden within those traditions to show off any abilities like this, if they are indeed real and not tricks. But there are some other videos out there besides the most obvious fake one. Maybe they are all fake, maybe there is another scientific explanation besides them being fake. The best “motive” i can think for this to be fake is the motive of getting people into meditation through it. Other than that, i’m at a loss motive-wise.

      • Jared says:

        Robert Wright’s “The Evolution of God” provides some insight, perhaps. He talks about the myriad rewards shamans and other spiritual figures receive by being recognized as spiritual figures. These rewards ranged from material (extra wives, access to someone else’s wife or daughter, tobacco, beads, food, etc.) to immaterial (honor, prestige, etc.).

        Having studied Buddhism, I know that this affects Buddhism just as it affects other religions. They talk all the time about different bodhisattvas and enlightened beings who carried out miracles, including levitation. Some of the more renowned Buddhist mystics and llamas have followers and are visited by pilgrims. That sort of prestige could cause someone to fake it. There are certainly charlatans among even non-Western religions (Native American and Inuit shamans, for instance, had “tricks of the trade” and would often expose rivals to improve their own standing.)

        The fact that the monk is seated so close to a curtain and wears such loose flowing robes makes me less credulous, as does the fact that it is filmed in a fantastical/reality television style–with the camera jumping all over and focusing on Dan White’s reaction. Furthermore, they do a film cut right before he begins levitating, rather than having a continuous shot. Meanwhile, Dan White (a showman at heart) isn’t acting like the skeptical scientist as much as a television show host. He’s saying, “This guy’s the real deal!” before the monk has done anything…when the monk’s just chanting.

        For a hardened skeptic like me to wonder about the veracity of a video they need to give me NO OPPORTUNITY to doubt. If this monk could do the same thing in an empty room, wearing a loincloth, and with a wide-angle lens camera…then I would wonder. Or if he did it at MIT where a hard scientist has his or her reputation at stake. But in the past when psychic debunkers have asked people to carry out their tests under laboratory settings, they can’t do it. Apparently their faith and concentration only works when they’re calling the shots.

  2. Jared says:

    ^ Oops, that should say “lama.”

  3. DH says:

    I’m the kind of person that wishes this was real. How much different would life be if we could all just lift off and fly to our destinations?

    But, I do not believe we are witnessing a guy levitating in the video, no.

    As for motive. Here are a few motives. Entertainment, ratings, sales, viewer numbers, money, money, money.

    We need to understand that these shows are made, sold to broadcasters and shown to the public simply to make money. This was not a ‘breaking news alert’ that ‘interrupted our normal programming’. It is part of a growing number of docu/reality series that has millions of people nailed to the television every day. They need new fresh angles to keep people coming back.

    The levitation self doesn’t look too convincing either. The monk sitting in front of the curtainy thingy(so there is no 360 view of the monk), the robes(that may be hiding a platform) and the almost mechanical up and down movements of the monk takes away much of the credibility.

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