Three days after his heart stopped, Geshe Lhundub Sopa was leaned upright against a wall, his odorless body perfectly poised, his skin fresh as baked bread. He looked like he was meditating, remembers Richard Davidson, a prominent neuroscientist and friend of the late Buddhist monk.
By conventional Western standards, Sopa died on August 28, 2014. Five days later, and two days after Davidson’s initial visit, the neuroscientist returned to Deer Park and observed his friend’s body a second time. “There was absolutely no change. It was really quite remarkable,” he said.
By the standards of conventional Western medicine, Sopa was dead, though with a strangely preserved corpse. By the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, Sopa’s body harbored a mind that remained very much alive. Like other accomplished Buddhists, Sopa was believed to have entered a meditative state known as thukdam, during which his consciousness would wisp away into a spare, luminous awareness.