This article was published in FIDHY Infos N°95 December 2023, the 1st and 2nd parts were published in FIDHY Infos N°93 and 94
Tummo Practices and Spirituality
by Anne Laurençon, with the collaboration of Philippe Djoharikian
Gtum-mo, which we simplify in Tummo, is the yoga of inner fire. Tummo’s practices were codified by Naropa (12th sciècle), along with five other branches of yogic practices: illusory body yoga, clear light yoga, dream yoga, intermediate world yoga and consciousness transference. The understanding of the nature of the universe and reality is a spiritual quest that takes shape in Tibet in forms constrained by their culture. Today, in the West, various approaches to Tummo can be found, Yoga of the cold, Yoga of the Inner Fire, of the inner heat, and there are proposals of workshops from many people who solicit the practitioners of Yoga.
«Finding comfort in discomfort.» Maurice Daubard
In Tibet, under the guidance of a lama or a Rinpoche, novices for 101 days from midnight to 3 a.m., settle on the ground or on the snow, undressed, and must dry one, two or three wet sheets by producing heat with their body. This practice is entirely spiritual, and initiates undergo it after a retreat of three years in cell. Needless to say, for this practice novices must be turned totally towards the divine; devotion is there to make their actions effective, they must experience it as a sacrifice, a purification. Here there is no competition, no ego, one must be willing to die to be reborn, to disappear and become transparent to give way to the light
Maurice led groups in the mountains, so that students could discover this sacred space, preserved from human activities. It is important to be in contact with the wild in order to reveal our deepest nature, to enjoy the energy of life and beauty that is also a source of nourishment. He was proposing to install this sacred space, Jokhang (Tibetan term for the temple), for practices. Then to extend this space to one’s yoga mat, and even to daily existence. Living according to the principles of the Tummo means departing from one’s usual comfort zone and adapting to the vagaries of life, while connecting deeply to the emotion of sacralisation.
Maurice’s teachings highlight the idea of “finding comfort in discomfort”, both on the yoga mat and in everyday life. Enter into trust. This idea finds a primordial application in practice, to be able to emerge from a condition in which we are firmly rooted. Maurice emphasizes the need to awaken the primitive man who sleeps in us, and this, while contemporary man has become dependent on modern comfort and medicine, even though he inherently possesses the capacity to protect himself from diseases and to live harmoniously in nature.
«Finding comfort in discomfort», testifies to our ability to surrender body and soul to the transformation proposal. Without transformation, there is no progress, no room for what is, that is, the Self. Living in Tummo means stepping out of your comfort zone and adapting to the circumstances of life by connecting with the emotion of sacralisation. It is a genuine mental work that accompanies the physiological work that takes place in the cold! The temporary identity that we have built for ourselves shatters, and the state of mind is here essential to progress in this yogic approach.
«At the heart of suffering lies the teaching.» Tibet
What may initially appear as extreme suffering can, in an instant, be transformed into a source of profound transformation. “Events are never absolute. The outcomes depend entirely on individuals, misfortune is a springboard to happiness, a treasure, genius for the skilled man, an abyss for the weak.” The suffering of human beings is often triggered by their ignorance of how their thoughts work.
It is an invitation to be reborn, to oneself, to LIFE. This journey allows to integrate the new being waiting to flourish and emerge. The question “Who am I?” finds a powerful echo here, in parallel with “What am I capable of?” In this exploration of the laws of the universe, we discover the immutable laws enunciated by the yogis.
The path of the Tummo teaches us that it is through trials that we draw the necessary forces and energy to transcend our current being. This approach is a tapas, a form of austerity marked by joy and undertaken voluntarily, a deliberate choice that we make to advance on the spiritual path. Philippe has had extreme experiences with Maurice during the twenty years spent at his side: once in Switzerland, as every morning, Maurice offers to go hiking, everyone prepares his snowshoes, he turns to Philippe and says with a big smile:
« You and I will go barefoot,” after over an hour of walking in the forest on the snow, Philippe asks Maurice, “Are we on the way back?” Maurice bursts into laughter and says, “We’ve just finished the first part.” That day, Philippe took several hours to recover his feet: “but during the time our feet were on fire, we cried with laughter. These are incredible, sensitive, and emotional experiences leading to a profound calm and a tingling of each of my cells».
«If you have lost hope, invent hope.» Maurice Daubard
While traveling in Tibet, a Lama offered Maurice a mission: “Help the Western man to renounce his fears…” So, Maurice will tirelessly encourage his students to dare to embark on the adventure of life, to swim against the current! Never give up on life, don’t let trains pass us by, but instead, jump on them and experience the adventure of life!
And each session, each workshop, each smile is an invitation: search within ourselves to develop intuition. Intuition of the consciousness of the universe, intuition for everything that lives, intuition for every movement or vibration that hovers.
He also warns us: «Intuition is not imagination and its fantasies!» These are very distinct processes. Moreover, we are suggested to nourish this imagination in ways that can guide our transformation process in the direction we desire: “When will is opposed to imagination, it is imagination that prevails, and never the other way around. »
And consequently, the state of mind in practice is fundamental: reconnecting with the noblest values within ourselves allows us to follow this path of transformation safely. These values, the Tibetans tell us, we all carry within ourselves. So, follow the path and let the birth of the exaltation transport you: it is the most beautiful gift that the practice offered to Maurice, leading him to continue to expose himself daily, even after his healing. And, of course our choices of life stem from it. (see Maurice’s book « L’exaltation du chemin » ) The reception of Tummo among first-year students in the Yoga Babaschool teacher training is not always a festive moment! However, when bliss sets in after a few experiences, everyone craves more, aware of the incredible effectiveness of the approach. With a pure heart and a mind free of speculation, we renounce our fears. These moments of absolute presence remain in memory. The primary proposal during a yoga workshop should be to use this science as an incredibly powerful tool for transformation.
«How can you find sadness in an atmosphere where joy is shared like bread, and where the victory of one is a success for all.» Maurice Daubard
In these mountain retreats, in a group, facing the difficulties that each one faced, Maurice had only one goal: that the step taken by one would be acclaimed by all. “The world needs more love than intelligence.” For it is about Love, about living, feeling, to let oneself grow.
And Maurice invites us to dream this world, to use what he considers the most powerful form of energy in this world, our thoughts, to create and transform the world. And let the Love within oneself burn like a sun in the heart of oneself, to warm oneself and warm others around you. Within Self, there is only room for one thing, that inner fire that burns and animates love and compassion at the heart of Tummo practice.
«So it is Faith that will guide your steps»: to put this brilliance and fervour at the service of universal consciousness (the spiritual), or as Ramana Maharshi said: “To put our instruments, the body and the mind, at the service of the inner Self».
Beyond the rite of passage, which consists in drying wet sheets on one’s back, or melting the snow through the heat produced during the practices, it is indeed bliss and enlightenment matter in these yogic practices. The generation of body heat is merely an outward sign of the good practice of circulating energies in the body, and of the degree that the meditator has acquired in the art of channelling energy through the body’s energy channels. Tummo is traditionally taught to experience phenomena of “consciousness transfer to a corpse without abscess followed by its rebirth.” As impressive as this last formula may be, what we are truly invited to is a rebirth to oneself. So, break your shells, immerse yourself in the warmth, in the cold, in silence, in solitude, in Tapas/Tummo, to BE.
Yogi Philippe Djoharikian, trained in sociology & anthropology, teacher at the DU meditation and health in Montpellier, yoga teacher for 35 years, lover of life and living, director of the Baba School of Yoga .
About Anne Laurençon (full biography in issue 94)
With a doctorate in life sciences from the CNRS, Anne is a yoga teacher, particularly Tummo yoga, trained at the Maurice Daubard Institute.