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Observations placeholder

Buddhist temple example



Type of Spiritual Experience


Number of hallucinations: 1


Jansen in her treatise on singing bowls relates the experience that Alexandra David-Néel narrated in her book Tibet, Bandits, Priests and Demons

When she entered the temple of the Bön monastery of Tesmon, the service that was being conducted was rudely interrupted. While a lama was busy with a kyilkhor, a magic diagram, and sacred cakes, called tormas, one of her bearers entered the temple, clearly indicating that he was not very impressed by the sacred rituals. He was ordered away by the monks.

Objecting and cursing violently he insulted the lamas by shouting out that the tormas were only made of momo dough (bread dough).

Note that there is more than one mechanism at work here, the suppressed fury of the monks whose service had been interrupted and whose religion had been insulted as well as the powerful effects of the ‘chang’ which is a kind of drum/bull roarer

A description of the experience

'(...)Then, as the man came forward, the bonpo grasped a chang, which was standing next to him, and swung it around. Strange, savage sounds filled the room with a tidal wave of vibrations that pierced my ears. The disrespectful peasant screamed and staggered back with his arms held up as though he was warding off something threatening.

'Get out', the lama repeated again.

The other bearers grabbed their friend and rushed out of the temple, greatly disturbed. Bong! Bong! continued the drum. The accompanying bonpo returned unpurturbed, sat in front of the kyilkhor, and continued the muffled singing and chanting.

What had happened?

I hadn't noticed anything, except for that extraordinary sound. I went outside and asked my bearers. The troublemaker who had disturbed the sacred ritual had lost his bravado.

 'It was a snake. I tell you', he said, nodding to the others who sat around him. 'A snake of fire came out of the chang.'

 'What? Did you really see a snake of fire?' I asked. 'Is that why you recoiled?'

'Didn't you see it?' they replied. 'It came out of the chang when the lama beat upon it.'

'You must have dreamt it,' I said. 'I didn't see anything.'

 'We didn't see the snake, but we did see flashes of light shoot out of the chang,' the other bearers interjected. In fact, they had all been witnesses to a miracle. (...)

Later David-Néel questions the bonpo that emanated the thoughtform, and the bonpo affirmed:

'That it was the power of the zoung that I cast,' declared the lama emphatically. Speaking more softly he said: 'The sound creates shapes and beings..[.]the sound inspires them.



The source of the experience

Tibetan Buddhism

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps