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The Cross-Cultural Evidence on “Extreme Behaviors”: What Can It Tell Us?

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Many kinds of body/mind practices are capable of producing remarkable behaviors and altered body states. A typology of such behaviors and states, defined as observable and intentional “extreme” alterations to the body, is presented. Epistemological and methodological issues are discussed: limitations of observational data, and role of meaning, intentionality, and consciousness. Rapprochement between Western medicine and Indo-Tibetan medicine requires rethinking biomedicine's radical grounding in physicality and reliance on “evidence-based medicine,” and guarding against an ethnocentric Western intellectual hegemony motivating medical science and clinical practice to colonize and subvert non-Western traditions like Indo-Tibetan Buddhist medicine.
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Keywords: consciousness; cross-cultural body-altering practices; mind/body disciplines; pain behavior

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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