Background and aims: Many studies have conclusively proven that meditative techniques derived from the Indian systems of philosophy, meditation and ritual classified as "Tantra" can bring about sustained changes in the structure and function of the nervous system of practitioners. The aim of this study is to provide neuroscientists a framework through which to interpret Tantra, and thereby provide a foundation upon which future interdisciplinary study can be built.
Methods: We juxtapose Tantric concepts such as the subtle body, nadis and mantras with relevant neuroscientific findings. Our premise is that through sustained internalization of attention, Tantric practitioners were able to identify and document subtle changes in their field of awareness, which usually do not cross the threshold to come into our perception.
Results: The descriptions left by Tantric philosophers are often detailed and empirical, but they are about subjective phenomena, rather than external objects. They also focus on individual experiences, rather than the group-level analyses favored by modern medical science.
Conclusion: Systematic exploration of Tantric texts can be of tremendous value in expanding our understanding of human beings' experiential reality, by enabling us to build bridges between first-person and third-person approaches to the nervous system. This may open up new avenues for cognitive enhancement and treating neurological diseases.
Keywords: Buddhism; Hinduism; interoception; mantra; meditation; neuroscience; subtle body; tantra.