Buddhist Mummies

Beakmoo

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Just watched the programme on Channel 4 re Buddhist monks who, through a process of starvation, eating pine bark and mineral deposits rich in arsenic, and finally walling themselves up to die, managed to convert their bodies into mummies with no intervention after death at all. This raises so many questions; How did this work physically? What were the spiritual reasons for doing it? How does it relate to Christian and Hindu aestheticism (sp?), and more importantly to me, modern day ideas about anorexia? And, why do british TV documentaries have such pompous long winded voice overs?

EDIT. Oops sorry, links: http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/B/bodies/bits/gallery.html
http://www.sonic.net/~anomaly/japan/dbuddha.htm
 
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God yes, it took forever for them to get to the point! The voiceover was done by that bloke from Couplings - totally the wrong voice, in my opinion...

Anyhow... The Human Starvation project was interesting in relation with anorexia. For example the fact that the subjects reported better hearing - don't anorexics claim to have heightened senses? Is it similar in some ways to Christian extasy?
Also, there was no pain involved, just hunger and exhaustion.
 

rynner2

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Yes, Beak, that was a fascinating docu. (Well done finding the C4 link - I looked but didn't find it). You have to admire the monks' dedication and perseverence (however misguided it might seem to us modern westerners.)

It's fascinating to find a Fortean subject I've never heard of before.

In fact, there was another recent one, but my short-term memory is failing! I must search my posts for clues!

It just shows, the world is full of mysteries.
 
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Anonymous

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Found an article on a similar Vietnamese mummy:
http://www.planetsave.com/ViewStory.asp?ID=930


A Thai monk was examined by those two guys who went around x-raying sideshow mummies:
http://www.100megsfree4.com/farshores/pmummonk.htm


And this book apparently has a chapter on this mummification process:
http://www.rambles.net/pringle_mummycon01.html


Ooooh, and found this reference:
Hori, Ichiro. "Self-Mummified Buddhas in Japan." History of Religions 1, no. 2 (1962): 222-42.

And possibly this one too:
Baker, C.C. "Buddhist mummies in Japan." Kaibogaku Zasshi. Journal of Anatomy, v.68 n.4 (1993): 381-398


And this snippet of info:
It is also well known that in the Jain tradition, saints were expected to fast until their deaths (Acaranga Sutra 1, 7, 6), and thereafter there have been those in both China and Japan who have followed this tradition.
http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/becker.htm
 

Timble2

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Fascinating programme, if a bit long-winded. I guessed the rationale of eating pine bark and roots way before they explained it.

It could have been about 20 minutes shorter with the content it had, or possibly they could have gone deeper into the philosophy.

Still more like this, please.
 
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Anonymous

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is the programme going to be repeated? i broke my telly moving flat :eek!!!!:
 

JamesWhitehead

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Fasting is probably the only universally available means of achieving
altered states. I assume it doesn't hurt because the stressed body
releases endorphines, enabling the mystic to float above the contingencies
of earthly life.

I too was thinking of this practice in relation to eating disorders. The
physical starvation cannot be much different, though the Saint or mystic
think they are going somewhere and the anorexic is not hoping for
Death so much as refusing the banquet of earthly life.

About a year ago, I think, we discussed the Japanese phenomenon of
adolescents - mainly boys - who retired to their rooms or to a corner
of the family home and retreated from society. At the time, it seemed
related to extreme competitiveness and bullying in Japanese schools
but maybe there is a deeper cultural strand. :rolleyes:
 

Beakmoo

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It certainly was a long winded programme, and a tad sensationalist too. The sealing up process was presented as an horrific suicide, whereas in reality it was more likely to be an ecstatic experience surely? These monks could meditate themselves into a cocked hat, and it was after all the climax of years of effort for them.
It also raised an interesting discussion between Hubcap and myself regarding meditation. My view of it is that the concept of self is an "artificial" construct of the mind, which meditation is able to suppress somehow. I think it's the parietal lobe that's involved, no doubt someone will correct me if I'm wrong. Which raises the question of why have we evolved a concept of self? And are there other animals who don't have it?
 

Beakmoo

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:cross eye Where can I get a job chainsawing off dead people's heads and putting them in roasting tins?
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Moved over from my posting in the incorrputibles thread:

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&postid=358467#post358467

as these types of mummies are significantly different to incorruptibles:

StellaBoulton said:
The self mummification of Shingon priests in Japan might interest if your looking for something outside Europe. They spend years eating pine sap to preserve themselves after death.
A quick google came up with this, but theres lots of other info out there.

http://www.sonic.net/~anomaly/japan/dbuddha.htm

http://www.discoverychannelasia.com/selfmademummies/feature2.shtml
Good call - I watched a documentary on this as part of Channel 4's mummy season (quite pos. that Discovery Channel doc) and was pondering the connection. Although they are strictly speaking mummies the key connection is the complex rituals they use (eating bark and drinkin slightly poisonous spring water) which drastically reduce the activity of the stomach bacteria and this is one of the most important aspects of preserving the body. Obviously the Egyptian's did this the more straightforward way (by whipping them out and putting them in jars) but there are mnay paths to mummihood ;)

I think the critical difference between incorruptibles and mummies is the actual apparent good preservation of body tissue (rather than being more of a bag of dried skin and bone - I know people like that). The activity of the stomach bacteria is stopped by the anaerobic conditions and it is the actual alkali environment that results in the saponification of the body fat and tissues giving the strange lifelike look of the body.


Also a relevant article from the front page:

Corpse of monk in lotus position who died in 1723 found in Vietnam

Tue Mar 16, 3:50 PM ET Add Science - AFP to My Yahoo!



HANOI (AFP) - The corpse of a Buddhist monk sitting in a lotus position has been uncovered in a pagoda in northern Vietnam over 280 years after he died, a museum official said.

The body of the monk, Nhu Tri, who died in 1723 in a tower at the Tieu Pagoda in Bac Ninh province, was covered in a layer of special preservative paint.

His internal organs remained intact but one eye socket was damaged and his arms were broken off at the elbow, according to Nguyen Duy Nhat, deputy director of the Bac Ninh Museum.

The corpse was first discovered around 30 years ago during the Vietnam War but local authorities were not in a position to preserve it.

"In early 2002 a delegation of high ranking monks from the Truc Lam and Yen Tu Monasteries visited the pagoda and read the inscription on the tower. They asked for it be opened up and preserved," Nhat said.

On March 5 this year, the Ministry of Culture and Information's heritage department granted a licence to the Buddhist Church to restore the corpse, and a week later it was moved to Bac Ninh's Due Khanh Pagoda for the work to begin.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/vietnam_archaeology_monk

There are lots of reports of Buddhist mummies found in caves, and I suspect it is due to a combination of a 'living on light' stye diet and dessication. Its interesting that they report that the stomach organs are intact.

Emps
 

Kondoru

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Its mentioned in `The Catalpa Bow` by Carmen Blacker (IMHO one of the most fastinating books on Japan ever written.)
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Monk mummy found in mountains

By AFP
Mar 5, 2004, 07:20


A MUMMY of a Tibetan Buddhist monk, believed to be about 500 years old, has been found in India's northern Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, the Hindustan Times.com website reported.


It backed up its claim by publishing a picture of a wizened human sitting in a hunched, meditating position draped with a shawl.

The mummy, identified as that of monk Sangha Tenzin, was found inside a tomb at Ghuen village in the cold and remote Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, about 6000 metres above sea level, the report said.


Ghuen villagers have known about the mummy since 1975, when an earthquake struck the region and brought down a part of the tomb, it added.


However due to the remoteness of Ghuen, in a desolate mountainous area close to India's border with China – restricted to the public and under the control of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police – the mummy's existence has remained under wraps.

However, a Hindustan Times staffer managed to get access and took photographs of the mummy, it said.


Victor Mair, a consulting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, was quoted as saying the mummy was at least 500 years old.


According to the report, the mummy is remarkably well preserved for its age. Its skin is unbroken and there is hair on the head.


Mair said this was partly to do with the extreme cold and dry air of the region.


"Slow starvation in the last few months of his life reduced the body fat and shrunk parts of the body that would have been liable to putrefaction."


The report did not say where the mummy is now being kept.


Ghuen village is about 50km from the Tabo monastery, believed to be the oldest surviving Buddhist establishment in the region.


It straddles an ancient trading route through which spices, wool, salt, precious stones and sugar moved between India and Tibet, the report added.



© Copyright 2001 by TimesofTibet.com
http://www.timesoftibet.com/artman/publish/article_1097.shtml

Also:

http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,8881543%5E1702,00.html
 

Kondoru

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Yes, there are quite a few in those regions, but it could be due to the climate, very cold and dry.

(dont traditional tibetian burial methods involve leaving the stiff out for scavengers? I read somewhere, that if you come across a tomb in tibetian regions, (tibet, proper, and the environs, meaning most of the himalayas) that its a foregner?)

I read an account once of a whole cave full of mummies (with a few pictures) in the Indian territory just due west of the Nepal border, the people had taken refuge there from smallpox and died.

(would look up the reference but books all awry, painting the walls behind my shelves...)
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Homo Aves said:
Yes, there are quite a few in those regions, but it could be due to the climate, very cold and dry.
Yes it is probably closer to the natural mummies (esp. Otzi and Mallory):

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=14455

but there is quite a tradition of Buddhist natural mummies in caves I assume the combination of fasting (reduces the stomach bacteria) along with cold, altitude and dryness combine to produce these types of mummies.

I'd be interested in any references when you can find the books ;)

Emps
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Coming up on Channel 5 tomorrow:

Stranger Than Fiction (Documentary)

Time - 21:00 - 22:00 (1 hour long)

When - Wednesday 19th May on five

The Mystery of the Self-Made Mummy.

Documentary following a team of scientists examining a 500-year-old mummy found in Tibet. Can they discover why the mummy has managed to survive the effects of natural decay, and explain why the mummy ? most likely a Tibetan monk practising advanced tantric meditation ? seemed to have commited suicide?
but I can't find any more information online - sounds interesting. More later.

See here for an earlier reprot on thsi find:

www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... 908#362908
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Interesting documentary (done in conjunction with Discovery, Speigel TV, etc. so if it hasn't been shown yet in other countries ti will be eventually) which touches on a few themes discussed here and in related threads.

I made some notes:

Victor Mair:
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?VictorMair
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/faculty.html

was the lead on this and recruited a team:

Margaret Cox - Forensic Anthropologist who appears on Time Team:
http://www.channel4.com/history/timeteam/biog_margaret.html
http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/conservation/staff/Staff CoxM.html

Bruno Tonello - radiographer who does work with foresnic arahceologists in places like Bosnian and he has some fancy kit for taking digitial X-rays in difficult circumstances.

Basically in 1975 an earthquake hit the Spiti Valley up in the borders with Tibet and India and two soldiers clearing up found a mummy in the rubble and a note (which crumbled to dust). The team travel up into the valley to study the mujmy but are under strict time restraints as it is so close to the border.

The ivestigation took two interesting paths - a study of the physical remains and a religious study into the background of meditation practices, etc.

Bruno got the X-rays looked at and the mummy was a healthy man aged 40-45 but the curvature of the spine suggested long periods of meditation.
Margaret took a sample from the body and from the scarf off to the radiocarbon lab at Oxford (I had a guideed tour many moons ago - all very impressive) and a Dr Higham gave her the results that both scarf and body were probably 500 years old. Interestingly the results also showed high levels of nitrogen which suggested he had been fasting for months before death.

This confirmd that it was more than liely a monk and meanwhile Victor was speaking to monks and doing some globe trotting to look at the religious aspects to see if there were any clues. Although my spelling might be off but if anyone knows the better one speak up ;)
Essentially he found that the fabric belt or strap found wrapped around the mummy's neck might have been a meditation belt and these gumta might help monks maintain rishis (mediatioan poses) for long periods of time. He invetigtaed tantric meditation and discussed zorkshun/zokeshun an extreme and secret form of meditation only passed down from master to one student. Also he touched on the fact that some form of controlled suffocation might help reach enhanced levels of perception during meditation (like auto erotic asphyxiation).
He visited Boston and Herbert Benson from the Harvard Medical School who is one of the few people looking into the physcial changes around meditation (which include 64% reduction in respiration and icnreased body temperature - they showed monks drying blankets dipped in ice cold water with their bodies):
http://www.mbmi.org/pages/bio1.asp
They did suggest briefly that he might have somehow increased his tempreature so far that he managed to mummify himself that way but luckily they dodged that one and jumpe don another plane to Japan where they visited Yamagata where they visited a monk called Tetsumoko who had become mummified (but has also emplying Duyoku, the taking on of others suffering by yourself, and poked his won eye with a knife, etc.). They moved on to another monk Butki who, 100 years ago, had eaten tree bark and leaves and then been placed inaide a box meditating and lowered into the ground. When they dug him up much later they found his body was mummified.

Their conclusion was that the monk may have bound himslef deliberately (Victor recreates it) so that if he stopped medidating his leg would relax and choke him. He then sacrificed himself (possibly to avert a natural disaster) and the cold and arid environment added to the redcution in stoamch bacteria from the fasting (along with I'm sure redcued insect activity) resulted in him being mummified. It appears Tibet was full of hundreds of similar mummies but rather than have them desecrated in the Cultural Revolution the Tibetans cremated them all. This one was saved by just being over the border (they did claim it was due to his being buried but that possibly didn't happen until later). Its interesting as there are numerous other mummies emerging at the moment from this region so we should get a better picture of things over time.

There was also an interesting aside on kudung which are the preserved bodies of high ranking Buddhist monks but are often mummified (removal of intestines and repacking with cotton and sometimes dipped in butter - yum) and/or gold plated.

Emps
 

Mighty_Emperor

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The ultimate in Buddhist mummies

Hong Kong Displays Buddha's Finger



By MARGARET WONG
Associated Press Writer

May 25, 2004, 1:58 PM EDT


HONG KONG -- Beijing is lending Hong Kong one of the Buddha's fingers for public display, but critics belittled the move Tuesday as a political gesture to soothe anger over China's recent decision ruling out full democracy in Hong Kong.

"This is part of China's propaganda exercise," said pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan. "Beijing is trying to get close to Hong Kong people and cool the heated political atmosphere."

The relic, held in a bulletproof glass box, was flown in Tuesday afternoon -- just in time for the Buddha's birthday celebrations here Wednesday. It will be shown for 10 days in this largely Buddhist territory.

Lee compared the event to the visit last year by China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei, which was seen by many as a heavy-handed public relations campaign to bolster Hong Kong's lukewarm nationalism.

Many in Hong Kong are furious because China's top legislative committee ruled last month that the territory cannot elect its next leader in 2007, and all its lawmakers in 2008. The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of a high degree of autonomy, but opposition politicians say Beijing has broken its promises.

Saffron-robed monks escorted the finger off an airplane that brought it from Xianyang in Shaanxi province. It was transferred onto a truck decorated in gold paneling and lotus flowers as a band played welcoming music. Senior monks prayed and sounded horns before the finger was driven to an exhibition venue.

Buddha died about 483 B.C. After his cremation, some historians believe his bones were saved by Indian monks and that a few pieces were brought to China later. The finger bone to be displayed in Hong Kong was among Buddhist relics discovered in an underground shelter at Famen Temple near the ancient capital of Xian in central China in 1987.

A senior Communist Party official, Liu Yandong, was set to officiate at an opening ceremony for the finger's display from Wednesday through June 4. The relic is believed to bring peace and luck.

While critics believe Beijing is playing politics with the religious artifact, it may not have any political effect.

"People will simply treat it as a religious display and they won't relate it to politics," said political scientist Ma Ngok, who teaches at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology.

No official statistics are available, but academics say the majority of Hong Kong's 6.8 million Chinese believe in some form of Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese folk religion or a combination of those faiths.
Source
 

skinny

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Pink Tentacle blog has a very macabre set of pictures of these various mummified remains of things, demons, actual self-mummified buddhist monks, chimera, etc. Slightly chilling, but very very interesting snippets of info attached. Googled images after hearing of the monks' self-mummification process on QI - Gothic.

Link
 

Mythopoeika

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I saw a documentary about this a while back.
They examined the mummified remains of a monk and came to the conclusion that he went from a state of meditation to a state like that of death, then finally died while in a meditative posture. The body didn't rot because he had become so dehydrated.
 

GNC

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Typical, you're just about to finally be at one with the universe and you get interrupted.
 

Monstrosa

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Doesn't lotus position involve ankles on opposite thigh?
 

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http://travel.aol.co.uk/2015/02/05/...ead-meditating-buddha-mongolia/?ncid=webmail3

200-year-old mummified monk 'not dead, just meditating'
Senior Buddhists suggest mummified monk is in 'meditative trance'

A 200-year-old mummified monk found preserved in Mongolia last week is not dead but rather in a "meditative trance", say senior Buddhists. The remains were found wrapped in cattle skins in north-central Mongolia, and scientists have been trying to determine how the monk is so well preserved.

Many think Mongolia's cold weather could be the reason. But Dr Barry Kerzin, a physician to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told theSiberian Timesthat the monk was in a rare state of meditation called "tukdam".

He said: "I had the privilege to take care of some meditators who were in a tukdam state. If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks - which rarely happens - his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes. Usually in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. This means that he has found a 'rainbow body'. This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha."

He added: "If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha. Reaching such a high spiritual level,the meditator will also help others, and all the people around will feel a deep sense of joy."

Ganhugiyn Purevbata, who is the founder and professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, agreed, telling the Mirror: "Lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolises the preaching Sutra.

"This is a sign that the Lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas."

It is believed the monk may be a teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov. ...
 
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ramonmercado

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Yet another posting of the monk.
 
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