The Religious Group That Still Performs Self-Mummification

Andrei Tapalaga
Luang Pho Daeng is not the only mummified monk nearby, although he is arguably the best known.Photo byHistory of Yesterday

The method of self-mummification was exclusive to Buddhist monks in the Japanese Shingon sect and was intended to bring about enlightenment. Even though Japan is not the ideal location for mummification, around 20 monks have been able to become mummies through arduous processes. Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and other religions are incorporated into the esoteric Shingon sect. They follow the Shugendo ideology, which emphasizes developing spiritual strength via self-control and self-denial.

The Japanese monk Kukai was the sect's founder (774–835 AD) Kukai eventually passed away after going into a deep state of concentration in his final days and refusing food and drink. voluntary. On Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture, he was laid to rest. Kukai, also known as Kobo-Daishi post-mortem, appeared to be sleeping when his tomb was uncovered, which astounded those who did so. He looked the same, and his hair was robust and healthy.

Sokushinbutsu, the process of self-mummification, was extremely difficult. The method, which was completed in three stages of 1000 days each, wasn't always fruitful. Self-mummification was prohibited in the late 19th century because it was viewed as a barbarous and outdated practice. The monks continued to attempt to transform into mummies in spite of this.

Shinnyokai was the earliest Sokushinbutsu monk. He had the entire procedure successfully in 1783 when he was 96 years old, and he is still in excellent health now. Unlike other mummies, whose clothing is replaced every 12 years, it is changed every six years. The previous clothing is dissected into tiny parts and offered for 1,000 yen as amulets.

Giving up most foods was the first step in the self-mummification process. For a period of 1000 days, the monks only consumed seeds and nuts. They engaged in a series of taxing activities to get rid of any remaining body fat.

Even harder was the second phase. The monks also stopped drinking water. They were only permitted to consume the very deadly Urushi essence tea (generally used to make varnishes and paints). The tea aimed to cause the monks to lose all their bodily fluids while also poisoning their tissues to stop worms and bugs from consuming their corpses after death. At this point, tree bark and roots had taken the place of the seeds and nuts.

The final phase continued till passing away. They were imprisoned in a stone tomb and placed in the lotus pose. The monk rang a bell each day to signal his continued existence. The tomb was shut for another a thousand days after the noise stopped. The procedure was deemed successful if the monk's physique was in good shape. Unfortunately, it only occurs extremely infrequently.

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