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Sokushinbutsu – The Art of Self-Mummification

Woman of many faces~ijm 2011/10/22 16:15:53
Hundreds of years ago in northern Japan, a sect of Buddhism practiced a
now-illegal form of burial. Existing only in fairy tales until its
recent discovery, Sokushinbutsu was a slow, painful death that monks
practiced on themselves, resulting in a near-perfect preservation of
their bodies.
discovery sokushinbutsu slow painful death monks practiced near-perfect preservation bodies



The process was long and arduous; taking almost 6 years to complete. For
the first 1,000 days, the monk would change his diet to consist of
nothing but nuts and seeds while exercising daily to eliminate as much
body fat as possible. After 666 days, he would move on to an even more
restricting diet; eating nothing but roots and tree bark. Finally, as
the 1,000 days came to a close a special tea made of toxic sap was
drunk; slowly poisoning the body and making it inedible to maggots.

close tea toxic sap drunk slowly poisoning body inedible maggots


The final step consisted of locking oneself in a small tomb in the
lotus position with nothing but an air tube and a bell. After the bell
stopped ringing on a regular basis, the monk was presumed dead and the
tomb was sealed. 1,000 days later, the monks would uncover the tomb to
assess the success of the mummification.


Fully-preserved monks were venerated as a Buddha, given a permanent
viewing platform within the temple. The majority who decomposed as
normal were still praised for their dedication. With only a handful of
preserved bodies left, we can only guess how many monks attempted this.

decomposed normal praised dedication handful preserved bodies guess monks attempted

But this wasn’t the only way monks preserved themselves. Buddhists all
over Japan wished to be mummified, but it was normally a ritual done
after their death, not a self-inflicted one. The most famous of these
was Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov (shown above), a Russian monk who was praised
for his incorruptibility. It was recently discovered that his body was
preserved with salt after his death, the most common technique for
Buddhist mummification.

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2014/09/01 08:50:57

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