The mummified body of a Mongolian monk has been found in the lotus position, looking as though he's been meditating for the last 200 years.
Very little information has been released about the find. Mongolia's Morning News reported: “Experts that only had time to carry [out] a basic visual test say they believe the body can be about 200 years old. So far there is no information as to where the body was found. The only details we learned was that it was covered with a cattle skin.”
The find has sparked comparisons with Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, a Buryat Buddhist lama who died in 1927 at the age of 73. Itigilov was meditating when he died and was placed in a coffin sitting upright. In line with his directions before death, Itigilov was exhumed in 1955, 1973 and 2002, and on each occasion his body showed few signs of decay. On the most recent occasion, a forensic scientist described it as “in the condition of someone who had died 36 hours ago.” The monk found in this case may have been a predecessor of Itigilov's.
Buddhist scripture promotes concern for the soul over the body. However, over the centuries, the religion has often been influenced by animist traditions, in which the incorruptibility of the body is seen as a mark of saintliness. Monks sometimes leave instructions to be buried sitting in the lotus position, often with drying agents such as coal or lime. While this frequently leads to remarkable preservation, there can be an awful price to pay, with some monks undertaking the gruesome process of self-mummification, or Sokushinbutsu, prior to death.
The elimination of fat and moisture from the diet prior to death, along with consuming poisonous herbs and nuts, may suppress bacterial growth. The process is thought to have culminated in the drinking of tea—normally used as a laquer for bowls—as a sort of embalming fluid. It is unclear how much of the latest discovery's preservation is a result of his own efforts and how much is a result of the application of cattle hides after death. But for those of us who can't manage to stay in the lotus position for more than a few minutes, spending two centuries like that looks pretty impressive.
Below is a full view of the mummified monk in lotus position.
Credit: 'Өглөөний сонин'