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Ancient Buddhist Monks That

Mummified Themselves

By James Donahue

Stories are told that ancient mummified remains of various Buddhist monks and priests have been found in remote places in Japan and Tibet. What is odd about this is that these men died in a seated, Yogi position, their bodies were never treated or embalmed, and they have remained perfectly preserved for what some believe are hundreds of years.

The belief is that these monks used the power of meditation and self-discipline to voluntarily leave their bodies and mummify the bodies in the process.

As bazaar as that sounds, scientists who have had the opportunity of studying the body of a 500-year-old Tibetan mummy found in a remote structure high in the mountains near the border of Tibet and China, say that close examination of the body, including X-rays, appear to confirm that the monk’s body was deserted by the spirit while seated in an advanced yogic posture known only to advanced students.

The monk appears to have been practicing one of the highest forms of meditation known as zolk-shun, a method of freeing the body and traveling deep into the mind. It is said that zolk-shun gives the practitioner immense physical power, including the ability to harness his mind at the moment of his death.

There are more of these mummified priests in Japan than are known to exist in Tibet, although the high Tibetan terrain allows more places for such bodies to have been hidden. One report estimated as many as 24 such mummies known to exist in Japan; all of them having conducting this strange form of suicide prior to the end of the Nineteenth Century, when the Japanese government voted to outlaw the practice.

There probably never was a danger of having too many dead mummies sitting around the Buddhist landscape, however. As the story is told, the act of self-mummification is extremely hard to achieve. Many who attempted it failed in their efforts. It might be akin to reaching Kether, or the crown of the Cabalistic Tree of Life. It is a goal all who follow the spiritual path attempt to achieve, but human frailties constantly get in the way.

Buddhism appears to offer a form of discipline by which a few humans . . . those who practice a life of extreme discipline . . . actually can reach this mental and spiritual level.

Buddhism teaches that everything in the physical world is an illusion that prevents us from seeing what is really true. What is truth is that we are all part of a greater being, or the creator, that is separated by a veil of our own mental creation. Until we find a way to see beyond this veil and understand this truth we are forced to constantly experience death and rebirth into this physical world.

Consequently, the goal of the Buddhist priests is to separate themselves from this world so that at death they become one with the greater being and thus stop the cycle of having to return to Earth for yet another round at life.

Dr. Herbert Benson, of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, has been conducting experiments on Buddhist monks from Tibet to determine the effects of meditation on the body’s metabolism. His work has opened an insight into ways in which the mind can alter the functioning of the human body.

Benson has found that with simple meditation the monks can decrease their oxygen consumption by as much as 60 percent. Using Tumo, a yoga that produces inner heat, a monk can raise their skin temperature to a point where, when wrapped in ice-cold wet sheets, they cause the sheets to steam and dry.

It has been said that the Shingon Buddhists in Japan train themselves to deny the importance of their physical selves through self-mortification. They do such things as sit for hours under ice-cold waterfalls while meditating. The idea was that the priest becomes less concerned about self. For these monks, personal life and death does not matter, but being kind to our fellow beings and guiding them toward self-realization of their greater connection to the creator does.

While it may not be necessary to carry this concept to these extremes, the monks demonstrate an important principle for everyone. It is the key for reaching a state of peace in the world. It is the key for healing all of the problems, bringing an end to war, and feeding the hungry. It is a key for healing the sick and assuring that all people have clothes to wear and a roof over their heads.

It is a four-letter word: Love.