A 200-year-old Mongolian monk whose mummified remains were found in the lotus posture is, according to Buddhist tradition, not entirely dead.
The mummy was discovered in the Songinokhairkhan district of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, last week after a 45-year-old man identified only as “Enhtor” attempted to sell it on the black market.
It is believed that the monk had engaged in the now illegal practice of self-mummification in an attempt to gain enlightenment.
The practice — which involves limiting diet and ingesting toxic chemicals to ward off disease — is rarely successful, but according to Barry Kerzin, a Buddhist monk and physician, “if the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha.”
Ganhugiyn Purevbata, a professor at the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University told The Siberian Times that the mummy “is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolizes of the preaching Sutra.”
“This is a sign that the Lama is not dead,” he continued, “but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas.”
Purevbata is suggesting that the monk is in a tukdam state, a form of meditation that can continue into death if the posture is maintained.
Kerzin agreed, telling The Siberian Times that he “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,” he continued, “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.”
A photograph of the mummified remains can be seen via Twitter below.
— Siberian Times (@siberian_times) January 28, 2015