a Buddhist mummy?

Read and learn is one of my precepts.  Earthsky.org reports a story this morning about a statue from around 1100 in China that was analyzed in Europe with a CT scan.  Inside the statue was the mummy of a monk who died while meditating and was later transformed through layers of fabric and enamel into a statue.  Here is a link to the story with pictures.


It turns out several Buddhist monk mummies are known, most from Japan.  I lived in Japan in my youth and never heard of them.  They evidently die while meditating as they are buried in a chamber.  Imagine this abbot not in nature but in a burial chamber.  Some time after his death, the chamber might be opened and the mummified body kept for religious display.


Seems bizarre but keeping ancestors in some desiccated form or another, e.g., bones, ashes, skull, has been part of our culture for a long time.  The Celts, as a way of sanctifying a building, would bury a live animal in its walls; the more important the building, the more important the animal.  There are stories about humans being buried alive in buildings, important ones like a church, in Europe well into the Christian era.  Evidently some of the Buddhist mummies have been dated from the early 20th Century.

Meditation is a powerful act.  Sogyal Rinpoche in his book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, provides spiritual guidance and examples about meditation and dying from his tradition.  One story is about a group of monks on a long arduous journey.  One of the elders becomes ill and they must pause even though the journey is important.  The elder goes deep into his meditative trance and is mistaken for dead but his leader recognizes the trance, brings him out of it, and then helps him die for real through different meditative steps.  A monk visiting Savannah a few years ago did not sleep for 2 weeks. By day he led his fellows in making a sand mandala and by night he chanted outside their house on a dock by a creek.  Vital processes become different when meditating.  The process of dying is also experienced quite differently than under Western traditions.  Wow, humanity is really something else, eh?

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