Sunday, June 23, 2013

History mystery: Monks who mummify themselves alive!

While talking about Mummies we immediately remember about mummies of Egypt, but actually in some part of India, Japan mummifying them self was practiced as an enlighten ritual. In India a sect of vishnavite namely Madava saints called this practice as Brindavana Pravesha and in Jain customs also, fasting unto death for enlightment was practiced and it was called as Sallekhana. But the one practiced in Japan monks is a wired. Shingon is a sect of Buddhist monks in Japan who practiced mummifying themselves, and those succeeded in getting Enlightment was called as Sokushibutsu. This was practiced by monks of Tohoku region of Honsu islands Japan. Most of the monks of Shugendo sect of Buddhism only followed this kind of self mummifying called Sokushibutsu. Sokushibutsu is a process of mummifying; which is entirely different from Brindavana Pravesha or Sallekhana. In Sokushibutsu the Monk he himself undergoes mummifying process for ten year and in the final stage of process for enlightment he himself entombed alive. In Sokushibutsu the first three years the monks plans their diet to lose weight. For that they ate only some berries and nuts. This kind of diet removed the unwanted fats from the monk’s body and this process continues for three years.

 In the next three years the eats only the bark and roots of some specific plats to remove excess moisture from his body so that the mummifying process will be easy ( Point to Ponder : If moisture is more in the body the body will decay soon and mummifying process will not be successful after death). And they are allowed to eat lesser amount of some fruits and berries. The monks lead a very rigid and disciplined life during these period and they under take more physical activity to lose more fat. The Sokushibutsu monk induces vomiting to lose large scale body fluid. In the third phase of the rituals the monks drink special tea made our of Urushi tree. This herbal tea is poisonous and has lacquer property. Consuming this tea causes the person to vomit more and restrict the ability to get more nutrients from diet, lacquer bowls and restrict the more the body fluid (Point to Ponder: This poisonous tea make his body a hell for bacteria and maggots so that the body will not decay after his death.).

At this end of this second phase that is after six years and more the monk is little more than bones and skin and if the monk survived this stage he will move on to the third stage. At this stage the monk himself will sit in a small stone tomb that exactly fit him in. He enters the tomb and sits in Padmashana (sitting in lotus position). In this position of sitting he could not move himself until his death. Once he seals himself in the tomb holes are made and bamboo pipes are inserted for breathing and for a bell. The monk has to ring a bell on the daily basis so that his fellow monks could know that he is alive. If the monk didn’t ring the bell it is assumed that he is no more and the vent for breathing and the bell will be removed and the tomb will be sealed for the final thousand days rituals. At the end of the thousand days rituals the tomb will be opened to see whether the monk was successfully mummified himself and his preserved body will be put on display in temple and the monk will be declared as Buddha and revered. Thousands of monks were tired this ritual in Yamagta Province and only 24 succeeded in their effort. Most of the historians believed that this practice was originated from Tang region of China and Kukai who is the founder of Shingon sect only introduced this self mummification. In later stage; at the end of 18th century the Japanese Government banned Sokushibutsu- self mummification process (a ritual suicide?).


  1. Very interesting info. Wonder why anyone would want to mummify himself.

    1. If they are successful in their effort in mummifying them selves then they will be declared as Buddha and their body will be displayed in the Temple.For this kind of honour they did so.

  2. quite hell of a info .. thanks for sharing it man !

  3. Wow, interesting. Didn't know about it at all!!


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