Monday, February 18, 2008

Monk who lives after death

We all have heard about mummification, the process of ceasing the decay of a corpse by covering it with some paste and cloth. This is prominent in the ancient Egyptian culture, they used to mummify their Pharaoh’s corpse, believing that they will come to life after 3000yrs(yes, most of the mummies are 3000yrs old… (this is the reason the movies mummies were made during this period… it was based on the ‘Egyptian book of dead’), but is it possible to self mummify? That is to stop your body from decaying after your death??

Its seems to be possible…..

Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov

Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov was born in 1852 and began his religious education at the age of 16. He studied in Anninsky Datsan (a Buddhist university in Buryatia now in ruins) and earned degrees in medicine and philosophy. In 1911, he was appointed the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama , the head of Buddhism in Russia.


Itigilov remained an influential figure after stepping down from his post as Khambo Lama in 1917. During the First World War, Itigelov founded the organization of “Buryat Brothers" that helped the army with money, meals, clothes and medication. He also built a set of hospitals with lama doctors helping wounded soldiers. For this he received the St. Anna Award.

Premonition of death

In 1926, Itigilov warned his students about the coming terror of the "red teaching" and advised them to flee to Tibet. He remained in Siberia, and in 1927 he announced it was time for his passing. He asked the lamas to join him in meditation and begin funeral rites, and he died while meditating in the lotus position at the age of 75. In accordance with his will, the Khambo Lama's body was buried in a wooden box sitting upright in the lotus position.

Amazing Feat

The body of Itigilov in lotus position

Interestingly, Itigilov's testament also requested that monks exhume his body after a period of some years. This was done once in 1955 and again in 1973, after some difficulty in locating the body. Both times they found the body perfectly preserved and still sitting upright (which a dead body cannot normally do for more than two weeks). The monks did not publicize the astonishing phenomena due to the anti-religion policies of the Communist government.

Unveiled to Public

The body of Dasha-Dorzho Itigilov was transferred to Ivolginksy Datsan and publicly unveiled for the first time in September 2002, 75 years after his death in 1927. His body has decayed slightly since its exhumation but still remains in a state of preservation that baffles scientists and draws believers by the thousands.


Buddhists believe the 12th Khambo Lama was the reincarnation of the Lama Damba Dorja Zayayev, the first Khambo Lama, who was born in 1702. Lama Damba Dorja Zayayev lived to be 75. And 75 years after his death, Lama Itigelov was born, who also lived to be 75. Buddhists believe that the condition of Lama Itigelov's body, understood to be like no other in history, is evidence that he reached the state of emptiness. He has thus become a source of inspiration to many lamas and novices following the spiritual path and others of the Buddhist faith.


Although Itigilov's body was never embalmed or mummified, it is said that his corpse still bleeds if punctured. The Buddhist monks approach him as a living person and shake hands with him. Some devotees even claim that Itigilov is still alive, only immersed in a hibernation- or Nirvana-like state. "Buddhists say that only the most advanced masters can fall into some particular condition before death and purify themselves so that his dead body could not decay". Some scientists explain the state of Itigilov's body by abnormal quantities of bromine discovered in tissues and muscles.

Healing power

Many locals also believe Itigelov's body to have healing powers, and pilgrims flock to Ivolginksy to press their foreheads to the Lama's scarf. Wheelchairs and crutches are often left near the body as a sign of healing.


Sokushinbutsu were Buddhist monks or priests who allegedly caused their own deaths in a way that resulted in their being mummified. This practice reportedly took place almost exclusively in northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture. Between 16 and 24 such mummifications have been discovered.

For three years the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls. This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it killed off any maggots that might cause the body to decay after death. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. So was Itigelov was one of the Sokushinbutsu?

The world around us always seems to amaze us, will you call this science or metaphysics. We might not know… I believe it is not even necessary. Certain things in this world needs no analysis, but faith, for it’s the faith keeps the world moving and makes all miracles happen on this planet of selfish mortal humans.

1 comment:

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Egyptian culture is one of the most fascinating ones, I would like to visit Egypt to learn about the culture of the country !