Did This Buddhist Monk Meditate Himself to Death?

A mummified monk was discovered in Mongolia—preserved in the lotus position, as if in an eternal state of meditation. The body was found covered in animal skin, according to a report by the London Evening Standard. How he died is unknown, but experts believe he may have gone through the now-outlawed practice of self-mummification.


There is mystery and speculation surrounding how this monk met his death, because experts have not yet had time to perform an in-depth examination of the remains. What they do know, based on cursory observation, is that the monk was likely a Lama—a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism.

Investigators have only had time to conduct basic evaluations of the discovery, but estimate the body to be 200 years old.

Experts with the Ulaanbataar National Center of Forensic Expertise believe that he may have met his death through Sokushinbutsu.

Sokushinbustsu is a Buddhist practice, during which the monk attempts self-mummification in an attempt to achieve enlightenment. During the process, the monk would have observed a strict diet and rigorous exercise to strip the body of fat, and then consumed poisonous tea meant to repel flesh-eating maggots and decomposition.

The monk would then be locked away in a stone tomb, meditating in the lotus position until death. If the tomb was opened and the body was found successfully mummified, the monk was said to have attained Buddha-hood.

This practice was observed primarily in Japan between the 11th and 19th centuries as an act of religious commitment.