Sokushinbutsu: Mummies Alive

Sokushinbutsu: a ritualistic realm performed by Buddhist monks who are immersed and devoted to Asceticism.  The devotee enters a state of mummification while alive through the use a unique diet that consists of pine needles, seeds and tea made from the sap of the urushi tree; the urushi tree produces a poisonous sap (arsenic) that is implanted into a liquid-state.  The organs of the Monk shrinks over time (3-10 years), towards the end, they would isolate themselves, either in a temple or cave for meditation and passageway into enlightenment.

(urushi tree)


The origins of Sokushinbutsu can be traced back to Kūkai, a Japanese Buddhist monk who died at the age of 62.  He helped to establish an esoteric form of Buddhism known as Shingon in Japan.  Kūkai had been in the service of Emperor Ninmyō; before his death, Kūkai suddenly retreated from his daily rituals and stopped the intake of food and water – after his demise, he was entombed at Mount Kōya.  Legend claims that his tomb was opened and Kūkai’s body was in a state of Samadhi (meditative consciousness) and his hair/nails had grown immensely.  The act of Sokushinbutsu was banned by the Japanese Government in the 19th century but Rouge sects still practice it throughout the world.

The practice has influenced countless other Monks.


Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov (75) was a Buryat Buddhist lama (Tibetan Buddhism) who revitalized Buddhism in Russia, building a temple in St. Petersburg and becoming one of the last Monks to sustain power within Russia’s “imperial mission.”  In 1926, he began meditation rituals, conducted the “death chant” and prepared himself for enlightenment.  Itigilov left behind writings that instructed for him to be buried in a ‘sitting’ lotus position; he insisted on the exhumation of his body after a period of set-years.  Itiglov was exhumed in 1955 and 1973; both occurrences presented no signs of decomposition.  In 2002, Itiglov’s remains were transported to the Ivolginsky Datsan and ended up being tested.  In 2013, Vladimir Putin made an appearance with Itigilov and other Monks of the Datsan.


Mummy lama1

Sangha Tenzin is a mummy located in 1975 when an earthquake struck the region of Northern India.  A tomb was discovered and the body of Sangha Tenzin, preserved with skin, hair and clothes in-tact was deemed a holy-find.  He allegedly asked the townspeople to perform a ritualistic mummification on him during an outbreak of scorpion attacks; his body reached enlightenment and the scorpions disappeared.  He is displayed in Himachal Pradesh, India.



Honmyōkai was a Samurai/Monk who dedicated 20 years to the process of Sokushinbutsu; he stated “I have decided to become a living Buddha.  If people of future ages are devoted, I will grant them whatever request they may have.”  Honmyōkai was buried alive in an underground chamber by his disciples on May 8, 1681.



Shinnyokai Shonin was a farmer who unintentionally killed a samurai after a disagreement; while walking home from a day of farming, Shonin accidentally bumped into a Samurai, spilling maneuver onto the Samurai’s armor.  The Samurai had the right to retaliate and did so with a strike of his sword; Shonin kept the Samurai at bay with the use of his walking-shaft and eventually penetrated a weak spot on the Samurai’s armor, killing him.  Fearing imminent death, Shonin escaped to Dainichi Temple and became a devotee of the high priest there.  A local spring near the temple contains near-fatal concentrations of arsenic, this has been utilized as a hot-spot for most cases of Sokushinbutsu.  At age 96, Shonin entered a pine coffin and was buried alive.

(Dainichi Temple)


This is an official PROJECT ASTRAL article.

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