Researchers at a museum in the Netherlands have found that one of their Buddha statues contains inside a 1,000-year-old mummified monk. The Drents Museum in the Netherlands explained in a press release that a CT scan has shown that inside the Buddha statue is the self-mummified remains of a Buddhist monk that lived around the year 1100.
The scan initially exposed a human skeleton behind the veneer of the religious statue. While sitting in a lotus position, the mummified man’s body perfectly fits the dimensions of the statue. According to further examination, via endoscopy and supplementary CT scans done at the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort, it was discovered that the mummified man had his internal organs removed. Inside his empty body cavities are scripts with messages written in Chinese.
After careful examination of the scripts, researchers found that the mummified man may be Liu Quan, a Buddhist master of the Chinese Meditation School. They say it is possible that Liu Quan may have endured a punishing self-mummification procedure to emanate a “living Buddha”. Self-mummification was a practice undertaken by very few monks many centuries ago that included merciless self-control, a strict diet, and poison.
The process of self-mummification began with a diet that lasted 1,000 days when the monk would only be allowed to eat nuts and seeds. This was followed by an additional 1,000 days of only roots and bark, ridding the body of any traces of fat.
Once the five-year process was completed, the monk then ingested a special type of toxic tea, made from a mixture that included Japanese varnish tree sap, used as lacquer for plates and bowls. The beverage wreaked havoc on the body of the monk, which induced severe vomiting and massive loss of bodily fluids. Astonishingly, this step of the self-mummification process made the bodies of monk so poisonous that even insects and bacteria would not feed on it, thus discouraging decomposition.
The withered monk was then placed into a stone tomb, barley big enough for even the smallest person, in which he assumed the lotus position. The tomb was fashioned with an air tube which allowed the monk additional life support and a small bell which he would ring each day he was still alive. After the bell was sounded no more, his brethren removed the tube and sealed the stone tomb.
After 1,000 days, the former monk’s cohorts would reopen the tomb to expose either a well-mummified monk, or a decomposed corpse. Researchers have found that out of hundreds of monks that attempted the practice, only a few were perfectly self-mummified and placed in the temples as Buddha statues. According to researchers, the Buddha could have be stolen from a monastery, considering it was coated in gold paint. The statue eventually found its way to the museum in 1996 after its private owner requested it to be restored.
Using carbon dating, the mummified monk was dated to around the 11th or 12th century. Moreover, the carpet beneath him was dated at 200 years older.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Priya Saihgal – Flickr License