Sangha Tenzin's Mummy-Gue, India.

Mummification is the technique of purposely drying or embalming flesh to preserve the body after death. This usually entailed extracting moisture from a deceased person and desiccating the flesh and organs with chemicals or natural preservatives like resin.

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But Buddhist monks in Japan and Tibet, on the other hand, have developed a unique process of mummification. When the monk is living, he begins a long process of starvation by ceasing to eat fattening foods like barley, rice, and beans. He also runs candles along his skin to dry it out in preparation for death. In a seated position, the monk dies of malnutrition.


Fat putrefies after death, therefore the monk's body can be better maintained by removing it. After his death, he is stored in an underground room for three years to dry before being treated with candles once more. In prayer, the monk transforms into a statue. There are just about thirty of these monks found in the world, most of whom lived on Japan'smain island, Honshu.

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An earthquake in northern India in 1975 uncovered an old tomb sheltering monk Sangha Tenzin's mummified body which is 500 years old. The tomb was unearthed and the mummy was removed in 2004 by the local police. The mummy's skin is still intact, and he still has hair on his head along with intact teeth and nails. With a rope around his neck and thighs, he died in a seated position (an esoteric practice recorded in a few Buddhist documents). According to legend, amid a scorpion infestation in the town, he begged his disciples to mummify him, and when his spirit left his body, a rainbow arose and the scorpions vanished. The Tabo Monastery, which dates from 996 CE, is around 30 kilometers from the town.

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Sangha Tenzin's mummy is presently on display in a shrine in Gue, India's Himachal Pradesh province, about two miles from where he was discovered. The settlement is difficult to approach because it is controlled by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and is secluded in the Himalayas. If you can get there, the shrine where the mummy lays is open to the public.

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