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Self-Mummification

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. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another 1,000 days, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful. If the monk had been successfully mummified, they were immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body. Although they weren't viewed as a true Buddha if they weren't mummified, they were still admired and revered for their dedication and spirit. As to the origin of this practice, there is a common suggestion that Shingon school founder Kukai brought this practice from Tang China as part of secret tantric practices he learned, and that were later lost in China. The practice was satirized in the story "The Destiny That Spanned Two Lifetimes" by Ueda Akinari, in which such a monk was found centuries later and resuscitated. The story appears in the collection Harusame Monogatari.
Today, there are a little more than two dozen Sokushinbutsu in Japan. Eight of these mummified monks are on display in the Dainichi and Churenji temples. They are still thought of as Buddha, by their brethren.

Tibetan Sky Burial Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common funerary practice in Tibet where a human corpse is cut in specific locations,and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements or the mahabhuta and animals especially to birds of prey. The customs are first recorded in an indigenous 12th century Buddhist treatise. Drigung Monastery is one of the three most important jhator sites Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common practice in Tibet. The location of the sky burial preparation and place of execution are understood in the Vajrayana traditions as charnel grounds. In Tibet the practice is known as jhator which means, "giving alms to the birds." Sky burial and open cremation may initially appear grotesque for Westerners, especially if they have not reflected on their own burial practice. For Tibetan Buddhists, sky burial and cremation are templates of instructional teaching on the impermanence of life. All the eyewitness accounts remarked on the fact that the rogyapas did not perform their task with gravity or ceremony, but rather talked and laughed as during any other type of physical labor. Prior to the procedure, monks may chant mantra around the body and burn juniper incense although ceremonial activities often take place on the preceding day. The work of disassembling of the body may be done by a monk, or, more commonly, by rogyapas ("body-breakers"). Prior to the procedure, monks may chant mantra around the body and burn juniper incense although ceremonial activities often take place on the preceding day. In one account, the leading mok cut off the limbs and hacked the body to pieces, handing each part to his assistants, who used rocks to pound the flesh and bones together to a pulp, which they mixed with tsampa (barley flour with tea and yak butter or milk) before the vultures were summoned to eat. In several accounts, the flesh was stripped from the bones and given to vultures without further preparation; the bones then were broken up with sledgehammers, and usually mixed with tsampa before being given to the vultures. In another account, vultures were given the whole body. When only the bones remained, they were broken up with mallets, ground with tsampa, and given to crows and hawks that had waited until the vultures had departed. The Communist government of China outlawed it in the 1960s so it was nearly a lost tradition, but they legalised it again in the 1980s.