What Is Sokushinbutsu?

So-called Sokushinbutsu, is practiced by the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhist monks who articulate the idea of ​​giving up all worldly pleasures in order to achieve enlightenment and unity with God on a new level. It is believed that Kukai (774-835), the Japanese Buddhist monk who founded Shingon, practiced Japanese sokushinbutsu as part of the secret tantric practice Kukai (774-835) learned in China. The founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan was the Japanese monk Kukai (774-835 AD). At the end of his life, Kukai entered a deep meditative state, refusing food and water, which led to his death.

The process of self-mummification is characteristic of Shingon Buddhist monks in Japan and aimed at enlightenment. For sokushinbutsu, successful self-mummification means successful completion of the final practice. Practitioners of this self-mummification process see the practice not as an act of suicide, but as a form of further enlightenment.

Whatever the details of the sokushinbutsu’s spiritual aspirations, the sokushinbutsu undergoes self-mummification as a form of spiritual transformation for the benefit of others. Taoist practitioners since mummification see the practice not as suicide but as a path to immortality, similarly, sokushinbutsu sees the process as transcendence rather than death. Self-mummification or Sokushinbutsu is primarily a Buddhist concept in which monks and ascetics engage in prolonged meditation to mummify themselves.

The most famous practices of self-mummification for the modern reader are sokushinbutsu – Buddha in the flesh, whose bodies were found in Japan, mainly in Yamagata Prefecture. Mummies (miira) are not uncommon in Japan, but the much rarer practice of self-mummification, is extremely unpleasant, and only the most devoted ascetics resort to it. Although Japan does not have the best conditions for mummification, about 20 monks managed to turn into mummies using complex procedures.

While this event may seem unusual to Japanese monks, mummification is practiced in many cultures. In Japan, the term refers to the practice of Buddhist monks who persisted in asceticism until death and were mummified while the monk was alive. The cult of sokushinbutsu by the mummified corpses of Buddhist ascetics originated in Japan.

Mummification was banned in Japan from the 11th to the 19th centuries, but some monks still survive. Scattered around Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who led to their deaths in a way that resulted in their mummification. Some of the six monk mummies died in fires or other disasters, but sixteen can still be seen in Japanese temples today.

The researchers hope to study six mummified Buddhist monks to reveal the details of this particular mummification process. The six mummified Buddhist monks also believed that this spiritual power only lasted as long as their physical presence, uniting them with the earth, made it necessary to preserve their bodies through mummification. After a strict diet in Mount Dewa near Japan, the monks worked to dehydrate their bodies from the inside out, removing fat, muscle and water, before being buried in pine tree meditation boxes during their final days on earth.

Followers of Shugendo, an ancient form of Buddhism, the monks died in a final act of self-denial. For three years, the priests followed a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, and at the same time took part in rigorous physical activity, which rid them of fat. These six years of fasting not only quenched the suffering of Sokushinbutsu, but also marked the beginning of the painful process of self-mummification by removing excess fluid and fat from the bodies of the monks. A monk who decided to commit self-mummification, or sokushinbutsu, began by abstaining from grains, eating only fruits and nuts for a thousand days. Sokushinbutsu refers to the painful process of self-mummification.

Although not the only religious sect to practice mummification, the self-sung monks of Yamagata are among the most famous Sokushinbutsu practitioners, as many of their followers have successfully mummified while still alive. The practice of spontaneous mummification by Japanese monks originated in the 1960s, and after Yasuo Ando and a group of researchers from Niigata University published their account of Japanese mummies, Mira of Japan, Akira Matsumoto contributed to the Japanese mummy creation research group. Yet somehow, a group of Buddhist monks from the Shingon sect found a way to mummify themselves through rigorous ascetic training in the shadow of a particularly sacred mountain in northern Yamagata prefecture. The monks started the practice in imitation of a 9th-century monk named Kukai, known after his death as Kobo Daishi, who founded Shingon Tantric Buddhism in 806.

The cult of sokushinbutsu, which first arose in the late 14th century, continues in several temples, predominantly of the Buddhist Shingon sect, scattered throughout Japan. Sokushinbutsu was practiced by monks who were mainly members of the Shingon sect of the Japanese Buddhist Vajrayana school (one of the three paths to enlightenment, the other two are Hinayana and Mahayana), One of his ascetic practices was Sokushinbutsu (or Sokushin jobutsu), which means mountain austerities to achieve Buddha nature in the body. According to Paul Williams, the ascetic practices of Sokushinbutsu Shugendō were probably inspired by its founder, the Shingon Kukai school.

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