Buddha Buzz Weekly: Death Defying Monks

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Death Defying Monks

Disciples to mummify Tibetan Buddhist believed to be meditating beyond death, Buddhists ignore court order against cremation at Hindu temple in Sri Lanka, and the Dalai Lama applauds the climate strike. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.By Karen Jensen SEP 28, 2019


A revered Buddhist monk who spent nearly 45 years meditating in a cave will remain in a meditative state for, well, forever. After 94-year-old Wangdor Rinpoche died at his monastery in the Mandi district of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, his disciples—who believe that their teacher is abiding in a meditative state known as the Togden—began a process for preserving his body, according to Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times. “The master is in a high meditative stage of trance. Other teachers in the monastery will take the final decision to preserve the body, which will be mummified later,” said disciple Hara Zigar. After fleeing Tibet in 1959—the same year as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama—Wangdor Rinpoche spent most of his early life in retreat, spending almost 45 years in a cave above Rewalsar Lake in northern India. He practiced in both the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Mummies aren’t a complete anomaly in Tibetan Buddhism and other Buddhist traditions (such as Shingon monks in Japan). The mummified body of the Dalai Lama’s teacher, Kyabjé Ling Rinpoche, is currently kept at His Holiness’s residence in Dharamsala. In 1975, after an earthquake struck the region, the remains of self-mummified monk Sangha Tenzin from the 15th century were found in the area of Spiti, on the Indo-Tibet border. The body of the monk showed little signs sign of deterioration—he even had teeth—despite appearing to have undergone no preservation procedure. Archaeologists believe this is the result of a Buddhist ritual of ingesting a mix of herbs, roots, sap, and poisonous nuts to deplete fat reserves and remove moisture before death.

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