Living Buddhas: The Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan
Northern Japan is home to an ancient, esoteric tradition of self-mummifying Buddhist monks, little known to the outside world. Long after death, these ascetics continue to be revered as Living Buddhas. This first English-language work on the subject recounts the process by which these monks starve themselves for a decade, bury themselves alive with only a small breathing tube, and meditate until death. After three years, the mummified body is exhumed and displayed. The biographies of various monks are presented within, as is an examination of the religious beliefs involved, an amalgamation of three distinct religious traditions. Also explored is the role of asceticism in religion, and beliefs about life and death shared by the Buddhist sects involved in self-mummification.