The wizened monk, found in Songinokhairkhan province of Mongolia, was in a deep spiritual meditative state known as “tukdam”, according to Dr Barry Kerzin, a well known Buddhist monk and a physician to the Dalai Lama.
Over a number a years, a number of other mummified meditators have been found from China to India as the Buddhist monks attempted to turn into a Buddha themselves through prolonged meditation.
Gautama Buddha,or simply the Buddha, was a sage upon whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived in the eastern part of Ancient India sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BC.
Statues of the Buddha in the lotus position are a central part of the Buddhist religion. In India alone, over the last 50 years there are said to have been about 40 such cases of meditating Tibetan monks found mummified.
Some have even been found encased in metal Buddhas by their peers, as this entombment was supposed to aid along the divine process. On this occasion, the Lama found in the lotus position had actually been stolen and was destined for sale on the black market.
Many in the community where he was found, covered in cattle skin, claimed he was one step away from becoming a Buddha before being disturbed by a thief. Dr Barry Kerzin, a famous Buddhist monk and a physician to the Dalai Lama, said: “I had the privilege to take care of some meditators who were in a tukdam state.
“If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks – which rarely happens – his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes.
“Usually in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. “This means that he has found a ‘rainbow body’. This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha.
“If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha. “Reaching such a high spiritual level the meditator will also help others, and all the people around will feel a deep sense of joy”.
But, forensic examinations now completed on the meditating monk found on January 27, may have laid to rest the whole “tukdam” myth, as well as this individual. Tests since carried out at the National Centre of Forensic Expertise at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, found that the mummified monk was well and truly dead.
He was found to be Tsorzh Sanzhzhav, who died aged around 70 around 130 years ago, meaning he would have been close to 200 had he still been in hibernation as claimed. He was also a disciple of Ovgon Geser Lama, a Buddhist teacher revered highly in the region.
He had been buried alongside his master, but the mummy was stolen from the grave in a mountain cave. Investigators travelled to Sodnomdarzhaa Mountain, 30 miles from Tsakhir in the Arkhangai district, where they found the tomb, still containing the body of the Geser Lama.
Lead researcher Ganhugiyn Purevbata, founder and professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, said a more secure structure and shrine is being built there to try to prevent further thefts.