Living Buddhas: The Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan

Living Buddhas: The Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan

by Ken Jeremiah


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Living Buddhas: The Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan by Ken Jeremiah

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786448807
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 05/10/2010
Series: Body & Mind/Death
Pages: 242
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Ken Jeremiah has written extensively about spiritual and religious phenomena. He lives in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and runs tour groups to Japan, Italy, and other countries yearly.

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction: Sacred Mountains and the Swamp of Immortals 9

Part 1 Mummification and Immortality

1 Natural Mummification 19

2 Artificial Mummification 26

3 Incorruptibility 33

4 The Great Transformation 40

Part 2 Self-Mummified Monks

5 Symbols of Contradiction 47

6 Honmyokai Shonin: The Samurai Who Mummified Himself 60

7 Shinnyokai Shonin: The Farmer Who Killed a Samurai 65

8 Tetsumonkai Shonin: The Priest Who Loved a Prostitute 71

9 Myokai Shonin: The Boy Who Lost His Eyesight 78

10 Komyokai Shonin: The Unknown Self-Mummified Monk 84

11 Chukai Shonin and Enmyokai Shonin: Two Monks Who Reside at the Same Temple 88

12 Tetsuryukai Shonin: The Monk Who Cut Out His Own Eye 93

13 Remnants of a Forgotten Age 98

Part 3 Religious Beliefs and Secret Teachings

14 Buddhist Origins 107

15 Apocryphal Texts and Holy Wizards 113

16 Chinese Immortality and the Death of Buddhism in India 119

17 Kobo Daishi and Shingon Buddhism 127

18 Magicians in the Mountains: En no Gyoja and Shugendo Faith 139

Part 4 Asceticism and the Pursuit of Death

19 Asceticism in World Religions 151

20 Japanese Ascetic Practices 157

21 Periods of Seclusion and Cave Meditation 163

22 Meditation Under Waterfalls and Cold Water Ablutions 169

23 Abstention from Cereals 175

24 Self-Immolation 180

25 Self-Mummification 186

Part 5 Death and Immortality

26 The Nature of Life and Death 199

Afterword 207

Appendix 1 Self-Mummified Monks in Japan 211

Appendix 2 Churenji Lineage 212

Appendix 3 Temple Contacts 213

Appendix 4 Thirty-Two Bodily Marks of a Great Man 215

Appendix 5 Sino-Japanese Character Glossary 216

Notes 219

References 225

Index 233

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