In order to reach Nirvana and become bodhisattva, some ascetic monks of the Shingon sect, in northern Japan, followed a very special tradition, forbidden by law at the end of the XIXth century because considered suicide (how you can forbid suicide, I wonder...).
It was initiated by Kobo Daishi (774-835), who took the decision to end his days meditating in a cave. His disciples later found that his body was mummified, which was quite mystical ! The Sokushinbutsu tradition developped from there and consisted on willingly becoming a mummy by having a special diet to dry your body. Here are the steps to follow if you, too, want to become a mummy (which is always a funny thing to do) :
- Eat only nuts and seeds for 1,000 days and do some serious fitness to lose all that fat ! And no, a pizza can not be considered a seed.
- For 1,000 more days change your diet to bark and roots. And eat less and less of it (which is hard, I know, because roots are so delicious !).
- Approching the end of this diet, start drinking some "tea made from the sap of the urushi tree, a poisonous substance normally used to make Japanese lacquer bowls, which causes further loss of bodily fluid. The tea is made with water from a sacred spring at Mt. Yudono, which is now known to contain a high level of arsenic." [pinktentacle.com].Thanks to the tea drinking and therefore heavy peeing, the water contained in the body is reduced to a stict minimum, and the arsenic will help protect the body from decay.
- Find some cold cave or get yourself a specially prepared underground chamber, as a cool and dry place is necessary to prevent decay. Sit down and start meditating like crazy until you die from it ! Then your monk friends will keep the chamber sealed for 1,000 days (the magic number !), after what they shall remove your body.
Even with all this, mummification will most of the time fail (only approximately 20 monks were successful), and even the ones that are considered well preserved look quite skeletal to me...
But anyway, if you're one of the lucky few you shall gain a Buddha status and be placed in a temple, to meditate forever. Actually, "adherents of the Shingon Buddhist sect believe that Kobo Daishi, founder of the sect, is still in meditation at Gobyo mausoleum. Twice a day monks wearing protective masks bring him his meals and in certain rituals his garments are changed." [Corbis]
Some details on the most recent case of Sokushinbutsu can be found here.