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Ancient Buddha statue holds surprise


In December 2014, CT scans revealed what’s inside an ancient Buddha statue: the mummy of an ancient Buddhist master. The 900-year-old statue perfectly encases a skeleton that rests in the lotus position, said Reuters. Some students at BYU-Hawaii were startled to learn about the monk in the statue. Danna Usevitch, a freshman studying math education from Arizona, said after learning about the practice of self-mummification, “It seems more significant. It's not just some grotesque thing where there’s a dead person inside a statue. It's more for a purpose.”According to CNET, self-mummification was a process for only the most religious of monks. It was believed by a few that mummification was actually a state of higher enlightenment or a highly advanced spiritual state. Vincent van Vilsteren, the curator of archaeology at the Drents Museum informed the Ke Alaka'i, this particular monk may have practiced self-mummification, but "there is a very small chance that he has praced this. There is an even smaller chance that the research can demonstrate that he practiced self-mummification. But the research is still ongoing and we are awaiting results." van Vilsteren said "the statue was made 200 years after the monk died. In those 200 years, he was just worshipped as a mummy without a statue around him." Monika Kiss-Stefan spokeswoman for the Budapest Museum, where the statue is currently on display, said "the monk had prepared for his death meticulously. Monks who choose self-mummification ate only seeds for a long time and then roots of a poisonous plant to prevent maggots eating their flesh," as reported by Reuters. "They spent their last days in a pit, meditating, and when they died, their bodies were left until they became mummified. The mummified body was covered with clay around 200 to 300 years after the monk's death, followed by several layers of enamel and finally golden paint, to make the statue," says the Reuters article.Van Vilsteren said the process of self-mummification using fasting and toxic tea may be true, "But if we may prove all this, is very doubtful."Yonathan Dogi, a sophomore studying hospitality and tourism management from Indonesia, admired that someone could do that. “Some people don’t really care about their religion until they realize how important it is for their life,” said Dogi. “They devote all their time to do meditation and prayer.” Sydney McCarrey, a vocal performance junior from Laie commented, “It sounds like they’ve achieved their highest state, which can be paralleled with us.”The monk found inside this particular statue is believed to be the Buddhist master named Liu Quan of the Chinese Meditation School. His name is written on the cloth the skeleton sits on. He died around 1100 AD. The scan also revealed scraps of paper with ancient Chinese characters in the cavity where his organs used to be, according to CNET. Original upload on March 6, 2015 corrected March 27, 2015.
Writer: Rachel Reed