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Tohoku | Yamagata | Dewa Sanzan

Churenji and Dainichibo

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Churenji and Dainichibo

Churenji and Dainichibo are temples that display monks who have successfully self-mummified themselves while they were still alive. These temples are located near Mt. Yudono, the holiest mountain in the Dewa Sanzan. The process these monks went through is called sokushinbutsu of the Shugendo religion, which involves pushing the body and mind to its limits to the point of mummification. It takes about 10 years to complete and is broken down to three steps. The first 1000 days their diet is restricted to vegetables, nuts and berries while doing extensive physical training. The second 1000 days their diet consists only of bark and roots with the consumption of tea made with sap from urushi trees that are used in lacquer. Urushi tree sap is poisonous at certain quantities, but the monks drank enough to induce vomiting. They would also drink from a nearby spring that contained arsenic, which is poisonous and has a preserving effect like the urushi tree sap. The last 1000 days they entombed themselves with a bell and breathing tube while meditating in the lotus position. Ringing the bell once a day let those outside know they were still alive. When the sound was no longer heard those outside would remove the tube and seal it. Once the 1000 days were up the tomb would be opened again to see if they succeeded or not. Those that did were to be displayed and worshipped as living Buddha.