Sokushinbutsu (即身仏) refers to a practice of Buddhist monks observing austerity to the point of death and mummification. This process of self-mummification was mainly practised in Yamagata in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century, by members of the Japanese Vajrayana school of Buddhism called Shingon ("True Word"). The practitioners of sokushinbutsu did not view this practice as an act of suicide, but rather as a form of further enlightenment. Those who succeeded were revered, while those who failed were nevertheless respected for the effort.
It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only 24 such mummifications have been discovered to date. There is a common suggestion that Shingon school founder Kukai brought this practice from TangChina as part of secret tantric practices he learned, and that were later lost in China.
Today, the practice is not advocated or practiced by any Buddhist sect, and is banned in Japan.
The practice was satirized in the story "The Destiny That Spanned Two Lifetimes" by Ueda Akinari, in which such a monk was found centuries later and resuscitated. The story appears in the collection Harusame Monogatari.
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