When you uncover a two hundred year old mummy, I think it's kind of implied that the person has ceased to be. I mean, as a rule of thumb, mummies are usually dead. Usually.
However, Buddhist academics have a different opinion regarding this recently discovered mummy which was found close to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar. Ganhugiyn Purevbata, professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, claims the figure, which is sitting in the lotus position and was discovered covered in cattle skin, is actually merely in a "very deep meditation".
He continues to explain that the mummy, which is believed, but no confirmed to be, the teacher of the Buryat Buddhist Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, has reached a rare spiritual state known as "tukdam". He told The Siberian Times:
Lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolizes of the preaching Sutra. This is a sign that the Lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas.
Dr Barry Kerzin, a Buddhist monk and physician to the Dalai Lama explained the "tukdam" further:
If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks - which rarely happens - his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes. Usually in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. This means that he has found a 'rainbow body'. This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha. If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha. Reaching such a high spiritual level the meditator will also help others, and all the people around will feel a deep sense of joy.
The monks remains were discovered on 27 January, however the police actually believe he was stolen from another part of the country and was due to be sold off on the black market for a "very high price". A 45-year-old man was arrested in connection with the alleged crime.
Buddhist monks dying while meditating - or reaching this supposed "tukdam" state - isn't as unusual as you might initially think. Over the last 50 years, there have been around 40 such cases in India alone.
What do you think? Is this mummy dead?