5 incredible facts about monks who poison themselves for 1,000 days to become mummies

Picture monks so devoted to their spiritual journey that they've turned their bodies into timeless relics through a grueling regimen that defies the limits of human endurance. Prepare to have your mind blown as we dive into the captivating world of sokushinbutsu, the ancient Japanese practice of Buddhist self-mummification that has spread throughout Asia.

Here are five astonishing facts about the practice of becoming a sokushinbutsu.

A Diet to Die For


The monks preparing for sokushinbutsu would embark on a strict 1,000-day diet consisting solely of tree bark, pine needles, pine cones, seeds, chestnuts, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and edible wild plants. This extreme regimen was designed to rid the body of fat, making it less likely to decay after death.

Sipping on Sap and Arsenic

Andi Arman/shutterstock.com

As if the diet wasn't enough, the aspiring sokushinbutsu would drink a toxic tea made from the sap of the urushi treem the same stuff used to lacquer Japanese bowls. This delightful beverage has a two-for-one effect: it violently purges the body of fluids through vomiting, sweating, and urination, while also coating the stomach with a preservative lacquer lining to keep things fresh after the monk dies. They also drank arsenic-laden water from hot spring, imbuing their bodies with potent antimicrobial properties to keep their corpses from being eaten by bacteria.

Buried Alive

Close-up of mummy of holy monk in the temple Wat Khun Aram, Koh Samui, Thailand. (Dogora Sun / Shutterstock.com)

In the final stage of the process, the monk would be sealed in a stone tomb just large enough for them to sit in a meditative position. A small air tube and a bell were their only connections to the outside world, with the bell being rung daily to signal that the monk was still alive.

A Mummified Meditator

Wat Khiri Wongkaram Buddhist Temple. The mummified body of monk and gold leaf. Exotic tradition of storing the relics of saints who died during meditation. (Dogora Sun / Shutterstock.com)

Once the bell stopped ringing, the other monks knew that the aspiring sokushinbutsu had passed away. The air tube was then removed, and the tomb was sealed for another 1,000 days, allowing the body to fully mummify in its final meditative pose.

Sokushinbutsu or Bust

Mummified monk Loung Pordaeng in Wat Khunaram temple in Koh Samui in Thailand (Tatiana Diuvbanova / Shutterstock.com)

Not all monks who attempted sokushinbutsu were successful. If the body was found to be decomposed upon the tomb's opening, it was considered a failure. The successful sokushinbutsu, however, were venerated as Buddha and placed in temples for worship.