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Mummified monk set to be returned to his final resting place

By Anna Liesowska
03 March 2015

After more than a month away from his mountain cave, 200-year-old lama will soon be taken on journey back to cave from where he was stolen.

Now the monk will finally travel back to his grave, 2,000 metres above sea level, where it is likely a shrine will be built to allow pilgrims to visit. Picture: Morning Newspaper 

The mummified monk whose remains were found in the lotus position in Mongolia is being prepared for a return to the grave from where he was stolen.

Tsorzh Sanzhzhav, who was born about 200 years ago, was a disciple of one of the greatest Buddhist teachers that ever lived and had been buried alongside his elder master.

He was a student of His Holiness Incarnate Ovgon Geser Lama, who is revered in the region and whose grave is visited annually by pilgrims wishing to pray.

But his identity became known around the world when his body was taken from that final resting place, in a mountain cave, and was destined for sale on the black market.

His body has been guarded at the National Centre of Forensic Expertise at Ulaanbaatar, where visitors have been turning up to pray, believing it to be a holy deity. Now the monk will finally travel back to his grave, 2,000 metres above sea level, where it is likely a shrine will be built to allow pilgrims to visit.

Lead researcher Ganhugiyn Purevbata, who is the founder and professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, said that a 'more secure structure' will be built to safeguard against any further possible thefts.

Meditating mummy

Burials of His Holiness Incarnate Geser Lama and his disciple Tsorzh Sanzhzhav on Sodnomdarzhaa Mountain, 50km from the Tsakhir in the Arkhangai district. Picture: Today.mn

The news comes amid controversy after it emerged a Mongolian actor had managed to sneak an unauthorised photo with the monk on his mobile phone. B. Enkhtuvshin, who began his career in music videos, posed beside the 200-year-old body in a 'selfie' uploaded to his social media page.

It is not clear how he managed to get so close to the sacred remains, which have been kept under strict security since they were recovered. Taking unauthorised images of the mummy – identified as a disciple of one of the greatest Buddhist teachers that ever lived – is also banned.

The mummified remains of the disciple, which were covered in cattle skin, were found on January 27 in the Songinokhairkhan province of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. Investigators travelled to Sodnomdarzhaa Mountain, 50km from the Tsakhir in the Arkhangai district, where they found the tomb from where body had been stolen.

On opening the burial chamber, 2,000 metres above sea level, they found only one body inside a wooden box, that of the Geser Lama.

Selfie with the mummy


Selfie with the mummy

B. Enkhtuvshin, a Mongolian actor posed beside the 200-year-old body in a 'selfie' uploaded to his social media page. Pictures: 24tsag.mn, assa.mn

The Geser Lama had lived near Khukh Nuur Lake and when he died in about 1890, he passed away while meditating. His body was cleaned and embalmed with a special solution then dried for a year, with his resting place becoming a shrine.

Like his recently-found student, he died in the lotus position and was placed in a wooden box, which was then buried and surrounded in stones. His disciples took him to the top of Sodnomdarzhaa Mountain by camel, where they buried him according to his wishes and to the rituals of the time.

Believed to be 25 years younger, the student was taught everything he knows from his lama master and he left a will asking to be entombed beside him upon his own death. Mr Purevbata said their tests on the mummy have allowed them to build a picture of the monk in life, and in his death.

There had been speculation that the monk was not dead and was instead in 'very deep meditation' in a special spiritual state known as tukdam. But that was subsequently proved to be unfounded.

Mummified monk is ‘not dead’ and in rare meditative state, says expert


Mongolian mummy

The mummified remains of the disciple, which were covered in cattle skin, were found on January 27 in the Songinokhairkhan province of Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. Pictures: Morning Newspaper

Mr Purevbata said: 'Earlier I said that maybe Lama is not dead but was in very deep meditation in the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas. But it is not so. Tsorzh Sanzhzhav and his teacher were specially buried in this form.

'Tsorzh Sanzhzhav was a close disciple of His Holiness Incarnate Geser Lama, who lived about 200 years ago. We see that he passed away at the age of about 70 years. He had a black beard and a large hooked nose, his height was about 180cm.

'In 1999, the local lamas restored part of his head and chest that had been damaged by birds and stones from the mountains or by the light when the wooden parts of the box [housing him] were broken and these parts of the body left out.'

Comments (1)

Shame on that Mongolian actor! What an outrage! This guy must be so insecure and grasping of fame to resort to a selfie. And to even upload the selfie to his social media page! So unethical! Clearly, not a Buddhist practitioner! Thank you Ms. Liesowska and the Siberian Times for the update. Do keep them coming, especially a photo of the "more secure structure" that will serve as the monk's new burial place. May he rest forever in peace beside his beloved teacher.
E. Espinosa, Edmonton, Alberta Canada
04/03/2015 16:52
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