The monk who starved himself to death

By Editorial Staff in Amazing On 24th October 2013

The monk who starved himself to death


The mummified body of a monk who performed Sokushinbutsu, a type of slow and painful ritual self-mummification / suicide once practiced in Japan as a path to Buddha-hood. Fasting to death for spiritual reasons is still quite common in Jainism, where it known as 'Santhara', it is arguable that the middle-way emphasis in the pali suttas was a reaction to the extreme practices of the Jain contemporaries of Siddharta.

Although this isn't about disparaging such spiritual practices, but rather because developing such an understanding of the limits of self-immolation within life has been important in order to develop 'metta'. No not the warm fuzzy feeling in the chest type of meta but more like a bemused empathy towards others. And also because there is some debate in practical dharma about the nature of 'true' enlightenment and self-immolation.

A common thread running through virtually all discussions of enlightenment in virtually all different traditions is the loss of the normative sense of self identification. 

Every stage of further self-relinquishment, past the preliminary dark night struggles, makes one's experience of life progressively more peaceful and more content. 

Even ordinary folk who do not practice systematic deconstruction of the self via mental exercises or engage in spirituality, who go through the average process of human maturity will notice that subliming the self for a larger cause or passion results in a reduction in personal suffering.

Those of us engaged in the pursuit of enlightenment, seek to explore the limits of such self-relinquishment through vigorous and systematic means.

One might experience the temporary ceasing of experience during a fruition.

One might experience the loosening of the self as seen on subsequent paths under Vipassana practices.

One might further experience the perpetually nascent, ahedonisticaly perceptual, and verbal thought based self of the successful AF practitioner. 

One might experience the emotional agony, fear, affective possessiveness of the untrained mind.

One might experience the ongoing bliss of the fading of the senses themselves while staying alive (see Bernedette Roberts' ascension phase).

One might experience infinite number of different states of consciousness.

However through all of this 'one' still remains. At the limits of self-relinquishment it becomes evident that total self-immolation is impossible in life, but inevitable in death. By no means am I advocating suicide as a means of enlightenment. Suicide is redundant. Death is always a certainty. Life never is. 

The point is that it cannot be said that one mode of perception in life is objectively preferable to the others. Subjectively of-course there will always be preferences, but these aren't a big deal. And shouldn't be treated as such. 

via Stories that Shocked the World