A true scientific mystery: Buddhist lama 'alive' 90 years after death
The 15 June, 1927 was memorable for students at a Buddhist temple in present-day Buryatia, Russia, as it was the day their teacher Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov told them he was going to the other side. He asked his students to bury him once he died and exhume his remains 50 years later.
As the spiritual leader of Buddhists in Russia, Dashi-Dorzho was no ordinary teacher. His preparations for his own "passing" included a special diet he had been following. It was all part of the lama's plans to prove that immortality was no myth. When the time came, he sat on the floor in the lotus position, closed his eyes, and died several days later. In line with his wishes, Dashi-Dorzho's students buried him in a box made of cedar wood.
However, his students weren't able to fulfill his last wish — to be exhumed 50 years later — due to the Soviet Union's ban on religion at the time. Instead, they had to wait until people were allowed to practice religion freely again in post-Cold War Russia.
In 2002, 75 years after his burial, he was finally exhumed in the presence of several Russian Buddhist leaders and representatives from the local authorities. However, they found something inside the box that would prove to be a true scientific mystery.
Dashi-Dorzho was found in the same lotus position 75 years since his death. Though no special measures for preserving the Buddhist lama had been undertaken, his body showed hardly any signs of decomposition. Not even the smell of death hung in the air, according to those present.
The lama's face was fully intact; his body even remained stable when the back panel of the box was removed.
His skin was still soft and elastic, his joints could still be moved. The forensic analyst present was left speechless: how could a 150-year-old man who has been dead for 75 years still look so alive?
After being sealed in a glass case, Dashi-Dorzho's body was brought to the Ivolginsky Datsan Buddhist temple. Fifteen years later, the lama’s appearance remains unchanged even though no further measures have been taken to prevent the body from decomposing.
Samples from his skin, hair, and finger nails even confirmed that cells continued to divide in his body, though admittedly very slowly. Dashi-Dorzho also put on weight and maintains a body temperature between 65 and 93°F.
Meanwhile, the place where he is kept has now become a famous pilgrimage site visited by thousands of Buddhists every year. It's also said that Dashi-Dorzho has opened his eyes on several occasions.
In 2016, recordings from a security camera at the temple allegedly showed Dashi-Dorzho moving through the rooms at night.
Even if you discount all the rumors, it remains a mystery as to why his body is so well preserved. Maybe the lama actually found a way to become immortal...