A 200-year-old mummified monk found preserved in Mongolia last week is not dead but rather in a "meditative trance", say senior Buddhists.
The remains were found wrapped in cattle skins in north-central Mongolia, and scientists have been trying to determine how the monk is so well preserved.
Many think Mongolia's cold weather could be the reason.
But Dr Barry Kerzin, a physician to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told the Siberian Times that the monk was in a rare state of meditation called "tukdam".
He said: "I had the privilege to take care of some meditators who were in a tukdam state.
"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."
He added: "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."
Ganhugiyn Purevbata, who is the founder and professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, agreed, telling the Mirror: "Lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolises 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."
It is believed the monk may be a teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov.
The remains were found on 27 January in the Songinokhairkhan province of Mongolia, but police have revealed that the monk had been stolen from another part of the country, and was about to be sold on the black market.
Police said that the remains were taken from a cave in the Kobdsk region by a man who then hid it in his own home in Ulaanbaatar.
Officials uncovered the plot and quickly swooped in and seized the monk.
According to the BBC, the monk is now being guarded at the National Centre of Forensic Expertise at Ulaanbaatar.
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