Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
Who thought this up???
For three years the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, which contains Urushiol (same stuff that makes poison ivy), normally used to lacquer bowls. This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed.
Amazing the lengths that people will go to in the name of religion. But what I want to know is, who the hell thought this up??? I mean, did a bunch of these Shugendo monks sit around discussing who could be more of an ascetic kook, until someone boasted "Well, hey, I can not *only* starve myself to death, but I can actually turn my body into a mummy! Beat that, suckers!"
And how did they come up with this regimen which would lead to mummification? Like Behe's 'irreducible complexity', I have a hard time seeing how such a process would evolve from other things the monks might be doing. Does this mean that there is some Buddhist Intelligent Designer who imparted this knowledge unto the monks, saying "here's the most excruiating and prolonged way to die I can come up with, but see, it results in mummification. Maybe."?
Inquiring minds want to know.