A 200-year-old monk found mummified in Mongolia is not dead but in a deep state of meditation according to high level Buddhists.
The body was confiscated by police after a man attempted to sell it on the black market near the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Dr Barry Kerzin, physician to the Dalai Lama, and a Buddhist academic say the monk is in a state of tukdam, one step away from reaching enlightenment and becoming a Buddha.
Gankhüügiin Pürevbat, the founder of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, told the Siberian Times: "The lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolises of 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."
The identity of the individual is unclear, but some speculate it may be the teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, who was also found mummified in 2002.
"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.
"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".
The monk's body is currently under investigation at the National Centre of Forensic Expertise.