Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 12:12am

Scientists eye undecayed monk mystery

Scientists are puzzled over the 80-year old corpse of a renowned Buddhist monk from Buryat, Siberia, that shows no signs of decay and tissue samples examined miscroscopically are similar to living tissue. About 150 scientists and theologians from Europe, Mongolia and Russia are attending the first-ever international conference to discuss the mystery of "Pandito Hambo Lama Itigilov" at the Buddhist traditional church of Russia, the Ivolginsky Datsan, near Ulan Ude, Itar-Tass news reported Wednesday.

Hambo Lama ceased breathing in 1927 while meditating in the lotus posture. His body was packed in salt and stayed in the ground for 75 years, then in 2002 the tomb was opened and monks saw it had not decayed. Buddhists believe Itigilov, called "the Buryat Nostradamus," reached Ultimate Reality before dying and cleansed his body to such a degree that it became incorruptible. Scientists cannot explain why some characteristics of the body are identical to living flesh.

The head of the department of personal identification at the Russian Health Ministry's forensic medicine center, Prof. Viktor Zvyagin, said Itigilov's body is no different from a person who died 12 hours ago. Zvyagin and his colleagues studied tissue samples, hairs fallen from the lama's head, skin cells and a nail clipping. Compared to living tissue, they concluded the protein structure had not changed.

Experts say no preservatives were used on the body. The analysis of a cell by nuclear resonance showed the nucleus intact and the cytoplasm close to that of a living person.

According to Versiya newspaper, Prof. Galina Yershova of the Russian State Humanitarian University who also studied the body, speculated that, "when leaving this world in a state of meditation he fell not into death but in some other condition. The findings allow us to assume that the lama put himself in a state of anabiosis."