A 200-year-old Buddhist monk found mummified in Mongolia "is still alive" and nearing a state of Nirvana, it has been claimed.
According to an expert on Buddhism, the lotus position in which the body was found indicates the mummy is still in a heightened spiritual meditation called "tukdam".
That is very close to Nirvana, which according to Buddhist beliefs, is the highest possible state achievable when the physical body dissolves.
Profesor Ganhugiyn Purevbata of Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University in Mongolia, has advanced the incredible theory the mummified monk is still alive - despite it looking very dead after two centuries spent wrapped in an animal hide.
"Lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolizes the preaching Sutra," he said.
"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."
Buddhist monk Dr Barry Kerzin said the continuing meditative state of the 200-year-old monk is a source of joy to those nearby.
"If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha," said Kerzin.
"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 mummified monk was discovered in the Kobdsk region of Mongolia inside a cave. It came in to the possession of the authorities after a man was caught trying to sell it on the black market for an enormous sum.