Preserving a bond

Vibhor Mohan visits the monastery at Khampagar, near Palampur, to see how the body of Yogi Amtrin has been preserved by his followers

The box in which the yogiís body has been kept
The box in which the yogiís body has been kept

Time has been held back in a small room of the Khampagar monastery in the Tashi Jong area, 18 km from Palampur. Not being able to reconcile to the death of 84-year-old Tibetan meditation master, Yogi Amtrin, his students have taken on themselves the challenging task of preserving his body.

In a rectangular wooden box, filled with salt to the brim, lies the body of the Tibetan yogi, who was held in high esteem by his students. The yogi, who was also a yoga teacher, enjoyed a large following. One of his students, Popa, has undertaken the task of preserving his body. Yogi passed away on July 1.

Popa says, "Once the salt dries up the outer layers of the body within the coming two weeks, it would be placed in a glass enclosure and shifted to a hall, where students could come and meditate, as if he were still there to guide them." Preservation of bodies of high priests is a very rare practise among Tibetans. The students of Yogi Amtrin say they just couldnít come to terms with his death. They wanted to continue to feel his presence.

Offerings of wine and fruit are being made to the yogi
Offerings of wine and fruit are being made to the yogi

Nawang Negi, a Tibetan monk says, "Every day, we make offerings of tea, milk, wine and fruits to the yogi and his room continues to be open to visitors." Popaís association with the late yogi dates back to 30 years. Over this period of time they developed a strong bond. "He was more than a father to me I just donít want to part with his body and preservation of his body is my humble tribute to him as I want him to be around."

Interestingly, no special salts or spices are being used to preserve the body, like in case of mummies and it has only been covered with common salt. "But it is working. Even though we were very apprehensive in the beginning, there has been no stench and the body seems to be drying up," says Popa. "However, I plan to seek guidance from people who have used specialised techniques to preserve bodies of Tibetan high priests in the past," he adds.

Tibetan monks who worked at preserving the body
Tibetan monks who worked at preserving the body

Yogi Amtrin devoted his entire life to realising the natural mind through yoga and used to go on frequent spiritual retreats. "Before coming to Tashi Jong from Tibet at the age of 37, he spent nearly 10 years in retreat in the mountains," he says. According to Popa, the number of Togden or Tibetan meditation masters had gone down drastically and Yogi Amtrin was, therefore, in a league of his own. While Tibetan monks have to deliver duties of the monastery as well, Tibetan yogis devote most of their time to meditation. Unlike the in-vogue commercialised form of yoga, Tibetan yoga is more about reaching out to oneís own mind through meditation.

"A large number of foreigners, Korean nuns and monks, used to visit Yogi Amtrin to seek guidance about meditation. Locals from the adjoining villages would visit him to seek an answer to their queries from daily life. Some of them also approached him with minor ailments," recalls Negi.

Popa says that the meditation master never suggested that his body be preserved and it was his own wish. "I wanted that his students should continue to be inspired by him. So I sought a go-ahead from a high priest," he says.

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