As with all the early Chan patriarchs, a lot of information about Daman Hongren is based on myth and legend due to the time periods and methods of recording this information.
Hongren was born in Huangmei with the family name Chou. At the age of either seven to twelve, Hongren began his studies as Monk under the prominent Daoxin. Hongren stayed with Daoxin until the latter’s death in 651. Under the famous Ch’üan fa pao chi (Annals of the Transmission of the Dharma-treasure), written approximately 712, stats that Hongren was quite laborious, reserved and a fanatic of meditation. He was known for meditating at night. He was known for understanding the Buddha scriptures very well as well. After some ten years of teaching, he was known to have had very successful students of his art.
Most Mahayana buddhist monks left instructions to be followed after their deaths. These often included having them buried sitting in a lotus posture, put into a vessel with drying agents (such as coal, wood, paper, or lime) and surrounded by bricks. The preserved bodies would then be decorated with paint and adorned with gold. It is a common method in China. Some covered the bodies with clay or salt. In some cases, this mummification occurred naturally.
The self-mummification of a Tibetan monk, who died ca. 1475 and whose body was retrieved relatively incorrupt in the 1990s, was achieved by the sophisticated practices of meditation, coupled with prolonged starvation and slow self-suffocation using a special belt that connected the neck with his knees in a lotus position. This is very similar to that used in the case of Hongren.
Buddhist mummies, also called flesh body bodhisattvas or living buddhas refer to the bodies of Buddhist monks and nuns that remain incorrupt, without any traces of deliberate mummification. These are venerated by some Buddhists who believe they successfully were able to mortify their flesh to death. Many were destroyed or lost to history.
Buddhist mummies. (2017, October 15). Retrieved November 21, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_mummies
Daman Hongren. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2017, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Daman_Hongren
(n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2017, from https://terebess.hu/zen/daman.html
7. DAMAN HONGREN 大滿弘忍 THE CHAN FOUNT - MAHABODHI SUNYATA BLIND DHARMA WITHIN SAMSARA. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/site/blinddharmainsamsara/home/useful-and-important-english-teachings/the-secret-heart-of-the-chan-forest/losseis-maestros-del-lanka-tradicion/5-ho