Kaihōgyō::Ultra Monks

 

 

 

We are what we think.

All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world.
-Buddha

For decades, the average American has been told the road marathon is the hardest physical challenge possible. Some make it their lifelong goal to complete a marathon, and a few of those people run a marathon in their life.  Giving credit where it is due, a mere fraction of 1% of the US population succeed in finishing a marathon during their lifetime.  The “marathon” presents a physical challenge that requires people to practice self-discipline and painful physical training over months or years, delaying gratification, for a moment in the future when they are able to feel accomplishment. For many, this can be a life-changing experience in which they realize “happiness”, a state of well-being, is not achieved through accumulation of power, but through sacrifice.

Sadly, modern society does not often provide these opportunities.  Our culture is focused and developed for convenience and comfort. We have become well-trained gluttons of materialism.  Lost in our urban landscape, people no longer consider the origin of the plastic-wrapped food they consume.  Respect is often lost for one’s self, each other, animals, and the earth. Long gone are the intrinsic rewards of happiness brought to life through physical work, sacrifice, and gratitude.  But these facts are not lost in the hearts and minds of endurance athletes.

Exposed to the world of endurance, we accept a realm of possibility far-reaching.  Despite the common opposition brought forth by others, who desperately want us to be a physical lemmings like them, we quietly lace up our shoes and run, walk, climb, ride, or swim these extreme distances.  And, for each of us, the question of “why” is answered quite differently.  But, in time, you may revisit the idea of “why” and accept the fact that you are seeking something much more than physical strength or efficiency.  Only then, you may consider the endless possibilities of the human mind.

Kaihōgyō

Tendai Buddhist monks of Japan practice moving meditation on their path to spiritual enlightenment.  Their greatest challenge is known as the “Kaihōgyō”.  A 7 year quest to become a living saint through extreme ultra-distance runs…1,000 days, and over 23,000 miles. The trail runs take place on a trail near their temple. ”He can carry only candles, a prayer book and a sack of vegetarian food.” (2) 
The Kaihōgyō will bring the monk close to death, but if he survives, he becomes a living Buddha.  Less than 50 monks have completed the Kaihōgyō since 1585…and many more have died by suicide. (1) The trail is scattered with unmarked graves from hundreds of years past, who failed to complete the task and died by hanging or disembowelment.

Year 1: 40km per day for 100 days

Year 2: 40km per day for 100 days

Year 3: 40km per day for 100 days

Year 4: 40km per day for 200 days

Year 5: 40km per day for 200 days; Also, a 9 day isolation prayer with no food, water, or sleep.

Year 6: 60km per day for 200 days

Year 7: 84km per day for 100 days then 40km per day for 100 days

In 2003, Genshin Fujinami, finished the 1,000 day run.

USA Today covered the story in  this news story (2)

 

I believe it is essential to know what truly is “possible”. Unless we drive ourselves to develop extensively, how will we ever know our potential?  Your determined focus to adapt efficiency and endurance is a noble virtue. It is through this endurance, we undoubtedly achieve greater self-awareness, happiness, and peace. We must share this with others so we can make the world a better place.

Citations:
1. Wikipedia- Kaihogyo
2. USA Today-Marathon Monk

Author: Jerry Armstrong

see more of Jerry's work at www.JerryArmstrong.blogspot.com

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