With 2007 now behind us, we can now look back at what the year before brought us. This may bring sadness and frustration to the eyes of many. For some, however, this can be a joy.
Either way, if you are reading this now, then you are moving into the new year with everyone else in the world. While browsing around the internet to see what kind of things have been dug up about the new year, I came across a very interesting post from Financial Hack. The post is entitled Lessons from The Marathon Monks – How to Achieve the Impossible and it is quite amazing. The post illustrates the life of a certain group of Japanese Buddhist monks.
Quite frankly, I have never heard of a more dedicated lifestyle in my life. I started doing a bit of research and the quest these people go on is amazing. I think that anyone could learn a great deal about the limits of being human from such a disciplined and rigorous task. Here is the gist of it:
The Hieizan Sennichi Kaihogyo (Mt. Hiei 1000 Day Journey) – 7 years of testing and training with the “Marathon Monks”
First some information:
- Must spend 1000 days on the road in all seasons – in hand-made straw sandals
- The path is strewn with jagged rocks, poisonous snakes and uneven ground
- The monk must carry a knife and rope with them at all times so that if they fail, they can hang and/or disembowel themselves
- Once a year, the marathon monks and their attendants venture deep into the mountains for a special retreat. It’s very different to the restrained, aesthetic world the men usually inhabit. The founder of the sect discovered God by jumping into a waterfall. His followers imitate the leap of faith. This is a select gathering. The Kaihogyo is so grueling only 46 men have completed it in the last four centuries.
Now the quest:
(keep in mind that the sources for this were limited so there was some contradictory information)
- Years 1 – 3: starting at 1:30am and ending at 9:00am, the monk must run approximately 18 miles per day for 100 straight days.
- Years 4 – 5: at the same time in the morning, the monk must travel the same route but this time for 200 straight days.
- End of Year 5 (or 6): the Doiri – 7 (or 9) days and nights without food or water.
- Final Year: the monk changes his route. His trail bends from the mountain into the city where he passes by villagers and geisha houses every day.
Gyosho Uehara, a senior monk on Mt Hiei where the quest takes place offered the following description for the doiri:
“The Doiri is not about controlling worldly desires but denying them. This is why some marathon monks are able to hear the sound of ash falling from an incense stick or smell food being prepared at the foot of the mountain. It is as if they are visiting the world of the dead.”
After reading that people are capable of achieving such a feat, it makes the smaller things in life seem much more obtainable.
It also reminds us that the struggles we face in life are not what define us, but the way we overcome those struggles which reflects who we truly are. As the new year brings a new throng of struggles and difficulties, remember that perseverance, dedication, and commitment make all of us capable of anything.
Remember that next time you’re ready to give up.