If you are a runner, you may have heard about the “marathon monks” of Japan. There is an interview of Ryojyun Shionuma, who achieved this practice, in NUMBER, a sports magazine.
What is a “marathon monk”?
- In a shrine in Mount Hieizan, there is a practice where you keep walking the mountains for 1000 days.
- The monks who go through this practice are called “marathon monks” and are known even in abroad.
They carry a Katana (sword) in case they fail the practice.
- They walk Mount Hieisan for 1000 days in search of enlightenment.
- So far, there are only 2 people who achieved this practice in 1300 years.
- They start the day by waking up at 11:30 P.M. and meditate under a waterfall.
- Next, the go up and down 500 stone steps.
- They take 2 rice balls and 500ml of water when they leave.
- In case they fail to achieve the practice, they also take a short sword and a rope to commit suicide.
- When they leave, they wear white robes (burial clothes) in case they should die during the path.
- Even if there are difficulties such as the weather, the person must take responsibilities if he should fail.
Going through the same 48-kilometer, with a vertical drop of 1300 meters course every day
- The crest of Mount Sanjyogatake is 1719 meters high, and the challenger will take a 24-kilometer course each way.
- The total course length is 48 kilometers, and the vertical drop is 1300 meters.
- Along the way, there are 118 points where the challenger must chant the sutra.
- There is no support, and everything must be done by the challenger alone.
- During the practice period, he will get about 4.5 hours of sleep.
- This kind of life is lead every year from May to September, for 120 days.
- The practice is repeated for 9 years.
- The practice starts from the moment the challenger opens his eyes till he shuts them, and everything must be done as planned.
- The challenger is only allowed to eat a small amount of rice balls, and he can feel his bones weakening each day
- There are only two physical conditions. Not good or bad, but bad or worse.
- On the 490th day, he suddenly lost 10 kilograms of weight, got diarrhea, and his urine turned brown.
- He kept achieving the goal day after day, crying.
You need the to concentrate on your pain to achieve the practice
- What is important is to concentrate your mind on the pain and to control the mind to feeling the pain.
- That is how you increase your concentration.
- If you try to run away from the pain, which we call being chased by the pain, you fall into a dangerous situation.
- If you concentrate, you will be able to notice any little thing you are wearing.
- You will be able to notice the difference in fatigue caused by the increase or decrease of 10 minutes sleep.
- Your mind will be sharpened toward the issue of how to bring your body up and down the mountain each day.
Why go through such hardship?
- It is Buddha’s saying that if you repeat the same things everyday, you can achieve enlightenment.
- It is also said that if you lose your passion, the possibility of achieving enlightenment would go away.
- Therefore, a practice that required repeating a challenge that needs high concentration is used to achieve enlightenment.
Achieving the practice does not mean you are great
- There are various practices in Buddhism, but the more they are extreme, the more they become addictive.
- There are some who feel they are great by achieving those practices.
- There are monks who go though various practices and brag about them.
- Ryojyun Shionuma says that this kind of behavior is a mistake.
Ryojyun Shionuma left the shrine in Mount Hieizan and built his own temple. He says that you do not receive anything in return for achieving this practice, but you begin a life to think how you can make use of the things realized through the practice in your live to commit to believers as a monk.
Translated by Elena