Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei is a documentary directed by Christopher J. Hayden in 2002.
The Kaihogyo (circling the mountain) is a set of the ascetic spiritual training for which the Buddhist “marathon monks” of Mt. Hiei are known.
These monks are from the Tendai school of Buddhism, a denomination brought to Japan by the monk Saicho in 806 from China.
Their quest is to serve Buddha through many duties but they are best known for their great spiritual effort and perseverance in ascetic practices.
In particular, a form of asceticism whereby the monks meditate on Fudo Myoo, chant his mantra and circumambulate a sacred mountain for many days in a row. The school is based north of Kyoto, at Mt. Hiei, which overlooks the ancient capital city.
The ultimate achievement is the completion of the 1,000-day challenge, which would rank among the most demanding physical and mental challenges in the world. Only 46 men have completed the 1,000-day challenge since 1885.
Of these, three people have completed the circuit twice, most recently Yusai Sakai (1926–2013), who first went from 1973 to 1980 and then, after a half-year pause, went again, finishing his second round in 1987 at age 60.
The kaihogyo takes seven years to complete, as the monks must undergo other Buddhist training in meditation and calligraphy, and perform general duties within the temple. They are required to spend 12 years total on Mt.Hiei and includes vows of lifelong celibacy and sobriety in the spirit of renunciation.
Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei synopsis:
The greatest athletes in the world today are neither the Olympic champions nor the stars of professional sports, but the “Marathon Monks” of Japan’s sacred Mount Hiei. Over a seven year training period, these “running Buddha” figuratively circle the globe on foot.
During one incredible 100-day stretch, they cover 52.5 miles daily – twice the length of an Olympic marathon. The prize they seek is not a pot of gold, but enlightenment in the here and now.
This documentary program is about one of these amazing men – Tanno Kakudo and the magic mountain where he trains. It is the philosophy of Tendai Buddhism, which inspires him in his quest for the supreme.
The viewer will learn about the monk’s death-defying fast, his vegetarian training diet, his handmade straw running shoes, and other feats of endurance such as the mummifying fire ceremony.
Illustrated with superb cinematography and music, this film contains the first full insight into Mount Hiei and Tendai Buddhism based on the book with the same name by John Steven, published by Shambala Press.
More interesting documentaries are available to watch on insightstate, like: Graham Hancock – The War on Consciousness, The God Within, Phil Borges – Myths, Shamans and Seers, Nassim Haramein – Black Whole, Mystic Tibet: An Outer, Inner and Secret Pilgrimage, Peter Russell – The Global Brain, Stanislav Grof – The Healing Potential of Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness or Sikkim.