The Kaihōgyō is one of the most inspiring things to me... it is the quest by Tendai Buddhist monks to reach enlightenment in one life through physical endurance. The Kaihōgyō is a 7 year process of great endurance runs which are basically 100 days of 50k trail runs. The monk pauses briefly during the daily run for meditation and prayer. If a monk is unable to complete the Kaihōgyō after he has completed the first year, he must commit suicide. John Stevens wrote about the Tendai Buddhists in, "The Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei." I have purchased the book and I'll be reading in greater detail about the true Kaihōgyō over the next 100 days.
- 1st year: 100 consecutive days of 30+ mile runs, beginning at 1:30 a.m., each day after an hour of prayer
- 2nd year: 100 days of 30+ mi runs
- 3rd year: 100 days of 30+ mi runs
- 4th year: 100 days of 30+ mi runs - performed twice
- 5th year: 100 days of 30+ mi runs - performed twice
- On the 700th day, the monks undergo a 9 day fast without food, water, rest or sleep
- 6th year: 100 days of 37.5 mi runs
- 7th year: 100 days of 52.2 mi runs and 100 days of 26 mi runs.
The monks run every day with a rope and blade so they can hang or disembowel themselves if they are unable to complete the Kaihōgyō at for any reason. The ancient trail where the Tendai sect complete their runs is littered with graves from failed attempts to complete the Kaihōgyō. Very few monks have completed the Kaihōgyō while many more have died.
In a modified version, I will be taking on the personal challenge of a 100 day Kaihōgyō. It will involve 100 days of consecutive running with a minimum daily run of 5 miles. The challenge will be difficult, due in large part to the time of year I have set out to start my adventure. It is December 8th and the winter has just begun her in Colorado. Regardless of temperature or weather, I will seek to complete the daily run. I hope to learn a great deal about myself and nature throughout this process.
To state the obvious, this is not even close to the incredible challenge of the Kaihōgyō. In my own life, however, this is a personal mission of development physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Run long and Prosper