Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

These are two films having the same subject, but only partly overlapping content.

The first is the extraordinary story of one Tendai monk in Japan who undertakes one of the most difficult and dangerous austerities I have come across, walking on foot round Mount Hiei 1000 times in a pilgrimage spread out over seven years, and covering a total of some 24,000 miles by completion.

Besides this, after completing the first 700 circumambulations, the pilgrim will also undertake a death defying 9-day fast from food and water, which would be enough to kill an ordinary person, who can only survive 5 days without water.

According to the narration at the end of the feat, the monks are looked upon as Living Buddhas, and are fit to pray for Emperor and Country, and they naturally have many followers once the course is complete. Up to the time of this film in 1991 only 6 monks had completed the course since 1945.

How far such intense ascetism is from the original teachings of the historical Buddha I leave for the viewer to judge, but the story is truly a remarkable one as we watch Tanno Ajari’s last five walks, and learn more about the ideas behind the pilgrimage, explained by the head of the Tendai sect in Kyoto, among others.

For those who want to follow up and learn more about these monks, there is an excellent article here: The Marathon Monk of Mount Hiei, which gives much more information that the film can offer.

 

if this video is no longer available please leave a comment so I can update the page
(the comment is not published)

 

The second film, which is only 20 minutes discusses the same endurance feats, but is more recently made, and shows some new monks who have completed the pilgrimage, and also has interviews with one monk who completed the course twice, and with John Stevens (advisor on the first film), who explains more about the context within which the walks take place. Although this film is much more concise it contains important information missing from the first film, so is worth watching in its own right.

if this video is no longer available please leave a comment so I can update the page
(the comment is not published)

 

to see a set of stills click on the date at the top of the embed below

 

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>