The Seven Year Pilgrimage to Enlightenment

Kaihōgyō (回峰行) (“circling the mountain”) is a 1000-day pilgrimage spread out over seven years that is practised by the monks of Enryaku-ji temple on the side of Mount Hiei, overlooking Kyoto.

Monks undertaking the practice walk 25 miles per day at night in order to still be able to carry out their regular duties during the daytime. After completing 700 days (in 100-day sections) each monk must enter a hall and prays nonstop for nine days, without eating, drinking, sleeping or even lying down. It’s a near death experience which only 13th monks have completed since World War II.

Once they complete the challenge, monks are given the honorific of Daigyoman Ajari, or Saintly Master of the Highest Practice. In Imperial Japan, such monks were granted a special place at court and were the only people allowed to wear shoes in the presence of the Emperor.

The gruelling journey was captured above in a beautiful video by Ivan Olita. Read more about the pilgrimage on NPR and The Guardian.

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