Marathon Monk Ancient Quest

From msnbc.

For more than seven years, Genshin Fujinami dressed in white from head to toe while covering the backwoods trails of this sacred mountain MOUNT HIEI in one of the world's most grueling feats - a punishing quest that combined starvation, isolation and the equivalent of a lap around the equator.

For 1,000 days, rising well before dawn, Fujinami embarked alone, rain or shine, on his journey, running or briskly walking more than 50 miles - that's almost two marathons - each day as the trial neared its climax. Along with his white robes, his only gear was a pair of straw sandals, a long straw hat, candles, a shovel, a length of rope and a short sword.

The quest dates to the eighth century and is believed to be a path to enlightenment. Monks carry a little book of prayers and incantations, which they offer at about 300 temples and sacred spots along the way. Other than that, they don't stop for breaks.

Fujinami said his most difficult trial came during the fifth year, when he had to sit in the lotus position before a raging fire and chant mantras for nine days without food, water or sleep in an esoteric ritual called "doiri,'' or "entering the temple.''

"You can only do this after preparing,'' he said. "After about four days, you really start to lose your strength and your clarity. You stop caring about anything. But you have to keep sitting upright and repeating the mantras.''


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