Japanese Monk Goes Nine Days Without Food, Drink and Sleep in Grueling Religious Ritual

Can you imagine going without food, drink and sleep for nine straight days and nights? It sounds impossible, but a Japanese Buddhist monk proved that it can be done, after recently completing a grueling ritual.

Last Wednesday, 41-year-old Kogen Kamahori, one of the “marathon monks” of Mount Hiei, a holy mountain that straddles Japan’s Kyoto and Shiga prefectures, became one of only 13 monks to have completed the endurance test since the end of World War 2. He emerged from a training facility, assisted by fellow monks, after spending nine days without eating, drinking, sleeping or even lying down. During this time, he was also required to chant sutras 100,000 times. Just keeping count under these conditions sounds like a superhuman task.


Photo: Yomimuri Shinbun/Asia News Network

According to his religious beliefs, completing the nine-day ordeal has made Kogen Kamahori an incarnation of Acala, a powerful warrior “wisdom king” who protects the faithful, sometimes with a flaming sword. However, he still has a couple of years before completing the whole “marathon monk” ritual. As one of the ‘Tendai-shu’, he was chosen to take part in the ‘sennichi kaihogyo’, or the Thousand Day Challenge – one of the most rigorous spiritual challenges in the world. In 1,000 nonconsecutive days, marathon monks must walk a distance equivalent to the circumference of the Earth (over 40,000 km) around Mt. Hiei, visiting its over 250 holy sites.


marathon monk

Kamahori himself started walking in 2011 and completed 700 days of trekking before attempting the nine-day fast. He will now resume the walk and is expected to complete the prescribed distance in the fall of 2017.

Sources: Japan Times, BBC

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