In the northeastern hills outside Kyoto, Japan, there is a mountain known as Mount Hiei. That mountain is littered with unmarked graves.
Those graves mark the final resting place of the Tendai Buddhist monks who have failed to complete a quest known as The Kaihogyo.
What is this quest that kills so many of the monks? And what can you and I learn from it? I’ll tell you.
The Marathon Monks
The Tendai monks believe that enlightenment can be achieved during your current life but only through extreme self-denial.
For the Tendai, the ultimate act of self-denial—and the route to enlightenment—is a physical challenge known as The Kaihogyo. Because of this challenge, the Tendai are often called the “Marathon Monks.” But The Kaihogyo is much more than a marathon. It is a 1,000-day challenge that takes place over seven years. If a monk chooses to undertake this challenge, this is what he must do:
Year 1: Run 30 km per day (about 18 miles) for 100 straight days.
Year 2: Again run 30 km per day for 100 straight days.
Year 3: Once more run 30 km per day for 100 straight days.
Year 4: Run 30 km per day. This time for 200 straight days.
Year 5: Again run 30 km per day for 200 straight days. After completing the fifth year of running, the monk must go nine consecutive days without food, water, or rest. Two monks stand beside him at all times to ensure that he does not fall asleep.
Year 6: Run 60 km (about 37 miles) per…