Beautiful film on a Buddhist ritual only 46 monks have completed

Originally published at:

From the documentary, “Traditionally, any monk, or gyoja who can’t complete it must take their life.

From the Wikipedia article on KaihōgyōIn the first 100 days, withdrawal from the challenge is possible, but from day 101 onwards the monk is no longer allowed to withdraw; historically he must either complete the course or take his own life. In contemporary times this is symbolic and the selection process ensures that those who embark on the practice will complete it.

It concerns only the Tendai sect of Mahayana Buddhism. I was confused as to how 1000 days, or 999 days (± the 9 days at the end in which the gyoja forgoes sleep, food and water to get as close to death as possible) becomes 7 years or 12 years. The above article on the Kaihōgyō makes more sense.

As I reflect on it, there is something to be said that the great things in one’s personal life, are often only done in the dead of night and in those moments when one isn’t working on one’s duties like work and family.

I wonder if the practice is open to the Tendai nuns? If so is that recent? If not is that because of religious prescriptions? The short documentary left me with lots of question. Does anybody have information on the practice beyond what is on the Internet?


Oh yea, I saw this once in an anime. Apparently, after a few minutes meditating under the waterfall, they gain incredible martial arts powers, in addition to the ability to see and battle demons.


In before the suggestions these are just old, silly superstitions And that one should be able to spend say half the time, 500 days, and still complete the spirit of the ritual as there is no rational reason to adhere to the custom and more people would then be able to complete it. /sarcam

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No, I don’t think sarcasm is the proper term.


I am not seriously suggesting they should change their ritual.

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I think they should triple the amount of time it takes…in order to weed out the slackers…

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You snark, but, as was pointed out above, they’ve essentially removed the mandatory suicide if you decide you can’t complete it after the first hundred days. I can’t say for certain why, but I imagine they likely felt that actually having people die was an old and silly way of doing things, and now only retain it symbolically.

This is such a weird thing. A huge part of the buddhist story is that Siddartha went through a period of asceticism before rejecting it, and ultimately (after realizing that asceticism was a dead end) attaining enlightenment.

I can see the training portion being sort of a “running” zazen meditation sort of thing, but the 9 day period at the end I can only see as a nod to the older ascetic traditions.

But that being said, this is probably the same thing that Christians deal with all the time when arguments about ritual and belief occur between Catholics, and Protestants, and Southern Baptists, and Methodists, and on and on…

A reminder that Buddhism comes in just as many flavors as other religions, and that it’s not just one monotlithic belief system.


Or, if British accents offend you (it’s actually higher quality too):

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One good thing about the ritual: While you’re moving, no one will sneak up and mummify you.

Thank you.

kyoto is so beautiful

travel 24,000 miles - roughly the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference - in the search for the ultimate enlightenment.

Upon reflection I have decided to settle for the penultimate enlightenment.
There is also the antepenultimate enlightment but that’s for slackers.

It really is a good video

Surprisingly I sat and watched the entire thing in one sitting. I was only disappointed that they didn’t cover the end of the final ceremony


This overproduced, shallow, eye-candy nonsense is a noxious gas released into the ether.
I’m sure the cultural phenomenon in question is beautiful and profound.

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