Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

This is a pretty interesting development in the Buddhist world: Marathon Monks of Mt Hiei - YouTube. My girlfriend’s great uncle, I think, did something similar to this.


Hey, Tendai!

I study traditional Japanese martial arts (koryu), which had a very heavy influence from Japanese Vajrayana (Shingon, Tendai, Kegon, etc). This Tendai practice of marathoning was pretty influentential in japanese culture, inspiring a whole raft of pilgrimage practices which are still practiced today, like Shugendo ( a mixture of Shinto mountain worship and Buddhism) and Musha Shugyo, the samurai martial pilgrimage.

Shugendo is still popular today, and there are ot of nihonjin and gaijin who make the pilgrimages on a yearly basis.

I’ve read a bit about Shugendo. Based on what little I know, it’s interesting stuff.

My girlfriend and I walked to several of the Kannon temples Chichibu. That’s about as close as I’ve come to any pilgrimage in Japan. I really want to do the 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku some day, though.

Yea, the Shikoku Junrei is something else. I hope to do it myself some day. Would you do it in stages or the whole thing in one shot? My wife is in nursing school and I have 3 kids so it’s going to be awhile before I can make it lol.

In koryu, we traditionally have large meetings that are joint training/lodging sessions (gasshuku) or displays (embu), where we gather, train, and trade knowledge. In the covid era, those are on hold, so individual Ryu are holding zoom sessions instead. One if the the more recent ones we had was a lecture from a jodo practitioner who is also a Tendai priest, and his entire lecture was on the influence of Tendai on japanese martial culture, with a specific focus on the concept of the pilgrimage, like the Shikoku Junrei, which he walked himself like 30 years ago.

A lot of people think the Samurai were most heavily influenced by Zen, but that’s false. The majority of them were mikkyo all the way

I’d love to do it all in one shot. From what I’ve heard, it takes 45 days to do on foot, though. If I end up moving to Japan, maybe I’ll take some time off between jobs and do it then.

Having started out practicing Tibetan Vajrayana, I became quite interested in the Japanese variety at one point. I’ve tried to read this book twice The Weaving of Mantra | Columbia University Press. It’s so dense, though, that I failed both times. I got about halfway through, I think. I enjoyed reading about what Buddhism was like in Japan back then, and about Kukai’s life, though.

A lot of Zen folks also think that the Vinaya was never practiced in Japan. I learned from reading that book that it was brought to Japan and monks and nuns kept it. The state controlled ordination, and therefore religion, since you couldn’t legally teach Buddhism, or operate in any kind of official religious capacity, without being ordained. As I’m sure you know, Shugendo descended from the renegade mountain mystics that existed outside of state sanctioned religion. Kukai started out as one of those mountain ascetics. Anyway, he was ordained, but later abandoned the Vinaya and kept only the bodhisattva precepts as a kind of political statement. So, Vinaya was kept in ancient Japan.

It was, for sure. The failure of Vinaya in Japan is almost exclusively the fault of the political environment there, because almost as soon as it was introduced , it became a political chess piece that the ruling Clans moved about for political advantage. The monasteries became overtly political because of this, and that left a really bad taste in people’s mouths.