"Gratitude Wells Up" from Nine-Day Fast and Sutra Recitation1,000-Day Marathon Pilgrimage Ascetic11 January 2016 - Temples/Shrines
Kogen Kamahori is an ascetic embarked upon "Sennichi-Kaiho-Gyo," or 1,000-day marathon pilgrimage. Having completed the endurance test called "Do-iri" in October 2015, he is now called "Togyoman Ajari" and worshiped as an "incarnation of the Fudo Myo-o deity," or Acala. We visited him in Mudojidani, Mount Hiei, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, to ask about his endurance test and the marathon pilgrimage.
The 1000-day marathon pilgrimage is trekking around Mount Hiei for one thousand days within a seven year period. After the austerities of 700 days, the ascetic confines himself in Myo-o-do Hall in Mudojidani for nine days. This is called "Do-iri." Kamahori stayed within the hall from October 13 to 21. What was he thinking during those?
"I just kept praying earnestly to the Fudo deity. There are determined tasks, such as successfully chanting the mantra 100,000 times and reciting the Lotus Sutra. This is not just about spending nine days without food, water, sleeping or lying down."
"On or around the third day, I sometimes reeled. Feeling lightheadedness, I felt like lying down, which was a sign of my weakness, as I had been sitting on my heels or in half lotus position all the time while doing the religious service."
Around Myo-o-do Hall, followers prayed for his safety while putting their hands together and chanting the mantras.
"I could hear the followers' mantras. I was aware that there were a lot of people. This helped me a lot. In addition, the Do-iri confinement is just one step of the marathon pilgrimage; I didn't need to do any preparation of accommodations or meals, nor any cleanup. I just entered the hall and went on with my own austerities. In the marathon pilgrimage, I had everyone arrange conditions so that I could concentrate on my own austerities. It is not me, but Ajari that they continue nurture and watch over. This must be the 1,100-year history of the marathon pilgrimage."
He said that when he had completed the ordeal and came out of the Myo-o-do Hall, a feeling of gratitude welled up in him.
"I was surprised to see many people there. I am just grateful not only to my mentor monk, but to the monks, followers, helpers, and above all, to the Buddha, for enabling me to successfully come out the hall."
It is said that, upon completion of the ordeal, he has become an incarnation of or one with Fudo Myo-o.
"I do not say that I feel it. It must have been on the fourth day that my ego and weakness disappeared, and I was saved by Fudo. Since then my weakness has not emerged. I understand that it is the Buddha who gave me the power. Therefore, I no longer feel such things not because I am one with Fudo, but because I was given the power."
"It is not something I feel, but if people around me think that I have changed, that means I have received something from Fudo. I cannot evaluate that for myself."
The distance covered on foot over the 1,000 days is 40,000 kilometers, which is equal to the distance around the earth. The rest of the marathon pilgrimage after "Do-iri" is regarded as "Rita-gyo," or altruistic practice. He will conduct "Sekizan Kugyo" or ascetic practice of Sekizan this year, and "Kyoto O-mawari" or great pilgrimage in Kyoto in 2017. What will he be thinking of as he walks on the sacred Mount Hiei?
"On Mount Hiei there are approximately 300 places of worship, where I recite the Lotus Sutra or other sutras. I chant Fudo's mantra while I am walking. Basically, I concentrate on sutras and invocations to Buddha. I think that I have yet to gain the power, but I hope I can perform such services as I can to share the merits of these austerities."(translated by Galileo, Inc.)