Sunday, July 08, 2007

Those Crazy Monks

I absolutely love the Kircher Society blog, it's just fascinating on a daily basis. Today two monk posts caught my eye (or rather one caught my eye and had a link to the other, which is 10 months old). First, this one about self-mummifying monks looked interesting, and of course was:

For three years the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls. This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it killed off any maggots that might cause the body to decay after death. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed.
Self-discipline is under-emphasized in the US, I think. I can't think of anyone in this country who would do that, not even my friend Mike S., who built a car in his garage in little more than a year. Speaking of self-discipline, I think these dudes have it even harder than the self-picklers:

For the first 300 days of the pilgrimage, the monk must run 40 km (24.9 mi) each day — essentially a marathon a day for almost an entire year. In the fourth and fifth year, he does 40 km each day for 200 straight days. In the sixth year of the pilgrimage, he increases the length of his runs to 60 km (37.3 mi) for 100 days. Finally, during the seventh year, he runs for another 100 consecutive days, this time covering 84 km (52.2 mi) at a time — twice the length of a marathon.

The monk runs in straw sandals (and for the first few years without socks), largely over unpaved mountain paths, through all seasons. And he must do it on a diet of vegetables, tofu, and miso soup. Around his waist, he wears a rope belt and a knife to remind him that should he fail to complete the seven-year pilgrimage, he is required to hang himself with the rope or disembowel himself with the knife.

Following the 700th day of running, the monk engages in a seven-day fast, known as the doiri, in which he must abstain from food, water, and sleep, while sitting upright and constantly reciting Buddhist chants. Two monks remain next to him to ensure he doesn’t doze off even once. The purpose of the doiri is to bring the monk face-to-face with death.
I think a few days of running 20+ miles in sockless straw sandals would bring me face-to-face with death, never mind the other stuff.

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