On Wednesday Oct 21, 2015, Buddhist Monk Kogen Kamahori emerged from a dangerous nine-day ordeal that included no food, no drink and no sleep—while reciting precious sutras.
To many Buddhists, the feat of mental discipline is both admirable and valuable, both as an example for others, and as a legitimate austerity method of denying craving and practicing merit.
Yet, for many in social media circles, the feat brought instant derision, insults, scorn and disbelief—some would say, typical of the “age of degeneration” (in Buddhist terms) or the “age of cynicism” (in modern terms). Some of these comments included:
- “I find this feat impossible to believe… you can’t go without liquids and sleeping for nine days.”
- “So what, I kinda did that in Ibiza many moons ago.”
- “I don’t believe this. The man is highly unlikely to survive nine days without water…”
- “I question whether it’s even true and real? This whole stunt is devoid of reason…”
- “Easy enough to hide a stack of Kit Cads and CC Lemon under those flowing robes.”
The best comments included a criticism followed by a perfect riposte:
- “A feat as impressive as it is pointless.”
- “Your comment is pointless, but not impressive.”
(Editors Note: For those who feel it is pointless, here’s a nice feature on why some Buddhists value sutra recitation>>)
Never-the-less, social media cynics aside, the grueling nine day ritual is an admirable endurance feat. Denying all craving—even the need to eat, sleep, drink—while pursuing the merit of reciting 100,000 sutras is a feat not appropriate for derision, but, rather, for admiration. Aside from merit, the nine day contemplation clearly is a venerable attainment, and demonstrates very advanced concentration and discipline.
Kogen Kamahori is a monk at Enrakuji Temple in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. His spiritual ordeal was witnessed at Mount Hiei, a holy mountain near Kyoto. When he emerged, he was greeted by 600 admirers and media. He appeared in white robes, and although able to walk on his own, despite lack of food, drink and sleep, he was assisted by other monks.
The ordeal is part of a seven-year training, that also includes 1,000 days of walking around the Holy Mountain.