3 Powerful Lessons We Can Learn From The Tendai Monks.

1,000 days, 7 years, and 1 major goal… to reach enlightenment.

Monk in Prayer

The Kaihogyo

Outside Kyoto, there is a mountain known as Mount Hiei which is littered with the unmarked graves of Tendai Buddhist monks.

These monks believe that enlightenment can be achieved during this lifetime, but only through extreme self–denial.

So to achieve enlightenment, they enter into a 1,000 day physical challenge known as the Kaihogyo.

The challenge goes for 7 years:

  • Year 1, the monk must run 30 km per day for 100 straight days.
  • Year 2, the monk must run 30 km per day for 100 straight days.
  • Year 3, the monk must run 30 km per day for 100 straight days.
  • Year 4, the monk must run 30 km per day for 200 straight days.
  • Year 5, the monk must run 30 km per day for 200 straight days then go 9 straight days without food, water, or rest whilst two monks stand beside him.
  • Year 6, the monk must run 60 km per day for 100 straight days.
  • Year 7, the monk must run 84 km per day for 100 straight days, then run 30 km per day for the final 100 days.

And whilst this in itself is very extreme, what actually takes the lives of so many of the monks that they are only allowed to withdraw themselves from the quest for the first 100 days. After that, a monk must either complete the Kaihogyo or take his own life.

Because of this, the monks carry a length of rope and a short sword at all times on their journey, and those graves I mentioned before, well, those are of the monks who have failed to complete the challenge.

It is believe that only 46 men have completed the challenge in the last 400+ years.

Lessons We Can Learn

Now, whilst this is an extreme example, there is a lot we can take away from this story and apply to our own lives.

Either Fully Commit Or Let It Go

The monks only have 100 days to fully commit or walk away from the Kaihogyo.

When it comes to goals, many of us have endless lists of things we’d like to achieve, yet we often find ourselves at the end of the year, looking back and wondering why we didn’t accomplish any of them.

If a goal no longer serves you, or you have come to realise that you are unable or willing to do what it required to achieve that goals, it’s time to let it go. And it’s okay to do so. If anything, it’s a good thing to do, as it allows you to place your limited energy into focusing on the goals that do matter to you most.

Only Focus On One Or Two Things At A Time

To the monks, this journey to enlightenment is there soul focus, and their entire lives are planned around it accordingly. But imagine if they had 5 or even 10 goals!

When we have multiple goals, we have to split our limited time and focus between each goal, often meaning we may only end up dabbling in the tasks necessary to complete each of those goals.

By selecting the one or two most important goals, we can place all of our focus and efforts into completing the tasks necessary to see them come into fruition.

Just Get Started

The Kaihogyo is a 1,000 day challenge that spans over 7 years… but each monk starts this quest with a single step.

Many of us will have some big goals sitting in the back of our minds that we’d like to accomplish in our lifetime. Yet many of us will let them slide as we see them to be too big, too difficult or too overwhelming. But who knows what the future may bring?

When working towards such a big goal, we don’t need to know how we’re going to get to the end, all we need to do is take that first step and continue to put one foot in front of the other just like the monks. And if that still seems too daunting, remember, unlike the monks, we have the privilege to change our mind at any time without such extreme repercussions.

So what do you have to lose? Just take the first step and see where it takes you. And if taking the second step isn’t something you want to do, just let it go and refocus on another path that might just take you where you want to go.

Ready to take your first step and discover a happier, healthier, fitter more confident you in 2019? Let’s talk.

With no obligations or cost, you have nothing to lose, except the stories and fears which have held you back until now.


Do you have an old goal that you’re struggling to let go of? Or perhaps you have several goals and don’t know which ones to keep. I’d love to know more about your experience… Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post

%d bloggers like this: