27,000 Miles to Buddha-hood  
Quote: "The Tendai Monks of Mount Hiei take the ultra-marathon to a whole new level."
I am wondering: What means "a whole new level"? Probably the writer wants to say that the ultra-marathon now has a 'spiritual' level, when before it was just a normal sport competition. But why is this marathon from Mount Hiei spiritual? Just because monks are doing it? Of course it must be spiritual because they are running the marathon with the goal to be enlightened. They are torturing themselves over ten years and running 27,000 Miles! Not many could do it as it needs an extraordinary strength, or is it stubbornness or fanaticism? From where comes this strong desire to be 'enlightened'? I can't help it, but this smells like the ultimate personality game! Buddha himself had rejected this kind of extreme ascetic exercises, although it is not quite clear why. It is possible that he came to the same conclusion that the path of enlightenment can't be forced and is a slow growing process which consist mainly in becoming conscious about oneself by responding and relating to whatever shows up in one's daily life. This indeed is a challenge which maybe might not be much easier as a marathon as it needs one's total engagement and self responsibility. Who is willing to run this 'daily life marathon' will need to get rid of most luggage build up by belief systems, concepts and one's established self image. Confronting states of 'nothingness' or void, is frightening and hardly anybody is capable to do it. It is much easier to keep oneself occupied with all kind of entertainment, work, etc. and the marathon monks do the same: They are fully occupied with their ten years marathon. There is no space for any self reflection, absolutely all energy is used to survive. Any doubts showing up about the sense of their doing is suppressed and if the constantly repeated mantras doesn't numb enough then for sure the pain and the exhaustion. They are running in a sonnambule state, hypnotized by themselves to reach the sense giving goal of enlightenment. It seems they are not so different from normal people occupied within their 'rat race', mostly acting like zombies, without any reflection or questioning one's doing...
Another aspect which makes me thinking: These marathon monks are doing nothing else then spending all their energy for more than ten years in their marathon. When the author of this article tells that after ten years they are running their marathon in Tokyo and that then this would be a blessing for the people in the street, then this doesn't point away from their egoistical motivation. Isn't it an essential part on one's path to enlightenment that one relates to one's surrounding and as there is plenty to do in a world governed by suffering, so one might give a helping hand?

There is quite a lot more to express about all this and I must say that I was moved reading this article. The whole day I had to think about it and then I was asking myself what I have done differently than running since fifty years my marathon with a vision ahead and the stubbornness to complete this. With the difference that I was not only suffering like the monks, although there was plenty of pain in my life and still is, but I also could enjoy my life and even more as time is passing by. That makes it possible that now when my life comes to the last part, I might be able to drop my vision as the daily reality and the reality of human nature in their evolution shows me, that my intention has too little possibility to be realized. I have developed enough during my personal 'marathon' that I will not feel desperate because my life long intention has failed. I'm still running, but as I'm pretty alone in this... We will see.

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