Journal - Mt. Hiei
by Dan Taylor

Mt. Hiei, which is located between northeast Kyoto and Lake Biwa, is the home of the Tendai monastery Enryakuji. Famous Buddhist founders, such as Honene, Shinran, Dogen, Eisai, and Nichiren had a good deal of monastic training on Mt. Hiei. The roots of the monastery go back to the 8th-9th centuries CE, when Saicho moved to Mt. Hiei to bring Chinese T'ia T'ac Buddhism to Japan, which is the source of the monastery's Tendai affiliation. The 1200th anniversary of Mt. Hiei was celebrated in 1987, and Mt. Hiei continues today to be a thriving religious center and monastic community.

The practices of Mt. Hiei are worthy of special attention. Some Tendai expression comes through esoteric practice, Zen meditation, sutra-chanting, and the nembutsu. But different types of meditation are also emphasized, such as continuous sitting meditation, continuous moving meditation, half moving and half sitting meditation, and neither moving nor sitting meditation.

The most notable aspect of Mt. Hiei, however, would arguably be the long retreats which are practiced there. The most legendary of all the retreats is the one thousand day pilgrimage, known as issennichikaihogyo. During this one thousand day pilgrimage, the practitioners run between 30 and 84 kilometers a day, and stop to worship at up to 260 stations during each day's running. Also included with the running is a nine day fasting period, where the practitioner does not sleep, eat, or drink. Those who complete this regimen are considered living Buddhas.