Ryojyun Shionuma Daiajari
Completed “The Omine Thousand Day Circumambulation (OMINE SENNICHI KAIHOGYO)”
1968 - Born in Sendai City, Japan.
1987 - Entered the Buddhist priesthood at Kinpusenji in Yoshino, Nara Prefecture.
1991 - Started the Omine Thousand Day Circumambulation.
1999 - Completed the Omine Thousand Day Circumambulation.
2000 – Completed the Shimugyo or Fourfold Renouncing Practice.
2003 - Built Jigenji Temple.
2006 - Completed Hassenmai Daigomaku.
The Omine Thousand Day Circumambulation
“The Omine Thousand Day Circumambulation (OMINE SENNICHI KAIHOGYO)” is a thousand-day practice that consists of walking 30 miles a day in the mountains above the Nara Prefecture. It consists of hiking from Mount Yoshino to Mount Omine and back again, an elevation that changes nearly four thousand feet.
It takes around nine years to complete this practice because it can only be performed during the hiking season (from May 3 until September 3). Therefore, once I entered the practice, I went to sleep at 7 PM and woke up at 11:30 PM to meditate under a waterfall. Then again, I dressed up and walked towards the mountain at 12:30 AM.
Once I arrived at the mountain, I kept walking with a religious service. There were 118 places where I stopped by to recite the prayer called Hannya Shingyou or better known as “the Heart Sutra” in English. I brought 500 ml of water and two onigiris (rice ball). Generally, I was able to reach the summit of Omine by 8:30 AM and arrived back at the temple at around 3:30 PM (close to a sixteen-hour round-trip).
After the hike at the mountain, I had to do some cleaning, laundry and I prepared myself for the next day. Therefore, I usually went to sleep at around 7:30 PM and in average, I used to sleep 4.5 hours – the most.
After a month or so of doing this, my nails were cracked due to a lack of essential nutrients like calcium and protein. After three months, I noticed there was blood in my urine. Even by noticing this, there is one strict rule that must be followed - once we enter this practice, we are not allowed to stop or quit -Once we realize that we are not able to make it or to move forward, we must perform a ritual suicidal practice known as “Harakiri or Seppuku” with a short sword to end this practice.
The white costume an ascetic monk wear is called 「Shi-De-Shozoku」.
Shi-De means “Leave for Death” and Shozoku means “costume”.
Every day and in every moment, my life was hanging between life and death under these circumstances.
Starting on May 3rd, 1991, I ended up walking approximately 48,000 km (29,826 miles or the equivalent to circling Earth one and a quarter times) and completed the Omine Thousand Day Circumambulation on September 3rd, 1999.
“Shimugyo” is a practice known as “Fourfold Renouncing Practice” which does not allow the person to sleep, eat, drink or lie down for nine days.
“Shimugyo” is an extremely dangerous practice due to its low survival rate. It has been said that only 50% can complete this practice. That is why we need to have an “IKI-SOUSHIKI” or “Alive Funeral” along with close people before entering this practice. The ascetic monk just pretends they are eating.
Once I entered this practice, not only I was not eating, drinking, or sleeping and on top of that not lying down but also, I walked 200 meters (218 yards) to draw water from a well which was served to the Buddha. Likewise, I read “Mikkyo” that is the Japanese word for Esoteric Buddhism, which is often translated as Secret Teachings three times a day in front of “Honzon” that is the enshrined main image in Japanese Buddhism (located inside a temple). In addition to these practices, I continued chanting 200,000 bodies of mantras for nine days with Juzu (prayer beads) and stones.
After three days, both of my feet gained a purple color and my body started releasing a disgusting odor like a dead body’s odor. My five senses were alert enough to sense the smell of a person who is far apart, and I could even hear ash falling off from an incense stick. In my eyes, I even seemed to experience everything in slow-motion.
After five days, I could rinse my mouth, but I was still not allowed to drink any liquids. I remember there was a bowl full of water and another bowl was completely empty. With my mouth I was able to transfer the water from the full bowl to the empty one, which was allowed only once a day. This was done in front of about 10 people who were watching and if they at any moment noticed that any of the water had vanished, in that moment, I knew I have failed.
Every day I lost 1 kg (2.2 lbs.) and as time went on, my blood became very dense due to the lack of water intake. My heart rate rose to 90 beats per minute while sitting down or at rest. Moreover, it quickly reached 120 while taking a walk. This practice lasted nine days under extremely dangerous conditions.
After nine days, I moved to the main temple and went around “Honzon” three times. Then, after drinking “Hou no Yu” or a tea from Magnolia leaves, I performed a Buddhist memorial service in order to leave the temple at 2 AM. At the end, I put a torch in front of Tenmangu Shrine, and I had a formal meal ceremony (I pretended I was eating).
I completed “Shimugyo” or “Fourfold Renouncing Practice” on October 6th, 2000.
HASSENMAI DAIGOMAKU is a practice of burning 8,000 talismans for 24 hours without eating, sleeping or lying down after the preliminary practice of abstaining from five types of grains (Rice, Barley, Wheat, Red bean and Soybean) and salt for 100 days. I also completed this practice on March 15th, 2006.