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extreme religious asceticism

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December 10th, 2011, 05:52 AM
Quantum_Leap's Avatar frequent flier
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Seattle area, Washington
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While preparing for a lesson last week I read about the Hiei Monks of Japan. Ever since reading about them, I've been tremendously bothered and can't seem to think about much else. These men practice perhaps the world's most extreme form of religious asceticism (the most extreme that I've ever read about, anyway). There's a good general description on Wikipedia here: Kaih?gy? - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia , and a more detailed account here: Foreign Correspondent - 14/09/2004: Japan - Marathon Monks . Here's a blurb about one of the parts that's bothering me:

In the One-Thousand-Day Marathon...“the wall” is a literal confrontation with death known as doiri.....you go into a nine-day retreat...without food or water or sleep (it's been reduced from the original ten days because a few too many monks before you died during the last day). You sit in a full lotus posture and chant mantras day and night. If you live through this forbidding trial, which is designed to bring you to the very edge of your mortality and plunge you into a resplendent vision of the Ultimate, then you will have attained the title of Togyoman Ajari, or “Saintly Master of the Severe Practice.”

Hunger will be the least of your agonies. By the fifth day, you will be so dehydrated that you will taste blood. But at least you will be allowed to wash your mouth out with water, even if you can't drink it. Two devoted novices will make sure that you stay erect and awake. Your only break from the sitting position during this ordeal will be the 2 AM pilgrimage to the Holy Well. You will draw water, which you will then offer to Fudo Myo-o, the Unshakable King of All Light, a deity whose awesome energy you aspire to embody. This walk will take about fifteen minutes on the first night. On the last night, it will take you roughly an hour and a half, moving at a snail's pace across the stone floor, assisted by the novices.
Nine days without food, or water, or sleep, is just...insane. If you read about the biology of what would happen to your vital systems while undergoing such an ordeal, it seems like there could be nothing more tortuous. Why would anyone voluntarily choose to undertake this? Moreover, should we actually be commending those who would choose to do this? (As, it seems, the surrounding community in Japan does?) Or should we reject it as something hurtful?

My thinking goes like this:

1. All human life has the same value.
2. It is self-evident that to torture someone else is morally reprehensible.
3. Why should it be considered blessed to torture oneself? There is NO moral merit in causing ANYONE to suffer physically, whether that person is oneself or another.

It strikes me that, under a different set of circumstances and in a different place, what these men are doing might be labeled as anorexia nervosa. Obviously, the motives behind the two behaviors are different, but I think that in some ways they come from a similar place. In both cases there's an impulse to obtain complete and utter control over oneself, over one's own body. We look at anorexia as a condition to be healed. Are these monks to be lauded?

Seriously, read the rest of the article, if you dare. If you're anything like me, and descriptions of physical suffering bother you, then what these men do to themselves will make you .

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December 10th, 2011, 09:08 AM
mayandsofiasmommy's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: CA
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They need to re-read the teachings of Buddha. Buddha realized, while going through something similar, that extreme deprivation is not necessary for enlightenment.

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December 10th, 2011, 10:41 AM
L-SBB's Avatar Bébé Cowgirl
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Location: Texas
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This to me is similar to (and as crazy as) the men that go and voluntarily have themselves actually nailed to a cross for Easter Filipinos re-enact Jesus's crucifixion in Easter ritual | Reuters

I think extremism of almost anything should be rejected...and religious extremism rejected without exception.

Savannah Stylin!

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December 12th, 2011, 01:55 PM
GinaB's Avatar Ex-Navy Lifetime NRA!
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Location: America
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Guess that is what you call devout. If that is how they choose to perform their religion then by all means, perform.

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December 13th, 2011, 12:21 PM
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Not my thing but not right for me to tell others what they can or can't do with their bodies.

My 2 miracles: Lucinda & Noah
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December 13th, 2011, 02:26 PM
fluffycheeks's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,207
Stuff like this really isn't for me. But these men don't appear to be coerced into doing this, no are they forcing anyone else to worship this way, so who am I to tell them they can't?
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December 13th, 2011, 06:08 PM
thepinkleprechaun's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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No one is making them do this right? If they willingly make the choice to live this kind of life I don't see the problem. I think it's a little ridiculous but whatever!
Katie- mom to Aden (5) Phineas (3) and Phoebe Violet (1)
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