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The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei Paperback – May 12, 1988

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Paperback, May 12, 1988
$22.00 $4.60
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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From Library Journal

pap. $12.95. rel Japan's Mount Hiei is home to the monastery of the "Running Buddhas" or "marathon monks" who pursue enlightenment via 1000-day marathons that must each be completed in a seven-year training period. Stevens, a professor of Buddhist studies, offers a dense discussion of the origin and spiritual principles of Tendai Buddhism, out of which the runners' vision was born; a look at the marathon itself; and introductions to several monks whose portraits add human interest. Something of a novelty item, with value for students of comparative religion. EC
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

John Stevens lectured in law at the University of Birmingham before entering full time ministry. He is the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches in the UK, and co-pastor of a church plant in Market Harborough. John is married to Ursula and they have four children. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st edition (May 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877734151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877734154
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are ever dragging to get out for your morning run...the marathon monks will guilt you into calling in sick so you can run all day. This is absolutely one of the single most amazing books I've ever read, and even if it were fiction, it would be incredible.
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Format: Paperback
No word can ever describe the emotions you will live in the reading of this book. It is sad that no one cared to mention that John Stevens,(the author) is himself a Marathon Monk. (I finished translating this book into French, in 1991)
Aucun mot ne peut décrire les émotions que vous vivrez à la lecture de ce livre. Il est triste que nul n'a fait mention que John Stevens, (l'auteur) est lui-même un moine du marathon. (J'ai terminé la traduction de ce livre, en français, en 1991)
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Format: Paperback
This book will shock and amaze!
These monks are so inspirational any person facing hardship should read this book to give some perspective to life.
After running for 2 years you finally get to wear your rain hat-- if a monk fails to finish his run-- he is supposed to kill himself.
no nike cross-trainers.. they run in straw sandals--
I must read for any martial artist
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Format: Paperback
I borrowed this book for someone interested in running and the edge of human performance. I expected him to be inspired by the photos of the marathon monks and the details of their training and achievements. What I was not expecting was to be absorbed myself in their multi-generational story at Mt. Hiei. The author brings to life individual stories, weaving them across a thousand years of Japanese history. Cumulatively these glimpses of people give you insight into the psychology of endurance as a path to compassion.

The depth of the pictures is much more absorbing once you are reading the story. You need to know what you are looking at. They are not like those high-contrast enhanced photos that reach out and grab you.

I think almost anyone interested in human performance and/or compassion would find this book engrossing. For gift giving, I'd love to see an audio CD (or DVD?) with picture inserts.

Thank you John Stevens for this masterpiece. Stevens does not inject himself or his views much into the story, even to mention his own accomplishments. The book leaves you with lots of inspiration and questions about the limits of human performance. Despite their amazing well-being, I wonder about the toll of sleep deprivation on the monks' longevity.
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Format: Paperback
This book explores a niche of human endurance occupied by a truly select few of Buddhist Monks in Japan and chronicles their history from inception centuries ago to modern times. For seven years, in hundred day intervals, these monks demonstrate unimaginable fitness by running one hundred days in a row at distances beyond the contemporary marathon (the last phase is double marathon distance every day for a hundred days). That they run in the mountains wearing straw sandals makes their accomplishments even more stupendous. From my reading, these monks are not super-athletes pursuing enlightment. Rather they are spectacularly spiritual people manifesting their search for enlightment through running. Whatever your motivation for pursuing endurance events, you should have this book on your shelf.
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This book is about the remarkable men who put themselves into the rigors of the most severe monastic life on the planet in order to reach the ideal human level and mentality. If you are looking for inspiration, this is it! Those individuals who are capable of going through the kind of training methods described in this book are one in a million, and they prove to the rest of us of what it means to liberate oneself from the chains of self-limiting thoughts and beliefs.
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As an avid runner living in Japan, the legendary marathon monks of Hiei Mountain sparked my imagination. These men were said to run hundreds of kilometers a day, praying and starving themselves on the path to living Buddhahood and, if lucky, enlightenment. Could running really reap such spiritual rewards?

Intriguing as that sounds, the real story isn't so interesting. Stevens presents the information in a purely academic way. Although the resulting book is extremely informative it does little to get the adrenaline pumping or even spark the audiences imagination. Although pictures are scattered throughout he book, the dark, black and white printing looks blotchy and leaves a lot to the reader's imagination. Add a long introduction on the foundations of Buddhism in Japan and we are left with a short treatise on the subject of marathon monks.

But the books does what it set out to do - I learned about Buddhism, Mount Hiei and the running monks. Those interested in the subject should check it out. But those looking for a bit of excitement, intrigue and possibly motivation for their next marathon should look elsewhere.
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What a fascinating book! I run ultramarathons, but these monks aren't just running a marathon a day. It's running a marathon or more per day on very simple food and very little sleep. Really fascinating read.
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