Great work is accomplished with great commitment. It takes a long time to build a great company or institution or write a best selling book. The road to this success is paved with a thousand obstacles and failures.

Hence commitment is the key to persist in the face of defeat and move on.

The Tendai monks in Japan are known worldwide for a very special form of commitment. Their mission to attain enlightenment comes from the concept of long meditative walks on the Mt Hiei, the spiritual home of the  Tendai movement.

The monks have to walk for 7 years on the mountain. The first 5 years they walk 30-40 kilometers a day for a 100 days a year. This is the equivalent of walking from London to Istanbul. They do this over rugged mountain terrain, sheer valleys and rocky cliffs in hand made shoes which wear out exposing the feet to the elements. A simple meal at the end of each day’s walk is all the monk gets. Once they have completed the first few years in years 7 they must make the vow to walk a 1000 kilometers – 84 km per day for 100 days followed by 30 km per day for a 100 days.

The purpose – to reach such a meditative state as to become one with the mountains, the grass, the air, the water, the morning dew, every tree, every tomb of monks who lived on Mt Hiei and to achieve a deep enlightenment from compassionate sacrifice.

The key is the commitment here – once the Tendai monk has completed the first 100 kilometers journey and they embark on the 1000 kilometers they cannot turn back – they must finish the task or they must take their own life.

Finish or Die. That is the commitment of the Tendai monks.

Once they are done they spend 9 days in a darkened room without food or water. The aim is to come close to death. As a monk says when all is lost and nothing remains, something steps in to fill the void.

Very few monks have attempted the kaihōgyō of “Finish or Die” in the last few hundred years.

What can we learn from the Tendai monks.

To make conscious choices of the commitments we want to make and then to have the attitude of finish or die when we are going through with them. Make exit a choice where we cannot afford to take it. Some ways to do so can be

  • If you are tempted to leave your commitment send a failure note to all your colleagues and bosses stating you have failed and you cannot continue
  • If you stop working on the project that you have committed to , give 1 week’s of your income to a charity of your choice or give it to someone who you would never want to give money to
  • If you stop working on a committed goal, also give up a favourite food or activity

Think of how you make your commitment deeper and stronger and then reinforce it some more.

Great goals are accomplished with the tendai mindset.

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