Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 8:
Facing Illness [8.9]
8.9 Four Mottoes for Good Health
President Ikeda proposes four guidelines for good health based on the perspective of Buddhism and faith.
I’d like to speak to you a little about health.
Once, when I was talking with members of the Kansai Doctors Division and young women’s division Nurses Group, I proposed four mottoes for leading a healthy life. They were just some simple personal thoughts I shared with the members, based on the perspective of Buddhism and faith. The doctors and nurses I was speaking with, however, agreed that my advice was also medically sound.
The four mottoes are:
- Do an invigorating gongyo
- Lead a balanced and productive lifestyle
- Contribute to the welfare of others
- Eat wisely
Medically speaking, such factors as diet, exercise, sleep, and stress relief are often mentioned as fundamental to good health, and all of those basic elements are included in the four mottoes I suggested.
(1) Do an invigorating gongyo
When our gongyo and chanting become sluggish or halfhearted, we feel physically sluggish, too. Many of you can probably relate to this.
The good fortune and benefit we derive through chanting vigorously are immeasurable. Our bodies, hearts, and minds begin to exhibit their limitless latent potential.
Additionally, sitting up straight and breathing deeply is also considered to be very beneficial for one’s health from a medical viewpoint. Enhanced respiratory function improves our cardiovascular system.
A member of the Doctors Division also commented that using our voices is an important way of relieving stress. Once people stop using their voices, they tend to age more quickly.
Sitting properly with our palms pressed together as we do gongyo and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is, in every sense, the most solemn and meaningful activity, in accord with the underlying principles governing the universe. Our individual bodies and minds, as the microcosm, are aligned and merged with the fundamental rhythm of the universe, the macrocosm. Day after day, our beings are rejuvenated. This is the first foundation for health and long life.
(2) Lead a balanced and productive lifestyle
Sufficient sleep is another important foundation for good health. Not getting enough sleep is like leaving a car’s engine constantly running. Eventually, it will malfunction or break down.
Mr. Toda used to say that the sleep we experience before midnight is twice as deep as the sleep after midnight, so we should go to bed as early as we can. This appears to be supported by medical science.
Manage your time wisely, and try to do your gongyo early and get to bed early. That will prepare you for a fresh start the next morning. Developing the wisdom and self-control to put this into practice will benefit your health.
Getting stuck in an unhealthy cycle of staying up late, either out of routine or force of habit, and then oversleeping and waking up without ever feeling refreshed is definitely not putting faith into correct practice in daily life.
Recently, there has been some focus on the benefits of “mini naps”—brief naps of five or ten minutes’ duration—in promoting health and productivity. The key is to make good use of rest periods during the day so that you can take care of your health.
(3) Contribute to the welfare of others
Physical activity is, of course, a crucial factor in improving health. And more particularly, activity in the form of our efforts to contribute to the promotion of Buddhism, the happiness of others, and the good of society are an incredible source of inner revitalization and energy for living vibrantly.
In contrast, if we stop taking action for others, regarding such efforts as a bother, and shut ourselves up in a shell of self-interest and uncaring individualism, then we will find our bodies and minds begin to stagnate, and often grow more susceptible to illness as a result.
Movement is a defining characteristic of animals, including human beings. We need to move. If we aren’t active, we are no different than objects of stone or wood. When living beings with the power of motion cease to be active, they begin to decline.
The same is true of water in a river. When the water stops flowing, it becomes cloudy and stagnant. In the realm of the Mystic Law, too, those who have stopped practicing because they found contributing to the welfare of others a chore are people who have allowed the clear water of their faith to become cloudy, causing them to spiritually stagnate.
You, on the other hand, are making noble efforts day and night to contribute to the welfare of others—spreading the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, encouraging your fellow members, and striving for the development of your communities.
Sometimes you may think: “Wouldn’t it be nice to just stay home tonight and relax and watch TV?” But in joyfully taking action for the happiness of others and your fellow members, you are leading lives infinitely more fulfilling and worthwhile.
We are said to live in a stressful society today. Our environment is filled with potential causes of stress.
In a certain respect, stress can be described as an attack on our spirits from outside. We need to fight back against it. If we remain still, we will be overwhelmed by its pressure, which will destroy us both physically and mentally.
One effective response to stress is to meet it by stepping forward and taking action. In that sense, our actions based on faith in the Gohonzon are actions for reviving and reinvigorating ourselves in perfect accord with the law of life.
I have spoken many times of the importance of walking. It is said that a good way to get regular exercise is to walk ten thousand steps a day.
Some say that aging starts when our legs begin to give out. Every step we take for our Soka Gakkai activities is hugely beneficial in terms of maintaining strength and promoting health.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way” (WND-2, 1060).
Contributing to the welfare of others, imparting the light of hope to those around us, also brightens our own life with fresh hope and makes it shine with good fortune and benefit.
(4) Eat wisely
Overeating can lead to obesity. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China listed improper eating or drinking as a cause of illness (cf. WND-1, 631). How do we correct unbalanced eating habits? How do we effectively control the desire to eat more than we need to? This is where we need to apply wisdom and good sense.
The members of the Doctors Division and Nurses Group voiced specific concern about eating too much late at night, because some members tend to eat meals after attending nighttime Soka Gakkai activities.
Medically speaking, it is desirable to stop eating three hours before going to bed. But if you’re really hungry and find that impossible, then it’s best to eat vegetables or some other low-calorie food.
You are all very important both for kosen-rufu and for your families. You mustn’t put yourselves at risk by becoming too overweight, diabetic, or being afflicted by some other serious illness.
Eating wisely will help you lead pleasant, enjoyable lives. Take responsibility for looking after your own health.
I hope that you will enjoy excellent physical and mental health and lead wonderful lives, adorning this noble existence with victory and happiness as you strive with vibrant faith and in joyful camaraderie.
From a speech at a joint meeting for representatives of Kumamoto and Oita prefectures, Kumamoto, September 28, 1990.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.