The News-Sentinel asked: As America continues to suffer from an obesity epidemic, many houses of worship, including some in Lodi, have put together exercise programs or weight-loss groups. Is physical health an important part of spiritual well-being? What role, if any, should religious or community leaders play in helping people stay healthy?
Yes, physical health is an important part of spiritual well-being. It is the most important thing for Buddhists to listen to the Buddha’s teachings. It is better to stay healthy physically and mentally. Furthermore, I think that Buddha’s teachings make our physical and mental abilities much more healthful.
There was a prince in India about 2,500 years ago. His life was rich and carefree. He could eat and drink anything and he could get whatever he wanted. However, he realized that human beings get old, sick, and die someday. He decided to leave his palace to try to understand the reason for this situation. He started ascetic practices to overcome these sufferings of aging, illness, and death. He trained himself through fasting. He became only skin and bones. His consciousness dimmed and faltered. He decided to stop fasting. He ate a cup of milk and rice porridge and started meditating under a tree. And then he eliminated all of his desires and attachments, and attained enlightenment. This is the story of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Buddhism makes us realize what the causes of our sufferings are. We may not be able to completely eliminate our desires and attachments. However, our life must become better and more meaningful if we know the causes of our sufferings. For example, one of the causes for gaining our weight is eating to excess. Our excessive appetite is one of the causes. We should eat properly, exercise properly, and sleep properly to stay healthy. Things that we do are best done in moderation, without excess.
It is important to know what the causes of one’s problems are. Buddhism clarifies the causes. We should reflect upon ourselves through Buddhism and know what kind of desires and attachments we have. I think this is the starting line to solve our physical and mental problems. It is important to keep on listening to understand about our limitless desires, and the pitfalls they cause for us.
The Rev. Katsuya Kusunoki is the minister of the Buddhist Church of Lodi.