I have read and summarised one of Masahiro Oki’s articles titled ‘Principles for Living a Healthy Life’ which was written in his Japanese monthly magazine ‘Yoga’ issued in December 1967. As it is a long article, I will post it in three parts. This is the first part. Two native English-speakers, Junko Furugori and Hiroyuki Mori, assisted me by correcting and polishing up my English translation.
1. Let’s interpret what yoga is through learning about and practising a healthy life. The desire to ‘live a long life, healthily and beautifully’ has been an instinctive desire since the beginning of humankind. It can be said that this wish is the driving force of human life. It can also be said that this wish is not a wish which arises from thoughts, but a wish of the life force itself because it naturally springs from within, whether you think of it or not. And based on this wish, all ideas, studies and methods have developed. But many methods are abstract. Even if you understand their logic, it is often difficult to understand what they actually are. On the other hand, in yoga, we practise and think about things one by one, in a concrete manner. In other words, yoga is a living teaching that grasps the facts of the phenomena of life just as they are.
2. If you want to live a long life in the way mentioned above, you must first look at the facts of how living organisms work. We sometimes hear something like “Uncivilised people are stronger than civilized people”. Maybe the meaning here is the fact that uncivilized people live in a way that does not lead to illness or weakness as much as civilized people. Therefore, in order to understand what yoga is, let’s take a deeper look at the facts of how living organisms work in daily life.
For example, many people seem to consider that our chest contains only the heart and lungs while the abdomen contains only the stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, pancreas and spleen. And it seems that these people are unaware that these places also hold worry, impatience, joy, anger, etc. This is because we are looking at humans as matter. Certainly, even if through dissection you could see parts of the heart or stomach, you would not be able to scientifically discover the location of worry or joy. But we know the fact that these are in our internal organs from our very experience of daily life. Therefore, in yoga, the mind and body are regarded as inseparable.
3. Then, what exactly is the function of the life force? The phenomena of life act as the functions that maintain balance in the living body. The principle of life and the principle of the universe, that is, the principle of Nature, are the same. What is the principle of the universe or Nature? In this universe, the force of ‘plus’ (yang, centripetal force, concentration force) and the force of ‘minus’ (yin, centrifugal force, dispersion force) cooperate with each other to maintain the survival of all things. This cosmic order works as the life force in our living body. A healthy body means that this balancing function works smoothly.
4. So what is illness? It is a manifestation of the holistic function which tries to restore the balanced natural state when something is imbalanced in the living body. During this restoration process we feel anomalies in our body and mind, sometimes accompanied by suffering. Those who do not see this truth think that suffering is evil, and interfere with the function of the life force.
5. Historically, practitioners of yoga recognized the reality of how the life force functions and then noticed what interferes with this function. And through many experiences, they discovered a way of living that follows the function of the life force, or the function of Nature. And they went on to develop a system of philosophy and practical methods to support such a way of life.
6. The more you use your mental and physical functions and the more you train them, the more they will develop. But the more you protect these functions, the weaker they become. And if you don’t use them, they deteriorate. So, what is true love? To actively and consciously cooperate with the function of the life force, which works in this way. When the mind and body are in good working order, you could feel that everything is in your favour, but when they are disturbed, you might feel that everything is against you.
The living body becomes stronger or weaker depending on what kind of stimulation you give it. Therefore, if you use drugs immoderately, it will make pathogens stronger. If you only eat easily digestible foods, your stomach will weaken. If you eat a small amount, the ability of your gastrointestinal absorption will enhance. Therefore, true nutrition is not just about food being good or bad, but having your internal organs digest, absorb, break down and excrete food well. The principle of maintaining good health is to enhance the internal function of your body.
7. Then, what interferes with this internal function? It is the continuous application of unbalanced, unnatural stimuli. That is, unnatural diet, unnatural breathing, unnatural movement and posture. In other words, an unbalanced way of living.
8. The strength or weakness of an organism does not mean the strength or weakness against mechanical destructive power. It depends on the ability for the organism to adapt to its living environment. If it can adapt, it will survive, and if it cannot adapt, it will die. This is the stark fact of how the life force operates. Moreover, this adaptability is something that is created.
9. The function of this adaptability is performed by the nerves and secretory glands.
This continues to Part 2 of 3.