ONCE at a meeting of veteran politicians, as I was eating a tangerine, one of the men in the room asked me, "Mr. Niwano, you always look so healthy. Do you follow some special plan?"
I paused for a moment, then said, "Yes, I have a health plan." All the politicians in the room looked at me. Some of them even approached to hear what I was going to say. Laughing, I told them, "My health plan is never to tell lies."
First, they all looked thunderstruck. They had probably expected me to name something like golf as the secret to good health. Then laughter broke out all over the room.
I was not being sarcastic in saying to politicians that the way to stay healthy is to avoid lying. The mind of the person who lies is clouded and burdened. Lies are an obstruction to psychologically wholesome activity. And the person with an unhealthy mind cannot be physically sound.
My parents and my ancestors blessed me with health from my childhood. This enabled me to withstand the hardships and late hours of guidance and conferences during the founding years of Rissho Kosei-kai and the strenuous schedule of domestic and international travel that I have kept up ever since then. My sound physical condition has made this possible, and for that condition I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents and to the gods and buddhas who have protected me.
Of course, with the passing of time, the human body ages and loses strength. This is a natural course that is beyond our control. It is not possible to prevent aging and physical deterioration, but it is possible to slow them down by adopting a safe health program that suits individual needs and conditions.
In some periods of my life, I have arisen each morning before dawn to perform the cold-water ritual. In the winter, the water seemed to cut my skin when I poured it over my entire body. But I felt psychologically fulfilled as a consequence of this discipline. I always went through this routine before any important ceremony.
The cold-water ritual became a long-established habit with me. Then one day I received divine instructions that it was no longer necessary. Still, I was so accustomed to it that I disobeyed the instructions. But when I poured the cold water over my body, for the first time in my life I received a powerful shock, as if someone had struck me with a stick. It was an uncanny thing that taught me the need to gauge regimens of this kind to one's physical condition. At that time, I was over fifty, an age in life when prudence is important.
In addition to the cold-water ritual, I have used yoga and golf as ways of keeping fit. Yoga requires patience and long training, but it has beneficial effects on the body.
I did not begin to play golf until I was fifty-eight. Until then, I had disliked the game for two reasons. First, as a farmer, I was convinced that turf would damage the soil of the golf courses. Second, I reacted against the idea of human beings' taking up large tracts of land to do no more than chase a small ball. But finally I gave in to my friends who had been trying to interest me in the game for the sake of the physical good it does.
Since, to complete a course, one must walk about eight kilometers, golf is one answer to the contemporary complaint of insufficient exercise. Looking at the distant green while walking on the turf, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the blue sky are relaxing. As the result of the effects of golf, my legs and loins are still strong, and I can read for a long time without tiring my eyes.
In the past, I used to get a certain amount of exercise by walking my dog each morning. But the members of Kosei-kai soon found out about this habit. Thereafter I often found people standing beside my path, hands raised in prayer and heads lowered. Since this was not conducive to carefree strolling, I soon abandoned the custom.
There is no special wonder-working health regimen, no secret method. The important thing is for the person to establish a suitable physical and mental rhythm in his daily life and to maintain that rhythm faithfully. I wake each morning the instant the radio emits the five-o'clock signal. After washing my face and doing some light calisthenics, I sit at my desk to write my diary entry for the previous day. I started keeping a diary in 1929, when I was discharged from the navy, and have kept one ever since. I have a bookshelf packed with diaries. After I have finished writing, I turn on the radio and listen to a program called the "Human-life Reader." If something in the program interests me, I make a note of it. Then I read the newspaper. Morning devotionals are conducted with the entire family. After breakfast, I watch television until the car from the headquarters building comes to pick me up.
Unless work is especially heavy, I get home at about six in the evening. After evening devotionals from the Lotus Sutra, we have dinner, which is usually enlivened by my grandchildren.
Sometimes I tease my friends by telling them how popular I am with ladies of all ages. "The young ones love to hug me," I say. Of course, the ladies to whom I refer are my family: my wife, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren, who greet me each evening on my return from work. The minute I sit down, the little girls climb up in my lap. The time I spend holding my granddaughters on my knees after dinner is the most restful in my day. I usually go to bed at ten or ten-thirty. This is the rhythm that, with very rare alterations, governs my days. It is the basis of my good health.
Although it has nothing direct to do with health, I am now studying calligraphy and ink painting. I started both in the spring of 1970. Ink paintings by famous Zen priests have distinctive characteristics. I am very much attracted to painting pictures of Bodhidharma (the twenty-eighth patriarch in line from Shakyamuni Buddha and the first Zen patriarch in China), who was born long ago in southern India. It is said that he was an unusual child from his early years. According to a traditional story, Bodhidharma's father once showed his sons a jewel and asked them what they thought of it. Bodhidharma's elder brothers commented on its beauty and luster. Bodhidharma, however, said, "Humanity is more precious than this jewel, and the greatest thing in the world is the Law." Bodhidharma's very name means "enlightenment to the Law." Later in his life, Bodhidharma traveled to China, where he meditated for nine years facing a wall. Because the greatness of the spirit of this man is something that we ought to learn from, I use him as a subject for my pictures.
On painting days, I do five or six pictures. Though the ink is called monochrome black, in fact it is said to have five different tonal qualities. Making each picture express what I want it to say is not a simple task. But I feel refreshed and composed after working on a picture when I have been able to enter the realm of total concentration known as samadhi. People suspect that my back must hurt after kneeling for a long time on the tatami to paint. Actually, however, I always feel physically and mentally better after a painting session. I intend to go on painting pictures of Bodhidharma because the remembrance of his nine years of meditation is both warning and encouragement for me in my work in the name of the World Conference on Religion and Peace.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All right reserved.