By Bunzo Takamatsu
Thirty years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, one of my classmates brought a book called Introduction to Yoga by Masahiro Oki. I borrowed the book and read it that night. It was quite a surprise to find out what yoga was really about for a person who had thought it was a type of stretching exercise. I started practicing yoga and kept up with it for a long time. This book also got me interested in fasting.
After graduating, I had a chance to go to a fasting center where I did 15 days of fasting, staying a total of 30 days. My initial purpose was to cure my nearsightedness, but I did not see much improvement. I remember losing 20 lbs., my head got very clear, and my skin became like that of a baby. However, my biggest reward was getting acquainted with George Ohsawa’s books. His books were so powerful that they changed the course of my life completely. I left home and started living by myself, began eating brown rice and vegetables, and I started reading all of Ohsawa’s books. Looking back now, I think this was my first step to Oriental medicine.
I was encouraged to see the article on Macrobiotics in the last issue by Mr. Honda. I was wondering why I haven’t see any articles on diet when diet is a large part of Oriental medicine. There is not a single day that I do not marvel at the wonders of acupuncture and moxibustion. The effects of Kanpo are also very impressive but to me, Macrobiotics (or Way of eating) should come first. If we were to define root treatment as a fundamental treatment, Macrobiotics must be the most root treatment of Oriental medicine. From my experience with all kinds of patients, the difficult cases were almost impossible to treat without using Macrobiotics. Those who incorporate dietary moderation seem to heal faster, too.
Traditionally, doctors who dealt with sick people using diet were considered the most superior. The next were acupuncturists and herbalists. The surgeons came last. Now the order is reversed. In Oriental medicine, our life consists of two kinds of Ki, a priori Ki and a posteriori Ki. A priori Ki, or congenital Ki, is a type of Ki that we are born with. I interpret it as genes, for we basically inherit it from our parents; therefore, there is nothing much we can do about this except accept it. On the other hand, a posteriori Ki, or nourishing Ki, is a type of Ki we make from what we eat. Unlike a priori Ki, we have control over this Ki. It is no wonder that our diet has a great effect on our health.
I used to talk about the importance of diet to all my patients. Now I do so only to those who are interested. But being a kind man, I tell most of them to chew the food at least the same number of times as their age, for they can improve the quality of food and decrease the amount by chewing well.
This past winter I took a semi-fasting course at Danjiki Dojo (a fasting center) in Atami, Japan. I used to do one week of fasting every once in a while, but it has been some time since the last fast, and I felt strongly that I needed to do one. At the center, we ate from 1/4 to 1/5 of what we usually eat. We would wake at 5:30am, and start with chanting, then meditation looking over the ocean as the sun rose, followed by a short lecture by the chief instructor. Next came Yoga exercise taught by the staff members. After that we did a thorough cleaning all over the Dojo. Cleaning around you is considered to be as important as cleaning inside you. The next was tea time. We usually drank special cleansing teas. Around ten in the morning we went out hiking. There is the ocean on one side and a mountain on the other so we had no shortage of hiking area. The air was clean and the scenery, beautiful. It was always a pleasure to walk. Next, came lunch. Every meal was prepared by a very experienced chef (an elderly lady) and the staff members who work in the Dojo. I helped them as much as I could because I wanted to learn as well. Since we had very little to eat, we really cherished the food and chewed many times. I could feel as I ate that the food was cleansing my body. In the afternoon, we had lectures by guest instructors on such topics as diet, feng shui, vibrational medicine, the spiritual world, macrobiotic treatment, etc. I should have recorded all the lectures. They were fascinating. After dinner we would go to Onsen (a hot spring). It was a cold winter, so a hot bath was very nice. We all went to bed by 10:30. During the stay, I slept 4 to 5 hours a night and my energy level was very high. I felt like I was in my twenties again. I realized how much we overeat all the time. If everyone ate like this, maybe no one would get sick.
Interestingly enough, our body seems to become more responsive to any type of treatment during fasting. I gave acupuncture treatments to two people and they were amazed at how much difference it made with just one treatment.
I am very optimistic about handling health problems because I have this strong belief that if anything should happen, we can fast and heal ourselves. The truth is always paradoxical, for the key to health, vitality, youthfulness, and longevity is not in taking some kind of magic pill but in not taking anything.
I came to the U.S. about 25 years ago with little clothing, 20 books by George Ohsawa, and a big dream about revolutionizing the world with macrobiotics. I am not a young man anymore and I see my limitations more clearly now, but I still have a dream about creating a fasting center in the U.S. There we can do fasting or semi fasting from a week to a month. We can have a nice macrobiotic restaurant and big dojo where we can practice martial arts, Yoga, and all kinds of other exercises. People with difficult problems may have to stay as long as three months; however, healing our sickness is just a beginning. The real beauty is that we find ourselves through healing. What we are; why we are here; what we should do now. We try to find answers to these questions through fasting. It is far from the world revolution, but for the person who undergoes it, it will certainly become a revolutionary experience.