Q: There are so many self-care practices for dealing with stress. What does Buddhism teach about overcoming stress and staying healthy?
Good to Know
A: The list of stressors may seem endless, from relationships and finances to the state of our world. However, Buddhism teaches us how to transform all our stressors into vital fuel for bringing forth our strength, wisdom and compassion to advance our lives and benefit those around us.
While there are various ways to take care of ourselves and lead healthy lives, SGI President Ikeda says that “true health is found in a positive
attitude that refuses to be defeated by anything” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 2, p. 105).
In addition, he lays out the following four mottoes for good health:
1) Do an invigorating gongyo. He calls this the “first foundation for health and long life.” He also says: “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” (WCHP-2, 240).
Through engaging in the daily practice of gongyo, we align and merge our lives with the fundamental rhythm of the universe. This is how we rejuvenate ourselves—body and mind—each day.
2) Lead a balanced and productive lifestyle. In order to be most productive and active each day, we need to get good sleep each night. Creating this healthy daily rhythm requires wisdom and discipline. “Not getting enough sleep,” President Ikeda says, “is like leaving a car’s engine constantly running. Eventually, it will malfunction or break down” (WCHP-2, 240).
3) Contribute to the welfare of others. The best remedy for relieving stress—moving and taking action.
President Ikeda astutely observes: “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” (WCHP-2, 242). One of the most beneficial actions we can take is to help others. Just as Nichiren Daishonin writes, “If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way” (“On the Three Virtues of Food,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 1060).
4) Eat wisely. At times, we may be so busy that we find ourselves eating meals late at night. However, President Ikeda says: “You are all very important both for kosen-rufu and your families. You mustn’t put yourselves at risk . . . Eating wisely will help you lead pleasant, enjoyable lives. Take responsibility for looking after your own health” (WCHP-2, 243).
When we make our Buddhist practice our foundation, we develop the wisdom, courage and compassion to not be defeated by anything, finding the best ways to lead the healthiest, most contributive lives.