Health and longevity are among the most reasonable wishes we all have. In this article, you will know what actually influences our physical conditions and how to have a long healthy life according to the teachings of the Buddha.
Everyone wants health and longevity
All of us long for a life that not only lasts long but is also filled with health.
To this end, we have developed many methods to sustain good health, such as dieting, taking restorative medicine, yoga and many other kinds of sport. Pharmacies and hospitals built everywhere are also for the sake of human health.
Having bad health is a kind of suffering. Even if one is wealthy, he hardly can attain happiness without health.
In another aspect, longevity is just as important as good health.
According to Buddhist Sutras, human beings used to live up to 84.000 years. Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh said: “Longevity is precious. Everyone wants to live to the full human lifespan.” However, Thay also affirmed that a long life plagued with suffering is nothing to be happy about. That is why health and longevity should always go together.
Which factors influence our health and longevity?
Even though humans have employed a plethora of ways to sustain their long healthy lives, there are times when these practices fall short. Even if we eat healthfully, do sport and take up many other healthy habits, we can still catch illnesses.
Plus, our physical conditions vary from one to another. Some may live a lasting life filled with sickness, others are strong and healthy but because of accidents, they pass away too soon.
So which are true factors influencing our life expectancy? The Buddha taught that this depends on one’s karma.
5 lessons from the Buddha to live a long and healthy life
In the Sutra on the Differentiation of Karmic Retribution and Reward, the Buddha taught five causes of health and long life.
Firstly, do not abuse and torment other beings
In this first teaching, there are four points to keep in mind.
#1 Firstly, we must not abuse and torment other beings ourselves.
#2 Secondly, we must not incite or encourage people to abuse and torment other beings.
#3 Thirdly, we must not praise abusive acts.
#4 Last but not least, we must not rejoice when we see other living things being abused.
All of the banned actions above are emphasised in Buddhism as they violate the universal law of equality. No one wishes to be abused, be it humans or animals.
Either murdering people, including abortion, or committing suicide is all considered killing acts and subject to evil karma.
Moreover, “even a thought of killing will bring us bad karma”, said Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh.
While the law of a nation only punishes what has been done, the law of karma leaves no evil deeds unpunished. If we bear ill will towards someone, the law of cause and effect will punish us.
According to Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh, the thought of killing often comes from our mind of anger and hatred. Many of us may have already thought of killing someone. This is a sign of our negative karma of killing. Even when the thought of killing comes and goes faster than the blink of an eye, we still get karmic retribution afterwards.
Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh taught: “Killing acts usually lead to the following retributions: being accident-prone, living in war and conflict areas, being prone to diseases, and having a short life. After death, such people may fall into hell. After the retribution of hell, they may be reborn as animals that will be slaughtered to pay their karmic debts. If they are reincarnated as humans, they will be wrought with diseases and likely to have a short life, or they will be born in countries which often have wars and conflicts, or in living environments where there are many fights and rivalries.”
Secondly, repay the debt of gratitude to our parents
Making offerings to our parents is a way to carry out our filial duty. Even if we must be thrifty on our spendings, we should never let our parents suffer deprivation.
Also, we must not sadden them with our unthoughtful acts. When we do something, we must consider if it affects our parents negatively or makes them suffer.
Thirdly, take care of and make offerings to sages who are being ill
When we see Monks or Nuns sick, we should take care of them and offer medicine to them. Monks and Nuns are a part of the Three Jewels. They uphold the Buddha’s teachings and guide beings to the path of liberation. That’s why they should always be respected and protected. When we give offerings to the Sangha, we will be rewarded with good karma.
Fourthly, show sympathy when we see beings suffering
When we see someone in agony, whether it is the person we love or hate, we should always have sympathy for them.
Normally, people enjoy the suffering of those they hate. But it will only bring them bad karma. Wanting other people to suffer also causes us retribution in the future.
Our world is filled with afflictions because we lack compassion and loving-kindness, therefore, each of us should practice the virtue of compassion.
Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh said: “When I became a Monk, I vowed to build a life full of loving-kindness. There is no reason that we live without loving-kindness … We live in the world contemporarily just for tens of years, so why don’t we love each other? Why don’t we treat each other well? Live as if there were no tomorrow. If tomorrow one of your friends passed away, would you still hold any grudge against them? No, you wouldn’t. You would forgive them. Live as if today were the last day, we will be able to treat people with loving-kindness. I also hold on to this mind and live as if tomorrow wouldn’t come … Let’s adopt the practice of compassion. Love people, animals and have sympathy for the suffering of every being. Possessing the mind of compassion, we will be able to transform our karma, have fewer diseases or even no diseases.”
Fifthly, eat and drink in moderation
In Buddhism, there is a story of King Pasenadi who suffered from obesity. The king came to consult the Buddha and was taught five causes of being overweight. Among five causes, the first and foremost is eating too much. (Four other causes are: sleeping too much, overenjoying a life of comfort, being unthoughtful and having too much leisure time).
This is what the Buddha told King Pasenadi: “When a person is mindful and thus knows moderation in eating, his ailments diminish, he ages gently and he protects his life.”
After hearing the teachings from the Buddha, the King was overjoyed and got his cook to repeat the words of the Buddha every day before he took his meals. The Buddha’s teachings had helped King Pasenadi gradually lessen his food intake, lose weight and become slim again.
The meaning of the Buddha’s words
Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh explained, being mindful is being aware of oneself and of all acts of oneself.
In regard to moderation in eating, the Vietnamese people have a saying “From the mouth come dangers, into the mouth come illnesses.” Thay said that sickness came very often through the mouth, that is, through our eating habits. Human body interacts with the environment through the nose to obtain air and through the mouth to obtain food and drinks. Food and drinks are so much important because they are two materials that make up our physical state. If we take in unhealthy, unsuitable or redundant food and drinks, we will be sick. A lot of diseases nowadays are partly rooted from the poor quality of food products, which contain harmful chemicals.
Having moderation in eating is not simple at all but a matter of much practice. Many people just eat for pleasure without control, which is obviously a bad habit.
Eating habits show who you are
Thay said that eating habits say much about a person’s characters which in turn influence their life.
Seeing someone eating voraciously without any consideration for others, we should know that they have a lot of greed in their mind. Greedy people can barely be good friends. They are the ones who tend to leave us behind and betray us whenever there are obstacles or disadvantages for them.
Such people have very little humanity, they are controlled by greed and let their life fall in darkness. That is the reason why we must tame our mind while eating and practise eating in moderation.
According to Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh, anyone who knows moderation in eating has already had a trained mind.
Observing animals, we will see that they often fight for food. For example, two dogs getting along well will fight against each other when they see a bone. So if we, as human beings, are less like humans and more like beings, we would be just like animals becoming depraved because of eating.
There is a Zen story about some humans flying to the realm of devas. There the humans saw that devas ate with much longer chopsticks, which were so strange to them. Then it was explained to them that devas used long chopsticks to pick up food for others, not for themselves as humans did. The story conveys the meaning that devas are not as greedy as humans. In contrast, they have the mind of sacrificing for others. That also explains why they were born as devas.
In this article, you have been given the keys to health and longevity, which are the five lessons of the Buddha. If you believe in the law of karma and obey the Buddha’s teachings, you will have a healthier and longer life.