Many attempts to overcome obesity failed because people are unclear about the disease’s root or lack motivation, maybe. In the article “Obesity: 5 causes and solutions”, we have discussed what can lead to the state of obesity and how to address the issue in depth. This post below is going to tell you an inspiring story that can provide you with determination to improve your health situation. In a Dharma talk preached to the Ba Vang Youth Club in January 2019, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh told a story about how a king overcame obesity. Over 2,500 years ago when there were no scientific methods or machines, the Buddha explained 05 causes of obesity and wise solutions to the disease.
A story of a king overcoming obesity
Once when the Buddha was living at Savatthi, King Pasenadi of Kosala approached the Buddha: “Dear the Blessed One, it has been long since I last visited You and listened to Your teachings. I don’t know what bad karma I am having that leads to my obesity? This saddens me so much and prevents me from regularly visiting You.”
Taking this occasion, the Buddha talked about the 5 causes of obesity, which were explained in the last article, and later uttered this verse:
“He who keeps himself constantly mindful,
Knows when enough food has been taken,
And stays austere and frugal
Will become slender and age more.”
On hearing the Buddha’s verse, King Pasenadi of Kosala was so delighted. He told his cooks to remind him by reciting the verse whenever food was brought to him.
When he came back to his palace, his servants reminded him of this verse every meal. King Pasenadi remembered the verse and gradually settled down to eating no more than a cupful of rice. Some time later, he succeeded in overcoming obesity and got as thin as he used to be.
The other day, King Pasenadi came to see the Buddha on foot. The Buddha, on seeing the king, asked: “Why are you walking here? Where are your chariots and servants?”
“Dear the Blessed One,” King Pasenadi replied, “thanks to Your teachings, my body is now slim and strong. So I decided to walk to your Monastery as a way of exercising to see how my health is.”
The Buddha took the occasion and taught King Pasenadi that:
“Ordinary people—unclear about the law of impermanence,
keeping indulging themselves in desires
without knowing that they need to make merit and blessings.
Death will come to everyone.
When the last breath is taken,
the spiritual mind is released from the body.
Wise men know to nurture their mind,
the fools just please their illusory body.”
Lessons learned from the story of King Pasenadi overcoming obesity?
What lessons can we draw from the story of King Pasenadi overcoming obesity? Let’s take a look at what Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh explained.
Reflect on ourselves first
When encountering any problems in life, we should never blame external conditions for them. We should reflect on ourselves first! When King Pasenadi of Kosala became obese, he asked the Buddha if he had done anything wrong in the past that led to his obesity. “He was very honest. How nice ancient people were,” Thay complimented, “Whatever came to them, they always reflected on and asked themselves first. This is the philosophy of life. When King Pasenadi approached the Buddha, he didn’t tell the Buddha that: “Dear Buddha, it is because my cook is so skilful or because I am a king that I gained so much weight”. He asked about his bad karma, that was so truthful.” It is essential to adopt this way of thinking. Whatever comes to us, always come back to and ask ourselves first, like King Pasenadi. Find the reasons inside us. As whatever happens to us is caused by ourselves. This is very important for us to handle everything in life. If we do not come back to ourselves, but instead keep blaming external conditions for our problems, we cannot have the right solutions to them.
Treasure your life because it is impermanent
The Buddha taught that ordinary people are not aware of the law of impermanence. When it comes to the law of impermanence, it means birth and death. Once we are born, we will die someday. Impermanence means that everything will change. For instance, even a fresh flower will become withered. Everything experiences this cycle: starting from birth and ending up in death. Nothing stays the same, including humans. “This is the truth. Wise men should look right at the truth, don’t blind yourself,” Thay said.
“Time is golden, we should treasure our time in this life. I myself treasure every moment of my life,” shared Thay, “like savouring a bar of chocolate. Life is like a bar of chocolate. We should savour every single moment and live to the fullest. Don’t waste our life! Don’t live a life whose value is not as precious as that of one day. So, living a valuable day is better than a whole boring life.” Keep this teaching in mind and actualise it, you will have a more meaningful life.
Don’t indulge ourselves in sensual pleasures, focus on and master our mind
As this life is very precious, never should we waste our life doing nonsense or satisfying our own desires. That is why the Buddha taught that wise men nurture their mind whilst the fools please their physical body. Our body is just like a shirt on which many of us focus too much and forget our true selves. Someday we will abandon this shirt. We should make use of this body to cultivate our mind. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha taught:
“The man of little learning grows old like the ox.
His muscles grow; his wisdom grows not.”
We should focus on cultivating our mind to have wisdom and virtue. Without either of them, we cannot succeed and have happiness both for ourselves and for everyone.
- “The youth explore the garden of the mind: King Pasenadi of Kosala overcomes obesity”, a Dharma talk in the monthly one-day retreat of Ba Vang Youth Club, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh, 2019.
- “King Pasenadi goes on a diet”, translated from the Pali by Andrew Olendzki, 2005.
- The Dhammapada, part 11: “Old age”, translated by Venerable NARADA, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1963, 1971.