The Highest Priority
from "Macrobiotics Today", September/October 1994, Vol. 34, No. 5
George Ohsawa often commented, "Curing disease is easy. Curing the
patient is the big difficulty."
If arrogance is the cause of all disease, unhappiness and suffering, as
Ohsawa claimed, then curing arrogance should be our primary concern.
Otherwise, we will bring to our practice of macrobiotics and our efforts
to teach it, a symptomatic mindset which cannot cure anything, or help anyone
Will macrobiotics cure disease? I don't think so, any more than any other
symptomatic approach to healing will, since disease will always remain a
symptom of a deeper malaise.
Will macrobiotics cure arrogance? George Ohsawa thought so. In fact, he
believed so much that it would cure this biggest of difficulties that he
devoted his entire life to teaching it.
The paradox of arrogance is that arrogant individuals do not realize they
are arrogant. If they realized they were, they would already have begun
the journey away from arrogance.
Being arrogant, they are incurable. They cannot cure anything until they
begin to understand their arrogance.
The circle is closed and cyclical, perpetually binding every individual
to a self-created wheel of suffering until the self-indulgent ego which
has caused all the misery cries out, "I've had enough! Get me outta
Of course, this cry from the heart does not secure anyone's liberation,
but can be an impetus for change. Nothing changes until there is desire
to change, motivated by either a yearning to live a greater and fuller life,
or to get away from a self-created hell of one kind or another.
To me, arrogance is the conception that life is a struggle to survive, where
only the most powerful, most cunning, and most ruthless make it to the top,
the place where victors are rewarded. It is a totally self-centered attitude.
The opposite belief is that I have been given the miracle of life. For this
priceless gift, I owe a debt of gratitude I can never possibly pay: to the
Infinite, parents, friends, teachers, economic system and all other systems
which have supported and sustained my life and the lives of all my ancestors
up to the present time.
Repaying the Debt
To repay this unpayable debt I must try to give back as much as possible
in whatever way I can.
Otherwise, my unpaid debts will pile up and lead inevitably to bankruptcy
in all areas of life: moral, social, emotional as well as financial and
spiritual. Disease is symptomatic of a self-centered life.
Cleaning up our lives, our attitudes, should be the priority of every person
aspiring to a macrobiotic lifestyle - at least as important to surviving
and thriving as learning how to cut vegetables.
In this materialistic modern world culture, where attachment to things is
more important than learning to give ourselves endlessly, the way of arrogance
grows louder and stronger.
The life of "vivere parvo" (living simply) can get drowned out
by the media circus whose sponsors must addict as many as possible to the
habit of self-indulgence.
Yet "vivere parvo" is essential to self-change. From one grain
come ten, one hundred, one thousand, then ten thousand grains. The law of
life is to produce abundantly, as far in excess of what you are given as
you possibly can.
Those who understand and apply this law in every area of their lives must,
sooner or later, reap abundantly. This is faith born of recognition of the
There is a type of pine tree in California whose seeds take root in crevices
high up on rocky outcroppings, where soil is scarce and water minimal. Buffeted
by incessant winds, the extreme cold of winter and the scorching heat of
summer, the deprived trees grow very slowly, twisted and gnarled.
Yet, after studying the rings of specimens which had died, scientists realized
they were the oldest living things on the planet, having started their lives
over 2000 years ago.
Difficulty, deprivation and extreme hardship caused the amazing life span
of these trees, not lives of indulgence.
They were also extremely hearty and therefore, disease-free. Being of little
commercial value, they were not exploited or threatened with extinction.
Arrogance can be overcome, transmuted into health, happiness freedom, and
supreme judgment, only if we embrace difficulty, become content with simple
living, eating (taking) less and exposing ourselves to all the changes of
Of course, chewing well is important, to make our bodies strong and hardy,
able to survive the rigors of life, and resist whatever disease tries to
establish itself in our bodies.
Who knows what longevity humans could attain following the same principles
the ancient pine trees observe?
A school teacher in China who died in the 1930s reputedly lived over 350
years before finally passing on. He was supposedly a vegetarian, eating
nothing but rice and vegetables, and he walked ten miles to school and back
in every kind of weather, never missing a day of teaching in his several
centuries of employment.
He observed how animals in nature moved, and patterned his body movements
after their movements. Nature is the greatest book from which every lesson
of life can be learned. If we destroy nature and our connection with it,
we will destroy our connection with ourselves.
Overcoming arrogance - "seeking first the kingdom of God"
(happiness, health and freedom) - should be the highest priority of
every person on this planet. We must get our priorities straight to save
ourselves and our Earth.
Then, as Jesus said, "All things shall be added unto You."