Zen & Yoga
Zen is a school of Buddhism. In China where it transferred from its birth in India, Zen was strongly influenced by the tradition of Taoism, becoming a distinguished sect of Chinese Buddhism. It traversed through Korea to Japan, where again it blended with a local faith of the polytheistic Shinto. There Zen has been worshipped for the peace of mind not only by Zen monks but also Samurai or ordinary soul seekers. A part of the Zen spirits is often seen in an inscription on a stone column at a Zen temple gate reminding us of no alcohol, no strong smelly herbs like garlic or onion and no females once passed into the Zen premise. Today in Japan, Zen is recognized as an act of purity and goodness being believed by some people, though no one appears to follow the strict doctrine. No alcohol and no females, Japanese or many of us cannot even think about today! Into the western world Zen was transplanted, where some people practice for attaining tranquility and healthy living through meditation or diet, respectively, in busy routine days.
George Osawa (Jyosui Sakurazawa in J-name) introduced his interpretation of Zen about 80-90 years ago in France. Then it spread into our society particularly after the Vietnam War when our values diversified. His followers greeted an idea of Zen Macrobiotics based on the Chinese Yin-Yang theory, for healthy diets. He recommends balancing between positive and negative natures of foods in eating heavily with brown rice and plant origin foods. It seems to me his advice is not strict vegetarian eating but a balanced diet of animal and plant foods with minimal intake of red meat that would uplift combative desires. I personally use his flying vegetables and meat or seafood with a little bit of vegetable oil along with some water in a wok for a less oily, less calorie stir-fry dish. Zen or Macrobiotics is not a magic bullet to cure dietary misbehavior or to attain our ultimate goal for health or longevity. Rather it appears to me an option to change from routine carnivorously-inclined eating to more omnivorous or conscious of our eating. The Macrobiotics theory has actually stimulated our consciousness or concern with what we eat for health, longevity and safety including food additives, vegetarian-herbivorous, or organics after all.
Yoga originated also from India for meditation, spreading along with Buddhism and Hinduism. Yoga has been practiced by those who are serious about such religious meditation for centuries in Asia. Yoga is likely to be practiced rather by static movement for concentration at a deep place in one’s soul. It is transformed or utilized in our exercise practice not so long ago. No sweating by running, pushing or pulling is required like gym exercise. Gym exercise is dynamic for burning or shedding fat without thinking much, while Yoga is static for concentrating in thoughts about ourselves deep in mind. By Yoga, a pause or momentary tranquility may come to you in busy daily moves. By the way, I do not see many heavy structure persons doing Yoga. They go to gyms. Therefore I recommend going to a gym if you feel over the standard and then practice Yoga if you come within the standard for thinking about yourself. Another Asian exercise, Tai Chi, originated from self-defense in China, is closer to Yoga to seek serenity through slow movements.
If interested, eat in reference to the Zen Macrobiotics idea or at least try once in a while and then do Yoga when ready. They are nothing religious or too Asian or too feminine but only one of your options to attain a healthy body and soul in our life. I will spread my dusting Yoga mat more often after a little bit more physical exercise. A sound mind lies in a sound, healthy body.