Most consider Macrobiotic Philosophy to be based on the ancient oriental teachings of yin and yang as introduced by George Ohsawa and his followers, including my parents, Michio and Aveline Kushi. Yet due to the esoteric and exotic nature of the yin/yang ideology many dismiss the whole of the philosophy and eventually relegate macrobiotics as a rigid diet that may be helpful yet may also be deficient. Lost in this dismissal is the understanding that macrobiotics and its biological application is but a gateway to an understanding of life and the universe that is far grander in scope that is not only oriental in roots but is common to all of humanity in origin and any who seek and explore the very nature of life and reality.
The attractiveness of foreign terminologies such as “yin” and “yang” tends to result in, at one end of a spectrum, an eventual confusion, rejection and reversion back to familiar “scientific” tenets (e.g. modern nutrition) or, at the other end, a fanatical righteousness that seems to ignore basic common-sense. Yet any who perseveres in a deeper philosophical inquiry of the uncensored life without settling for lesser conclusions will find rich treasures of knowledge and understanding of the ancients from both Eastern and Western origins and from which Ohsawa, a well-read man of Western philosophy, derived his original “Unifying Principle” (unification of East and West ideas) upon which he based his definition that “Macrobiotics is the biological application of the dialectical conception of the universe.” in his book, “Zen Macrobiotics.” (For a listing of the Principles and Theorems of the Unifying Principle See: http://phiyakushi.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/seven-principles-of-the-order-of-the-universe-and-twelve-theorems-of-the-unifying-principle/ )
A case in point that macrobiotics is not solely oriental in origin is Edmond Bordeaux Szekely and his work on dialectics. On the inside front flap of his book, “The Dialectical Method Of Thinking” is a simple introduction to the dialectical philosophy of macrobiotics, not from ancient oriental works but from occidental sources. The inside cover lists “Ten Commandments Of Dialectical Thinking” taken from a variety of Western philosophers which reads very much like anything Ohsawa wrote. These “Ten Commandments” are as follows:
- “The dialectical method is the basis of all sciences, it is their universal frame.” – Engels
- “Everything is in motion. There is no fixed point in the Universe.” – Heraclitus
- “Everything comes out of the battle of two opposite forces.” – Heraclitus
- “We can understand a phenomena only if we examine its origin and genealogy.” – Engels
- “We must examine everything in the totality, and nothing separately as a part.” – Engels
- “All phenomena are correlative. They not only depend on others, but each reciprocally completes the other; opposites complete opposites, and they are indivisible and unimaginable without each other. The whole structure of the Universe is correlative” – Essene Teaching “Dialectics is the science of motion and evolution of nature, society and thought.” – Engels
- “Every existing thing has a foundation and super-structure; the foundation determines and the super-structure influences.” – Engels
- “First appears primitive thesis, then the opposite, the antithesis, and finally their synthesis in a more perfect form.” – Hegel
- “Man is the measure of all things.” – Protagoras
- “Every phenomena, process and action has its best form, requiring the minimum of sacrifice for the maximum results. The actual chaos can be cleared only by the all-sided (omnilateral) realization of the best (optimal) forms of life.” – Essene Teaching
Independent of Ohsawa yet using the same principles of dialectics, Szekely developed his own version of macrobiotics and founded the “International Biogenic Society” whose dietary and lifestyle values and ethics are similar to those of present day macrobiotics:
(source: Wikipedia )
The credo of the International Biogenic Society states the following:
- We believe that our most precious possession is Life.
- We believe we shall mobilize all the forces of Life against the forces of death.
- We believe mutual understanding leads toward mutual cooperation; that mutual cooperation leads toward Peace; and that Peace is the only way of survival for mankind.
- We believe that we shall preserve instead of waste our natural resources, which are the heritage of our children.
- We believe that we shall avoid the pollution of our air, water and soil, the basic preconditions of life.
- We believe that we shall preserve the vegetation of our planet: the humble grass which came 50 million years ago and the majestic trees which came 20 million years ago, to prepare our planet for mankind.
- We believe that we shall eat only fresh, natural, pure, whole foods, without chemicals and artificial processing.
- We believe that we shall lead a simple, natural, creative life, absorbing all the sources of energy, harmony and knowledge, in and around us.
- We believe that the improvement of life and mankind on our planet must start with individual efforts, as the whole depends on the atoms composing it.
Szekely classified foods into four categories, depending on their qualities and what they contributed to one’s health:
- Biogenic: life renewing – germinated cereal seeds, nuts; sprouted baby greens.
- Bioactive: life sustaining – organic, natural vegetables, fruit.
- Biostatic: life slowing – cooked, stale foods (but legumes must be cooked after sprouting first).
- Biocidic: life destroying – processed, irradiated foods and drinks.
The daily diet should consist of 25% biogenic foods, 50% bioactive foods, and 25% biostatic. No biocidic foods should be consumed.
Biogenic living also includes meditation, simple living, and respect for the earth in all its forms.
Szekely also went so far as to establish a retreat center in Baja California known as Rancho la Puerta which continues its operations today. (See: http://www.rancholapuerta.com/ ):
As discovered by Ohsawa and Szekely, dialetics is the basis of many great philosophies and religions from ancient Greece to the Far East; from Heraclitus to Lao Tzu and from the Teachings of the Essenes to the I-Ching. It is the basis of understanding of all phenomena. Today, dialectics can be considered as the foundation of all “holistic” ideas from organic agriculture, renewable energy and whole local foods as well as chaos theory and quantum physics and any and all sciences concerned with the dynamic flow of things including climate science, political science, economics and, of course, macrobiology and its practical application known as “macrobiotics”. Furthermore and in conclusion I believe that any serious inquiry into the nature of life and the universe from a dialectical foundation will eventually lead to macrobiotics – and this is a far cry from its popular misunderstood notion as a rigid restrictive diet.
Published here for future reference are the tenets of the “Unifying Principle” , the philosophical basis of George Ohsawa’s macrobiotics that were printed on the back page of every issue of the magazine “Order Of The Universe” and the Seminar Reports of my father, Michio Kushi, from 1966 through to the mid 1980s and can also be found in the “Book Of Macrobiotics” by Michio.
SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF THE ORDER OF THE UNIVERSE
- All things are differentiations of One Infinity
- Everything Changes; nothing is stationary
- All antagonisms are complementary
- All phenomena are unique; there is nothing identical
- All phenomena have a front and back
- The greater the front, the greater the back
- All phenomena have a beginning and an end
TWELVE THEOREMS OF THE UNIFYING PRINCIPLE
- One infinity manifests itself into the two universal tendencies of Yin and Yang; complementary and antagonistic poles of endless change.
- Yin and Yang are arising continuously out of the ceaseless eternal movement of One Infinite Universe.
- Yin appears as centrifugalilty, Yang appears as centripetalilty. The activities of Yin and Yang together create energy and all phenomena.
- Yin attracts Yang . Yang attracts Yin.
- Yin repels Yin. Yang repels Yang.
- Yin and Yang combine in an infinite variety of proportion, creating an infinite variety of phenomena. The strength of attraction or repulsion always represents the degree of difference or similarity.
- All phenomena are relative and ephemeral, constantly changing their direction towards more Yin or more Yang.
- Nothing is solely Yin or absolutely Yang. Everything is created by both tendencies together.
- There is no neutrality; either Yin or Yang is always dominating.
- Great Yin attracts small Yin. Great Yang attracts small yang.
- Yin, at the extreme point, changes into Yang. Yang, at the extreme point, changes into Yin.
- Yang always focuses towards the center. Yin always diffuses toward the periphery.
(Note: this version is from the back page of the “Order Of The Universe” magazine, Volume VI, Issue #51, published in 1979)
(Note: This newly edited post was originally a Facebook note that I wrote on May 14, 2011 and then was published on the site MacrobioticWorld.com here: http://macrobioticworld.com/blog/10-healthy-living/60-macrobiotics-avoiding-the-diet-trap )
Some introduce macrobiotics as a way of life and diet with specific food choices and by doing so fall into the trap of having to compare one diet versus another. They end up criticizing fast food, raw food, high protein diets, vegetarianism, veganism and compare it with macrobiotics. They may lament the fact that veganism, for example, seems to be more popular than “macrobiotics” and wonder why this is so.
I don’t do that. I avoid falling into that comparison trap by introducing macrobiotics in a different way.
I explain, as I did recently to a group of high school students, that macrobiotics is about understanding your relationship to food – to ALL food – whether it is eating organically grown brown rice or a fast food hamburger with fries and also looks at how all foods affect you. It also isn’t just about food but is about observing and trying to understanding your relationship with and how ALL things in life effect you from the forces of nature (the weather, the seasons, the climate and where you live, etc.) to your relationship with people – family, friends, society at large – to your dreams and ambitions and to everything else in this grand universe.
The choice of what to eat is individual. If people wish to eat pizza and hamburgers then that is their own choice. If they wish to eat high quality organic foods, then that is their choice as well. It only depends on what you want to do with your life and what difficulties or challenges you wish to face and whether or not you are willing to take full responsibility for the consequences of your choices.
In this way I do not impose my own personal value judgements and morals upon others nor do I criticize them for their values or morals. I completely respect their freedom to choose their own life and path.
As a macrobiotic teacher it is only my role to help guide those interested to observe and better understand their choices, to introduce new options and possibilities and to explore and examine the consequences of their choices. In this way my aim is not to offer solutions to problems but encourage others to find solutions on their own and in doing so find greater freedom to enjoy life fully and completely.
This way of introducing macrobiotics is intended to dispel the misunderstanding that it is a rigid and narrow diet as it has come to be known as. I believe that the source of this misunderstanding lies less upon on misinterpretations of an unknowing and blameless public but more on various macrobiotic proponents unable to accurately convey the dynamic nature of what macrobiotics is truly about. Having been born into and raised in the middle of the macrobiotic movement it comes natural to me to want to correct this misunderstanding whenever the opportunity presents itself.
For a more comprehensive description of what is “macrobiotics” go here: http://phiyakushi.wordpress.com/what-is-macrobiotics/
Your future is here and now and is there growing in fields of grain. It is the vegetables in the gardens. It is the sun, the soil and the rain. It is the warm summer breezes and the cold winter storms. It is the moon and the stars that light up the night sky. That is you, your future you.
You are what you eat and you will be what you are going to eat including the foods you will eat and the environments in which they grow. Do you wish to be the growing grain or do you wish to be factory farmed animal? Do you wish to be organic or be heavily laden with chemicals and toxins? Do you wish to be wild, natural and free or mass-produced and genetically modified? You can and you do choose your future whether you realize it or not. You choose it everyday by following and satisfying your appetite and hunger.
What is your past?
Your past is being created now every moment. Your past is your body, your thoughts and your mind. Your past is your blood, your cells and your bones. It is your emotions, your imagination and your dreams. Your past is your art, your music and all your creations. Regardless of whether they remain only as ideas or develop into finished products they are already past and are done and have a life of their own and there is not much you can do about them other than let them come out of you.
Your past is also your children and all your offspring. Your past is what comes from you. It is what you gave birth to and now has a life of its own.
The past can’t be changed by trying to change it itself. You can change the past by changing your future; by choosing a new you. Change your future by choosing differently that which will become you. Choose a great future and you will have a great past.
But if you are not your past nor are you your future, then who are you? You are not your blood, cells and bones and you are not your emotions, thoughts and dreams. You are also not yet the grain in the fields, the vegetables in the gardens nor the sun, soil and wind. Then who are you? You are nothing but an empty void – a vacuum that seeks to be filled. You are hunger; you are your appetite. That is you.
And this you seeks to take in everything – to take in the entire universe. And when it has done so to its satisfaction then you are one with the universe and the old you will no longer exist.
The greatest “sword” or “weapon” ever invented is one which can create life and peace and make everyone happy and is perhaps the lowly kitchen knife. It is far more powerful than any weapon of mass destruction because, when used wisely, one can feed others and create health and peace without any use of military force, violence and loss of human life.
We should all be peaceful kitchen warriors and strive to feed ourselves as well as our enemies – thus turning them into our friends – if we truly seek health, peace and happiness for ourselves and others. Imagine if we measured the value of today’s leaders and candidates based on their skill with the kitchen knife and their ability to satisfy our palates, appetites and health!…
This question appeared in the Facebook group “Macrobiotics” and I have decided to publish my response is here for the benefit of all to read because it is such a basic and common question, that I thought it might be helpful to many.
First, it will be helpful to remember that there is no such thing as a “macrobiotic diet” and therefore there is nothing that is “not part” of it. Macrobiotics is instead about understanding how all things, including what we eat, relate to and influence us. As a result of this “macrobiotic” approach and understanding to life some have suggested eating habits and dietary choices for better health and prolonging life and chief among these have been standard dietary guidelines suggested by my father, Michio Kushi, which have benefitted many seeking to improve their health.
The reason why a specific food item may not be included among those guidelines is based on the overall influence and effect such a food item may have relative to becoming healthier. Honey, especially if eaten in excess, may produce unwanted results, but of course, results will vary from person to person as we are all unique. Also, we all have various options available to us when it comes to different sweeteners that range from artificial sweeteners and refined sugar to honey, maple syrup, beet sugar and grain based malts and each of these produce different effects especially when eaten in excess. What food choice is most beneficial to us, from a macrobiotic relativistic (or, if you prefer, dialectic) point of view is obviously the one that negatively effects us the least ( or positively effects us the most ) in larger quantities and over longer periods of time.
By experience, honey, if eaten in excess can cause chronic headaches as well other more serious issues overtime. It is “safer” to choose maple syrup or grain-based sweeteners over honey as their impact is less though similar. Indeed grain-based sweeteners if eaten in excess can cause , for example, swelling in the feet among other things. But as we are all different then each of us must explore and discover our own limits (“non-credo”) and observe and monitor the effects of not just what we eat, but everything which effects us.
To begin to explore, understand and play with life in this way is what we call “macrobiotics”. George Ohsawa, my father’s mentor and the man who re-introduced “macrobiotics” to the world, outlined various principles he discovered to help us better understand how all things in the universe influence us and how we influence the universe. He did so by offering the relativistic terms “yin” and “yang” among other ideas as a way to begin to understand how change and movement happens in the universe and as a way to connect seemingly disparate events and occurrences together. In this way, for example and historically speaking, Ohsawa and my father ( and others) have long promoted the importance and influence of food in our everyday lives especially in the role of health and sickness when it was commonly thought that food made little difference in one’s health at all.
I know this is a lengthy reply but I wrote it because the question is common in that the subject, “honey”, can be replaced with any food item (e.g. red meat, ice cream, rutabagas, brown rice – or even snakes, insects, humans, rocks, etc… O_o!) or anything else that influences our life. “Macrobiotics” is a life-long endless experiential study and is not just about food but about all life itself. I hope this was helpful.