George Ohsawa

Three Thousand Birthdays from "Essential Ohsawa"

I used to be very strict in my adherence to macrobiotic principles and George would look at me and say, “Very bad.” Then my wife would go and give him a big hug and a kiss and a big smile. He would look at her hands and eyes and say, “Very good.” I could not understand this when I knew she was not at all strict.
 One day, I asked Ohsawa why and he said, “She is a very happy and outgoing person and that is very good no matter what she eats. Very strict and serious people will soon fail, and in fact have already failed if they are not enjoying life more each day.” On Ohsawa’s birthday, he sent us a card from Italy that read, “I have three thousand birthdays every day because to me each breath is like a new birthday.”
 One day, someone said, “This life is not important because when you die, you progress to a higher plane.” George replied, “You only get one body—take care of it and enjoy every minute of your life. Be grateful for every breath you take. Then you will know true happiness.”
Dick Smith, Retired from Chico-San, Inc. from “Essential Ohsawa”


George Ohsawa departs Japan on his way to India with his wife, Lima, October 1953.

Essential Ohsawa George Ohsawa

Culinary art is life’s art. Our health and consequently our happiness, our liberty, and even our judging ability are under the influence of this art. This is why only the best disciples are selected as cooks in the great schools or Buddhist convents. If you are not a good cook, you simply have to learn the culinary art.
 Culinary preparation is, indeed, fundamental in enabling man to attain self-realization through Far Eastern medicine.

To eat is to create a new life for tomorrow through the sacrifice of the vegetal realm and its products. If mistakes are made, this is, literally, the “original sin.” This is symbolized in the myth of the Garden of Eden.

  • Eat whole grains and local, seasonal vegetables, using a bit of salt, oil, and traditional condiments.
  • Chew each mouthful of food fifty times or more.
  • Drink only what is necessary.
  • Work hard physically.

True health is that which you yourself have created out of illness. Only if you have produced your own health can you know how wonderful it actually is. For this reason, many healthy people squander away their health; through ignorance, they spoil it without knowing its true value. He who knows the real worth of health spreads his joyous knowledge by telling others what he knows. If you are healthy but do not try to give to others of the happiness it brings, you are unaware that happiness is priceless.

True health can be established only by conquest over bad factors that are menacing your life, without using any violence; rather, by a good cooperative and complementary agreement, a universal solidarity, or a most intimate brotherhood established with all the evildoing factors. The fundamental ideas of symptomatic medicine, which tries only to destroy noxious factors, are childish, primitive, unmanageable, exclusive…

Sickness and weakness are necessary in this world. It is through our efforts to change them into health that we learn gratitude.

It is disease that leads us toward health. If one errs in the use of therapeutics, for instance by following symptomatic medicine, this is the starting point for the principles of health. This is the Order of the Universe.
 Illness is the very helpful guide that leads us toward an understanding of the constitution of the universe.

As man nourishes with foods, he should carefully develop his spirit. All great or happy people have absorbed much more food of the spirit than physical foods. Books are of this invisible nourishment. As one can find foods of various qualities, from the best to the worst, likewise there exist all sorts of spiritual nourishment. […] Therefore, if you have the intention of reading a good book, you should buy what was published at least twenty years ago. Books at least two hundred years old that one appreciates are certainly good. The book whose value has been recognized for two thousand years is the true best seller.

If we are unhappy, we are violating the Order of the Universe.

Accept everything with greatest pleasure and thanks. Accept misfortune like happiness, disease like health, war like peace, foe like friend, death like life, poverty like prosperity— and in case you do not like it or you cannot stand it, refer to your universal compass, the Unifying Principle; there you will find the best direction. Everything that happens to you is what you are lacking. All that is antagonistic and unbearable is complementary. He who can embrace his antagonists is the happiest man.

Without a basic principle to follow, any sort of practice is no more than superstition. The principle (spirit) of macrobiotic living lies in recognizing, experiencing, and understanding nature. This is Tao—the return to and contemplation of God.


Any theory, be it scientific, religious, or philosophical, is quite useless if it is too difficult to understand or impractical for daily living.
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