People have six kinds of perceptive faculties: the eyes can see, the ears can hear, the nose can smell, the tongue can taste, the body can feel, and the mind can think. Being the most intelligent of creatures, human beings are endowed with these six faculties. The physical make-up of other animals is not as complex as that of humans.
We need food, clothing, and sleep, just as a car needs gasoline to run. After traveling many miles, the car needs to be re-fueled. Likewise, when we people have used up our energy, we need to replenish it. That’s why we need to eat--to help sustain the metabolism of our body. Food generates heat and energy in our body, helping it to carry out all its activities. However, because the part of the food that gives us energy is actually a very small portion, we have to constantly replenish ourselves. For instance, we eat breakfast in the morning, but by noon we’re hungry again; we eat lunch, but by evening we need to eat again. Even when we sleep, we’re still using energy, so when we wake up, we’re ready for breakfast again.
How does our energy get used up? When our eyes look at forms, that takes energy. When the ears listen to sounds, it also uses energy. The nose smells scents, and that uses up energy as well. The tongue tastes flavors, the body feels sensations, and the mind cognizes and reflects－all these things exhaust our energy! Every movement we make and every word we say uses energy. If we use our energy in moderation and don’t drain it completely, our body will be healthy. If we use too much, our body will malfunction. For instance, if we eat too much, eat food that is too rich, or eat something poisonous, it will make our body sick. So, in everything we do, whether we are moving or still, sleeping or awake, we should be very careful. We shouldn’t waste our energy for no good reason, or we will injure our body and mind. This is very important.
Young friends! This is your golden age. It is also the spring of your life. In the springtime, everything flourishes and is full of energy. However, we should accord with our body’s natural physical development as we grow up. We should choose our food and drink with care. We shouldn’t talk recklessly, consume alcoholic drinks, or take drugs. We should not carelessly look at, listen to, taste, smell, touch, or think about improper things, for that would hurt our body and spirit.
If you know how to use your six faculties well, you’ll be healthy. If you don’t, your body may go on strike and abandon you at any time. Then you won’t be able to eat, wear clothes, or sleep anymore. So, everyone should take good care of their body. Don’t live as if you are dreaming or drunk, and endanger yourself. The Classic of Filial Piety says, “Our body, hair, and skin are given by our parents. We should not injure them. This is the beginning of filial piety.” We should cherish our bodies, and not carelessly injure them. Otherwise, we won’t be able to face our parents. Our parents gave birth to us and raised us; if we fail to take care of our bodies, we are being most unfilial to our parents.
A talk given on January 5, 1984