One Grain, Ten Thousand Grains
I was young, relatively unconventional and didn’t find meaning in some of the places others found it, like school, church or even family. So being bookish I started searching in my only child way: long walks to the library on Saturdays, hours spent walking the aisles and pausing to take down tomes that interested me, then frequently bringing home multiple volumes, scanning these texts for meaning.
Sometime during this phase I discovered Eastern philosophy, especially the teachers that came from China and Japan. Of the many things I read in this vein was a book I might have even shoplifted from my local drugstore. It was called “You’re All Sanpuku,” by Georges Oshawa. Reading it set the course life in several critical ways, such as informing my diet, my lifestyle and my way of looking at the world.
Now I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here about Oshawa’s philosophy, which he called macrobiotics. If you want, you could look it up on Wikipedia and learn all sorts of things, such as how Oshawa and his contemporaries integrated the ancient teachings of yin and yang into dietary prescriptions, or how groups of so-called study houses popped up all over the world, in which avid students learned about things like shiatsu and fasting, or how — not sure this would be in Wikipedia — how Oshawa’s student, Michio Kushi and Kushi’s students pretty much created or at least deeply influenced the creation of the worldwide network of natural food stores that led to the birth of stores like Whole Foods and aisles in conventional supermarkets devoted to organic foods.
I no longer practice the dietary aspects of macrobiotics in the precise way that Oshawa or Kushi taught.
However many of the philosophical underpinnings that have nothing really to do with diet have stayed with me and continue to inspire me.
Foremost of these is a passage from Oshawa that I return to again and again.
It concerns what nature has to teach us about giving.
In many of his writings, Oshawa used the parable of “One Grain, Ten Thousand Grains” to explain the importance of giving to others. The phrase refers to how a single grain when germinated eventually gives birth to thousands of grains.
According to Oshawa, we should follow nature’s example and use it as a guiding priincipal for how we should live our lives. The universe, he taught, is a giving universe. We can fine true happiness by following in the path of nature, that gives continuously such things as food, and air. Practicing giving also creates a kind of mysterious circuit in which the giver is rewarded even more than he or she has given, Oshawa taught.
“If any one gives you something of value, you should be prepared to return it (or give it forward) ten thousand times.”
I know in my life I fall far short of this ideal.
I’m frequently selfish and think of what I need to receive before deciding to give.
But the ideal inspires me and gives me something to aspire to.
I know I can do better and will.
So I’m wondering, gentle reader, what is your “Giving IQ”? Are you one of these admirable people who practice “random acts of kindness”? Can you think of times when you’ve given that you’ve been rewarded in unexpected ways?
I hope you’re better at it than me!