Excerpted from "What Would Buddha Do?" with permission from Ulysses Press.

Buddha, having emaciated himself for no reason in cruel self-abuse, realized...that this was not the way to peace, or knowledge, or liberation....One who ruins her body can never gain great awakening.

--Buddhacharita 12.97-99

It may seem odd to compare the two, but the Buddha's striving for awakening and the modern-day compulsion to fit in that leads people to starve themselves in the name of beauty are not so far apart. Before becoming awakened, Buddha spent six years starving himself, trying to fit in with the other renunciants and break away from the impurities--the grossness--of his body. Finally after all those years he realized his self-punishment was only making him weak and confused. Remember, this was Buddha! Imagine how confused a modern teenager or dieter might be.

Let's acknowledge that self-abuse takes enormous discipline and strength and see it as a measure of our greatness of spirit. Then let's remind ourselves and our loved ones that this is the wrong way to express such greatness. Buddha was awakened soon after he began again to eat and to love his body. We must embrace and support our bodies, with all their faults; then with that renewed strength we can embrace and support each other.

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