View Full Version : are we really ready to die?

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10-20-2000, 10:49 AM
Do you think that an intrinsic and necessary part of good aikido practise is learning to accept death? Do you think this is over-hyped from the japanese 'kamikaze' and honour driven psychology, or do you think that to enter fully into technique (and combat) acceptance of death is necessary. Can any of you illustrate this point or tell me whether you think about this as much as I do? (To me it seems a fundamental aspect of my buddhist beliefs, but it is very hard to really grasp it in practise).

10-20-2000, 11:22 AM
Ian, I think it depends on your "level" of practice. By level I do not mean rank. I mean your true inner motivation for training. Is your training aimed toward spiritual purification, physical prowess, a**-kicking or all of the above? Depends on the person.
Am I ready to die on the mat every night? Literally asked, my answer is no. Spiritually asked, my answer is, without hesitation, yes. When challenged off the mat, these answers are reversed. But that's just me.

10-20-2000, 11:51 AM
You hit the nail on the head - all of the above, and yes, I am the same; spiritually I am prepared to die, but not at every moment, though I often feel this is wrong of me. I remember a good zen saying (from sumurai) 'live as if a fire is burning in your hair'.

10-20-2000, 04:03 PM
I for one am not ready to die. To paraphrase a quote, from whom I don't remember, "Better to let the enemy die for his beliefs, I chose to live for mine."
I do not fear death, but I certainly plan to fight it every step of the way as long as my mind and body are capable of a "normal" life.


10-20-2000, 04:06 PM
Am I ready to die? I'll tell you when I'm dead. However, if the occasion arose that my death was necessary to further a certain cause, I like to think I would be ready to.

10-23-2000, 08:46 AM
Interesting post Tomcat,
There does seem to be a discrepancy between Zen beliefs and Budo. A samurai would be expected to die for beliefs/honour etc, whereas Chuang Tsu (Taoist bloke)would have said that it is just the ego which makes you do this (but in a much more prosaic way e.g. his conviction that whether you are famous for being good or famous for being nasty, it is still just the ego).

hmmm, I don't know about this. I think tend to go for the self-sacrifice approach because it suits my personality more (therefore I am being my true self).

10-23-2000, 02:33 PM
Takuan wrote the same sort of thing in "The Clear Sound of Jewels", one of his letters to the Yagyu bunch. It talks a lot about death and dying for right mindedness. A good read if you can find it- look for "The Unfettered Mind" on Amazon.com- a great read.


10-23-2000, 03:39 PM
Death is an immutable part of life. If you don't 'accept' it, you'll never find true balance in life and you'll never have true awareness of the moment. Both of these principles (balance & awareness)are an integral part of Aikido, so at some point this 'bridge needs to be crossed'. This is both practical AND spiritual; If you do not accept life as it is, your living in a fallacy. It is also important to train with 'Life & Death' in mind - it puts everything properly in focus - as it truly is your life or death, and perhaps, someone elses. Implicit in what is written here is the notion of 'live life, don't fear it'. Fear is an opening(suki) and predators look for easy prey. I work at a Halfway House and the people who reside here run the full gambit of criminal behavior;in general, they're very observant people. A number of Police Officers have related to me their frustration/consternation with victims who can't accurately describe their assailants, if at all. No one wants that kind of rude awakening. It is the sincere, resolute intent of "...receiving 99% of an opponents attack...even to the point of facing death..." (to paraphrase O'Sensei from his book, Budo) that will put you in the 'not prey' category. Few people are prepared to face death to get your wallet, and if they are you'd better be prepared to deal with it and prevail. This carries over into everything in life. Just some of my thoughts on this subject...

W.F. Ward

10-27-2000, 01:08 AM

Sorry, make that:


10-27-2000, 12:47 PM
Dogen said that true Zen practice illuminates the border between life and death.

With every choice we make there is karma, and only with careful intention can we be ever-present in the world of life and death. My sensei once said that "ukemi is purposeful action."

The budo is to know when to die.

For a practitioner of Zen, perhaps the question is: "what is it that dies?"

Chris Guzik

10-27-2000, 03:55 PM
simple fact is that everyone is going to die eventualy. maybe you'll be hit by a bus, maybe you'll wake up tomorrow with some disease that will kill you in 24 hours, maybe all kinds of things. You've known all your life that you were going to die though most of you probably think in terms of growing old first. However you HAVE known that.

Now, you can do two things with this knowledge:
You can accept it, not worry about it and live life to the fullest each day (since it might be your last).
You can pretend it'll never happen, you're immortal and live in secret fear knowing you really aren't.

Not sure how many fit into each category, but life is sure a lot more fun if lived from the first perspective.

I doubt many walk into the dojo with the realization that they might get killed during training, but the possiibilty is there. You could. You could land wrong and break your neck, you could have a heart attack, someone could land on you and do damage, anything can happen. Hopefuly wont but in any activity where you're flinging your body around at a solid object you can get injured (which is why you're supposed to be careful).

There's a huge difference between accepting the fact it could happen at any time, and obsessing on it however. Being ready to die doesnt' necessarily mean you are going to take active steps to see to it that it happens any time soon. It doesnt' mean you walk around with a gloomy face pronouncing doom on yourself and all around you every couple minutes.

It doesn't mean that if a mugger wants your wallet you dont give it to him. It does mean that if a mugger comes at you intending to kill you, you dont freak out that you might get killed, you deal with the situation calmly. You might die, however you're less likely to if you dont worry about whether you will or not while you're dealing with trying to make sure you dont than if you freeze up, panic and focus on that instead of what you should be thinking about at the time.

Long rambling post (shuts up now).

10-27-2000, 07:55 PM
I read something a long time ago, I think perhaps by Masatatsu Oyama that said something to the effect of:

"Train more than you sleep. Human beings are the only thing on the earth that know they will die, so you must chhose also how to live."

Something like that, anyways... it's all kinda blurred in my head...

Any reactions to that?

10-29-2000, 05:47 AM
At the moment I feel like I'm training more than I'm sleeping. But it doesn't seem to be improving my quality of life - I'm just knackered.

11-09-2000, 07:35 PM
I would tend to agree with Crystalwizard on this one, with a little of my own philosophy thrown in.

In my beliefs life is just an opportunity to learn and evolve, thus death is mearly a doorway into the next life (Hopefully a better one.)

This in mind, training or dealing with conflict, one is prepared to die instantly and we are keenly aware of this. It is part of our culture, and there is no thought of jobs left undone, or those left behind as that is their path and lessons to learn.

Now this would be a careless outlook without a qualifier. One may live an honorable life and make good decisions and move forward in our evolution, or one may play the fool and move backward. That choice is everpresent as well, a cockroach or a luminous being its all up to you.

One can live life or avoid death and go thru the motions.

11-09-2000, 10:21 PM
Thought I could add a different point of view to this. Being a dialysis patient, I am faced with death at least 3 times a week. I have to walk in to a center, have two very large needles stuck into two very large veins, and sit still for 4 hours every other day. It is a great possiblility that something can go wrong every single treatment i have i.e. blood pressure crashing, severe bleeding, or air in the lines going into my body.
Training in aikido and shinkendo help me to "focus" my thoughts and my life, in lack of a better way to put it. I have to have faith that the nurses and techs can do their job satisfactorily, just as you need to have faith in your training, or your eternal of choice. One of my favorite quotes from O'Sensei is "Do not look upon the world with fear and loathing. Bravely face whatever the gods offer"
I think if we can all just go with the flow, we can face whatever comes our way...even death.
Sorry for the long windedness :)
Peace and Prayers
aka DialysisDemon

11-13-2000, 03:49 AM
I did know a rock climber who fell off one day and was in a coma for 6 months. He made a full recovery (although he was more careful with climbing) and actually became a much more lively and outgoing person. He said that being close to death made him realise it can happen at any time, and to make the most of what he'd got.

I don't know if I agree with Elric's idea of an afterlife or reincarnation (although I obviously don't know myself). Although buddhism suggests reincarnation, it is not always considered as an actual reincarnation of your life after you have died - often it is considered as a reincarnation of the 'self' when you change your behaviour and habitual patterns in this life; thus changing your karma.

It may be easier to accept death if one thinks of there being some continuation. However, for me I believe that everything is change, and after this life, I won't exist. This is not too much of a worry, because I also think that linear time is something that we experience because we're humans (and of course animals are the same), so in some respects this life I am lving will last forever, because it will always have been.

The great thing about death is that it comes to everyone, so no matter what you suffer, what you try to achieve, what status you have, or how wealthy you are, there is no ultimate meaning or benefit of it. Just like an aikido grading, the benefit of one's actions are intrinsic within themselves.

Anyway, too much philosophy for a Monday morning!