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robbsims
04-28-2004, 09:24 PM
There has been a nagging question in the back of my head for a while now. I am hoping that members of the forum can help my answer it. The question is very simple...

Do I understand the :square: , :circle: , and :triangle: symbology?

To my way of thinking...

The :square: , in Aikido, represent movement, forwards, backwards, to the left and to the right. In life, I think, it has a slightly different representation. As we encounter obstacles, we can keeping ahead, retreat from it, or go around it. We all know people of each type, those who charge full speed ahead in the face of adversity, those who step away from any kind of trouble, and those who seem to have trouble glance off.

The :circle: represents the nature of Aikido, to blend and harmonize. Again, I believe that it is present through out our lives. All human motion is spherical in nature. Why? Joints. All joints move in a spherical manner. if you bend or straighten the knee, the foot move along an arc.

The :triangle: , has 2 different natures. One, is the strength of our stance. A strong and stable platform to launch our waza at uke. Two, is instability. Uke's feet provide 2 points of a triangle, the third point makes a tripod formation. The third point we, as nage, control. Everyday, we see people who look happy, sad, or tired. Not from there expression, but from there body language.

The :square: , :circle: , and :triangle: , is not limited to Aikido.

Back to my question...
Do I understand the symbology?

Thanks for listening to my confused mind. :drool:
Robert Sims

Bronson
04-28-2004, 09:38 PM
Well, it sounds like you have an understanding of the symbols. That's not to say someone else might have a different understanding.

My personal understanding of most of this stuff has a very fluid quality. Meaning that it changes from day-to-day, class-to-class ;) so I choose not to lock myself into one way or the other as it will be different tomorrow :confused:

Good question though.

Bronson

Conrad Gus
04-28-2004, 11:37 PM
The symbology comes from thr Shinto faith. Here's a rare English-language link I have found very useful:

Tsubaki Shrine (http://www.tsubakishrine.com/test/TCS.asp)

Conrad

batemanb
04-29-2004, 01:55 AM
The symbology comes from thr Shinto faith. Here's a rare English-language link I have found very useful:

Tsubaki Shrine (http://www.tsubakishrine.com/test/TCS.asp)

Conrad


This is pretty much the way that I understand it, and I think reflects the way it was taught by O Sensei. But as Bronson says (I'm agreeing with him a lot lately :D) it's only an understanding, this may vary from time to time.

Regards

Bryan

PeterR
04-29-2004, 02:40 AM
But as Bronson says (I'm agreeing with him a lot lately :D) i......
Vodka my friend - and lots of it. Agreeing with Bronson is like [insert trite phrase here].

Not one to really have much interest in symbolism I still wonder where exactly these came from. Primarily the forms are very geometric. This, besides from the Shinto cross and the folded paper, you don't see very much of at Shinto shrines. In fact I can't recall any display of the circle, square, triangle motif itself in any shrine (including Omoto-kyo and Tenri-kyo) that I've visited.

Until I read the link to the Tsubaki shrine I thought the symbols were peculiar to Aikido or at least a neo-shintoist invention (Barrish is also an Aikido teacher). The article wasn't clear on how far back the geometric shapes go although it reads as if the concepts they refer to go way back.

Anyone have further thoughts on this.

George S. Ledyard
04-29-2004, 03:17 AM
Vodka my friend - and lots of it. Agreeing with Bronson is like [insert trite phrase here].

Not one to really have much interest in symbolism I still wonder where exactly these came from. Primarily the forms are very geometric. This, besides from the Shinto cross and the folded paper, you don't see very much of at Shinto shrines. In fact I can't recall any display of the circle, square, triangle motif itself in any shrine (including Omoto-kyo and Tenri-kyo) that I've visited.

Until I read the link to the Tsubaki shrine I thought the symbols were peculiar to Aikido or at least a neo-shintoist invention (Barrish is also an Aikido teacher). The article wasn't clear on how far back the geometric shapes go although it reads as if the concepts they refer to go way back.

Anyone have further thoughts on this.
This set of symbols is very old. I have seen them used in a Buddhist context in China as well.

Dennis Hooker
04-29-2004, 08:19 AM
These symbols are universal and go back as far as recorded history. Generally the square represents the seasons of nature and the seasons of life, the circle represents infinity and completion and the cycle of life the triangle is strongest form known to man and represents the trinity of life - female, male and offspring. These symbols are strong in the Masonic life as well.

JasonB
04-29-2004, 08:51 AM
I've also heard these symbols used to describe the three basic forms of Ashi Sabaki.
When we move through a technique our feet follow these shapes.

:circle: - Tenkan movement.
:triangle: - Changing Hanmi from left foot forward to right foot forward as in the beginning of Nikyo from Shomenuchi.
:square: - Irimi Nage we enter into Uke forward and off the line then we enter forward and through Uke making 2 sides of the sqare.

These relations give you something to help visualize proper footwork.

Ron Tisdale
04-29-2004, 09:17 AM
Yoshinkan tradition defines these as

trangle -- focus

square -- balance

circle -- harmony.

RT

SeiserL
04-29-2004, 09:22 AM
Enter like a triangle.
Move like a circle.
Secure like a square.

Bronson
04-29-2004, 09:38 AM
Vodka my friend - and lots of it. Agreeing with Bronson is like [insert trite phrase here]. :confused:

Of all the interesting things said here, this is what I choose to quote :rolleyes:

Bronson

Dennis Hooker
04-29-2004, 09:54 AM
If you will look in the book The Essence of Aikido by John Stevens he has what he says is the meaning of these symbols according to M. Ueshiba (O'Sensei). Since I can not read Japanese and have no access to his original writings anyway I can only accept (or not) Mr. Steven's explanations. However they do seem to meld with what others have told me regarding M. Ueshiba's use of the symbols.

Dennis Hooker
www.shindai.com

senshincenter
04-29-2004, 03:31 PM
If I may, these geometric shapes have various meanings across various cultures - from the very beginning of recorded history. In all likelihood their connections and meanings have changed throughout East Asian history. More than likely, what eventually ended up in Japan probably had its origin in early cultures located in and around the Indus Valley.

Contrary to popular belief, much of Shinto's symbolism has its origin in Buddhist symbolic systems - primarily those found in the esoteric traditions. Omoto-kyo, influenced greatly by Esoteric Buddhism and Christianity, and Shinto proper, certainly have no exclusive claim to these symbols and/or their meaning and certainly no claim to authorship. One only has to look at mandala geometry in Shingon representations of the universe (both micro and macro) to see something that is clearly closer to the origin wherein these shapes were first given significance. You can see a sample of these here:

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/mandala1.shtml

Mr. Bronsan is very much right, in my opinion, to suggest that folks are well off to use these symbols as they can, when they can, in the way that they can, etc. That is probably the closest to what Osensei did than anything else might be. Also, Mr. Rehse is right in noting that Shinto shrines are less likely to demonstrate this symbology then say a Buddhist temple (as Mr. Ledyard pointed out).

It should be noted that Osensei spent a lot of time (growing up, visiting, etc.) in what was traditionally a bastion for Shingon Buddhism. It is almost impossible to conceive that he was not influenced greatly by that tradition – even in more ways than he would know.

Yours,
dmv

senshincenter
04-29-2004, 03:41 PM
Sorry - meant to type: Mr. Diffin (not Mr. Bronsan). Humble apologies.
d

PeterR
04-29-2004, 11:40 PM
David and all - great posts. And David thanks for the link.

Bronson - I apologize also - the comment just felt so right even if you are one of the people I always like to hear from.

Once again I'm being made aware of the strong influence of Buddhism on Shintoism at least in the modern sense. It's a question that keeps coming up for me in several contexts - often you hear old when clearly its not.

Bronson
04-30-2004, 01:51 AM
Bronson - I apologize also - the comment just felt so right even if you are one of the people I always like to hear from.

Thanks Peter. I didn't take any offense to it. I just didn't get the joke and I hate it when I don't get the joke :D

Bronson

senshincenter
04-30-2004, 02:18 AM
Hi All,

Here are some more correlations you may find interesting – correlations which really add to the position that Buddhism and Shinto have a very intimate relationship with each other - one most scholars today ignore only at great risk:

Shingon Buddhism, unlike Zen, felt we were in an age of decline, one where Awakening was either no longer possible and/or very difficult to achieve. Shingon held that Man would have to wait until a future Buddha would come to "turn the dharma wheel" once again in order for true spiritual achievement to truly be possible. This future Buddha is known as Miroku (jp) - Maitreya (skt). In Japan, various religious leaders have claimed to be this future Buddha incarnate. Naturally, leaders of Shingon Buddhism have made this claim, but most interesting is that so too did Onisaburo Deguchi - of Omoto-kyo.

Also, Miroku is often represented wearing a crown. On this crown is located a stupa. In Shingon this stupa is said to represent Dainichi. Dainichi is the Buddha at the center of the mandala seen at the link provided above – the one making use of all the circles, squares, and triangles.

Another interesting correlation is that Miroku, in esoteric Buddhism, is given the sound "Yu" - which as we all know is a sound prominent in the kotodama Osensei practiced and lectured on, etc.

As I said, having spent a great deal of his life in a region thoroughly saturated in Shingon praxis, Osensei was totally influenced, whether he knew it or not, by the ideas and practices of esoteric Buddhism.

Yours,
dmv

PeterR
04-30-2004, 02:38 AM
Thanks Peter. I didn't take any offense to it. I just didn't get the joke and I hate it when I don't get the joke :D
More to do with the statement I'm agreeing with him a lot lately then the person it was directed to. It was late, I was tired and ....

David;

While true that Ueshiba M. went to Shingon schools I have to point out that when he joined Omoto-kyo he was sucked right in. Is their evidence, or at least informed opinion, that he modified his Omoto-kyo beliefs based on his youthful exposure to the Shingon schools. Esoteric Buddhism affecting the development of Omoto-kyo I do not question, nor the effect of Buddhism in general on Shintoism.

Last time I was on Koya-san the place was full of schoolboys doing the Shingon Summer Camp.

senshincenter
04-30-2004, 10:46 AM
Hi Peter,

Thanks for the reply.

I think one would be hard-pressed to find such evidence. I think it would be difficult to find such evidence for two reasons: a. The personal influences that lead one toward the various motivations that may come to determine a given action or set of actions within a single agent can even in the most documented cases only be speculated or suggested - this is true even for autobiographical cases as well. In short we are dealing here with cultural influences not conscious and isolated determinants that could be thought to exist outside of culture; and b. the question of "modifies" assumes "borders" that just aren't part of the Japanese religious experience - particularly around that time and in the region and by folks of Osensei’s type. However, I do suggest that it would have been nearly impossible for Osensei to understand Omoto-kyo outside of Shingon discourse. This I suggest because of the region we are dealing with and because esoteric Buddhism does lie, along with other schools of thought, at the heart of Omoto-kyo.

In my understanding, the word “modifies” suggests that Omoto-kyo had a set of teachings of its own accord that to some degree were different from that of Shingon, etc., such that Shingon thought could be used to “tailor” such practices, etc. This would hardly be the case because Omoto-kyo did not have set practices, did not have practices that originated with itself, was openly eclectic in its pursuits, and had a stated desire to provide a discourse by which the universality of all religious traditions could be understood.

Opting not to use the word “modify”, I would say, borrowing your phrase, that as Esoteric Buddhist thought affected the development of Omoto-kyo it also affected the development of Osensei; as Buddhism in general had an effect on Shinto, it so too had an effect on Osensei. Of course claims have been made to the contrary but said claims are more related to the political maneuverings of any new movement, to an ignorance over the vast cultural dissemination of esoteric Buddhist thought throughout Japan and especially throughout the region in question, to falling prey to the political and often polemical history that just occurred between Buddhism (understood as foreign and as backing the Bakufu) and Shinto (put forth as “native” and on the side of the Emperor) at the onset of the Meiji Restoration, etc., than they are to any accurate cultural and historical insight.

In short, and I am not suggesting here that this is your position, I feel that the average “informed” Aikidoka has a lot of room to improve his/her understanding of Omoto-kyo and thus any ensuring understanding that is related to this first readjustment.

My opinion,
dmv

PeterR
05-01-2004, 10:06 PM
David;

I understand your points. I find the political manoeuvrings fascinating. My teacher was teaching Omotokyo disciples at Ayabe and his deshi at the time tells some interesting contradictory stories about Ueshiba M. and his time there. I'm thinking of taking advantage of these connections to make a visit up there but even so I doubt I'd get more than a cup of tea.

You write well and detailed - what is your background?

senshincenter
05-01-2004, 11:22 PM
Hi Peter,

Again, thanks for posting.

Wow! I am very interested in hearing those stories - any way you can pass them on privately (if you'd rather not post)? My background concerning this topic? Assuming you are asking about education: I'm a doctorate candidate in the History of Religions with an emphasis on Japanese Religious Culture at the University of Califirnia, Santa Barbara. My doctorate work centers mainly on the various myths of the state that had their origin in the premodern period, etc. Hence my interest - knowing such things might very well confirm other notions and/or bring about new leads, etc.

Yours,
dmv

PeterR
05-01-2004, 11:54 PM
David;

A lot of it has to do with how much Ueshiba M. knew about Omoto-kyo before he left Hokkaido, the reasons for his departure and the circumstances of his first meeting with Deguchi. Hints of divergence of views you can find within the Aikido Journal Interviews - for me its historical anomaly and does not affect my Aikido. My info is pretty second hand - I'll consider a private post.

Interesting subject you have chosen. Revisionism is alive and well no matter where you go but I've got a similar interest with respect to Japan. Keep posting.

George S. Ledyard
05-02-2004, 02:54 AM
Hi Peter,

Again, thanks for posting.

Wow! I am very interested in hearing those stories - any way you can pass them on privately (if you'd rather not post)? My background concerning this topic? Assuming you are asking about education: I'm a doctorate candidate in the History of Religions with an emphasis on Japanese Religious Culture at the University of Califirnia, Santa Barbara. My doctorate work centers mainly on the various myths of the state that had their origin in the premodern period, etc. Hence my interest - knowing such things might very well confirm other notions and/or bring about new leads, etc.

Yours,
dmv
Wow! Very cool. Just what I was going to do until I decided to go for the BIG Bucks and became an Aikido teacher.

Charles Hill
05-02-2004, 04:37 AM
From Terry Dobson`s "It`s a lot like dancing.."

"I asked him(O`Sensei). `Sensei, I notice when you teach you frequently mention circle, square, and triangle. I `ve thought about it a while and I don`t understand the meaning of these symbols. I wonder if you could help me solve this problem. Please explain.` He looked at me for a long time. He looked down, he looked up, and he looked around. And I`m waiting, right?

He said, `Terry-san, you know you should go find out yourself." Then he got up and walked away."

Great book.
Charles Hill

Chuck Clark
05-02-2004, 09:04 AM
Charles, a personal experience that was similar. I asked Tsunako Miyake sensei a question over twenty years ago... her answer to me was, "You already know the answer to that, figure it out for yourself."

I experienced a very strong ephiphany while teaching a seminar in Indiana two weekends ago and realized (one of those "buckets of cold water in the face") that I knew the answer because I had been teaching it to students for quite some time. OK, so I'm dense... it just took a bit of time to KNOW instead of just knowing a theory.

I love this practice! It never ends.

Yo-Jimbo
05-02-2004, 11:23 AM
Do I understand the symbology?
"I'm sure the word you were looking for was symbolism..." - The Boondock Saints (1999). I couldn't resist. Symbology is the study of symbolism; everyone's comments on the symbolism of the square, circle and triangle have been very interesting/informative. I had heard the movement and structure arguments, but I appreciated the introduction to the symbolics of shinto (link). As an aside, this reply started with a quote from a movie which could easily motivate a thread of its own on vigilantism. http://www.theboondocksaints.com/main.htm