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Paula Lydon 09-06-2002 10:07 AM

kotodama
 
Greetings all!
~~Kotodama--we don't do this much in my dojo so I've been reading up on the practice in various books. Now I've confused myself greatly...HELP! Some practices have only these four sounds during 'rowing' practice, while others want you to practice an orchestra of gut sounds.
~~Floor's open...anybody?:ai: :ki:

aikigreg 09-06-2002 01:37 PM

I'm very interested too, as a means to guide my own meditations. If anyone could provide a good link to some wav files or something would be especially helpful, since my dojo doesn't practice the kotodama.

Bruce Baker 09-06-2002 02:44 PM

Go to the" Voices of Experience" forum to get your feet wet, then take a look at some of the discussions we have had in other forums, and finally, John Stevens has put out a tape of the sounds of Kotodama, at least I got one at the last seminar, to go along with the words in "The Secrets of Aikido", by John Stevens.

There are sounds and vibrations within the universe, and life itself, that accentuate and neutralize movement, energy, and power. Some of these sounds are in our practices, but they are not always used in their proper sound to movement application.

Kind of like gaining the focus of a kiai and increasing the force though that focus. Sounds are but the resonance of life, and finding the proper use for each sound ... well ... I am still struggling with that myself.

It is an interesting study, and will increase your lung capacity as you learn to hold sounds for longer and longer lengths of time. So, even on the physical training level it does benefit the practitioner.

Continue your studies, and let the answers come without forceing them to come.

Alfonso 09-06-2002 04:41 PM

a link
 
Here's a link: don't know if it'll help at all..

http://www.freeflights.net/kototamani/practice.htm

Peter Goldsbury 09-06-2002 10:26 PM

Re: kotodama
 
Quote:

Paula Lydon wrote:
Greetings all!

~~Kotodama--we don't do this much in my dojo so I've been reading up on the practice in various books. Now I've confused myself greatly...HELP! Some practices have only these four sounds during 'rowing' practice, while others want you to practice an orchestra of gut sounds.

~~Floor's open...anybody?:ai: :ki:

I think it is undeniable that sound plays a vital role in our lives. Think of the wind, for example, in a full force gale, or the sound of the sea crashing against the shore in a typhoon. And then there are human sounds. When I drive to and from school I like to listen to music, but I prefer opera: human voices with the music. The fact that the words are in German or Italian does not detract from the effect of the sound. There are other examples. When I was a boy, I often attended High Mass, sung in Latin with plenty of Gregorian chants. The fact that very few of the congregation understood the Latin did not, in my opinion, detract from its value as prayer, or from the haunting effects of the chanting.

Of course, with human sounds, at some point the question of meaning arises. The ancient Greek sages like Heraclitus expressed themselves in verse, usually in riddles and certain human sounds, like the oracles of the Sybil, were thought to have extraordinary power. In ancient Japan 'norito' prayers and 'waka' poetry were the first examples of kotodama (for which the normal dictionary definition is the divine power believed to lie in the words uttered. See, for example the latest edition of Gakken's Kanji-gen, p.1380, under 'gen' Œ¾). The power of the words lay in their effectiveness in summoning the kami. Now the Founder's discussions of kotodama have to be seen in relation to this tradition, which can be tapped, in my opinion, only with a detailed study of ancient Japanese texts.

But some might say, that is arid academic study and sounds are important in aikido. I also believe that John Stevens though O Sensei guilty of linguistic imperialism, when the latter said that kotodama could be expressed only in Japanese. He is right that the Founder was guilty of linguistic imperialism, but not for these reasons. The Founder was a man of his time and, like very many contemporary Japanese people, believed that the Japanese language can really be understood only by Japanese. If I said the same about English, I'd be laughed out of court. However, I think that some very important features of kotodama are based on certain aspects of the Japanese language and these features are not found in other languages, such as English.

Of course, you can read Mr Stevens' book and practise with the tapes. I suppose you could even call this kotodama, though I myself do not believe this is right. In some dojos they practise kiai regularly and we all do the He - Ho and E - Sa during funakogi undo. John Stevens' teacher was Rinjiro Shirata, whose family were Omoto-kyo believers (I think it was his association with Onisaburo deguchi that led the Founder to study kotodama). Shirata Sensei also was an Omoto believer and once talked to me about the value of kotodama for his own training.

However, the vast majority of my own aikido teachers practised and taught in comparative silence, I suspect because they did not understand the Founder's discussions, monologues rather, about kotodama and found what he said of little value for their own training. For them kotodama was definitely icing on a cake best eaten plain.

A good place to start would be William Gleason's The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido. In Gleason's book, you will find either a spur to further interesting studies of your own, or enough about kotodama to last you a lifetime.

Best regards,

Paula Lydon 09-07-2002 08:21 AM

Thank you Peter,

W. Gleason's book is one I'm reading right now and will certainly give it more attention. Yours in Aiki, :)

Bronson 09-08-2002 12:45 AM

Found this site during one of my searches.

Kototama Books

Bronson

aikigreg 09-09-2002 10:45 AM

this link seemed to have some value in pronunciation:

http://www.sharereiki.org/japan/kotodama.htm

Bruce Baker 09-10-2002 08:12 AM

vibrations and sounds
 
I know I went into this on another thread, but here I go again ...

There are vibrations from energy, chemical reations, even the molten core of the earth creates a vibration of our world that is modified with the layers of crust it must vibrate through. This is our strongest sound of creation, the sound of our living planet with a molten core.

We know that we have a variety of forces moving the crust of the earth and that there are different ways to detech the energy that resonates through these layers of rock and define the changes in vibrations as sounds ... some of which are detechable to the human ear, and some are not.

Most people understand the value of resonance sound, the sounds that compliment each other to increase the power or volume of the sound, such as operas, bands, or in most music. That is the simple way to explain the complimentary sounds.

We also know that certain sounds are detrimental to the human emotional psychi, as well as certain resonance vibrations that can be detrimental to structures, or earthquake vibrations which is the transfer of vibration energy ... also found in tsunami waves.

OK. Now that we understand the basic concept of vibration, or energy transfer, we move on to structural vibrations in life, as well as inanimant objects.

The simple explanation of vibrations or sounds, is to have experienced sounds that are either soothing and pleasing, or those that put you on edge or give you a headache. Experience teaches you what soothes your personality, and gives you pleasure, so your personal taste in music may be a result of finding the combination of soothing sounds that work for you.

What has all this got to do with the Kotodama?

Well ... Understanding that there are sounds from the earth, from the life that exists on earth, and that there are stimuli of vibrations that can either enhance or detract from movement, preserve or destroy objects, or even the power to heal with pleasure as there is the power to influence illness.

O'Sensei was pursueing the positive side of using these universal sounds and trying to understand their importance in movement, healing, and opening the mind to the univesal secrets of understanding.

All martial arts have certain sounds for increasing the power of their movements, some are correct, and some are not. Some increase power, some increase power but cause illness due to the effect upon the internal organs and the channels of energy in the body.

In any case, the kotodama is the universal sounds of life, movement, and religious enlightenment ... I just wish there was a detailed way to explain how and why the sounds influence movement, health, and the minds well being, but I have yet to see a definitive book on the subject. The general concensus is to practice, experience, and learn from the basic sounds.

I am sure the lesser explanations of beneficial resonance sound, and music are the validation of the greater sounds of energy and movement, but this too is my experience, and an unproved theory at this point in time.

The proven test is to use these sounds in movement, and if they impove it without illness or ill effect, then they work.

Of course, there are teachers who know the power of sound can be effective, and they treat these sounds with respect for they are just as effective as being hypnotized with a post hypnotic suggestion ... maybe that has something to do with our genetic makeup? I don't know.

I do know, I have a dozen or so sounds that are effective for movement, and healing. I will continue to learn.

Reasearch different martial arts, different areas of the world, and even different languages have simular root sounds for movement and increasing power. I expect the crust of the earth, the environment they live in has something to do with the slight variations in the root sounds.

The Kotodama is just one example of these movements, these sounds, these ways to heal.

For Aikido, it is the sounds of Aikido, and some of the secret sounds found around the world. Learning the sounds of Kotodama might be equal to reading your first book as you begin to see the larger picture of energy, vibration, sound, and Aikido is truly the strength of nature itself.

Ernesto Lemke 09-14-2002 06:54 AM

Re: Re: kotodama
 
Quote:

Goldsbury Peter (Peter Goldsbury) wrote:
Shirata Sensei also was an Omoto believer and once talked to me about the value of kotodama for his own training.

Dear Peter,

I found your remark concerning Shirata Sensei and Kototama intriguing. In his case, he would in a real sense have spoken from experience, but I wonder how his thoughts where on trying to transmit this aspect of his aikido practice to others. Especially to those who did not share his background. Keeping in mind his background in Omoto Kyo, he was ‘indoctrinated' from a very early age to not question kototama practice as we, the current generation of practitioners, are inclined to do. Basically, because we are totally unfamiliar with it in every sense of the word.

So, is having a cultural background or understanding of the cultural aspects surrounding kototama practice as performed by Omoto Kyo practitioners, a must for having a real understanding of it's ‘actual' meaning? And if so, then what is this ‘actual' meaning? Something beyond the rational and into the realm of the mystique?

I wonder if we need a rational in order to grasp this essentially Japanese practice. I am and have been interested in aikido history and that helped me a lot to gain a better understanding on where it is aikido came from but the ‘secret' of aikido is in the practice of aikido itself is it not? Reading about getting thrown is not the same as landing flat on your back. Approaching kototama the same as a technique therefore seems to make sense. Total focus and concentration on the here and now. "Moving Zen' if you will. Masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi.

But this is perhaps only so when you can actually study under someone who's own experience is such and Shirata Sensei's certainly was.

And so I wonder, how would he talk to you, a westerner, about this seemingly mysterious Japanese practice? Would he just ramble on and on, without giving a second thought on whether the person he spoke to was actually able to follow him? O-Sensei did it seems and still Shirata Sensei claimed (and I don't question this) that he was able to understand some of the things he was saying. But of course, this was after years and years of study, study, study. But he had a headstart which none of us today have.

I am really interested in learning whether Shirata Sensei expressed kototama in Japanese or universal terms. Everything I read or heard him say concerning aikido, especially philosophically, sounded very cultural and required a cultural understanding if one's desire was to extract any universality from it. His personality though seemed to beam universality even though he was a very traditional man, meaning everyone acknowledges moral virtues such as sincerity, friendliness and modesty. In my mind, Shirata Sensei seemed to be the personification of such virtues.

Therefore, I am more then interested in your opinion.

Best regards,

Ernesto Lemke

cguzik 09-14-2002 11:47 AM

I don't know much about kotodama but I have done a certain amount of chanting practice. One thing that I am very interested to find out is whether there is an aspect of kotodama practice that addresses the issue of how intention influences vocalization.

We all have felt a sensation at times where a word wouldn't quite come out, where it was almost a stutter but not quite, and the reason had something to do with your intention fluttering a bit. Not quite losing your train of thought but more like it was off the tracks a bit.

I find the same issue in my practice when I am not quite fully committed to my posture, position, or movement. It is a very similar feeling. Something about sincerety, and wholeness.

I think one place where the issue with respect to vocalization converges with the same issue with respect to movement on the mat has to do with breath.

I'd be very curious whether this is something that kotodama practice could help clarify.

Chris

Paula Lydon 09-14-2002 04:49 PM

Great add to the thread, Chris! :)

Peter Goldsbury 09-15-2002 12:05 AM

Dear Ernesto,

Well here are a few more thoughts about your difficult questions.
Quote:

Ernesto Lemke wrote:
Dear Peter,

I found your remark concerning Shirata Sensei and Kototama intriguing. In his case, he would in a real sense have spoken from experience, but I wonder how his thoughts where on trying to transmit this aspect of his aikido practice to others. Especially to those who did not share his background. Keeping in mind his background in Omoto Kyo, he was indoctrinated from a very early age to not question kototama practice as we, the current generation of practitioners, are inclined to do. Basically, because we are totally unfamiliar with it in every sense of the word.

PAG. Well, the Founder had the same problem in "Takemusu Aiki". He was describing aikido as kotodama and one wonders how much his listeners in the Byakko Kai understood. His own disciples did not do very well, apparently. We are even further removed because we have even less grounding in Japanese Shinto mythology.

==========

So, is having a cultural background or understanding of the cultural aspects surrounding kototama practice as performed by Omoto Kyo practitioners, a must for having a real understanding of its actual meaning? And if so, then what is this actual meaning? Something beyond the rational and into the realm of the mystique?

PAG. Yes, but an understanding of the cultural background, and even the theory, is not the same as the practice. To take an analogy with something I know about, are you familiar with the writings of the Christian mystics? I am thinking especially of the works of St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and Ignatius of Loyola, though there are many others. They were all Spanish and were writing within a certain cultural tradition. I think it is important to understand something of this tradition and even more of the Biblical background on which it is based. But this itself is no substitute for the long hours of meditation required.

==========

I wonder if we need a rational in order to grasp this essentially Japanese practice. I am and have been interested in aikido history and that helped me a lot to gain a better understanding on where it is aikido came from but the secret of aikido is in the practice of aikido itself is it not? Reading about getting thrown is not the same as landing flat on your back. Approaching kototama the same as a technique therefore seems to make sense. Total focus and concentration on the here and now. Moving Zen if you will. Masakatsu agatsu katsuhayabi.

PAG. Well, for a number of years I have studied the "Kojiki" and other ancient texts in Japanese. So I have some idea of the background of kotodama. But I have never practised kotodama in any recognizable way. Why? Because I am not Japanese and I do not practise Shinto. (Actually, this is why some of the discussions in William Gleason's "The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido" do not quite ring true to me. I think his book is outstanding, but you need to have the "Kojiki" and other texts with you, as you read it.) I think a near-native familiarity with the Japanese language is essential for practicing kotodama as an exercise. The reason for this is not any quasi-"mystical" features of the Japanese language, but some quite interesting linguistic features. However O Sensei did not practise kotodama as a set of spiritual 'sound exercises', but as his own personal communication with the kami. I think modern practitioners of kotodama miss this essential element. I am not saying that practising 'sound exercises' is bad, or even calling this 'kotodama'. But it is rather different from what the Founder was doing, in my opinion.

In any case, neither O Sensei nor anyone else ever suggested that kotodama was essential for aikido training and I have never been taught to see aikido as kotodama. So the aim of my own researches has been to throw light on O Sensei as man who lived at a certain time in Japan's history.

==========

But this is perhaps only so when you can actually study under someone whos own experience is such and Shirata Senseis certainly was.

PAG. In my opinion, Shirata Sensei was able to discern how aikido for O Sensei was a kotodama, and I think this is the way he approached it himself, that is, as an expression of what we might call a deeply religious or spiritual attitude to the world.

==========

And so I wonder, how would he talk to you, a westerner, about this seemingly mysterious Japanese practice? Would he just ramble on and on, without giving a second thought on whether the person he spoke to was actually able to follow him? O-Sensei did it seems and still Shirata Sensei claimed (and I dont question this) that he was able to understand some of the things he was saying. But of course, this was after years and years of study, study, study. But he had a headstart which none of us today have.

PAG. Well, I asked him, as I have asked other shihans who spent some length of time with the Founder. Usually, the answers express regret that they made no effort to understand what the Founder was talking about. Those who answers were very illuminating were Shirata Sensei, Okumura Sensei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba. All related O Sensei's talk about sounds (words, actually) to the "Kojiki". Some other shihans said that they had never learned enough of the backgound at school to make sense of what the Founder was saying.

==========

I am really interested in learning whether Shirata Sensei expressed kototama in Japanese or universal terms. Everything I read or heard him say concerning aikido, especially philosophically, sounded very cultural and required a cultural understanding if ones desire was to extract any universality from it. His personality though seemed to beam universality even though he was a very traditional man, meaning everyone acknowledges moral virtues such as sincerity, friendliness and modesty. In my mind, Shirata Sensei seemed to be the personification of such virtues.

PAG. He talked to me in Japanese and talked about kotodama in Japanese terms. However he was a "man of his word", as one might say in English, and tried to practise what he believed. This showed in his character.

Therefore, I am more then interested in your opinion.

Best regards,

Ernesto Lemke

And to you. I will respond to your last e-mail message as soon as I have the time.

Bruce Baker 09-15-2002 06:40 AM

context of comparisons
 
Don't get lost in the research of a particular sect finding the use of sound, such as Kotodama sounds.

It is a fascinating study, but so too would be the use of sounds in religious music, chanting for religious ceremonys, or the use of sounds for healing or even martial arts.

The complications of studys is sometimes the mask for the simplicity of their use ... it works best this way, so we do it, this way.

If you take the time to compare the sounds of your life, the sounds that make you feel better, or sounds of nature, you will find that the many root sounds do have simular effects across the board to every corner of the world ... even if they have slight variation.

We are part of the ecology of Mother Earth, even if we don't always consider ourselves so. Just as much as the sounds of the wind, the water, the creatures of the earth take meaning with each culture, there is a simularity of sounds that are interpreted with the words and combination of sounds to cause effect, or change.

So, although the Kotodama is one expression of these sounds, I wouldn't throw myself into expressing a life's commitment to this very Japanese pursuit. I think it helps to understand the cultural context of Aikido, but as many things in life, it is not for everyone.

As far as pointing to those who have used it, or tried to use it to understand O'Sensei ... that too might be a matter of knowledge, partial insanity to understand the thinking mind, and many years of experience to have some of the same stimuli to effect those same thoughts.

Get out there, experience some of the Kotodama, and make your own opinions on what it does or does not do.

Ernesto Lemke 09-15-2002 02:38 PM

Dear Peter,

Elegant and balanced as always.

Interesting you should mention Byakko Shinko Kai. O-Sensei said something along the lines of "Goi Sensei is the only one who can see through me." Apparently, O-Sensei did not think it necessary to engage in physical practice to reach the ultimate object (which I will not try and define). Goi Sensei did not follow O-Sensei‘s path but both acknowledged each other‘s ‘level‘, thereby suggesting that O-Sensei thought budo was merely a means to an end and there could be other, equally valid, means. Does it therefore not seem plausible that a person, even a non Japanese without any cultural understanding of Kototama but with a deep affinity for spiritual matters, could in fact have or develop a similar approach to Kototama? This then might be very different from O-Sensei's understanding, but perhaps an evenly valid approach nevertheless. One that, in the end, might produce the same result and clear the way for the ultimate objective.

Now of course there's always a possible danger of becoming self deluded, but that's for each of us to find out, right? Many of the earth's greats where nonconformists who did IT themselves.

What I, and I think many current practitioners, are wondering is can Kototama practice actually contribute to our aikido practice and if so, how? I was ‘taught' Kototama without any cultural understanding, although I was exposed to a 'cosmic' frame in which to view Kototama, nevertheless, I started to question its practice. Both out of scepticism and curiosity. Reading into history and establishing a cognitive understanding of how Kototama worked for O-Sensei just seemed to arouse even more questions. Merely keeping the faith is a hard thing to do for many and it seems there are no authorities (left) who claim to understand or teach Kototama the way O-Sensei did. (Seiseki Abe Sensei and Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei's names do come to mind but I have no other then merely superficial knowledge of their views).

Best,

Ernesto Lemke

Peter Goldsbury 09-16-2002 06:59 AM

Dear Ernesto,

I think your comments and difficult questions are relevant to why we practise aikido. As usual, I prefer to go through your own post ad add my comments etc. There are many issues, so this post will be quite long. Bear with me.

EL:
Interesting you should mention Byakko Shinko Kai. O-Sensei said something along the lines of Goi Sensei is the only one who can see through me. Apparently, O-Sensei did not think it necessary to engage in physical practice to reach the ultimate object (which I will not try and define). Goi Sensei did not follow O-Sensei's path but both acknowledged each other's level, thereby suggesting that O-Sensei thought budo was merely a means to an end and there could be other, equally valid, means.

PAG:
Yes, it would seem that there are many ways of "Touching the Absolute", if that is indeed what aikido is, or is a means to achieving. I think this was clear to the Founder but is not so clear to us.

EL:
Does it therefore not seem plausible that a person, even a non Japanese without any cultural understanding of Kototama but with a deep affinity for spiritual matters, could in fact have or develop a similar approach to Kototama? This then might be very different from O-Sensei's understanding, but perhaps an evenly valid approach nevertheless. One that, in the end, might produce the same result and clear the way for the ultimate objective.

PAG:
I have several comments about this:

(1) I do not fully understand what you think kotodama is, or is a means to. In fact, I believe that this and other threads in this discussion forum show a similar uncertainty. I think for O Sensei it was a direct consequence of the shamanism of Onisaburo Deguchi: a very personal way of communicating with and summoning the kami. Thus, for the Founder aikido was kotodama because he believed himself to be the reincarnation of certain Japanese kami. How the Founder conceived of kotodama is conveyed quite well by William Gleason in his book "The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido" and also in Part I of John Stevens' "The Essence of Aikido", but I think no one in this forum conceives of kotodama in this way. .

(2) Another way of interpreting kotodama is a way of becoming in tune with the so-called Word-Spirit. John Stevens does this in his book (with tapes) entitled "The Secrets of Aikido". One chapter of this book, called the "Kototama: The Language of the Gods", is a gentle trot through various cultures (e.g., Sufis, Greek / Pythagoras, Hindu, ancient Tibet) with examples of what he calls the kototama principle, including, of course, the Logos in St John's Gospel. The method is not new. You think of a 'fundamental principle' and then, lo and behold, you find that your principle is 'confirmed' in all sorts of instances. Margaret Mead did this sort of thing with the 'natives' in Samoa. The fact that the principle is itself couched in the very arcane language of one particular culture, and that there are clear differences of focus and expression, seems not to matter. Personally, I am very suspicious of such reasoning and I think a much better account is to be found in "The Essence of Aikido", mentioned above. However, you do not need aikido to get in touch with the 'word-spirit'. You mentioned someone having a "deep affinity for spiritual matters". I am not certain what you mean here, but I think such a person, like Mr Goi, for example, who "saw through" O Sensei, could develop a training regimen without any reference to aikido.

(3) I think that it is more likely that people come across kotodama during their aikido training and perhaps conceive of it as some means of improving their aikido. They know that breathing is important and also that some exercises are accompanied by sounds. (Actually, I suspect that that this is what Paula Lydon had in mind in starting up this thread under 'Training'. I have hijacked it and used it to discuss much wider issues. Apologies, Paula. However, have you discussed these issues with Ikeda Hiroshi San? If so, what was his response?)

Well, I myself regularly practise the breathing exercises and kiai training of Tada Hiroshi Sensei, who, like Koichi Tohei, trained with Tempu Nakamura. However, I personally think you can do this without all the cosmological stuff, which is deeply Japanese in any case, and I most certainly would not call my own exercises kotodama training in any sense of the word. But this is my own opinion and I am sure that others will disagree.

EL:
Now of course there's always a possible danger of becoming self-deluded, but that's for each of us to find out, right? Many of the earth's greats were nonconformists who did IT themselves.

PAG:
Ernesto, with respect I have to disagree with you here on one point. Our finding out whether we are simply conformist, non-conformist or self-deluded is not a private exercise and it can have a major effect on our fellow dojo members, even on society at large. I think there is a fundamental difference between non-conformity and self-delusion, especially at its most extreme (as I once discovered from doing a memorable student holiday job in a mental hospital).

In this connection consider the case of Shoko Asahara, founder of the Aum Shinrikyo sect, currently on trial for releasing sarin gas on the Tokyo subway. You should know from your kotodama training that AUM is Sanskrit for A-UN, a Japanese term for breath. John Stevens has a lot to say about this on p.25 of "The Essence of Aikido" and even gives an alleged quotation from Morihei Ueshiba in support. AUM is, according to Stevens, "the sum of all sounds, the actualization of cosmic breath involving the creation, integration and completion of all things." I have no quarrel with the way he describes it, but what Asahara did with the concept had horrendous results in Japan. Asahara was non-conformist and probably was self-deluded, but he drew into his web many hundreds of bright young Japanese, who were very discontented with JapanÕs current spiritual malaise. The Japanese authorities have dealt with Aum in the same heavy-handed way that they dealt with Omoto in 1935: they tried to suppress the effects of the malaise but without really bothering about its causes.

Both Omoto and Aum are examples of the same phenomenon in Japan: a 'new' religion created by a self-proclaimed guru, accompanied by a whole dose of alleged signs and wonders and designed to 'relieve' its adherents from anxieties and uncertainties caused by a major change of epoch. Actually, I can well understand the Aikikai's reluctance to stress too much the connection between Morihei Ueshiba and Onisaburo Deguchi. If you dip into "Reikai Monogatari", you will see the same quackery as in Aum. It did not have the lethal consequences, but it might have had. People accepted even Deguchi's most extraordinary statements as gospel. Actually, I am surprised that Aum Shinrikyo has not attracted so much attention among aikido practitioners outside Japan.

I could go on a lot more. Suffice it to say that self-delusion is always a constant possibility even in basic aikido training, and much more so with any spiritual superstructure that aims to achieve contact with the 'word-spirit' or 'deep structures' of the universe etc etc. In aikido we supposedly have a test that was denied to Omoto-kyo and Aum practitioners. The test is: do the techniques work? If not, the rest is irrelevant. Unfortunately this is not always a satisfactory test, probably because aikido comes with a culture in which neither new recruits nor older practitioners are taught to ask questions and form their own judgements. Ultimately, I think that to guard against self-delusion in your aikido life (which might or might not include kotodama training), you need a teacher, whom you can trust to tell you where you have erred.

EL:
What I, and I think many current practitioners, are wondering is can Kototama practice actually contribute to our aikido practice and if so, how? I was taught Kototama without any cultural understanding, although I was exposed to a cosmic frame in which to view Kototama, nevertheless, I started to question its practice. Both out of scepticism and curiosity. Reading into history and establishing a cognitive understanding of how Kototama worked for O-Sensei just seemed to arouse even more questions. Merely keeping the faith is a hard thing to do for many and it seems there are no authorities (left) who claim to understand or teach Kototama the way O-Sensei did. (Seiseki Abe Sensei and Michio Hikitsuchi SenseiÕs names do come to mind but I have no other than merely superficial knowledge of their views).

PAG:
Well, as you might have gathered from our talks in Holland, my aikido training has been different. Since I began aikido, I have practiced without any reference whatever to kotodama and I have learned from teachers who learned from the Founder himself. This is why I am skeptical that there is a major gap in my training because I have not been exposed to kotodama etc etc. I first learned about kotodama from hearing Chiba Sensei talk about Mr Nakazono, a judoka who trained briefly with the Founder and established a Kotodama institute in the USA. Since then I have studied the Japanese sources. Here in Hiroshima University, I can draw upon the resources of a very good library and of many scholars of Japanese language and literature, but for me it is an academic study, aimed at deepening my understanding of the man whom my teachers constantly talk about.

But if you have been taught kotodama as part and parcel of aikido, or as an essential part of aikido, then I think there is a major problem if you do not have a trusted teacher, who can guide you both in your own kotodama and aikido training and also in how these coalesce to form one whole. I also think these issues are deeply personal, and so I have some qualms about airing all this in a public forum.

Best regards to you, your wife and your wonderful baby,

Peter Goldsbury 09-16-2002 09:13 AM

Dear Ernesto,

Here is a small follow-up to my last post, on the subject of language and self-delusion.

Have you seen the film entitled "The Matrix"? I had not paid much attention to this film, but last semester I was teaching a course on the philosophy of language and had got to Descartes, in particular, the part in the "Meditations" where he believes he is in the grip of an evil genius and all the data from the five senses are unreliable. The students all chorussed, " 'The Matrix', what about 'The Matrix'?" So I saw the film, which proved very rewarding. But I have two questions.

(1) Neo continually worries that he is never quite sure whether he is awake or in a dream and when he meets Morpheus and takes the red pill, all his safeguards against self-delusion are gradually torn away, especially in the kung-fu scenes. Any thoughts about this?

(2) The role of language in this film is very primitive, in the sense that the possibilities of language are not exploited at all. Do you think that kotodama has any relevance to the issues which the film attempts to deal with?

Best regards,

Ernesto Lemke 09-16-2002 02:37 PM

Dear Peter,

Again, a stimulating response. I'll try and cover some of your statements.

PAG

I do not fully understand what you think kotodama is, or is a means to.

EL

Me neither. I could try and sound smart by summing up what's been published about it of course, but that would be self delusion big time.

You know I'm writing a book on Shirata Sensei and as a result, kototama is one of those subjects that frequently comes up. Shirata Sensei clearly thought kototama was beneficial to aikido practice and like O-Sensei, he too did not force anyone to believe in its functioning. What I find intriguing in Shirata Sensei's case is that his strong felt convictions clearly had a positive affect on his functioning as a human being and as an aikidoka (though I imagine for him that would be one and the same thing). Now he, along with many other disciples of O-Sensei, had a huge responsibility when they became responsible for transmitting the Founder's message. Shirata Sensei's position IMO was quite unique in that he was able to absorb the Founder's message from the standpoint of having :

A) a background in Omoto Kyo as the son of the Omoto's representative in remote Yamagata Prefecture.

B) been a very gifted student that started his training in the pre-war days (which is very interesting if not crucial considering the historical, cultural and social time frame)

C) had a lifelong affinity for spiritual matters seeing, for instance, his non official involvement with Byakko Shinko Kai and the fact he converted to Tendai Buddhism in his later years.

These observations are in themselves no proof at all whether Shirata Sensei knew ‘the real deal' or not. It's merely that Shirata Sensei was one among only a handful of O-Sensei's disciples that post O-Sensei generation practitioners (for lack of a better term) could rely on for exposure to transmission of O-Sensei's legacy, and he did teach kototama and seemed qualified. So, to get back to that, did it survive the transmission in tact when so few of the disciples were able to do anything concrete with it? Apparently, it did not, considering how your statement continued.

PAG

I do not fully understand what you think kotodama is, or is a means to. In fact, I believe that this and other threads in this discussion forum show a similar uncertainty.

EL

I agree, and with the growing understanding of the historical aspects surrounding aikido and its founder by the aikido community, many people seem to be getting more and more interested in this practice. To take Shirata Sensei's example once more, he taught an exercise named Haguro Yamabushi misogi no gyo, which is similar if not identical to furi tama and fune kogi practices. The interesting part is that Shirata Sensei specifically called this a Haguro (therefore taken from Mnt. Haguro in Yamagata Prefecture) Yamabushi practice, which illustrates this was/ is essentially a yamabushi practice. Again, Shirata Sensei's native district shows a remarkable similarity to that of O-Sensei with both having sacred mountains inhabited by Yamabushi. Still, no answers, but perhaps here lies a clue.

PAG

Suffice it to say that self-delusion is always a constant possibility even in basic aikido training, and much more so with any spiritual superstructure that aims to achieve contact with the 'word-spirit' or 'deep structures' of the universe etc etc. In aikido we supposedly have a test that was denied to Omoto-kyo and Aum practitioners. The test is: do the techniques work? If not, the rest is irrelevant.

EL

I guess this is where the confusion sets in for most, especially for those uninterested in aikido history since all they have to and can depend on is the ultimate authority of the one leading the dojo. Hence questions like "does aikido work on the streets?"

PAG

Ultimately, I think that to guard against self-delusion in your aikido life (which might or might not include kotodama training), you need a teacher, whom you can trust to tell you where you have erred.

EL

Well yes but we do not always have the good fortune to run into Mr. Myagi. Though one might say "when the student is ready, the teacher will come." And though that may have sounded sarcastic, I really have experienced that to be the case.

PAG

But if you have been taught kotodama as part and parcel of aikido, or as an essential part of aikido, then I think there is a major problem if you do not have a trusted teacher, who can guide you both in your own kotodama and aikido training and also in how these coalesce to form one whole.

EL

I'm still hoping though….

PAG

(1) Neo continually worries that he is never quite sure whether he is awake or in a dream and when he meets Morpheus and takes the red pill, all his safeguards against self-delusion are gradually torn away, especially in the kung-fu scenes. Any thoughts about this?

EL

Enlightenment or delusion?

Who is to say which person has which

Like the evening moon they appear and fade

Not one knows exactly when.

PAG

(2) The role of language in this film is very primitive, in the sense that the possibilities of language are not exploited at all. Do you think that kotodama has any relevance to the issues which the film attempts to deal with?

EL

I really don't feel qualified to try and answer that. My understanding on kototama is really in its infancy and plus, I saw the Matrix when it just came out, about two years back I guess, and don't really remember a whole lot about it, though I remember being impressed. However, did you see Academy award winning "A beautiful mind?"

Again, no answers, but perhaps another clue.

PAG

Best regards to you, your wife and your wonderful baby,

EL

Thank you and to you, all the best as ever.

Ernesto Lemke

Peter Goldsbury 09-16-2002 10:01 PM

Hello Ernesto,

I have a day of meetings today, so cannot come back in detail with the points you made. I will clarify just one point.
Quote:

Ernesto Lemke wrote:
Dear Peter,

PAG

Ultimately, I think that to guard against self-delusion in your aikido life (which might or might not include kotodama training), you need a teacher, whom you can trust to tell you where you have erred.

EL

Well yes but we do not always have the good fortune to run into Mr. Myagi. Though one might say "when the student is ready, the teacher will come. And though that may have sounded sarcastic, I really have experienced that to be the case.

Ernesto Lemke

I think you took this more personally than I intended. In most traditions, if one pursues spiritual training of any kind, one needs a spiritual master, a Sensei in the true meaning of the term, who is in a position to guide and point out potential and actual arrors. In other words, it is very difficult to be an accurate judge of one's own progress. In a budo like sumo, there is always the tournament, which provides an objective measurement of at least physical skill. Though even here, the spiritual aspects of sumo tend to be handled by someone like an oyakata, again, a 'sensei'.

Obviously teachers may appear, or they may not. But my point was that people doing aikido training, and also whatever exercises go with kotodama training however this is conceived, still need teachers, or senseis, of some kind.

Best regards,


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