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Old 07-30-2005, 08:15 PM   #7
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Join Date: Feb 2002
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Re: Does Budo require a sense of shame?

Hi Alex,

I would like to springboard a bit off your reply -- if you do not mind. Thanks.

I think I can agree with the first part of your sentence - speaking on the intimate relationship between self-respect and shame. However, when you say if one has a healthy amount of self-respect one should not ever have to feel ashamed, I am wondering if you are saying one of two things. Are you saying (a) if we have a good amount of self-respect, we often do little or no things that we should be ashamed of? Or, are you saying (b) if we have a good amount of self-respect, we emotionally are not vulnerable to a sense of shame?

Out of these two, I can agree with the first one - though I might not use the word "never" and instead opt to use a phrase noting the likely rarity of doing things we should be ashamed of once we have a good amount of self-respect. However, if you mean the second one, which I would like to note is (in my opinion) in perfect alignment with how Modernity suggests we should understand our negative emotions (i.e. as things we should evade if we are to consider ourselves well), then I cannot agree with such an understanding. In fact, I would have to note such an understanding as the very reason behind my raising of this issue. In particular, it seems there is a popular undercurrent suggesting that wellness and/or mastery and/or spiritual maturity can only and should only be achieved via a purification (or an extinction) of emotions that once had a very significant place in cultural practices like Budo.

It seems that there was once a cultural place for self-respect and shame to feed off each other in very positive ways. Today, we expect to achieve everything we once did through this coupling via self-respect alone. Today, hardly any of us ask ourselves what "self-respect" might actually mean if we opt to make "shame" meaningless and/or irrelevant. Eventually, when talking about self-respect, or even more so when attempting to practice it, we start to talk about "keeping it real," "staying true," "staying positive," "staying focused," "not getting down," etc. No doubt, these things are all related -- this is the "gambatte" of Chuck's great reply, but where is that all important counter weight of "Don't worry…Nuthin's going to be alright?" Today, it is as if we do everything we can to "respect ourselves" as we do everything we can to ignore those times when we have disrespected ourselves -- those times when we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Here are some examples of what I am referring to… Maybe they will shed some light, maybe not…

Often, we come to our training in some very casual ways. However, we often do not refer to our training approach as casual. Often, we still consider ourselves very serious in our training -- in our training of a very serious thing that is to hold a very serious spot in our very serious lives, etc. At such times, it seems that an overly zealous sense of "self-respect" is preventing us from seeing accurately just how casual we are in our training and thus just how much more seriously we can actually become in our training. Such an overly zealous sense of self-respect blinds us to the actual reality of our lives. It seems then, when a virtue like self-respect is not balanced by a viable sense of shame, delusion is sure to set in.

Here is a simple example. We have classes around three times a day at our dojo. Yet, many students train at or just above our two day a week training minimum. Training is taken very seriously at our dojo -- as a whole. This seriousness is experienced and even expressed by every dojo member -- from those that train daily to those that train just above the two day a week training minimum. I wonder how fair or accurate such a feeling may be. Of course, as a dojocho, I want to support such an investment in the seriousness of our training. However, as a teacher and as a fellow student of the art, I also want to make sure that such a sentiment is being accurately represented. I do not want to leave space for and/or encourage delusion inside of an environment that my own training depends upon.

Therefore, one night I asked my students if they considered a casual softball player -- one in a coed league for example -- as serious a practitioner (of softball) as they are of Aikido. I also asked them how they thought the softball player might describe his/her own investment in their sport. Most easily felt the softball player to be doing something very casual and to be doing that at a very casual level. They also felt the softball practitioner would understand their own activity in softball as such. I asked them to realize that in all likelihood the average softball league practitioner probably easily dedicated more hours to his/her sport than many aikidoka -- even in our own "serious" dojo. Suggesting that it may be true that such a league player might think of his/her involvement as "casual," I asked, what does such a thing say about the discrepancy or the contrast that we see in aikidoka (referring to our own students) that dedicate the same amount of time (or less!) and still feel very "serious" about their training? Why can an aikidoka look at someone doing more or the same amount of investment and call his/her involvement casual but fail to do the same in regards to one's own similarly invested training? Is it not because one possesses too much "self-respect," not enough shame? Does not our over zealous attempts to remain void of shame prevent us from calling our training casual (by allowing us so easily to call our training serious) when it in fact possesses every mark of not being serious? Is it not because there is a "self-respect" that is trying to operate void of its co-dependent aspect of shame that we are both making it hard to truly get serious about our training and making it very easy and important to cultivate delusion?

For me, I am interested in reflecting upon the relationships between our modern inclinations to see nothing positive in negative emotions, our modern attempts to purge negative emotions from our being, and the ensuing great energy we must expend to engineer delusions that prevent us from seeing clearly how alienated we are becoming (from the Truth, but also from ourselves then) when we just try to remain positive.


David M. Valadez
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