Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Omoto-kyo Theology
I am sorry if it has been a while since I returned to this thread. I thought we had reached some points of conclusion: that both Omoto-kyo and the various practices and beliefs of the Miitsu-kai/Misogi-kai (plus anything else that could prove itself relevant) would have to be looked at if one were to paint an accurate picture of Osensei's life; and that Shaun and I disagree on how one should relate to the Founder in terms of one's own practice. I felt there was not much more to say since the former conclusion left only the actual research to be undertaken and the latter was simply a personal impasse (i.e. an agreement to disagree).
As for this thread, I view it like Aikido. It is not for me to adopt some kind of fundamentality and/or some sort of dogmatism in attempt to prevent folks from talking about what they may feel is relevant. This thread is a living thing -- made up of many minds and levels of experience. It breathes and lives through this multiplicity. It is not challenged, defeated, nor subverted, by people making connections that are significant and/or that are real for them. For me, there remains a single thread here; as diverse as it is, there is a unity to it. If one wants to understand more these aspects of Osensei's history, then one is going to work to find that single thread that ties all of these posts together -- rather then trying to weed this idea or that idea out because it appears not to "fit." As I said, it is like Aikido for me.
In respect to Shaun and Erick, I would like to stick with my suggestion that all of this has to be looked at historically. I can repeat here that it is my opinion that no one tradition is going to cancel out the significance of any other tradition. Again, in writing the history of Osensei, all of this has to be researched. Human lives are too complex for such simplistic breakdowns that might ignore this for the sake of that -- how much more so the life of another man who lived on the others side of the world on the other side of an epistemic shift, etc. I thus do not doubt that the various teachings of Kawatsura had a great impact on Osensei, and on his Aikido. It is just that that impact is in no way going to decrease the impact that Omoto-kyo is known to have had. This would be true regardless of all the "unsaid" things Abe "didn't say."
In regards to Abe as the source for this implied "alternate" (though I see it as a contributing) history of Osensei, one has to not give more credit to one voice over any other. Thus, one has much to consider when seeing Abe as such a source. This was a point Shaun made earlier in regards to other second hand sources mentioned earlier. Whereas Abe may be one "unsaid" voice to the contrary, there were many people who have openly spoke of Osensei's intimate relationship with Onisaburo and his teachings. These people are people who trained with Osensei before Abe started training in Aikido, who trained with Osensei after Abe started training in Aikido, and who trained more closely with Osensei than Abe, etc. Moreover, while Abe may in the confines of an intimate conversation diminish the significance of Omoto-kyo theology on Osensei's relevant writings and lectures, he has never done this openly. Openly, he, along with everyone else, speaks of Osensei's ties to Omoto-kyo.
Moreover, also in seeing Abe as a historical source, there is the fact that Abe had been practicing misogi, and been familiar with the teachings of Kawatsura and Futaki, for at least eleven years before he came to practice Aikido. This rather begs the old "chicken and the egg" question. We might also want to note that while Osensei was not a brown rice diet -- following Futaki's prescriptions -- it appears that when he visited Abe he would adopt this diet. Could this have been how he came to emphasize Misogi with Abe as well? Knowing Abe was into misogi, it would make sense in my book, seeing where Osensei was coming from, that he would tell Abe, "Yes, misogi, is the key, keep doing what you are doing." In that light, it would be a gross misunderstanding of Osensei's overall history to say, "You see, there you have it -- misogi and only misogi is the key -- forget Omoto-kyo, it won't get you anywhere in terms of your practice or in terms of understanding Osensei's history."
Again, this is not to say that misogi-no-gyo is not a legitimate part of Osensei's history. Most importantly, this is not to say that misogi-no-gyo is not a currently viable way of deepening one's own practice and understanding of Aikido. What this does say is that Kawatsura, Futaki, the Miitsukai, Abe, and misogi-no-gyo are NOT alternate histories to the one being deduced from current research. We are merely looking at a contributing history.
For me, in regards to some of the other things Shaun and Erick have brought up outside of understanding Osensei's history, I think Abe says it better than I ever could. He says the following when asked if it is impossible for Westerners to practice true Aikido if they cannot have access to these more culturally specific ideas/practices:
-"I don't think that is the case. There is no distinction in Aikido between being Japanese and being non-Japanese. This is because as you delve deeper and deeper into Aikido, you will naturally encounter a sort of Kojiki and a sort of Kotodama. In another, broader sense, we can say that Omoto is not the only religion and Reverend Deguchi's kotodama isn't the only kotodama. Also this means that when we go to Europe, we find the Bible; in India, Buddhism; and so on. Nevertheless, whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, or what have you, essentially they are seeking a single goal. In the Kojiki, we find the expression, "Amenominakanushi Omikami." This means to become one body with the Great Universe. It is the same goal simply expressed in different words. If you happen to be speaking about Japan, then you should look to the Kojiki. Therefore, if by chance, you are non-Japanese, it is enough that outside of the (physical) techniques there exists some spiritual direction in your mind. If you have incorporated this element (into your training) then you will develop a kind of Aikido. Anyone who delves deeply into this budo, which we have inherited from O-Sensei, will eventually enter a religious realm."-
Again, I think more research has to be done -- the more the better. Again, I would encourage Shaun to take this on -- to write something up and to put it out there. Such work would benefit us all. If there is anything I could do to assist him with such efforts, he need only request it of me. For me, my personal leaning is to see Omoto-kyo theology as relevant to those ideas/phrases of Osensei that lend themselves to a more universalistic thought. This I do because of where Omoto-kyo fits in the world religion movement (which precisely attempted to do this) and because of where its theology is being repeated almost word for word by Osensei (please see in the essay Osensei's wording of Onisaburo's Omoto-kyo maxim). This does not make me an Omoto-kyo practitioner nor even a proponent of its teachings. To be sure, I am not trying to capture once and for all the whole of Osensei's life, nor of his Aikido, etc., through Omoto-kyo. However, these universalistic phrases are the parts of Osensei that speak to me, that allow me see my personal goal in Osensei's goal -- as Abe suggests we can and should do. This is the spiritual direction that orients me as an aikidoka and that thus connects me to what we have inherited from Osensei. Again, this does not uphold Omoto-kyo theology historically over and above the teachings and practices of Kawatsura, nor even at the level of one's individual practice. And as Erick would note, this does not mean that Omoto-kyo is the only place we can or should look. This only means that there is a historical connection between such phrase and such a theology, and that one could use one to gain some insight into the other.
My many thanks to you for keeping this thread so dynamic and so interesting.