Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Article: A Re-transliteration of Osensei's "Kannagara no Jutsu" by "The Grindstone"
Let me say again that you have made good posts -- important post. I am very grateful. You have done a lot to assist me in accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish with this month's Grindstone article. Please do not feel like I am expecting or wanting you to "let go." I do not feel I have to agree with you for your opinion to be a very worthy part of this thread -- for this indeed how I see it. In other words, it is impossible for me to feel like you ever could be "beating a dead horse" here.
Acknowledging again that my piece is clearly more accurate in its translation of key terms (not just "could be"), while also remembering that I did not add or subtract any of the key ideas found in the translation, I can see two points then in what you have elaborated upon in your last post to me. First, there is this sense that it is just "wrong" to not say up front whether one is translating or not. Second, there is this sense, somewhat connected to the first, that folks are somehow being misled and that somehow through this misleading they are being negatively impacted. I am deducing this since in the common understanding of the word no one is ever "misled" to more truth or to any kind of better existence. In addition, I am pulling this out of your example, when you attached the issue of "accuracy" to the hypothetical "re-transliteration" you spoke of. In that example, you were suggesting that folks were being misled to see the non-accurate as accurate. Finally, I read this second idea in your post where you mentioned the downside of the Internet, etc. I mention these things here because I want to make it clear how I understand you. If you feel I am missing something, please clear me up -- I would be most appreciative.
If this is what you have said…
I feel I addressed your second point in my last post -- as best I can at least. If I have failed to convince you that no one is being misled to a place worse off than they were before (e.g. from accuracy to non-accuracy), it is not due to your lack of understanding but to my own failure to express myself better. If that has proven to be the case, please allow me to disagree or to at least agree to disagree with you on this matter.
On the first criticism however, I would agree with your point if I were setting out to do a scholastic work. Alternately, I would agree with your first point if Aikido had a true sense of doctrine and if somehow I was a part of the institution responsible for the transmission of that doctrine. Both of these purposes are served by aligning themselves with objective credibility -- no matter how delusional. However, my piece is hardly scholastic (as any scholar would immediately know), and Aikido, to this date at least, has no doctrine or any institution responsible for producing doctrine.
My piece is nothing more than the explorations of a fellow practitioner. I say this while noting all that Erick and George have said. Meaning, I'm not advocating a free for all. My piece is not a free for all -- far from it. This I can say because its message remains the same as the English translation and because its translations (of key terms) are in fact a rejection of the "free for all" that gave the English translation many of it own English terms (starting with its title!). Yet, while not a free for all, my piece remains part of a very personal exploration. That is to say: My piece is not in total an attempt to escape or to distance myself from my own subjectivity.
Religious and/or spiritual traditions of all kinds are built up by such explorations (even Tibetan ones). These explorations do not work to the detriment of a tradition -- they are how traditions are built (because they are built by no other means). Such explorations go in and out of use; they are changed many times; they are lost and re-found; they are discredited and re-credited; names are attached to them and names are unattached from them; etc. I do not see this in as negative a light as you may. I do not dread the things you do in regards to any of this. We are different in that sense, and so it may very well be that we are talking past each other.
For me, practitioners make traditions -- it is not the case, at least not until a tradition has experienced its "museum death," that traditions make practitioners or that scholars "make" traditions. For me, Aikido has not experienced its museum death -- it is a tradition that is very much alive and as such, I am very much in the process of not only making it but of making it my own. For this reason, I do not feel so inclined to do what you suggest and/or to see it as the "right" thing to do. (Assuming I have understood you correctly.) I do not mean to be contrary here; this is just how I understand things. The fact that my piece keeps the same meaning as the English translation, and that its translations of key terms are obviously superior to those found in the English translation, only reinforces my belief that I do not have to worry about what you are asking me to worry about. Please forgive. It is not that what you say is not related to what we are discussing; it is that what you request is not relevant to me. Regardless, by all means, please feel free to point out, as many times as you feel necessary, where ever you feel necessary, that my piece is not a translation of an original Japanese text. As I do not see how me adopting the worries you suggest would add anything to what I have done, I do not hold that you sharing your concerns with all would take anything away from what I have done. As I said, I am most grateful for your posts. They are serving a very great purpose here.
As to your last point: It is true. There is no portion in the piece that directly says, "I am not working with the original Japanese text (even if there likely wasn't one)." As you can deduce from above, as I have given my reasons why, I see no need to say such a thing. However, I also cannot see how or why someone would think that they were reading a translation of an original Japanese text since a translation would not look like my article -- not even a poorly researched one.
Translations, even poorly researched ones, such as the English translation I am problematizing, just speak. They do not offer points of reflection or matters for consideration like I have done in the footnotes to the article. For example, like the English translation has done, they just go ahead and translate "Kannagara no Jutsu" as "The Art of Shinto" (as questionable as that is). In other words, in my opinion, it should be clear that mine is a work of literary criticism and not a translation. It should be clear that the main target of my article is the discursive substructure of the English translation itself; that I am not setting out to provide THE authoritative English rendition of Osensei's lecture, "Kannagara no Jutsu" (if the lecture even had a title!).
In my opinion, this can be done while not having to suspend the entire translation in doubt. I am more than willing to accept its suggested overall meaning, and I have. This is another reason why I have not set out to translate the lecture again. However, I have found the English translation's un-readability and its obvious inconsistency of thought to point NOT toward the usual claimed difficulty of Osensei's ideas as much as to a discursive misalignment regarding context. In other words, I am setting out to suggest that the common context in which Osensei has been understood is the wrong context. As has noted, I have started this process by providing better translations of key terms (i.e. translations garnered from context of Osensei's thought found elsewhere in the English translation and from the context of Omoto-kyo theology, as opposed to those derived from the context of early 20th century Japanese fascist rhetoric -- which the English translation has used) and by bringing readability back to the lecture in question, etc.
Please understand, it is no "coincidence" that "Kannagara no Jutsu" was chosen for this act of literary criticism. I was not out to translate something just because it was the words of the Founder. This lecture was prime for this exercise. Not only did the lecture deal with the topic of Osensei's understanding of his own practice (i.e. this is most likely as central as one is going to get concerning what Aikido was to Osensei), but the translation of the lecture, in translating key terms into English while sharing the respective Romanized versions of the Japanese, exposed how much context was playing a part in keeping Osensei's ideas vague or ambiguous (i.e. entirely open to any interpretation) -- ultimately irrelevant.
Outside of this exercise, outside of this discussion, outside of what it means to me to be a practitioner of Aikido, I have little control over what happens to what I have written and chosen to share with others. For example, I can see your last point more clearly if someone in some distant future took away my footnotes, took my title away, took my name off the piece, made no reference to this thread, and then if you or others were not there to tell them that the piece is not a translation. However, I have to wonder why they could not and would not also just remove the line saying, "Warning: Not a translation." On the other hand, if folks then reading it came to be misled, misled to see this act of literary criticism as a translation, I wonder if they would end up in a better place or in a worse place. Thinking on that: Though they would completely be misunderstanding my point, I am afraid I think they would end up in a better place for having thusly been misled. I am not saying this to belittle your position. It is just how I feel -- both helpless and yet without worry.
I still owe you my answer concerning the points you made on the word "re-transliterate." I will have to dedicate more time to it, so if you reply to anything said in this post, I will have to address that after I have finished my other reply. Please excuse any delay that might occur. It is not that I will have chosen to ignore you but that I choosing to treat your opinion and your mind seriously and with respect - as is deserved.