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Old 05-07-2008, 08:51 PM   #26
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
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Kisshomaru as Interpretor of the Founder's Words

Very good. I think your translation is an excellent translation of the Kojiki phrase. At the risk of enormous thread drift, I need to explain.

The name is the first part of the name of a deity who came into being when two major deities, Amaterasu and Susanoo, had an amazing competition (considered incest by some 'wicked' Confucian scholars, because they were brother and sister and yet bore children, but argued by the Shintoists to be pure, because they were standing on opposite sides of a river).

In the competition, Amaterasu asked for Susanoo's sword (the famous sword that was ten hands long) and broke the sword into three pieces, rinsed the pieces in a well, shaking them (like furitama) then chewed the pieces and spat them out. Three deities were created from the spittle (three female deities thought to be Susanoo's children).

Susanoo them did precisely the same with the magatama beads that Amaterasu wore in the long coils of her hair (the left coil). In this case the deity born from his spittle was Masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi. But then Susanoo took the beads adorning other parts of her hair and body, spat them out and so produced four more (male) deities. These male deities were thought to be her children, but acres of argument have since been devoted to the issue of whether the sex of the children mattered.

Masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi is clearly associated with Susanoo, because the latter then went into a sort of victory rage. Extraordinary things happened next. He committed eight 'heavenly sins':
1. He broke down the ridges between Amaterasu's rice paddies.
2. He covered up the ditches.
3. He opened the irrigation sluices.
4. He double planted.
5. He set up stakes.
6. He skinned a horse alive
7. He skinned the horse backwards. (And dropped it through the roof of Amaterasu's weaving hall, causing the death of the weaving maiden. The cause of death was the striking of her genitals against the weaving shuttle.)
8. He defecated and spread his faeces around the harvest festival hall.

All this led to Amaterasu's famous withdrawal into the cave.

However, masakatgsu agatsu katsu hayabi is only the first part of the deity's name The second part, which O Sensei conveniently forgot about, is Ame-no-oshi-ho-mimi-no-mikoto. This is the name of a rice deity, something like, Great Heavenly Deity who Rules the Rice Ears.

Actually, masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi was something of a wimp. He was supposed to go down from heaven and rule the Central Lands of the Reed Plains (= Japan), but as he was preparing to descend, he suddenly fathered a child by another deity and this child took his place.
- Peter Goldsbury
I moved this over to the Spiritual Thread so that I could continue the discussion without it being considered "drift".

This description points out just how difficult to understand what the Founder meant when he used used his various terms like "katsu hayabi" and "masakatsu agatsu".

First, there is the fairly incomprehensible mythology of the Kojiki in the first place. What of each of these characteristics possessed by this God mean? What is their spiritual significance? You see a set of incomprehensible actions, not at all admirable to our minds, by a deity which has all sorts of layers of attributes given to him in the Shinto religion. Scholars have spent quite a bit of effort trying to work these things out.

Then you have O-Sensei's interpretation of these things. In some cases we can go to the Omoto Religion for these answers. Deguchi had his own take on these things and O-Sensei, as an Omotokyo believer, incorporated them into his own world view.

Finally, the Founder himself, through his own insights derived from his personal training arrived at his own interpretations and used these in his teaching, thus making any linear direct association with the origin myths in the Kojiki and the manner in which the Founder used the terms in his instruction difficult if not impossible.

I know that many have the belief that modern Aikido became more removed from that of the Founder under his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. I am increasingly coming to the point of view that this isn't the case. I think that O-Sensei's son was in a unique position to understand his father's intentions, if not his rather obscure justifications for his beliefs. I have been reading the Secret Teachings of Aikido (terrible title) Whereas this work is a translation from the Japanese by John Stevens of previously published material in Japanese (hence, not very secret at all), Peter Goldsbury was kind enough to make me aware that the Japanese text had been highly edited by O-Sensei's son. So as an example of O-Sensei's word, as my own teacher, Saotome Sensei, might have heard it in class. The work isn't very useful.

Peter suggested that I revisit the Take Musu Aiki material (which is available on the Aikido Journal site) which much more accurately reflects the exact words of the Founder (translation issues notwithstanding). I've been doing so and it has helped me reach my current understanding of the role K. Ueshiba has played in making Aikido an art that has spread world wide and affected so many people on a deep level.

The Take Musu Aiki material is virtually incomprehensible. I can only imagine a bunch of young deshi, just out of bed at dawn, on the mat with this old man talking like this. No wonder they mostly gave up on trying to get it and focused on technique. That stuff would have put me back to sleep in ten seconds. So I began to compare what meaning I could derive from the Take Musu Aiki material with what I was reading in the Secret Teachings of Aikido.

What I found was that O-Sensei's ideas were obscure in that his illustrations mostly came from sources that very few people, even the Japanese, would have understood. To make matters worse he rambled. There was absolutely no linear exposition of an idea; rather he moved from a concept to a myth to Kototama and back and switched concepts so rapidly that following any line of reason was impossible for someone without the kind of spiritual background which he had.

I once asked Stan Pranin and Saotome Sensei who, amongst the students of the Founder, had tried the hardest to understand the Founder from his own reference points. The answer was Hikitsuchi Sensei, Sunadomari Sensei, and Abe Sensei. That's three out of the how many deshi O-Sensei taught? The rest tried to come to their own conclusions, or not, based simply on their observations and the words of O-Sensei as they had heard them in context. With no real preparation to understand the Founder's precise concepts, they were stuck with puzzling them out in the context of his classes.

When I read the Secret Teachings of Aikido, I had a much different experience. Certainly, the material is still technical in that it refers to any number of Shinto and Buddhist concepts and deities. It refers frequently to the Kototama. It takes some background to derive a sense of what the material means. But it is has clearly been worked on, edited, and reorganized. Gone are the interminable explanations of Kototama sound associations. The thoughts flow in a far more linear fashion making it possible to actually finish a chapter with some sense of what was meant.

When I returned to the Take Musu Aikido material, I found, not that the reworking was inaccurate but that it had helped me understand much of what had been more obscure. That was when I came to appreciate what K Ueshiba had tried to do. He had done his best to make comprehensible to a modern audience the teachings possessed of tremendous insight put forth by a man from virtually another universe, temporally and spiritually.

I think that the idea that K Ueshiba didn't not have as good a sense of his father's intention, the meaning underlying his ideas doesn't play. He grew up with this man, was taught Aikido by him, lived with him, was groomed as his successor. I think he quite well understood O-Sensei's overall spiritual outlook and philosophy. His problem was to explain these ideas, to connect them to a physical practice, in a way that was true to the Founder's wishes for the art but also made sense to a public that would never acquire the kind of background his father simply assumed in his teachings.

So when we look at a term like masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi it may be informative to know its origin in the Kojiki. It certainly sheds some degree of light on O-Sensei's use but it doesn't give us any kind of adequate understanding of the term as it related to the art of Aikido nor does it explain why the term was so important that it recurred over and over in O-Sensei's teachings.

The term masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi is itself made up of two terms. Masakatsu agatsu is often translated as "true victory is self victory". It is used in the sense that the enemy in Aikido is not some external foe but rather the self which harbors ignorance. The practice of Aikido is seen as misogi or purification and is designed to polish that self and remove those impurities until correct wisdom is gained.

Katsu hayabi can be translated as "instant victory", "victory in this instant". Like many terms it has various aspects. In physical terms, as it relates to Aikido technique, it has the flavor of victory at the instant of contact. O-Sensei's various statements about Aikido technique being beyond time or outside of time relate to this usage. Kuzushi takes place the instant we touch. Even beyond that, it is over in the instant that my opponent even thinks of attacking.

In the spiritual sense it has the connotation of letting go of ignorance right now in this instant and perceive the true nature of things. In this guise it is often combined with Masakatsu agatsu to make masakatsu agatsu katsu hayabi or "true victory is the victory over the self of ignorance in this instant". This usage has a lot of the flavor of the idea of "sudden enlightenment" in Buddhism. It is an invitation to let go, to stop holding on to our stuff, right now!

So, which interpretation is the most accurate? The totally odd Shinto deity whose bad behavior caused the Sun Goddess to hide herself in a cave? Or these more comprehensible terms given to us by via Kisshomaru Ueshiba and other students of the Founder? Did they simply make this interpretation of these terms up in order to "sell" the art to a bunch of postwar folks or was it a very real effort to impart the essence of the Founder's teachings in a different way that would have real meaning to the modern practitioners of the art? I think it is the latter. When I compare the simplified and seemingly more user-friendly explanations of these concepts with the manner in which O-Sensei used them in context as shown by the Take Musu Aiki writings, I find that Kisshomaru was accurate to the intention, the essence of the Founder's ideas and successfully accomplished his mission of making these ideas more comprehensible to the modern mind.

It is my own experience that this effort made it possible for us to actually develop some connection between our physical training, the actual techniques of the art as we practice it, and the concepts and insights which the Founder tried to demonstrate and clearly felt were the point of training.
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Last edited by akiy : 05-11-2008 at 10:06 PM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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