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Old 02-02-2009, 07:08 PM   #23
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Who Sez O'Sensei Was Wise!

Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
Still taking about the power of myth, does it or doesn't place more dependence on someone else, like O'Sensei, to guide my life? Will it help me turn that focus I have off of someone else I think provides me wisdom and guidance to my own inner voice? Is there myths that do that? Or is it the nature myth power to direct us to the dependence on others?
This is a fine question but one I think that is quintessentially American. In the West we have very few arts that require "transmission". Many of those that did don't exist any more because no one wanted to do that kind of work under a teacher.

Still, one can see examples that bear... Look at the relationship between the coach and the elite level athlete. I can't think of an Olympic level figure skater or track star who doesn't have a coach. In fact the relationship with the coach can effect performance to a degree that it is the difference between winning and losing.

A writer may have an editor without whom his talents wouldn't be sharpened. A recording musician has a sound engineer and producer. On and on... in very few activities do you see greatness achieved by an individual relying simply on his own resources and talents.

The fundamental foundation for the transmission of knowledge in the East is the Teacher / Student relationship. "Transmission" go ways beyond mere instruction. It is a heart to heart process. It requires a letting go of ones individual concerns. The end of such a process in the spiritual arts, when it is handled properly, is the discovery of a truer self, that "face before you were born", the "true man of no rank".

Historically very few people accomplish this transformation on their own. It is very rare but not impossible. The Buddhists have a name for those who attain enlightenment without actually training formally. They are called Pratyeka Buddhas. They are very rare and this fact attests to the difficulty in getting past the myriad barriers the unenlightened self places in front of ones progress.

If we are talking about real high level skills there is virtually no way you will get there on your own. In fact a great degree of faith is required in the process. That is why the finding of ones teacher is so important. In the East there were formal methods of transmission and the process turned out teachers who were certified to know what they were supposed to know. Leaving aside that the process was often subverted or that unscrupulous people simply resorted to outright fraud, the system worked and transmitted a certain kind of spiritual and technical knowledge over thousands of years. Procedures were built into the system so that innovation and unique talent could be absorbed without interrupting the transmission of the old knowledge. We have lost this in the West almost entirely.

This isn't a science vs. myth thing. I want to show why I am saying what I am. The thing so powerful that came from the revolution of science was that we could independently find wisdom on our own and not dependent on the myths that lead us to looking at others for guidance.
The revolution of science, while great in many ways, caused us to throw out the baby with the bath water from the standpoint of traditional knowledge. I do not think that science has caused us to become independent individuals from a wisdom standpoint. Quite the opposite. From the Western scientific standpoint, if we can't find a way to measure something with a machine, it doesn't exist.

Science has no way to explain how Vladimir Vasiliev can mess with your nervous system to the point at which you can't stand up after he takes you down. Or how Mikhail Ryabko can merely touch you and you collapse into a heap. No explanation exists for how Okamoto Sensei can get you to shift balance from across the mat when you aren't even looking at him.

Science has no useful explanation for "enlightenment" or mystic union with God. It would like to think it can explain Love as a biochemical process but I suspect that most individuals find that to be unsatisfactory.

The modern age of reason has given us Marxism and Modern Capitalism. Both systems have been a disaster for our environment. Traditional man lived in a world that was alive. The world O-Sensei lived in was full of kami, contained inherent wisdom that a person's mission was to discover. That is the spiritual path in a nutshell... the discovery of ones relationship to the absolute and how one can live with that. Science has no methodology for this. Zen quite explicitly states that the thinking mind cannot even perceive the truth of this.

Yes, he was not dark. But, I am not sure his light was the correct light. How do I know it was, and why do I automatically assume it was the correct light. His light may not be accurate, on target, all that bright or exact. -I wouldn't use science to tell me that, btw.
The search for the Teacher is one that entails a leap of faith. The teacher is, by definition, someone who knows what you do not, perceives what you can't, can do what seems impossible for you. The fact that there are so few real Teachers of true mastership has caused a major disruption in the spiritual world. Look at Aikido... it has been the blind leading the blind. I started teaching when I was a San Dan. I had no sort of mastery whatever. But there were very few people senior in those days so we started dojos and kept at it.

People's perception of what a "master" really is has been shaped by the breakdown of the transmission process. The vast majority of American martial artists have Zero experience with any teachers who truly function at what in the East would be considered mastery.

So we decide "Hell, we all put our pants on the same way" and decide, in true democratic fashion that no one is higher than ourselves. When it comes to a clash between what we want and what our teacher demands we quit and find a teacher who lets us be "ourselves". And that's fine for someone but I have never seen anyone who got to a really high level of mastery that way. It is not the function of the teacher to let you be yourself.

I follow him because I think his skill was great and I want to be like him.
Actually, I don't want to be like O-Sensei. He was a fairly eccentric Japanese mystic from an age which doesn't really exist any more. My life has little to do with how the Founder lived. But I want to know, at least to some extent what the Founder knew. I think much of that knowledge is Universal and transferable across culture. If I didn't believe that, there would be no point to training.

My job as a teacher of Aikido in the West is to take my understanding as far as it can go but also to pass it down to another generation. This requires that I not only learn as much from my Japanese Teacher, Saotome Sensei (who trained with the Founder for many years), that I attempt to understand the Founder's wisdom as he understood it, but also I have to find a way to create a genuine American context for this knowledge that preserves its depth but is also understandable and of value to American practitioners. The number of people who will study kototama, chant, practice Shinto etc is minute. What is inherent in the Aikido of the Founder that can help us be better people, make or world better, help us lead better lives? It is the job of the non-Japanese teacher of the art to find this out. I can't get that from O-Sensei or Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei. I can get help from friends who are also engaged in this process themselves. But without the myth to inspire, without teachers to stand as examples of what mastery REALLY is, the individual simply relies on his own judgment, his own perception, his own experience. That generally results in someone who is very good at being the same person they've always been but perhaps more attached to it.

Here again, I don't question. It doesn't occur to me that there might be someone better then him. Maybe that is, because of myth. Which didn't occur to me until you wrote about myth, that helps.
We should question, all the time... But we also have to take on faith that there are simply things we don't have a clue about right now. For many years I had no idea whatever what my own teacher was doing. I think I jad gotten to the point at which I had conceded that I would never be as good as he is.But then I met some other teachers who functioned at that same very high level. They had ways of teaching things that were totally different from my own teacher and suddenly I started to understand what my own teacher was doing. Then, they showed me that there were things far beyond what I had even been shooting for. I am far better than I ever thought I'd be now and yet I feel like a complete beginner. There is stuff out there that I had no clue even existed. There are folks out there who make the myths real. I don't give anything up in this process. I don't lose my sense of myself... but what that sense is is constantly shifting.

It is that process of not questioning that I relate to as impulse buying of what and why we are not independent but rather dependent. Does myth lead us to impulse buy or away from that?
We are not independent. We are totally dependent... on our teachers, on each other, on our environment... In fact it is not so much that we are dependent but that we are totally connected. Everything is connected. Virtually all of our problems as individuals and as members of the collective come from our ignorance of this fact and continued attempts to act as if it weren't true. The Founder saw Aikido as a practice that would lead us to a better understanding of this fundamental connection. Since we do not inherently understand this connection, the myth inspires us to go beyond our own limitations. The "myth" is how the reality of the great teacher lives on after his death to continue to teach and inspire.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 02-02-2009 at 07:12 PM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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