Thread: Metaphors
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Old 01-08-2011, 08:30 AM   #1
Mike Sigman
Location: Durango, CO
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 4,123

(Carried over from the thread on sport in order to not degrade the discussion topic there)

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
In what follows, the Japanese un reading of a word is contrasted with the Chinese ON reading in capitals.

The basic term used by Ueshiba is 魂 tamashi, which is always contrasted with 魄 HAKU. Both terms are also read as tama, and both mean 'soul' or 'spirit', but there is a major difference.

There are three basic Chinese characters read as tama. They are: 魂, 魄,and also 霊.

The core Japanese concept for ‘soul' appears to be 霊魂 REIKON.
Thank you, Peter.
Related to "Reiki"?

The 魄 is the in (陰) part of the REIKON, that remains in this world, whereas the 魂 is the yo (陽) part that leaves it (after death).
Metaphorical use of "breath"?

The Japanese for the phrase you actually quoted ["spirit and physical body are balanced in harmony"] is 魂魄調和 kon-paku-cho-wa, or, harmony (chowa 調和) of the tamashi 魂 and haku 魄.
OK. Many thanks. I've often wondered about "spirit" when I see it translated by English-speakers, so that helps with a long held question in my mind.
I am sure you will appreciate the Chinese provenance of all this and if I am telling you something you know already, many apologies.
Well, it's always confusing and interesting how the gods and cosmologies seem to be capriciously interchanged with practical reality in both Japan and in China, particularly in the topics in and around so-called "internal strength". There is a worrisome aspect to this which I'll try to make a case for.

In terms of the intermingling of reality and relious metaphor, I always like this bit from the first interview of Koichi Tohei on Aikido Journal:

Before the war Sensei taught at the Naval Staff College, where he had Prince Takamatsu (a younger brother of the Showa emperor) as one of his students. On one occasion the prince pointed at Ueshiba Sensei and said, “Try to lift up that old man.” Four strong sailors tried their best to lift him but they couldn’t do it.

Sensei said of that time, “All the many divine spirits of Heaven and Earth entered my body and I became as immovable as a heavy rock.” Everybody took him literally and believed it. I heard him say that kind of thing hundreds of times.

For my part, I have never had divine beings enter my body. I’ve never put much stock in that kind of illogical explanation.

Once when I was with Sensei in Hawaii, there was a demonstration in which two of the strong Hawaiian students were supposed to try to lift me up. They already knew they couldn’t do it, so they didn’t think much of it. But Sensei, who was off to the side watching, kept standing up and saying, “Stop, you can lift Tohei, you can lift him! Stop, make them stop! This demonstration’s no good!”

Tohei demonstrating in Hawaii
shortly after his arrivalYou see, I had been out drinking until three o’clock in the morning the previous evening, and Sensei knew what condition I had come home in. He said, “Of course the gods aren’t going to enter into a drunken sot like you! If they did they’d all get tipsy!” That’s why he thought they would be able to lift me.

In reality that sort of thing has nothing to do with any gods or spirits. It’s just a matter of having a low center of gravity. I know this and it’s what I teach all my students. It wouldn’t mean anything if only certain special people could do it. Things like that have to be accessible to everyone if they’re to have any meaning.

People with so-called “supernatural powers” are usually the only ones who can do whatever it is they claim. Others can’t do what they do and they can’t teach what they do, because what they do is not real; it’s fake. Anybody can do the things I teach. They’re alive in aikido techniques just as they are. All you have to know is how to do them correctly, and viewing them as supernatural powers requiring the presence of some god or what have you is a big mistake. I regard it as my responsibility to teach correctly.
My general point about the quote is that it's very difficult to tell when Ueshiba was honestly talking about the gods as opposed to when he was talking about physical aspects of "internal strength" using religious metaphor. If he was freely intermingling religious discussion with comments, say, on how to do things practically, then it's easy to see that many of the current translations are potentially wildly off-point.

In the Chinese views, from which much of the basic pattern is borrowed by the Japanese, it gets worse. The further I progress in these things, the more suspicious I am that the whole ki, acupuncture, TCM, qigong, etc., paradigm is essentially what the Chinese cosmology is based on. Previously I thought there were some unusual and telling cross-overs, but as the number of these has grown over the years I'm being forced to take a different perspective. Generally what I'm saying is that too many of these discussions, in both Japanese and Chinese, are not what they superficially seem(ed) to be.


Mike Sigman

Last edited by Mike Sigman : 01-08-2011 at 08:32 AM.
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