Thread: kotodama
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Old 09-16-2002, 02:37 PM   #18
Ernesto Lemke
Dojo: Seikokan , Leeuwarden
Location: Leeuwarden. the Netherlands
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 150
Netherlands
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Dear Peter,

Again, a stimulating response. I'll try and cover some of your statements.

PAG

I do not fully understand what you think kotodama is, or is a means to.

EL

Me neither. I could try and sound smart by summing up what's been published about it of course, but that would be self delusion big time.

You know I'm writing a book on Shirata Sensei and as a result, kototama is one of those subjects that frequently comes up. Shirata Sensei clearly thought kototama was beneficial to aikido practice and like O-Sensei, he too did not force anyone to believe in its functioning. What I find intriguing in Shirata Sensei's case is that his strong felt convictions clearly had a positive affect on his functioning as a human being and as an aikidoka (though I imagine for him that would be one and the same thing). Now he, along with many other disciples of O-Sensei, had a huge responsibility when they became responsible for transmitting the Founder's message. Shirata Sensei's position IMO was quite unique in that he was able to absorb the Founder's message from the standpoint of having :

A) a background in Omoto Kyo as the son of the Omoto's representative in remote Yamagata Prefecture.

B) been a very gifted student that started his training in the pre-war days (which is very interesting if not crucial considering the historical, cultural and social time frame)

C) had a lifelong affinity for spiritual matters seeing, for instance, his non official involvement with Byakko Shinko Kai and the fact he converted to Tendai Buddhism in his later years.

These observations are in themselves no proof at all whether Shirata Sensei knew ‘the real deal' or not. It's merely that Shirata Sensei was one among only a handful of O-Sensei's disciples that post O-Sensei generation practitioners (for lack of a better term) could rely on for exposure to transmission of O-Sensei's legacy, and he did teach kototama and seemed qualified. So, to get back to that, did it survive the transmission in tact when so few of the disciples were able to do anything concrete with it? Apparently, it did not, considering how your statement continued.

PAG

I do not fully understand what you think kotodama is, or is a means to. In fact, I believe that this and other threads in this discussion forum show a similar uncertainty.

EL

I agree, and with the growing understanding of the historical aspects surrounding aikido and its founder by the aikido community, many people seem to be getting more and more interested in this practice. To take Shirata Sensei's example once more, he taught an exercise named Haguro Yamabushi misogi no gyo, which is similar if not identical to furi tama and fune kogi practices. The interesting part is that Shirata Sensei specifically called this a Haguro (therefore taken from Mnt. Haguro in Yamagata Prefecture) Yamabushi practice, which illustrates this was/ is essentially a yamabushi practice. Again, Shirata Sensei's native district shows a remarkable similarity to that of O-Sensei with both having sacred mountains inhabited by Yamabushi. Still, no answers, but perhaps here lies a clue.

PAG

Suffice it to say that self-delusion is always a constant possibility even in basic aikido training, and much more so with any spiritual superstructure that aims to achieve contact with the 'word-spirit' or 'deep structures' of the universe etc etc. In aikido we supposedly have a test that was denied to Omoto-kyo and Aum practitioners. The test is: do the techniques work? If not, the rest is irrelevant.

EL

I guess this is where the confusion sets in for most, especially for those uninterested in aikido history since all they have to and can depend on is the ultimate authority of the one leading the dojo. Hence questions like "does aikido work on the streets?"

PAG

Ultimately, I think that to guard against self-delusion in your aikido life (which might or might not include kotodama training), you need a teacher, whom you can trust to tell you where you have erred.

EL

Well yes but we do not always have the good fortune to run into Mr. Myagi. Though one might say "when the student is ready, the teacher will come." And though that may have sounded sarcastic, I really have experienced that to be the case.

PAG

But if you have been taught kotodama as part and parcel of aikido, or as an essential part of aikido, then I think there is a major problem if you do not have a trusted teacher, who can guide you both in your own kotodama and aikido training and also in how these coalesce to form one whole.

EL

I'm still hoping though….

PAG

(1) Neo continually worries that he is never quite sure whether he is awake or in a dream and when he meets Morpheus and takes the red pill, all his safeguards against self-delusion are gradually torn away, especially in the kung-fu scenes. Any thoughts about this?

EL

Enlightenment or delusion?

Who is to say which person has which

Like the evening moon they appear and fade

Not one knows exactly when.

PAG

(2) The role of language in this film is very primitive, in the sense that the possibilities of language are not exploited at all. Do you think that kotodama has any relevance to the issues which the film attempts to deal with?

EL

I really don't feel qualified to try and answer that. My understanding on kototama is really in its infancy and plus, I saw the Matrix when it just came out, about two years back I guess, and don't really remember a whole lot about it, though I remember being impressed. However, did you see Academy award winning "A beautiful mind?"

Again, no answers, but perhaps another clue.

PAG

Best regards to you, your wife and your wonderful baby,

EL

Thank you and to you, all the best as ever.

Ernesto Lemke
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