4) There is no necessary correlation between mind body coordination (unification of opposites) and spiritual development. Spiritual progress is not guaranteed and having a spiritual predisposition does not, by the same token, guarantee martial efficacy...
While there have been various attempts by some at different times in history to elevate Ki to a more spiritual level, my own feeling is that this is a form of self-conscious spirituality - a form of vanity. I've been guilty of it myself, but we learn through our mistakes as we grow up.
After all, common sense tells us, there are many Chinese - good communists and atheists all - whose ability to use Chi is exemplary. One does not have to be self-consciously spiritual to use Ki, just have a body and a mind that is susceptible to training.
Interesting points. I'm not sure the whole post really clarified it for me.
To say there is no necessary correlation between mind/body coordination and spiritual development, I can agree that it might not necessarily bring results, but I think it is an important part of the budo ethic of spiritual forging. Budo affects the mind and spirit by work on the body--very difficult and long work exactly as specified. Of course, this was the method employed leading up to WWII....so it might not produce spiritual improvement. Changes, yes....but maybe not improvement, if it is misdirected as it was leading up to WWII. Even many Zen masters in that era could have well been described as ardent Nazis. They were great admirers of Hitler.
And it's clear that a spiritual disposition does not guarantee martial efficacy, but it also does not guarantee spiritual development, either. Again, a little error makes a wide deviation over time.
And I like your pointing out that ki in itself is not "spirit" as we in the West think of spirit in "spirituality."
To me, the spirituality resides in kokoro--the source from which ki and our whole being issues.
About a year ago, I had an experience of sitting in seiza during a violent thunderstorm. I was already in serious inner turmoil, myself, and I suddenly realized that the outer environment, with pure blackness ripped by violent, blinding white, was an exact match for my inner being. I wasn't bothered by it, though, because, physically, I wasn't doing anything. If I had gotten up and acted on the basis of those turbulent feelings, I might have made some bad mistake. But as long as I didn't do anything....it was perfectly fine to have that inner electric storm. And sitting there unmoving, I saw both the inner and outer storms subside. I don't fight the outer weather. Why would I fight the inner weather? I "fight" it by not taking action. Otherwise, it can do no harm.
Then, last night, I was sitting in the same place, in the same way, but the air was calm and it felt like being in Hawaii--perfect temperature. And the air was filled with the resonance of thousands of bugs and birds singing in the carpet of forest that covered the rolling mountain top. And my inner and outer environments, again were in perfect coordination even though my external condition
was far from satisfactory. My inner condition was matched with the gentle pulsations of nature.
And at that moment, I turned to contemplation of kokoro.
I understand kokoro as the "gateway" or "door" from non-existence to human life.
On one side is nothingness. On the other (this) side, is "being." From the door of nothingness to being, our life flows like a stream, directly to the other door--that of death. So nothingness
are our nature and we move like beams of light from kokoro to death. The process is like a flash of light but it is so miraculous that we experience the great array of human passion and suffering for decades and decades before the flash leaves nothing.
Last night, I thought about this in the waves of bird and bug songs as my legs lost all circulation. I went to kokoro to see the source of my ki. It was like coming to the inflow of a swimming pool, ki pouring into this world as my ki. And I realized that, since this is a gateway between being and nothingness, there was nothing to stop me from going to the other side of the membrane, into nothingness. And, as if I were "scooting back" on a mat, my consciousness followed the outflow of my ki back into the ocean of ki from which it came. And it was like just looking into this world through a window, in the form of a body with eyes and ears that sat there amid all the other thousands of sitting and singing and listening things, all issuing from nothingness through kokoro...
In this infinitely long and short existence of human life, we are faced with some fundamental questions of how to conduct ourselves in the myriad myriad permutations of "situation" that arise. We find some general patterns, perhaps. We have laws and we have customs, money, government. We have some ways of measuring and directing our personal behavior, attempting to divine the best path through some conglomeration of all of the above and social landmarks of law, religion, philosophy, ethics, some mixture of which we generally "receive" as "our" beliefs and opinions of right and wrong. So it is very difficult to retain the bold, free and naive outflow of a living ki-being emerging directly from kokoro, like water from a spring, in daily life. And so it is very difficult to act directly from kokoro. In particular, violence has plenty of time to erupt between individual creatures in this excruciatingly long and blindingly short moment of human life. Much of the depth of the human experience is the tragedy of loss of companions to needless violence, along with greed and envy and so on. Much of the miracle of life is lost in revenge and litigation and we have become aware of both legal and moral justifications
for violence as well as its prohibition
, and provisions for using violent action, including killing, to stop violence. At every level, the question of life and death is primal and all measures rise relative.
The asian approach generally comes more directly from kokoro, oriented to nothingness-being-life-death. Even in Japan, it leans toward the taoist "not-doing," though you can see from the martial arts that impress us so, this "not-doing" may be more than it appears. It is a powerful influence even in budo, where we are given to study the specific methods of killing, with an ethic by which action is justified or forbidden. By the bu-jutsu ethic, killing is almost required if it is justified. Budo retains the killing method but requires the sparing of life where possible, along with causing the least amount of harm possible. However, it weakens the purpose of budo training to forget that the prime question is life and death
. The method is to live, even if it means killing the attacker. The techniques must be deadly, first of all. It weakens the purpose of budo training to think of martial arts as fighting
arts. They are killing
arts. O Sensei said that aikido kills the opponent with a single blow. We tend to have a distant and idealized view of the samurai and their quaint sword fighting, but their only concern was to cleave the other man (or woman, as the case may be...which was intended as a sort of in-joke reference to mentioning both genders...but which, unfortunately, has made me think of Nanking.)
Well, obviously, the Japanese method lost contact with kokoro somewhere in there. So even those who believe themselves directed by kokoro can be very badly mistaken. Sadly, for some, it is only at death that they recognize their error and only death will stop them from committing atrocities and tragedies for others. The purpose of budo is to prepare oneself to face such a person and stop their violence completely, whether that means catching them in ikkyo and making them say uncle or using the same ikkyo for fatal results. Having this ability is the prime draw for many to train in budo, but, acquiring the skills, they then find themselves saddled with tremendous responsibility and concerns. Some people come to budo through attraction to the ideas. But the only key to those ideas is that their orientation is founded on killing ability
, and trying to view it in any other way weakens the very purpose of pondering the ideas.
I say all that to stress that among all the philosophies and religions, budo is a study of life and death through more than symbolic training to kill other people. It is not to be done by "fighting" but by instant application, so that the battle is over before it can commence (katsu haya hi). It is the spirit of Musashi, who ambushed an eleven year old boy being guarded by retainers. And even Musashi came to personify the budo ethic of sparing life as he gave up the steel sword at some point and used only wood, including, in one story, a piece of wood that he was carving into a statue of Fudo, with which he knocked out his opponent but spared his life. He was beaten only once, by a man whose life he had once spared. And the jo man spared Musashi's life. So budo really is a fine attitude in life, but the key to understanding it is death.
"Having said that," as I hate to hear anyone say, the reason for studying killing and death is to preserve life for the innocent, or at least the minding-their-own-business. And the Zen culture of budo, if not the very teachings of budo itself, reminds us emphatically that the important treasure of all is the miracle of life, itself. The budo method is constant preparation, purposeful employment of the body, mind and spirit with no false standard of values and orientation: not for "the company," nor for "the job," nor for "the art," nor for "the religion," but for the deep, personal and unique life that flows forth from kokoro, from nothingness, headlong to death. Death is the standard by which our use of life will be understood as worthy or wasted.
Last night, in "scooting back" through that portal and seeing out into life from the non-existent perspective before kokoro, I saw where a body was sitting in seiza in beautiful moonlight with positively pleasant weather, surrounded by a pulsing ocean of beings, emerged from kokoro to call out and vibrate the night, to be vibrated by the night. And there was no border between the inner and outer worlds of that person who sat there, nor any boundary between that person and the non-existence. Our root as beings does not begin at kokoro. Our root in being comes through kokoro. Our root of being is rooted in non-being.
And that is how I have come to understand kokoro.
However, one very important thing remains: looking out through kokoro, from non-being into life, seeing that unbounded person sitting in perfect weather and moonlight, never even separated from the universe around him, I could clearly see that death is the ultimate point of this outflowing life and the necessity of going there without avoidance because that is where life goes. The only way to live life fully is to live it straight toward death. Otherwise, we lose our lives in misdirected scrambles for wealth and status far past the point of necessity. We lose our lives in political and social and habitual pursuits that have nothing, really to do with our lives. They are a good example of how "mental" gets blamed for a lot of bad behavior and gets segregated from our thinking on "spiritual" things. But the error is perhaps spiritual fear to intellectually face the truth that we all hurtle straight down a track to the end of life. And this robs us of the freedom to really squeeze life to the last drop and live every minute as if it were your last.