My Experiences In Zen
Voices of Experience seems to be a much less visited section so I thought I might try to encourage a little interest again. Lately, I have been receiving many inquiries about Zen so I thought it might be of some interest to you here.
I don't want to say that Zen is related to Aikido. But I say, as most everyone well knows, that Zen has very deep relation to traditional Japanese martial arts, especially in the art of the sword and sword arts are so strongly connected to the basic structure of Aikido.
As a background note, my interest started very young when I started Kendo and Iaido and saw such a clear relationship between the sword and Zen. Unfortunately, at that time, there was very little information on Zen in books nor did I really know where to seek out good information.
Very early on in my Aikido training, I was introduced to Kisaburo Ohsawa Sensei (whom I have always admired as one of my teachers) and discovered that he was a student of Zen and it was through his strong influence on my Aikido that I pursued my Zen training further and further. It was sometime later, by some very odd coincident that I was introduced to the Reverend Bishop Kenko Yamashita who many years later, accepted me as his student and I was ordained. What was a great blessing to me was that Ohsawa Sensei's Zen master, Sawaki Kodo Roshi, was the same spiritual guide to my own teacher so I was able to pursue this lineage of instruction and wisdom even further.
In my own dojo, I do not teach Zen. I do not want to mix my personal religious beliefs with my Aikido instruction to my students out of respect for their own beliefs and backgrounds. If my students want to pursue Zen further, they are always welcome to visit some Zen training center. However, I do suppose that my Zen training does occasionally bleed through whatever I say and do. For myself, I have found both paths very compatible and complimentary but I cannot say this for you. Anyways, because I have received so much mail in regards to Zen lately, I thought I might start another line of thinking here and answer everyone's questions at once.
In 1988, my Zen master and I had the great honor to speak before the General Assembly of the United Nations. Generally, religious leaders do not speak here but we were invited in a cultural context. My teacher spoke on Zen and Peace and I spoke briefly on Aikido and Peace. I would like to relate briefly my teacher's words because they talk about wisdom in relation to our practice and to the reality of our lives. He told this odd story:
There was once a famous thief who had a son who wanted to learn the "business."
"Teach me how to become a great thief," asked his son.
The father replied, "If you want to learn the great secret of my skill then you must come with me tonight when I work!"
So the son accompanied his father and off they went in the dark of night. They climbed a wall and broke into the warehouse of a rich merchant.
"Look into that big chest over there," the father told the son and the son opened the big chest and looked inside. Suddenly, the father came up from behind and pushed his son inside the chest and latched it so there was no escape.
"See you later!" said the father and took off.
The son was so surprised and so angry at his father for such a cruel betrayal and dirty trick played on himself and he had no idea what to do.
After sitting there for a few hours, he heard some commotion outside and realized that the household had discovered the break-in and there was this great chaos all about him - he knew that he would be discovered, captured and have his head cut off.
He started to make a little scratching noise like a mouse from inside the chest. A maid opened to chest to see what it was and he suddenly jumped out and ran out the warehouse. Running around the corner of the house, he saw a well and threw a large stone in with a great splash and hid. The household thought that he might have jumped inside the well the kill himself and soon went away. When all was quiet, he slipped over the wall and made his way back to his home. Opening the door, he saw his father sitting there having some wine.
"Why did you betray me likle that!" yelled the angry son.
"You seem to be ok and have made it home safely, tell me how you escaped?" asked the father and the son related to him how he made noises like a mouse, threw a stone in the well to distract his pursuers and on and on.
"There!" replied the father, "you have mastered the secrets of being a good thief."
Hpe you liked this story. Happy Thanksgiving!