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Old 11-15-2004, 12:26 PM   #1
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
Location: Florida
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,267
Mysterious Action of Kotodama Lite

Interesting exchange in the Voices of Experience Forum (

Several years short of admission, I'll follow up here:

George S. Ledyard writes: "It is my understanding that Deguchi sparked something of a renaissance in Japan with regard to Kototama. His sytem was Omotokyo but other Shinto derived groups shared the same essential concepts and would therefore be able to get the general gist of what he was talking about even if the specific Omotokyo version was unique. And he would understand there basic frame of reference as well. I think this explaions the various friendships which O-sensei seemed to have with varios spiritual teachers of the time. They all shared this uderlying "energetics" view of the nature of hings andtherefore had something of a common language."

Not Deguchi and not Norinaga Motoori? (Question here, not correction; see below.)

Even having studied Gleason, I'm still not sure what KOTODAMA means. I think it goes back to mantra out of Shingon tradition. I have a hunch it also involves conflation of map and territory, as Korzybski famously scolded us not to do, through puns, "KANJI mining", allegory or other arbitrary associations in the case of Osensei: "Aikido is love (ai)", e.g. or "The cross (ju) of aikido".

Jacqueline Stone speaks of "Kanjin" style of interpretation in her book Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. This involved drawing parallels with a conflicting text through any means possible--puns, breaking down KANJI into parts and rearranging the meaning accordingly (think, contra Osensei on the pun of harmony/love in Japanese, what harmony in English lends itself to: "Aikido: the Way of 'Harmony'--You just go ahead and 'harm-any' beggar that bothers with you"), Kotodama (?) or other. The popularity of this lasted about 100 years and then was thoroughly reviled and repudiated (as we see some thinkers reviling similar tendencies in Post-Modernism; remember the Sokal hoax?) She notes that this kind of thought survives today in the form of the New Religions of which, of course, Omoto is one of the more prominent and quotes Okada Kootama, founder of Suukyoo Mahakari, on Kotodama. Note: Mahakari was an offshoot of Omoto, so George may be right about Deguchi reviving the Kotodama stuff, especially since he was such an infamous punster.

My own tentative hypothesis on Kotodama (presumptuous as it is for someone non-literate in Japanese, pace Peter Goldsbury) is that Osensei took the punning as isomorphism to the way aikido's taijutsu is used to scaffold our understanding of the world, physical punning, if you will. The way tantric mediation visualizes BECOMING a Buddha, aikido "physicalizes" the way we reconcile discord. Whether aikido "works" or not is no more relevant than whether a monk replicates the DNA of Shakyamuni in BECOMING that Buddha.

Just a thought. Thanks for the thread, Chris.

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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