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Old 03-30-2011, 08:32 AM   #13
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
Location: Phila. Pa
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 4,614
Re: Zen in the Art of Aikido

Yikes! I found it in an archive.

P Goldsbury09-26-2003, 06:24 AM
Hello Ron,

Well, if the members of the Kobukan and Kodokan had known the original context, I would think they would have been extremely perplexed and wondered what on earth Morihei Ueshiba was talking about. So I am curious about where you first heard this phrase and in what context.

I am sure you know that the original phrase is to be found in the "Kojiki" and "Nihon Shoki". It is the name of a deity who was created by the union of two brother and sister deities. The deities were Amaterasu-no-mikoto and Susano-oo-no-mikoto. The original story is quite enthralling and puts Susano-oo-no-mikoto in a really bad light.

The deity Izanagi had borne three children, of whom Amaterasu was given command of Takama-ho-hara (the plain of heaven) and Take-Haya-Susano-oo was given command of the oceans and the underworld. Susano-oo was very unhappy about this and howled "until his beard eight hands long extended down over his chest". When Izanagi asked him why he was howling, Susano-oo answered that he wanted his mother and was promptly expelled from the land. Before leaving Susano-oo went to take his leave of Amaterasu and this alarmed her greatly. She asked Susano-oo for proof that his intentions were pure and he suggested that they indulge in some incest: "swear oaths and bear children".

This operation took the form of a contest. Amaterasu took Susano-oo's sword and broke it into pieces, chewed the pieces and spat them out. Three female deities came into existence from the "spray" (the spittle, presumably). Then Susano-oo took the magatama beads from Amaterasu's hair and chewed these to pieces and spat them out. Five deities emerged from the "spray", the first of them being Masakatsu-Agatsu Katsu-Hayabi-Ame-no-Oshi-Ho-Mimi-no-mikoto.

The scholars who edited my Japanese edition of the "Kojiki" give this gloss on the meaning of the name: Masakatsu (masashiku katta = I certainly won) + Agatsu (watashi wa katta = it was I who won) + Katsu (katsukoto = winning) + Hayabi (ikioi hageshii reiryoku = strong & violent spirit power, or, 'victory in the moment') + Ame ( = heaven) + no + Oshi (idaina = greatness) + Ho (= rice ears) + Mimi (rei-i = awesome power).

The deities immediately quarreled as to who had really won the contest, with Susano-oo insisting he had won because his intentions were "pure and bright", even apart from the sex of the chidren he had begotten. In other words, the first part of the phrase is a Susano-oo's declaration of victory over Amaterasu, with the latter's reception of this masculine power of Susano-oo issuing in a deity, the child of Amaterasu and Susano-oo, whose mission is to rule the land, i.e., Japan (vividly described in the Kojiki as "the land of plentiful reed plains, of the thousand-autumn and long-five hundred autumn rice ears").

Susano-oo then completely disgraced himself by doing a victory dance and committing some terrible offences in a society dedicated to agriculture--totally inappropriate behaviour if he is supposed to have achieved victory over himself. Susano-oo's antisocial behaviour is the reason why Amaterasu shut herself up in the cave and it became night. Later, the deity Masakatsu Agatsu accepted the mission to rule Japan, but this task was actually performed on his behalf by two other deities.

Now there is a vast accretion of scholarship concerning the meaning of this story, which I will not go into here, but it is less certain whether M. Ueshiba was acquainted with this. Off hand, I can find one reference to 'masakatsu-agatsu-katsi-hayabi' in the actual writings of Morihei Ueshiba, but there are probably many more. The reference I have in mind is on p.31 of "Takemusu Aiki" and in it Ueshiba simply talks of aikido "abiding on the way of Masakatsu Agatsu Katsu Hayabi", to quote the Sonoko Tanaka translation in "Aikido Journal" #116 (p.30). The only other locations in the aikido literature are a chapter in John Stevens' book "The Secrets of Aikido" and two places in Gleason's "The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido". Stevens immediately translates the term as 'victory over oneself', rather than, 'victory by oneself'.

Gleason, also, gives a similar translation, in addition to a very penetrating analysis in Buddhist terms. He also suggests that it is the ko-no-sen of ancient budo, but I wonder if the phrase as used by Morihei Ueshiba was indeed well known in ancient budo, or was his own adaptation of the "Kojiki" / "Nihon-Shoki" myth. Usually, the phrase is used in conjunction with training being on a higher level, above winning and losing, but I think it could apply equally to sumo, an art whose origins are thought to go back to the age of the "Kojiki".

My point in explaining all this, Ron, is to put your PS footnote into sharper focus. By all means let us focus on the words and the context in which they were spoken, but perhaps we need to begin at the beginning.

Best regards and apologies for the long post.

Ron Tisdale
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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