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Old 05-13-2004, 11:35 AM   #1
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Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Discuss the article, "True Self Defense" by George S. Ledyard here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2004_05.html
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Old 05-13-2004, 12:56 PM   #2
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Fantastic! Excellent! Has to be said.

Thanks George.

david
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Old 05-13-2004, 03:29 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

George, I was really struck by this in particular:
"So what we do as human beings is to devote most of our energy to trying to maintain our false, conditioned construction of ourselves. Anything that threatens that sense of identity feels like a threat to our very survival (whereas it is only a threat to the survival of the false identity). We seek out companions and experiences that support our false sense of self and yet at the same time there is a counter drive for us to look inward towards our deeper nature."
What a well-said description of so much that is negative in humanity, on both personal and civil scales, and applicable both to those who don't have a clue and those who do and sigh and keep working on it. Nothing personal or institutional can change meaningfuly without accounting for this. Thanks for saying it clearly enough to help me focus on it.

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-13-2004, 03:56 PM   #4
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Ebert and Roper give it 2 thumbs up.
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Old 05-13-2004, 05:42 PM   #5
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

George, I must admit that I "cheated" and read the early version of this when it was first available to the columnists. I really like this piece of work. I know we've visited about this sort of subject before but this article is especially well done. Thanks.

Chuck Clark
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Old 05-13-2004, 06:35 PM   #6
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Perhaps we can discuss the following from this wonderful article:

1. Exactly what elements in Aikido praxis address the following?


"So the only way that we can be sure that we engage only in "True Self Defense" is to get in touch with our True Selves, the unconditioned essential Identity that underlies all these "primary" and "disowned" selves. Only when we cease falsely identifying with our illusions of who we are can we be free of the need to "defend" the false self."

To the point: What is the technique, or what are the techniques, by which we determine false from true, illusion from accuracy, enslavement from freedom, etc.?

And,

2. Exactly which practices are the ones by which we come to be rightly described by the following? And, if we assume we are dealing with a "most" here, we might also ask, "What institutional supports are working toward this "most?", as we might want to assume that no "most" can come to exist without the power-base of an institution.

"Students cannot, as most tend to do, seek out training that merely acts as a reinforcement of who they already think they are. Many dojo are nothing more than mutual admiration societies which allow like-minded individuals to not experience the discomfort that comes with the need to let go of the false self-images that we all carry. At the same time other dojo are merely places in which fearful people mutually develop an illusion of strength through tough martial practice but never confront the fundamental need to let go of these defenses in order to make fundamental change."

To the point: What are the things we do that mark an attachment to the false self, a resistance to dropping a habitual way of being, of remaining in delusion? Are there any elements of the Aikido institution(s) (e.g. elements belonging to federations, to dojo, to the larger culture and economy, etc.) which not only make room for such practices but support them therein? What actions, discourses, and institutions condemn us to a spectrum whose poles are self-admiration (i.e. a kind of false Love) and paranoia (i.e. a kind of false Fear)?

What do you all think?

dmv
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Old 05-14-2004, 03:07 AM   #7
Charles Hill
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Like Mr.Clark, I cheated and had read this article before. I read it at Mr. Ledyard`s web site, where there are other excellent articles as well.

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
To the point: What is the technique, or what are the techniques, by which we determine false from true, illusion from accuracy, enslavement from freedom, etc.?
What I have been working on lately is to see how little physical force I need to apply to make a technique effective, and to also watch myself (whatever that means) when I apply more than the minimum necessary force. A few years ago, when I was injured, I was watching class and saw a guy completely unbalance his partner and then drive him into the mat. It was clear that tori only needed to give a slight push and his partner would have gone down. I then thought that what caused tori to throw in the extra power was what I think Mr. Ledyard has defined as "false self."

When I do more than is necessary to apply a technique, I think my false self is making itself known and I can at least become more conscious of it. I am still working on it, but I think it is a start.

Charles Hill
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Old 05-14-2004, 08:50 AM   #8
Hagen Seibert
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

I have a Zen friend once asking: "If there is no self, what do you want to defend ?"
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Old 05-14-2004, 08:59 AM   #9
Hagen Seibert
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Another thought:
I always tell students when deflecting a strike they they should do it with minimum influence on the attackerīs arm.
Nevertheless they seem to feel better when they really push away the fist as to keep the threath as much away from their body as possible.
Then I have to explain to them that there really is no need to defend the air around their body.

Also a matter of self perception ? True self on a physical level....
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Old 05-14-2004, 09:37 AM   #10
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Charles,

Can I ask:

Was uke injured in the case you are referring to? Was that "drive" to the mat totally unexpected by uke, and/or outside of the assumed given uke/nage dynamic?

I ask because I'm not so sure that we should, that we would want to, apply a subjective "more than" as a way of identifying whether the false self is dominant in our actions and/or not. I think if you answered "yes" to both questions, especially the second question, you may totally be onto to something here. Still, personally, I'd rather do without the "more than". I mean such an event can always be described as a lack of honor, a lack of integrity, and/or one's reason (e.g. fear, pride, ignorance) for not having such things present in one's training, etc.

The "forcing" of technique, I think, comes close as a descriptive in capturing some of the things I am guessing you might categorize under the phrase "more than". And undoubtedly the "forcing" of technique (which is the misapplication of technique, which is the attachment to technique, which ultimately is connected to an attachment to the false self) is something relative to the question I posed, and the topics covered in the article, but I'm not so sure that the full or near-full employment of one's athleticism in a martial way, when practicing a martial art, is necessarily a manifestation of the false self. In fact, it is often such a type of practice that leads budoka to the discomfort one needs to experience in order to drop false self-images (paraphrasing the article here).

In my experience, and this is something I do not attribute to your person, it is the subjective "more than" that is often used by aikidoka (used in a moralistic manner and supported by a righteousness that is totally egocentric in nature) to reinforce the false self, to enter into a silent agreement with others in which false self manifestations can be admired, to develop an illusion of strength, and in the end stop all processes of fundamental change.

Undoubtedly there are ways to train hard (i.e. driving uke into the mat) and to train softly (i.e. not driving uke into the mat) in Aikido. Each has its place. (Please ee my Nage/Uke Dynamic post in the General Forum.) But this is precisely because neither one can be innately attributable to the false self or the true self.

In my opinion,
dmv
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Old 05-14-2004, 07:05 PM   #11
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

David,

Thanks for your comments. Please keep in mind that this is just something I have been working on and is in no way any finalized thought I have. That`s why I really appreciate your and Hagen`s posts.

1. The uke was not injured, and I don`t remember if the movement was unexpected.
2. I don`t think there was anything really wrong with the excess force. What I noticed was that it was unnecessary. The obvious excess led me to think about it but my idea is the same whether the force applied is a little more than necessary or a lot. I`m not talking about training hard, I`m thinking about degrees of difference.
3. It started me thinking as to why he (or any of us) applied/applies excess force. Wendy Palmer (Tamalpais Aikido) has talked about "contentless throws." This really struck me as profound. My thought (for now at least) is that any excess force signals that there is something in me that is not congruent.
4. I agree with your idea of discomfort being important to development but only in terms of receiving it. Without some kind of agreement with my partner, I think it can be psychologically self-destructive to apply discomfort.
5. As per the request in your post, I offered the idea as a kind of "practice" and not necessarily an integral part of Aikido practice.
6. My meaning of "more than" is completely mechanical in terms of technique. I`m literally thinking pounds of pressure.

Thanks,
Charles Hill
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Old 05-15-2004, 08:25 AM   #12
Hagen Seibert
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

welcome.

I think youīre quite right in your point, Charles.
Of course one can put too much power into a technique unconsciosly,
but quite often itīs because people have the idea of doing something with uke.
Thatīs where the self interferes with ideal Aikido:
"I do something to my partner"
instead of
"A concerted and conjoint movement emerges mutually".
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Old 05-15-2004, 09:37 AM   #13
Richard Cardwell
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Mr Seibert- I read a small test relating to that most Zen of questions somewhere. I'm not sure if it was here, AikidoFAQ or elsewhere, but it was this. Aim an obvious strike at your friend that won't harm him (a slow slap to the cheek or similar). If he blocks, ask him who he was protecting. If he doesn't, ask him who got hit. I'd love to hear the answer- it's been puzzling me for a few months now!
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Old 05-15-2004, 11:17 AM   #14
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Undoubtedly, from a Zen point of view trying to do something to uke leads to a division of subject and object and in the end, through a series of other categories, marks an attachment to a false self. But the ideas of "just enough" or "more than" are no different in this regard. We can see how easy it is to go from "more than" in Aikido waza, to qualitative divisions of right and wrong, then to a moral division of good and bad, etc. etc., and it is by such divisions that the false self actually comes to be reified -- not purified.

As I said, throwing hard or throwing soft (by which, for most, "just enough" ends up meaning) are not the two poles from which one must choose from. (Note: "just enough" begs the question, "Just enough for what?" By that question alone one should be able to run the reflection processes necessary to see how subjective such a position truly is, etc.) The entire spectrum of from hard to soft has to be reconciled, otherwise the false self is sure to persist, sure to judge, sure to condemn, sure to remain the dominant interpretative tool for the world that is being lived.

I have said this before, in other threads, so I have said this from different angles, and in that sense I hope I do not sound like a broken record for repeating much of it here again. It is my opinion, one grounded in history and experience, that Budo's technology of the self is Buddhist in structure. (Note: To be sure one can trace at least two other technologies of the self that have made their way into Budo soteriology [using that word in the broader more academic sense]-- both interrelated: The Confucian one which actually reached its highest point at its own perversion when the Imperial state propagandists got a hold of it at the turn of the 20th century; and the one, which is actually the most popular -- the most widespread - one today, which is derived from Muscular Christianity.) Buddhist in structure, it is a structure that is in the end fused with martial practices such that the spontaneous execution of one's martial technologies becomes not only the highest expression of the false self being reconciled but also the absolutely most important expression of that reconciliation. There are many techniques for reconciling the small self -- but this is Budo's ways and means. (Note: The other two technologies of the self noted above do not lead to this reconciliation. They actually lead to its antithesis.)

That said perhaps we could here suggest that anything that leads to the spontaneous expression of Aikido's martial technologies leads to and/or marks a reconciliation of the false self, a purification of the false self, a dropping of the false self, a non-attachment to the false self, etc. Anything that inhibits the spontaneous expression of Aikido's martial technologies leads to a reification of the false self, is a cause and effect of the false self, perpetuates the false self as a interpretative tool for the world in which we live, etc. From this perspective Mr. Seibert is obviously on to something since attempting to "control" uke is based upon a whole lot of other incorrect assumptions that inhibit awareness and takes one out of present moment -- takes one and puts him/her into the illusionary world of the false self. Trying to force uke to do something, among other things, is denying the given situation -- which in Aikido is supposed to be utilized -- denying it for the sake of some false sense of being dominant, of being strong, etc., all kinds of others things.

But I hold the same position concerning "more than" and "just enough" interpretations. While these may very well work to illuminate certain things at the level of applying and practicing forms, come into a spontaneous situation with these subjective interpretative tools and you will hardly be able to express anything. Here I am not merely talking about the inhibition of preconceived ideas concerning spontaneous expression, I'm also referring to the fact that such things simply do not exist at the level of spontaneous expression. Such terms are just way too fuzzy -- too subjective -- for spontaneity to support them as descriptive tools. The two things simply "don't fit".

Yours,
dmv
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Old 05-15-2004, 11:33 AM   #15
Hagen Seibert
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Hi Richard (I feel free to leave out the "Mr.", sorry if Iīd upset you)

we had that on a thread I started some time ago here on Aikiweb.
Unfortunately I do not meet my friend regularily,
so I had no chance to do this test on him.
Honestly, I did not make up my mind to either.
Perhaps next time heīs going to get it....

Actually I find this question kind of nagging, too. Itīs going right to the basics.

Last edited by Hagen Seibert : 05-15-2004 at 11:39 AM.
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Old 05-17-2004, 05:11 AM   #16
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

To put in another question:

If you defend your reputation this may be your illusion of self,
but keeping up this illusion to youself and to others may be beneficial on your income or position.
E.g. if you are a bouncer you have to keep up a reputation as a strong man,
once people know about a weakness you start getting a hard time...
Other examples could be found for any profession.

You do not really have to react to insult or disrespect,
but often this is just the beginning.
Often you do not know in advance...

Where does true self defence actually start ?
Is keeping up your image self defence?
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Old 05-17-2004, 09:25 AM   #17
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Hagen Seibert wrote:
To put in another question:

If you defend your reputation this may be your illusion of self,
but keeping up this illusion to youself and to others may be beneficial on your income or position.
E.g. if you are a bouncer you have to keep up a reputation as a strong man,
once people know about a weakness you start getting a hard time...
Other examples could be found for any profession.

You do not really have to react to insult or disrespect,
but often this is just the beginning.
Often you do not know in advance...

Where does true self defence actually start ?
Is keeping up your image self defence?
Unless you are "enlightened" your self image is necessarily not the true picture. Awareness starts with not taking these ideas about oneself too seriously, not onvesting too much in maintaining these conditional images. Maintaining an image in order to be effective in a certain environment is fine as long as it doesn't conflict with your inner sense of who you arelly are. If you are in a work situation which requires that you act in ways that are out of accord with your sense of who you truely are, it is not authentic self defense to "play the game" and go against your nature just to get ahead. True self defense would be to get a new job or blow the whistle on the behavior which conflicted with your conscience... If you do damage to yourself maintaining an image it isn't authentic self defense.

Of course all of this is conditional in the Buddhist sense. Since there technically isn't a Self one can identify, all of your actions are somewhat based on false assumptions but there are ways of acting in the world which are in accord with an enlightened attitude even though your own understanding is short of what would be called "Enlightened".

I would say that actions which are more authentic would be charcterized by two main characteristics. They would not be based on fear and they would be compassionate.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 08-27-2004, 10:54 PM   #18
Richard Elliott
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Dear Sir:

Thanx for this essay. In the intense atmosphere and stress in making a living, making money, providing for a family and the real worries that comprise being a resposible adult it is inspiring to be reminded to remember. To me, this remembrance involves what I believe is the gut of your essay: to remember who I am and all this entails, which you have masterfully alluded to. How many times under the guise of being "sharp, smart, dumb, ignorant, indifferent, etc., etc., I must admit I weakly used or manipulated others, esp. at work, in order to get what I wanted so I could "get ahead", "elevate my respect quotient" or advance up the money chain (I must not be all that smart or I would be higher up that money chain--or the respect thing). The seductive thing is that adapting to false values and perpetuating a false comportment gets you what you want, at least in the short-run.

Too bad: the cost is usually high and often the negative effects are deferred, as one can learn how to be happy and secure with just about anything. One of the many, many ill-effects of lying to oneself is a loss of energy, mental and physical, for a person and I guess a community also. I don't feel disciplined or competent enough to articulate the group thing at this time in my life---very complex.

On the subject of nuclear war Thomas Merton once said it wouldn't be the lone psychotic that would initiate such events or "press the button". It would be sane people following orders that were following orders etc,.... I don't know if this is true today but I understand what he was driving at.

In my own religion of Christianity, like any religion or philosophy, the bifurcation of secular and sacred is defended, emphasized, promoted, forced and lived by many. I believe this is a false division and can lead to a false transcendence. It has been my experience that if one takes some time and effort you can find legions of humble folk from whatever belief system that, while maybe not possessing the vocabulary or theological sophistication live their lives in integration with the secular and sacred, and aspire to ever greater learning and love for such wholeness, compassion, dignity and friendship that you have alluded to in the essay.

This hope is what attracts me to categories of thought that integrate living and caring in the world with the spiritual aspirations of finding the truths of human existence, which you seem to represent as True Self-Defense. Hence, my continued attraction to Aikido, to what seem to me the aspirations of Ueshiba.

The dojo I used to attend once had a meeting with another dojo down in San Antonio that had some Aikijujutsu fellows working out. I remember we had a water break midway thru.
I rushed over for water and air. One of the Jujutsu guys, I had never met rushed up to me all excited and said, "You know, one of the best things about being in a dojo is that you can't hide what you know and you can't hide what you don't know!"
All I could do was shake my head affirmative because I couldn't breath and I had water running down my chin. Then he was gone. This, to me, was good news.

Sorry for the very excessive length, but I couldn't help it.

Respectfully, Richard
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Old 08-28-2004, 01:48 AM   #19
Chris Birke
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

I don't think there is such a thing as true self defense. Nor do I really believe in the self. These concepts seem so problematic to me. It is much more congruent if I abandon them.

Is this dangerous?
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Old 08-28-2004, 02:17 AM   #20
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
I don't think there is such a thing as true self defense. Nor do I really believe in the self. These concepts seem so problematic to me. It is much more congruent if I abandon them.

Is this dangerous?
You do what works for you.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 08-28-2004, 10:29 AM   #21
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Chris Birke wrote:
I don't think there is such a thing as true self defense. Nor do I really believe in the self. These concepts seem so problematic to me. It is much more congruent if I abandon them.

Is this dangerous?

Good Morning Chris and good on ya sir.

Is this dangerous?
Good question.

As abstract concepts I don't think you really have anything to fear at all unless someone sneaks up on you from behind and hits you in the head with a book of 'em. Not likely. With sufficient skill and training any concept can be made to be problematic, and convincingly so: self, consciousness, love, patriotism, god, nature, the brain, good, bad, ugly.... I'm no brain doctor, behaviour expert or even role model for pete's sake, but I do know that "the mind" has an almost unlimited capacity to associate or disassociate as an adaptive need arises, especially one in a chemically- soaked state.

Anyway, if you personalize your statement: "Nor do I believe in myself" it seems to me you could very well give yourself a problem. If somebody with utter conviction and consistency puts their existence into question, not as a thought experiment or abstract puzzle-play I just don't see anything too good coming from this, man. No, not as a real and actual puzzlement about their awareness with the congruent issues of ownership and individuation. Without the confidence, trust or ability to identify something about my existence as mine: my body, myself or my surroundings; I just don't see how anybody can get started in life, to say the least of having personal or social relations. Everything becomes problematic. How can anything like trust or respect be real if one cannot define boundaries, identify values or separate themselves from others? I don't know. It seems to me that one will either end up as some Kafkaesque bug on the wall or a megalomaniac that can't distinguish him or herself from whatever transient notion or technique one can use in order to adapt to or control others. And these two things may be different sides of the same coin.

It has been convincingly argued by some people that "the self" is none other than the masks we have to live by. I have to believe there is more to human existence than this, in any case believing this didn't make them give up adopting values, good manners, and generally useful and productive lives.

What's this got to do with martial arts or self-defense? Well, if you don't have anything worth defending, why bother?

Your question grabbed me. These past months I've been watching DVD reruns of the old British TV show "The Prisoner". It had to do with issues like the integrity of the self and mind and conformity and alienation and mind control and community and organ prodding and crazy stuff like behaviour modification and numbers. This show could be considered to be about self-defense.

Respectfully, Richard
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Old 09-06-2004, 12:43 AM   #22
Richard Elliott
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Re: Article: True Self Defense by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Richard Elliott wrote:
Dear Sir:

To me, this remembrance involves what I believe is the gut of your essay: to remember who I am and all this entails, which you have masterfully alluded to.

... live their lives in integration with the secular and sacred, and aspire to ever greater learning and love for such wholeness, compassion, dignity and friendship that you have alluded to in the essay.

This hope is what attracts me to categories of thought that integrate living and caring in the world with the spiritual aspirations of finding the truths of human existence, which you seem to represent as True Self-Defense.

Sorry for the very excessive length, but I couldn't help it.
Mr. Ledyard
After re-reading your piece I recognized that you didn't actually mention anything specific concerning the positive aspects of the discovery of the original or undifferentiated self.
I was somehow "struck" by your essay and maybe I was reading more into it. As I reread it your essay was mostly, it seems, concerned with the (negative?) process of working off the "false selves". Maybe I was having a "fit", I donn't know---but a GOOD fit.

Even if there is the state of oneness that is characterized as "undifferentiated", it still seems that a person would have to live this truth of existence through a unique way that can only be their own.
This may be obvious to all or I may be mistaken or just did not understand.

Last edited by Richard Elliott : 09-06-2004 at 12:46 AM.

Respectfully, Richard
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