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Old 11-16-2004, 09:15 PM   #26
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

What a nice little thread. So many ideas and opinions are presented. Let me just address a few of them……..

Quote:
Matthew Green wrote:
I practice Zen, and I was wondering if Aikido is still just to preserve one's ego. I know that many of O'Sensei's teachings were to shed ones ego, but if you do so, then who are you defending? What is the "point" of defending oneself? I personally practice Aikido just for fun, and find it to be a good physical and spiritual activity. I do not plan on ever having to defend myself. I believe good Karma is your best defense in life. On the other hand, I guess you could look at it from the perspective that the attacker is only attacking themselves. I am very interested in other people's insights on this topic. Zen and of other faith..... …..Thank you all for taking interest in this thread. It has been an issue I have been thinking about for some time. I really find the concept that the attacker has their own ego very interesting. I was always told to understand that ego only exists as what was created by society. For example, even if you hate someone, your ego cannot exist without them, because you identify yourself as not being them. That is why I think that we need to respect everyone we encounter in our lives. They are making up what we call our reality. To fight against them is to fight your own reality and ultimately ourselves" ego". That is why I enjoy Aikido, because you are not actually fighting against them. They are fighting themselves. In Buddhism, everyone is viewed as one. I believe to attack someone is to attack yourself. And of course, there is still that whole Karma thing........and of course, there is still the option that this is all crap. hahaha. Fell free to tell me if you think so. I'll listen.
This is a lot of intellectual thought for a practitioner of Zen. Buddhist tradition is full of stories and examples of monks not resisting some type of onslaught and being wiped out. But, on the other hand Buddhism exists today, so somewhere along the line, some of them refused to go "quietly into the night". In fact, Buddhist monks are credited with major advances in the martial arts tradition (i.e. the Shaolin monks) and the 1st Zen patriarch in China is supposed to have developed the initial martial forms practiced by the monks in order to improve their physical health. To preserve the physical body is not necessarily the same as preserving the ego….

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
I disagree with the idea that O`Sensei intended for us to shed the ego with Aikido practice. Saotome Sensei has said that we should work to improve our ego, make it bigger, stronger. (That is, if I understood him correctly) It is also important to note, I think, that O`Sensei reportedly hated Zen and would get angry if he heard that a student was practicing it. Charles Hill
Not sure how Saotome Sensei is using the term ego in your quote. O Sensei's probably didn't "hate" Zen, but probably would have preferred his students to have studied Shinto or followed a religious practice similar to his own. Since when he "lectured" on Aikido most of his spiritual/ metaphysical references would have come from his own religious practice….

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Anders Bjonback wrote:
I don't think aikido is necessarily about preserving one's ego. For one thing, it works against our usual tendency to either to return struggle with struggle, to blindly go into a contest of egos….But really, Zen can be used to preserve one's ego if you're using it as a way of defining oneself. "I'm a Zen Buddhist, therefore I meditate and do these other practices and have this belief structure." Or, "I'm Zen and I believe in letting go of all belief structures." Ego is really tricky. I remember this one adage that went something like, "Those who grasp onto existence are stupid, but those who grasp onto emptiness are as stupid as a cow."
You're correct in that any practice can be used to bolster or preserve one's ego. I like your last quote. Most Zen practice is about striping away attachments, to include the attachment to Zen practice….

Quote:
Owen Matchim wrote:
While I'm new to Aikido, I had merely assumed that by 'ego', O-Sensei meant something more like 'pride' in the 7 deadly sin type way. Like to shed the idea that a guy is too macho to be thrown by a girl for example. Or that he should always try to overpower his nage so they can't do their technique properly in some stupid test to show supposed superiority. My Sensei explained to me that we do break falls and that in the dojo to sort of beat humility into you (maybe a bad choice of words but I hope you catch my drift). Then if you got into a fight on the street or something, and you found yourself in a tight spot you could roll to safety instead of trying overpower them with brute strength because you don't want to show what you perceive as weakness by rolling. But again, I haven't been practicing very long so please tell me if I'm way off.
You're not too far off, just a little. Rolling is fun, and a great way to get back to your feet after you have been thrown, but if you just try to roll away from someone in a fight it is far too easy for them to just follow you and attack you again as you are trying to get up. You are correct in that ukemi is about surviving an encounter, but you just can't "roll away" from a fight….

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote:
Ego is always discussed as though it's a Bad Thing. Maybe it isn't? A gall bladder is not a Bad Thing. We are much better off with it than without it, unless it's unhealthy. Then we have to remove it because we can live without it. You can't really just remove your ego. But some people have observed that obtaining a healthy ego is a lot more like removing the old one and replacing it with a better one than it is like working out muscles to make them stronger. I'm rambling here, but it seems like these ideas address some of the points made in this thread.
All too true. From a psychoanalytical view, the ego is our organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality, and is supplemented by our id and superego. From the Zen perspective, this "reality interface" often times interferes with our ability to function properly by distorting the reality by remaining too rigid. Therefore, Zen practice attempts to strip away the interference so that the practitioner experiences a purer form of reality. Striping away the layers of the ego requires a great deal of practice and effort, and perhaps you never can quite strip it away completely, but you can work to minimize the distortion.

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
It is a good question, and it is not without its answers or solutions, especially since it is related to one of the main points of all Budo training. I think a like statement would be:
"If there is no ego, who is doing the Zen training?"
Politely, the answer to that question is the same answer to your question. dmv
This is a great rebuttal to too much intellectualizing. Many of the Zen Koan practice revolve around questions such as this. In the end, it is an unanswerable question. "As soon as you open your mouth to answer, you are wrong"….


Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
Count how many times "I" is used in these posts and an idea will form regarding efforts to preserve it. The learned identity ego is useful. Just don't take it too seriously or too personally. Now, who ever is asking and answering, back to training.
Best answer yet. Open your mouth to speak and you are actively engaging your ego in the answer. Proper response is to just keep training…….


joe
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Old 11-16-2004, 09:52 PM   #27
Charles Hill
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Quote:
Joseph Bowen wrote:
O Sensei's probably didn't "hate" Zen, but probably would have preferred his students to have studied Shinto or followed a religious practice similar to his own.
Hi Joe,

The quote about O`sensei hating Zen comes from Okumura Shihan so I`m sure it is accurate. The way Okumura Shihan explained it was that Zen is a "Mu" form of Buddhism whereas O`sensei`s thought was more in line with the "Yu" form of Buddhism fond in the Shingon Mikkyo sect. Also, O`sensei apparently taught that students should not follow his religious beliefs unless they truly believed them. For example, he would use the Christian Bible to explain his teachings to Westerners. To me, this is similar to the Dalai Lama discouraging Westerners from becoming Buddhists unless they really feel they must do so.

Charles Hill
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Old 11-16-2004, 11:37 PM   #28
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
Hi Joe,

The quote about O`sensei hating Zen comes from Okumura Shihan so I`m sure it is accurate. The way Okumura Shihan explained it was that Zen is a "Mu" form of Buddhism whereas O`sensei`s thought was more in line with the "Yu" form of Buddhism fond in the Shingon Mikkyo sect. Also, O`sensei apparently taught that students should not follow his religious beliefs unless they truly believed them. For example, he would use the Christian Bible to explain his teachings to Westerners. To me, this is similar to the Dalai Lama discouraging Westerners from becoming Buddhists unless they really feel they must do so.

Charles Hill
Hey, Charles,

Thanks for the info, not to doubt Okumura Shihan's quote, but I still have difficulty with the use of the word "hate". But, your post prompted a little research and I found out that O Sensei studied Shingon Buddhism when he was a child. Interesting, I wonder if how that study integrated with the Omoto Kyo religious influence? I don't know enough about the Omoto Kyo beliefs to tell you. Perhaps you can educate me?
Also, thank you for turning me onto Okumura Shihan. I just breezed through a few interviews on the Aikido Journal website with him and he seems like quite the interesting teacher. Does he still teach at Hombu dojo?
From my limited perspective, there exists no conflict between the principles in the practice of Zen and the practice of Aikido. In fact the practice of Zen compliments the pracitice of Aikido.
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Old 11-18-2004, 12:01 AM   #29
Charles Hill
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Hi Joe,

I have read a lot of Omoto`s own literature and stayed at the headquarters in Ayabe and Kameoka for a short period and I still don`t cleary understand what Onisaburo of Omoto was trying to teach. What I understand seems to fit what I know of Shingon. Omoto has a nice website in English, you might try taking a look.

Okumura, in my opinion, fits in with the group of intellectual shihan that were primarily pre-war. He used to teach the beginner`s class Thursday mornings at Honbu but has long since stopped. I heard that he still occasionally lectures about Aikido theory at the Ueshiba house next door. He would bring in a chalk board into his aikido class and write stuff on the board. He had a very clear curriculum. He was also the only person I ever heard talk about O`Sensei at Honbu.

I agree with you about Zen. The history of Zen in Japan is not a good one, though, and O`Sensei may have been responding to the low quality of teaching he saw. However, Omori Sogen was a contemporary and in my opinion, a great Zen teacher as well as a sword and calligraphy teacher. I think you would find him enlightening.

Charles Hill
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Old 11-18-2004, 08:35 PM   #30
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Hey Charles,

Thanks again. I just looked over the International Zen Center's Webpage in Hawaii and read a little bit about Omori Sogen (thier center's practice is based on his teaching). Quite the interesting fellow and this bears more investigation. You are giving me quite a bit to do. My wife is going to be angry with you...good thing you live in Japan .

joe
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Old 11-19-2004, 05:07 PM   #31
mgreen
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Didnt O'Sensei say "My Aikido has room for all of the worlds 10,000 gods and religions?" I still dont see how he could hate. Joseph Bowen, you seem to have a lot of good insight. You are right about one thing, and that is that Zen is not an intelectual study. I need to take the middle way more often....

Gassho

"Be ye lantern unto oneself"
Shakyamuni Buddha
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Old 11-19-2004, 09:10 PM   #32
Charles Hill
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Hi,

I found the Okumura Shihan interview from Aikido Today Magazine. I cut it out so I don`t know the date. Some quotes:

"O`Sensei hated Zen. If he found that a student was practicing Zen, he would get very angry with that person."

"If O`Sensei had heard people refer to Aikido as `moving Zen` he would have been very upset."

The reason, I believe, is that Zen is fundamentally not a Japanese philosophy and contradicts the native spirit faith of Shinto. Like other nature based faiths, Shinto emphasizes the new. As an example, Buddhist priests in Japan are often proud of how old their temple is. In contrast, the main Shinto Shrine in Ise is completely torn down and completely rebuilt every 20 years. This is also why, according to a professor of mine at Keio University, Japanese people use throwaway chopsticks.

Also from the interview. "When (O`Sensei) did certain exercises, he would invoke the God of purification, but he himself said that we didn`t have to do the same. His view was that we should be thinking about whatever God or Gods are sacred to us."

As for Zen, I have come to understand that there are no principles of Zen. As I understand it, Zen is a transmission from a specific teacher to a specific student. If one does not have a teacher who has received transmission directly from her teacher, then that person is not practicing Zen.

Charles Hill
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Old 11-19-2004, 09:35 PM   #33
mgreen
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
As for Zen, I have come to understand that there are no principles of Zen. As I understand it, Zen is a transmission from a specific teacher to a specific student. If one does not have a teacher who has received transmission directly from her teacher, then that person is not practicing Zen.

Charles Hill
Zen is just a word that tries its best to name what it cant. Words are not truth.... My teacher has had "Transmission" but whoes to say she didnt buy it off some monk who needed another bowl of rice? If you live in the moment or ask yourself the questions, "what am I?" or "what is reality?", then you are practicing Zen whether or not you want to or not.......... Zen isnt in stupid ass traditions or any of that crap. Its where you are standing right now. It is you.

"Be ye lantern unto oneself"
Shakyamuni Buddha
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Old 11-23-2004, 01:07 AM   #34
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Quote:
Matthew Green wrote:
Joseph Bowen, you seem to have a lot of good insight. You are right about one thing, and that is that Zen is not an intellectual study. I need to take the middle way more often....Gassho
High praise indeed, thank you very much……..

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
Hi, I found the Okumura Shihan interview from Aikido Today Magazine. I cut it out so I don't know the date. Some quotes:
"O'Sensei hated Zen. If he found that a student was practicing Zen, he would get very angry with that person."
"If O'Sensei had heard people refer to Aikido as `moving Zen` he would have been very upset."
The reason, I believe, is that Zen is fundamentally not a Japanese philosophy and contradicts the native spirit faith of Shinto. Like other nature based faiths, Shinto emphasizes the new. As an example, Buddhist priests in Japan are often proud of how old their temple is. In contrast, the main Shinto Shrine in Ise is completely torn down and completely rebuilt every 20 years. This is also why, according to a professor of mine at Keio University, Japanese people use throwaway chopsticks.
…Also from the interview. "When (O'Sensei) did certain exercises, he would invoke the God of purification, but he himself said that we didn't have to do the same. His view was that we should be thinking about whatever God or Gods are sacred to us."
As for Zen, I have come to understand that there are no principles of Zen. As I understand it, Zen is a transmission from a specific teacher to a specific student. If one does not have a teacher who has received transmission directly from her teacher, then that person is not practicing Zen. Charles Hill
Quote:
Matthew Green wrote:
Zen is just a word that tries its best to name what it can't. Words are not truth.... My teacher has had "Transmission" but whose to say she didn't buy it off some monk who needed another bowl of rice? If you live in the moment or ask yourself the questions, "what am I?" or "what is reality?", then you are practicing Zen whether or not you want to or not..........Zen isn't in stupid ass traditions or any of that crap. It's where you are standing right now. It is you.
Charles thanks for looking up the article. If possible can you email it to me? You've got me interested in Okumura Sensei. I agree with your reasoning about O'Sensei's dislike of Zen and its apparent contradiction of Shinto. Although essentially, I don't think Zen contradicts any religious belief. Funny that even though Zen is not a "Japanese" philosophy, most western folks automatically associate Zen with Japan. "Zen" is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese "Chan". Zen Buddhism originated in China, but reached the US through Japan. Most people probably associate Zen with the martial arts due to the many books and writings in Japan about the two. While Zen Buddhism entails many rituals and "rites of passage", such as the "dharma transmission", Matthew is right. The essence of Zen is not about the ritual or tradition; it is about keeping our awareness in the here and now. If you get in a philosophical discussion about Zen, there are principles to be discussed, if you go to a Zen school, they will talk about their lineage, and how their teacher received dharma transmission from so and so who received it from so and so going back for hundreds of years. But, when you practice Zen, all of that is meaningless. It is very much like Aikido in this respect. Your teacher may have been taught by so and so who was taught by O'Sensei, but when you practice all that matters is the practice…

joe
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Old 11-23-2004, 03:10 AM   #35
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Aikido and Preserving Ego

Quote:
Matthew Green wrote:
I practice Zen, and I was wondering if Aikido is still just to preseve one's ego. I know that many of O'Sensei's teachings were to shed ones ego, but If you do so, then whoare you defending? What is the "point" of defending oneself? I personaly practice Aikido just for fun, and find It to be a good physical and spiritual activity. I do not plan on ever having to defend myself. I belive good Karma is your best defense in life. On the other hand, I guess you could look at it from the persepective that the attacker is only attacking themselves. I am very interested in other peoples insights on this topic. Zen and of other faith.....
One of the columns I wrote for Jun had something to say about this...

True Self Defense - Article

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Aikido Eastside
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