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Old 01-02-2004, 03:49 AM   #1
Hagen Seibert
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Freaky! self & selfdefence

Hi, Iīd like to know you thoughts on this:

Zen-Buddhism teaches that there is no self, or better said, that what we perceive as our self is merely an illusion.

Keeping that statement im mind, what are the consequences for self-defence? A friend of mine, who is as zen master, once asked: "If there is no self, what do you actually want to defend ?" This leads to the logic assumption, that Aikido or any other Budo were no longer sensible ???

What is your answer on this zen masterīs question?
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Old 01-02-2004, 04:26 AM   #2
shihonage
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Q: What did the farmer say when he lost his tractor ?

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A: "I lost my tractor".
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Old 01-02-2004, 06:54 AM   #3
fjcsuper
 
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I thought the farmer would say something like: "@#$%!"...

I think what your friend said about no self is actually not being selfish. Or maybe he could be talking about ego. But self defence is, I think, different. It is neccesary to defend your own life right?!

Merry New Year
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Old 01-02-2004, 07:58 AM   #4
Kevin Masters
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Hi.

It sounds like a matter of semantics. Maybe a more correct term would be autodefence?

Then there's no self defending self, there's just "defending".

Aleksey has a more appropriate answer though I think.

First there is a Budo (tractor), then there is no Budo (tractor), then there is?

I'm puzzled. It's Friday but feels like Monday.
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Old 01-02-2004, 08:44 AM   #5
Goetz Taubert
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I aggree that it seems to be a semantic problem.

But, to be on the safe side, give him a good punch when he is in deep meditation and see whats happening.

Just kidding
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Old 01-02-2004, 09:41 AM   #6
Hagen Seibert
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"I think what your friend said about no self is actually not being selfish. "

Let me assure that he meant no self.

I have to comment, that making this a matter of semantics is the second most easy reply.

(The first most easy reply is to say: Well, I do have a self, so where is the problem.)

regards
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Old 01-02-2004, 10:20 AM   #7
Josh Manning
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To my limited understanding, no self means that what is percieved as "You" is nothing more than a random collection of attributes, as though those pieces of self that you identify as yours were bees in a hive, some flying in, some flying out more or less constantly. this case, there is no true self, as all of the pieces are subject to sudden replacement. The comment about no self to me seems foolish though, since any animal at all defends itself, even the most passive or tame animals. Why should a human be an exception?
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Old 01-02-2004, 10:30 AM   #8
Don_Modesto
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Re: self & selfdefence

Quote:
Hagen Seibert wrote:
"If there is no self, what do you actually want to defend ?"
If there were no homonyms, would you have to ask this question?

Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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Old 01-02-2004, 10:48 AM   #9
Rich Stephens
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Don't take things too literally when considering Zen.

And as far as semantics go, of course it is a semantics problem. Are you sure that even the general understanding of the word "self" in English is the same as that of the word used by your Zen Master when speaking to you? And was that word the same as the Japanese and Chinese words written in zen and chan texts? And were those words exact translations of the words actually spoken by the Buddha? ("Anatman" was probably the term used). Until all that is cleared up, we don't even know that we're all talking about the same thing.

But in the end, the statement "there is no self" isn't important to consider. In the earliest Pali texts, it is reported that the Buddha refused to answer the question. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. In other words, he put it in that category of questions that should put aside because they do not lead to an end of suffering.

The "Zen Master's" question is: If there is no self, what do you actually want to defend ?

Here's a possible reply: "your premise that there is no self, is at the worst flawed, and at best simply not worth consdering. What one should concentrate on is ending suffering and in as much as Aikido accomplishes that, it is a worthwhile activity."

Or if you want to give it a less confrontational reply, you could reply that "I am defending whatever it is that puts alms into your bowl" or "I am defending whatever it is you are defending when you put food into your stomach each day."

-Rich
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Old 01-02-2004, 10:48 AM   #10
John Boswell
 
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In March, I plan to marry the woman I've searched all my life for. She and I plan to have kids and I'm very much looking forward to being a father.

Just this morning, I was thinking of what I would tell my child on why I train in Aikido and what the purpose a learning budo, and what it was all about. And pardon me for setting aside the idea of "no self" at this time, but its a difficult concept to explain.

What I DO know about why I train is: I train in budo so I do NOT have to fight.

Evil exists in the world in various forms. Bullies, Dictators, pretentious governments and officials, authorities of various kind, even just the schmuck at the bar who's had to much to drink could be acting out on impulse for various reason... alcohol being the evil agent there.

Whatever the reason is, force is coming at you from all different directions. If you fail to act on it when it does appear, it will collied with you and halt or hinder your advancement through life and getting by in our day to day world. THIS is called being the effect of something. It is a form of destruction.

In order to be at cause, we have to redirect that energy. Even better than that is to live life and set yourself up so that adverse force will not come your way in the first place! Obeying laws, paying taxes, sending out good energy by making friends and having friendly relations even with people you would rather not associate with... these are all ways of getting by, blending, living in harmony with others. Can't all of that also be considered self defense?

As far as "no self" goes, I personally believe this is the universal void that O'Sensei loved to talk about. A person's spirit or soul can not be seen but it is there. Walk into a room at your hospital where someone is on life support. You, the doctor and the patient are in the room. Would you say there are two and one half people in the room? Does that comatose person count any less than you or the doctor? No. There is life there. There is a being whose body is in terrible shape, but if there is life... there is a single, whole spiritual being attached to it. THAT is the "no self" that exists. The body, truth be known, is the actual illusion.

So... though we fight to defend "our self", we are actually defending the vessal in which we get around in. There are tons of ways to defend, but the reason is the same... to get by in this thing called life.

Hope I didn't throw anyone off or stir up any contraversy.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Old 01-02-2004, 10:53 AM   #11
Rich Stephens
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Re: Re: self & selfdefence

Quote:
Don J. Modesto (Don_Modesto) wrote:
If there were no homonyms, would you have to ask this question?
While I was writing my overly long reply, Don comes in and nails it with one sentence! BRAVO!
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Old 01-02-2004, 11:10 AM   #12
Thalib
 
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Do symbol The way of the warrior

You know Seibert-san, it's starting to make sense to me now.

Budo is not self-defense.

A samurai raises his sword up high leaving himself open comitting to the attack. On the battlefield, he does not think about defending himself.

Usually the person that goes into the battlefield wondering if he's going to stay alive through the battle is the first one to die. If one thinks this, one might as well not enter the battlefield. If one thinks of self-defense, one might as well runaway or retreat.

In another case, if a person comes into battle prepared for death, believing or even knowing what he is doing is right, he will usually live to see another day. Facing the blade, he is unphased, keeping his calm and relaxation all the way through. If he died, he and his comrades will believe that he had died an honorable death.

I'm not going to get into if the Samurai code was true or was the idealism put into place during that period. Let's save that for another thread. The case above is in the correlation of "not defending the self".

Last edited by Thalib : 01-02-2004 at 11:13 AM.

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Old 01-02-2004, 11:51 AM   #13
John Boswell
 
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Thalib,

Not to be "too" technical, but looking at the samuari who raises his sword, leaving himself open to attack... from what I've learned so far in Aikido, there is a reason behind that stance.

A sword is raised or lowered prior to attack for the purpose of inviting attack to a certain area upon you. Once that attacked is expected, you can better plan its defense and counterstike.

Example: As Uke raises his ken to strike shomen uchi, Nage slides forward with the ken pointed down. As the strike comes down, you raise the ken above your left side, handle up and point down... raising block. Then, as Uke's strike goes by, Nage pivots left and strikes shomen.

I just love weapon's work!

But yours is an interesting point to.

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Old 01-02-2004, 12:40 PM   #14
Kevin Masters
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Congratulations, John.

Here's to a rewarding and loving home!

And fatherhood is really awesome.

Best.

Kevin
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Old 01-02-2004, 02:27 PM   #15
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Thank you, Kevin! I'm certainly looking forward to this upcoming adventure!

Happy New Year to you!

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Old 01-02-2004, 03:23 PM   #16
Hagen Seibert
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Ha, this thread starts to become interesting. Special thanks to Kevin, Rich and Thalib for your postings.

Ahmm, maybe I did not get Alekseyīs point because of lacking vocabulary: Is there another meaning to "tractor" apart from the machine that pulls the plough ?

Of course the question "If there is no self, what do you actually want to defend ?" was meant as provocation. So it may play with semantics, but he is not the sophist type. Nevertheless replacing self with the word selfishness doesnt answer the question properly. If "you put food into your stomach each day" you basically are selfish. To live is being neccessarily selfish. If you are selfish there is a self. Even if you do not think of your self and act without a self involved, your actions could still be interpreted as selfish. So, where is the difference between the "self" of "If there is no self..." and the "self" of "..what do you actually want to defend ?"

regards
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Old 01-02-2004, 03:57 PM   #17
John Boswell
 
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Quote:
Ha, this thread starts to become interesting. Special thanks to Kevin, Rich and Thalib for your postings.
HEY! What am I? Chopped liver? I said some very profound stuff!!

/runs off crying to his mommy.





Just kidding!

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Old 01-02-2004, 04:56 PM   #18
Thalib
 
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Huahahahah...

Don't take it personally Boswell-san.

Anyway, it is true about there is a technical reason behind that, but when one is on the battlefield the mind should no longer be thinking of technical matters. He shouldn't be "thinking" at all. Not just clearing the mind from techniques but from oneself also. Mushin no shin, the mind of no mind.

Thinking about defending the self will lead to fear and anxiety. One will usually be easily cornered. On the battlefield one could easily be killed. During Aikido practice I could see people that are defending themselves when doing technique. They are the ones that usually steps back or step away too far most of the times.

One of the principle of Aikido, not just Aikido actually but any Budo, is irimi or entering. Defensive practitioners are usually afraid and "run away" from the attack by stepping to the right or to the left really far away or back away from the uke, away from the attack. The result is that one will be too far away to execute any technique and will give opportunity for uke to do another attack. It is fine during practice, but could prove fatal in real life.

It is good to discuss these type of matters during practice or off practice, but it is not good to be thinking about it when one is faced with a "true situation". There are technical reasons, but those technical reasons are backed by principles. When applying those principles the spirit matters most.

When I have to die by the sword, I will do so with honor.
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Old 01-02-2004, 05:20 PM   #19
Hagen Seibert
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Sorry John, of course I did not mean to say that your post was not profound or unimportant or anything like that. I just fancied some, which doesnīt mean I donīt value the others.
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Old 01-02-2004, 10:46 PM   #20
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Re: self & selfdefence

Quote:
Hagen Seibert wrote:
A friend of mine, who is as zen master, once asked: "If there is no self, what do you actually want to defend ?" This leads to the logic assumption, that Aikido or any other Budo were no longer sensible ???What is your answer on this zen masterīs question?
Slap him.

If he defends, asked to see who it was that defended. If he does not defend, ask who is it that got slapped.

If there is no self, then there is no one slapping and no one getting slapped.

Is this the one hand slapping koan?

OTOH, IMHO, much of Budo is not self-defense but other-defense.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 01-03-2004, 12:21 AM   #21
jk
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Now THAT's an elegant answer...thanks, Lynn.

Oh yeah, and take his wallet while you're at it.
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Old 01-03-2004, 12:52 AM   #22
L. Camejo
 
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Re: self & selfdefence

Quote:
Hagen Seibert wrote:
Zen-Buddhism teaches that there is no self, or better said, that what we perceive as our self is merely an illusion.

Keeping that statement im mind, what are the consequences for self-defence? A friend of mine, who is as zen master, once asked: "If there is no self, what do you actually want to defend ?" This leads to the logic assumption, that Aikido or any other Budo were no longer sensible ???

What is your answer on this zen masterīs question?
Perception is the true question here I guess.

TO be more exact, if "what we

perceive as ourself is merely an illusion" then in self defence we are defending a perceived illusion. This statement however is based on the prerequisite of human perception (in the form of the zen master or the originator of the initial concept) being totally clear to begin with, else the perception of the self as an illusion may in fact be an illusion itself.

As far as Aikido goes, it has been said by its founder that "if the senses are clogged, one's perception is stifled." The practice and study of Aikido has been offered by its founder as well to be a way of "polishing the spirit" and enabling the senses to be cleared and ths spirit to be forged, thereby creating clearer windows of perception.

In this sense, Aikido as Budo (which may encompass the concept of "self defence") is a means of determining whether the Zen Buddhist concept of "no self" is correct to begin with, as it allows the practitioner to develop the clarity needed to correctly perceive what is and is not.

On another line of thought - if one looks at the land from the air one gains a new perspective and may as a result have a more holistic way of perceiving the land. However, if one attempts to look at the land from a mountain top, the view is better than in the lowlands, but they are still on the land - the view is not as comprehensive as from the air.

My question then is, since the Zen master is operating in the same dimension as everyone else, how does he know that his perception of what is illusion is correct? He may be in fact subject to a different illusion than the rest of us, no?

After all, it's all about one's level of perception right? Who determines which mind is clearer than the other?

Just a few thoughts.

L.C.

Last edited by L. Camejo : 01-03-2004 at 12:57 AM.

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Old 01-03-2004, 03:13 AM   #23
indomaresa
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I agree with Thalib about budo not being a self-defense

but here's another thing; aikido isn't ultimately supposed to be a self-defense pursuit too, it's a way to achieve harmony. This is probably what Zen and Aikido agrees in.

We learn to be aware of an attack, blend with it, and bring a non-harmful end to the conflict.

Polished properly, aikido is expected to do so before the conflict even began. This is the realm that Morihei Ueshiba is said to have reached. Maybe, his opponent came attacking with complete realisation that they couldn't win, or they were sucked into his harmonizing process.

So my reasoning is; if aikido is used to create harmony between uke and nage, the self-defense concept is non-existent.

- there is no self. Just harmony.

As for perceiving illusions, I'm still far from understanding that concept.

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Old 01-03-2004, 12:16 PM   #24
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Re: Re: self & selfdefence

Quote:
Lynn Seiser (SeiserL) wrote:
Slap him.

If he defends, asked to see who it was that defended. If he does not defend, ask who is it that got slapped.

If there is no self, then there is no one slapping and no one getting slapped.

Is this the one hand slapping koan?

OTOH, IMHO, much of Budo is not self-defense but other-defense.
ROTFLOL!

BTW, very handsome book; just saw it yesterday in Borders. Congratulations. (Is that you as UKE in most of the pics?)

Don J. Modesto
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Old 01-03-2004, 10:19 PM   #25
SeiserL
 
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Re: Re: Re: self & selfdefence

Quote:
Don J. Modesto (Don_Modesto) wrote:
BTW, very handsome book; just saw it yesterday in Borders. Congratulations. (Is that you as UKE in most of the pics?)
Thanks for the kind words. No, I was taking the pictures. That is me upside down on the cover though.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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