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Old 01-14-2005, 11:48 AM   #1
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"I am the Universe."

Hi All,

Looking for a bit of research assistance. Has anyone seen Osensei's phrase, "I am the universe," in it's actual Japanese - not an editor's Japanese and not in a Translator's English. If so, could you please let me know what that Japanese was, and/or if you can write out the kanji, that would be even better.

Much thanks in advance,
dmv

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Old 01-14-2005, 05:03 PM   #2
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Hi All,

Looking for a bit of research assistance. Has anyone seen Osensei's phrase, "I am the universe," in it's actual Japanese - not an editor's Japanese and not in a Translator's English. If so, could you please let me know what that Japanese was, and/or if you can write out the kanji, that would be even better.

Much thanks in advance,
dmv
Hello David,

One place which comes close is p.22 of "Aikido Kaiso Ueshiba Morihei-den", written by Kisshomaru Ueshiba. The phrase is in quotation marks and so it would seem that Kisshomary is quoting and he actually states in the paragraph that his father was wont to utter such phrases.

However, I have some experience in translating Japanese written in the Taisho/early Showa era and I know that authors were somewhat loose with quotation mark The phrase contains the folowing characters (with radicals and the revised Nelson numbering): 62/2028; 26/633; 40/1309; 40/1318. The establsihed readings are "GO - waga"; "SOKU" - "sunawa(chi)" (which Kisshomaru gives as okurigana in the text; and the usual "UTCHUU", for "Universe".

I once gave the phrase to one of my Japanese graduate students and he confessed that he was unable to read the first two characters. He thought it might be GO-SOKU. However, Kissshomaru's gloss of "sunawachi" suggests something more like "waga sunawachi..." When I next meet Okumura Sensei I will ask him. In the meantime, perhaps you might ask Prof. Grapard...

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-14-2005 at 05:05 PM.

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Old 01-14-2005, 05:21 PM   #3
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for the suggestion. I'll look into that and/or take it up with Prof. Grapard.

Just by chance, you might be interested, something sparked my mind to check out the radio interview that Aikido Journal just put on DVD not too long ago - low and behold - there is Osensei saying the phrase with his own voice! lol This gave me just what I was looking for - which is material to write on the mystical foundations of Osensei's spirituality. He uses the word "Dai-Uchuu" in the phrase and it's heavily contextualized by Omoto-kyo references to dualities becoming one, the Divine Plan, and how Man and Aikido are meant to function within that plan, etc. It is really the most complete testament I have ever seen or heard by Osensei regarding what he thought he was and what he thought his art was. If you got some time, perhaps you can take a look at it and let me know what you think. The only time-consuming part is identifying all of the Omoto-Kyo references.

Again, thanks for replying, take care,
david

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Old 01-14-2005, 05:38 PM   #4
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Hello David,

In which case, look at Masahisa Goi's introduction to Hideo Takahashi's edition of Morihei Ueshiba's discourses, published as Takemusu Aiki. Actually, Goi quotes the Founder in several places and he solves the question I posed in the earlier post. The phrase is "ware wa sunawachi utchuu", or "utchii sonomono de aru watashi".

I would think that Goi would be an important stop in any research on the Founder's mysticism, as would be Reikai Monogotari. Do you know that there is an electronic edition of Deguchi's book? Which makes it much easier to use.

Best regards,

PAG

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Old 01-14-2005, 05:55 PM   #5
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Re: "I am the Universe."

I imagine I am looking at the same electronic version of Deguchi's book. Thanks for letting me know though. And thanks for the kanji readings. I've found a few other writings central to Omoto-kyo on the net as well. It's all very interesting when it's looked at in light of Osensei's interview. I even found out which picture of what Kami is behind Osensei in the old documentary "Aikido" (1961) via these web sites - and I know who painted it for him - lol. There's a lot of stuff there. To be honest, I don't have the time to take on this subject as tightly as it should be taken on - maybe some day. Right now, I'm interested in getting enough together for my own sake and for the sake of my students to reconsider and/or contemplate over the spirituality of modern Aikido and how that might be like or unlike the spirituality of Osensei. It's more a thought piece than a academic work - one that stems off of my personal dissatisfaction with seeing Aikido as little more than a practical metaphor.

Again, many thanks,
david

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Old 01-14-2005, 06:09 PM   #6
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
I imagine I am looking at the same electronic version of Deguchi's book. Thanks for letting me know though. And thanks for the kanji readings. I've found a few other writings central to Omoto-kyo on the net as well. It's all very interesting when it's looked at in light of Osensei's interview. I even found out which picture of what Kami is behind Osensei in the old documentary "Aikido" (1961) via these web sites - and I know who painted it for him - lol. There's a lot of stuff there. To be honest, I don't have the time to take on this subject as tightly as it should be taken on - maybe some day. Right now, I'm interested in getting enough together for my own sake and for the sake of my students to reconsider and/or contemplate over the spirituality of modern Aikido and how that might be like or unlike the spirituality of Osensei. It's more a thought piece than a academic work - one that stems off of my personal dissatisfaction with seeing Aikido as little more than a practical metaphor.

Again, many thanks,
david
Yes, I understand the context of your dissatisfaction very well―and I am perhaps closer to it than you are.

One final point. I found the writings of Inoue Nobutaka very useful in looking at the cultural background of Omoto-kyo.

Kindest regards,

PAG

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Old 01-14-2005, 06:19 PM   #7
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Re: "I am the Universe."

lol - yes - I would imagine you are. One of the upsides of being independent. ;-) Hang in there. I'll check out Inoue as well then. Thanks - d

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Old 01-15-2005, 05:27 AM   #8
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Re: "I am the Universe."

David,

I should correct a mistake I made earlier. I consulted the retired professor who has been my kanji tutor for the past 25 years or so, and he told me that "waga sunawachi utchuu" is wrong, since "waga" has an implied possessive. He pondered "ware soku utchuu" for a while and then decided that "ware sunawachi utchuu" was the most natural reading.

Best regards,

PAG

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Old 01-15-2005, 10:10 AM   #9
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Don't mean to interupt, but...

have you determined a more proper translation of what O'Sensei said, or is the phrase "I am the universe" still the closest translation?

Just curious.

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Old 01-15-2005, 11:42 AM   #10
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Thanks again Peter. That helped confirmed what one of my electronic dictionaries was giving for the term -- it only gave "ware."

John, and Peter please offer your take on the translation as well -

I would not say that the problem is with the translation per se, as much as it is with the context that usually goes with it. The context is not a commonly shared context and most likely it never was. That is why I am most impressed with the radio interview, because Osensei giving that talk there must have been like when he (Osensei) was lecturing to his students - all those times folks now tell us how they did not understand what Osensei was saying. Here we have a chance to regain context. This is not so easy but at least it is possible.

As to how uncommon this context is or was, in the 1962 documentary there is supposedly one of those lectures captured on film. I have to say that, yes, the faces of those listening are not supporting the usual cultural expression of "I get what you are saying" (not even the just being polite "I get what you are saying"). Indeed those students do look totally lost, as would anyone who was not as learned or as practiced as Osensei was in traditional Japanese religious culture and/or in the new mystical reinterpretations that Omoto-kyo was doing with such things. That stuff just was not part of the average Japanese person's mindset at that time. Omoto-kyo's worldview was not on the lips of every Japanese person at that time. On top of things, by the radio interview, it is clear that Osensei was much schooled in the teachings of Omoto-kyo. He represented what I would consider an expert level of such things. I say that because Omoto-kyo teachings are very convoluted. So, even if you know a little, you know a lot. Moreover, Osensei seemed to know a lot. Expecting some young men, young men living at the apex of a cultural revolution (in my opinion) that started at the end of the previous century, to understand a man who was already out of date in that previous century is asking too much of anyone.

In the radio interview too, for example, there are very little of the common "Yes, I see," or "Yes, of course," or "Yes, I understand." Whenever such phrases are said, you can almost SEE the apprehension in the sounds of the words. In my opinion, Osensei seems to be talking way over this man's head -- talking with a language not readily understood by the average Japanese person at that time, not even someone primed to do an interview with the man.
For example, a funny part occurs in the radio interview after a long explanation by Osensei on his mystical understanding of Man and the Universe (predominantly Omoto-kyo based). At the end of that talk, the interviewer sort of chimes in finally and says something he obviously heard from someone else -- it was obviously a prepared question. You could tell because it was so unrelated to what Osensei had been saying. In fact, Osensei had already answered it in the conversation, had the man understood the mystical union of all things as delivered in Osensei's discussion, but obviously he did not so the question just drops like a bag of sand. The question was something like, "So, is it true there are no attacks in Aikido?" After a slight pause, one you can sense is partly made of shock, Osensei sort of chuckles (as if humored by the question) and then goes on to say that it would not be right for there not to be attacks in Aikido (which will come as a shock to some folks out there since this interview is obviously post WWII, and near the end of Osensei's life -- which is supposedly where he "evolved" beyond attacks, according to such discourses.). Osensei goes on to explain (summarizing), since Aikido is about dualities becoming one, which is the true nature of reality, there are attacks in Aikido because attacks represent one side of something else. This fits in with the earlier talk Osensei had just given, but at that point, perhaps realizing where Osensei was going to go with every new question, the interviewer said he was out of time -- though he said he had many other questions to ask.

My point is this, the context we are usually given with these translations are the problem -- how could they not be, since it would be very uncommon for someone to share Osensei's worldview (due to social and/or cultural reasons) at that time and then to bring that to us here today in whole. Today when we hear something like "I am the universe," usually the adjoining context bounces along a spectrum of supporting a literal understanding, a symbolic understanding, or a metaphorical understanding. That is to say, for example, some folks offer a context where Osensei is some kind of super-being, where he can be equated with the stars, planets, moons, etc. Some folks offer a context where Osensei is speaking of the physical properties of the natural world and of living in harmony with those properties. However, in my opinion, all of these contexts, and their many variations, cannot be correct because they all make use of the subject-object dichotomy. Contrarily, Osensei's thinking is mystical in nature and thus opts to reject the aforementioned dichotomy. That is to say, Osensei's thinking rejects the literal, the symbolic, and the metaphorical but for perhaps at the most superficial levels of practice.

One could of course play with the translation to make it more difficult to understand literally, symbolically, or metaphorically, such that one might suggest things like the following:

"There is nothing that I am not."
"I am everything, everything is I."
"I am"

Etc.

However, the beauty of leaving the translation as "I am the universe" is that it fits in perfectly with countless other mystical traditions found throughout history and the world (today) -- where this exact statement was said and still being said. There is another reason to leave the translation as it is (better to address the context of the translation instead). It is highly likely that it was this phrase itself that came into Osensei's understanding of the world via the mystical traditions of Europe -- traditions that Omoto-kyo was coming into contact with via its efforts to be part of the world-religion movement of that time. So I would say, the translations are fine. Personally, I would not change them or change them too much from what we now have because of the two reasons I just gave (i.e. it fits in with the larger world mystical tradition and there is probably some historical relevance pertaining to an immigration of ideas). However, any context that continues to make use of a subject-object dichotomy (which includes literal, symbolic, and/or metaphorical understandings) is going to lead astray -- so for me the contexts are usually the problem.

My opinion,
dmv

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Old 01-15-2005, 03:11 PM   #11
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Gentleman:

Very interesting discussion with much to think about.

Thank you very much!

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Old 01-15-2005, 04:57 PM   #12
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Hello David,

It is now nearly 8 am, Sunday, in Japan and I have just turned on my computer. Because of the time difference, it is always interesting to see what new posts have arrived each morning.

I suggested "waga" (1) partly because the Japanese use the phrase e.g., in "waga kuni" and (2) it appears as a reading of the other kanji O Sensei occasionally uses, namely, Nelson 733, Radical 30. But I should have remembered the possessive element.

I am certain that your last post, in reply to John Boswell, hit a few nails on the head and my own thinking has been proceeding on the same lines for for past decade or so, especially since I have been living in Japan. Perhaps I have come to the question by a different route.

But first, to answer John Boswell, these days no one here says, "Ware sunawachi..." to mean, "I am..." However, there is one place I found where there is a very direct phrase. Masahisa Goi in his introduction to "Takemusu Aiki" uses the phrase, "Utchuu sonomono de aru watashi", which means, "I am the universe itself". The phrase appears in a section about transmitting the Founder's words about being one with the universe. Now "utchuu" is a common Japanese name with much the same breadth of meaning and connotation as the English equivalent. The interesting point about Masahisa Goi, however, is that his Byakko Shinko kai is an offshoot of Omoto-kyo and I suspect―I am certain―that he uses similar conceptual categories in talking about his spiritual experiences.

Over the years I have been increasingly struck by the differences between aikido, as the Founder appears to have understood it, and aikido as Kisshomaru Ueshiba appears to have understood it, and this actually was the spur to writing the articles which have appeared in Aikido Journal under the title "Touching the Absolute". These articles were preliminary explorations of a vast and controversial territory and much more needs to be said.

Another way of putting this is to contrast 'prewar' and 'postwar' aikido and tie the question to changes in Japanese ethical andd spiritual values as a whole. I use "prewar" in a rather wide sense, namely from around the Genroku era until WW2. I do this because the explosion of popular culture in Japan, the development of the 'new religions' and the input of western ideas―with the problem of translating these ideas into Japanese―are crucial here.

Another spur was looking at the book "Aikido", published by Kisshomaru Ueshiba in 1975. At the end of the bok there is a collection of "sayings" of the Founder. Like any ancient sage, O Sensei made all kinds of aphorisms and Kisshomaru's book has given rise to a whole industry of publishing "saying" of the Founder, usually under some attractive postwar title like "Abundant Peace", which is doubly appropriate because it is a reading of Morihei etc etc. I think there is something seriously wrong about this enterprise IF such aphorisms are taken out of context and presented as the sum total of what O Sensei "meant" about aikido and life in general.

Thus a phrase like "I am the Universe" desperately needs a context if it is to have any meaning. Of course, if one is a post-structuralist/post-modernist, one can give whatever meaning one likes. However, even here I would be happier if such meanings were grounded in a knowledge of the linguistic and cultural background. In this context I find the boks of Bernard Faure on Chan/Zen of some interest. He does not seem to have an equivalent in the field of Japanese spirituality.

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 01-15-2005 at 05:01 PM.

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Old 01-15-2005, 05:54 PM   #13
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Hi Peter,

Ah yes, Bernard is a friend of Grapard's - I've met him many times in the past - a very nice man - extremely nice. I have always felt that his work on Ch'an in those two books was way ahead of its time. Perhaps even still today - in my humble opinion - since I do not see it being too much duplicated in other folks doing Ch'an studies. Those books, like Grapard's work, make ample use of folks like Braudel, Foucault, Bourdieu, etc. So context and theories on context are central to what we are referring to here - I definitely agree with you. That is the issue -- the central issue.

I also agree with your position that we are looking at some sort of shift - if not a break - maybe even a lapse in transmission and/or some kind of re-invention - when we are looking at Osensei's understanding of Aikido and Kisshomaru's. For me, one of the big clinchers that such a thing did take place, but by no means the only one, is something you said a while ago, about Kisshomaru suggesting that the word "Nature" is a sufficient replacement for Osensei's "all encompassing" terms (i.e. Dai-Uchuu, God, etc.) -- not hardly. If I may draw a parallel -- to me -- that would be like St. Paul saying, "We should think of "Heaven" as metaphor for social harmony and justice."

Of course, Osensei's Aikido, to me, is readily identifiable or can be identified in Osensei himself as a person. We can see what that is like and we are learning more all the time -- by sharing information like this on platforms like this. However, I am a little hesitant as to place all weight of the break in the single man of his son. That kind of agency is not part of how I was trained to understand history. There are many problems with those kinds of ideas of agency. Nevertheless, something did happen around that time, and undoubtedly Kisshomaru was part of it. He was definitely a player in whatever kind of paradigmatic shifts and/or epistemic shifts took place during his lifetime. Whatever happened, how it happened, why it happened, etc., has yet to be studied, as you said, and it might be some while before anyone would actually tackle that subject since such a work would indirectly be an attack on the claims of transmission for many folks training today.

Work and dojo life is so pressing (in a good way), maybe someday I can finish these ideas. I hope you can do the same -- selfishly. Anyway, you have been a great help and a great inspiration. Thank you.

david

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Old 01-15-2005, 07:13 PM   #14
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Re: "I am the Universe."

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Hi Peter,

However, I am a little hesitant as to place all weight of the break in the single man of his son. That kind of agency is not part of how I was trained to understand history. There are many problems with those kinds of ideas of agency. Nevertheless, something did happen around that time, and undoubtedly Kisshomaru was part of it. He was definitely a player in whatever kind of paradigmatic shifts and/or epistemic shifts took place during his lifetime. Whatever happened, how it happened, why it happened, etc., has yet to be studied, as you said, and it might be some while before anyone would actually tackle that subject since such a work would indirectly be an attack on the claims of transmission for many folks training today.

david
Oh, yes. I agree. As I said, the striking differences are what led me to probe further. There is also the undoubted fact that before the war aikido became part of the Japanese 'establishment' and I myself have a ringside view of issues involved in the transmission (or not) of the charisma of an individual through an organizational structure. What is interesting, however, is that these problems are not new or unique to aikido.

Best regards,

PAG

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