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Old 06-08-2005, 05:22 AM   #26
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Takemusu

Quote:
Jan Max Bunzel wrote:
Peter, thanks for the references. I checked some of the paragraphs in Takemusu Aiki, and I think I will return to my first view that there are no link between the word musubi and Osenseis use of musu. The reference to names of deities in the Kojiki doesn't support any link.

On the other hand I believe that the temptation to link musubi (connect) to musu in Takemusu comes from paragraphs like the one where Osensei writes that "..Bu must be connected/linked to the principle of the universe..." (sorry I don't remember the exact page somewhere in the pages 17-20 ;-)). Right after that passage Osensei writes "Takemusu no Bu, which gives birth to love(Ai wo umu "Takemusu" ..... ) , is different in quality from Bu that do not connect with the universe"

I am not surprised that non of the students did not have an answer to what Takemusu means, after all Takemusu origins somewhere in the cosmology (I don't know if that is the proper english word for it ;-)) of Osensei, as Steffan also points out.

Peter, do you know if anyone translated those pages from Takemusu Aiki?
Hello Jan Max,

I think the temptation to link 'musubu' 結ぶ to 'musu' 産 comes from the fact that the early deities in the Kojiki are commonly called musubi (= creation) deities and, as you stated, there is a sense in which M Ueshiba strongly emphasized connection and being connected.

If you start from the concept (= the concept of musubi in 'original' Japanese) and then consider the ways of displaying this concept in Chinese characters, there are many posibilities. My own kanji teacher (a retired professor, with whom I have been studying kanji for the past 25 years), in the books he writes, occasionally gives a concept a Chinese character it would not normally have, in order to give an extra nuance to the concept. My protestations (as a translator) that he 'cannot' do this, since the character already has an established meaning, are, of course, gently brushed off. Of course he can do it, for he is a native speaker, as was O Sensei, and can deploy the resources of the language in such a way as to extract maximum mileage from it. Perhaps in English you would extract the same mileage by the metaphors you deploy. My professor is known locally as a brilliant writer of Japanese, in the same way that Twain was a brilliant writer of English.

The other point I would make is that the Kojiki is notoriously difficult to read. I have learned this from teaching a course here for many years on the ways in which language is tied to culture. As a text we are studying the creation stories in the Bible and in the earliest Japanese texts. The problem here is to determine the 'text' and in this respect, the Bible is relatively straightforward by comparison with the Kojiki. This text is written in a mixture of styles (e.g., where the Chinese characters are used phonetically, without any reference to what they actually meant in Chinese).

To see what I mean, consider a modern example. Coffee is commonly drunk everwhere in Japan and it is usually written in its katakana from as コーヒー. However there is a kanji version of the term, which I cannot reproduce here. If you have the revised Nelson, the characters are 3629 and 3648. You can see the combination all over Japan in coffeeshops known as 'kouhiikan' (with the addition of kan, as in Yoshinkan).

The meaning of the first character is an ornamental hairpin and of the second is a string of pearls. I can imagine that foreign devotees of a unique Japanese art based on coffee (analogous to chado/sado: the art of drinking tea) going into agonies of interpretation as they try to relate hairpins and strings of pearls with the beverage that underpins their art. The kanji are known as ateji (characters chosen for their phonetic value only).

Anyway, this post has become too long. Beyond the short pieces published on the AJ website, there are no translations of "Takemusu Aiki" and my earlier posts were based on my reading of the Japanese text.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 06-08-2005, 06:12 AM   #27
Bunzel
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Re: Takemusu

Hi Peter

You are absolutely right about westerners, and for that matter many japanese peoples, attempt to interpretate a japanese concept from a chinese character that actually is used for its phonetic value only. Unfortunately lack of knowledge about the japanese language often makes people seek a deeper meaning of the concept by looking at the graphic components of the chinese character. This in most cases obviously is a fruitless merit. However as you mention sometimes japanese writers do chose a different character because they feel it will add a second and more subtle meaning to the word than using the standard characters.

As for the translated parts of Takemusu Aiki I haven't had time to see this on AJ, yet. But I will definitely check there before starting on a translation - that is if I ever find time to start on that work :-)
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Old 06-08-2005, 11:30 AM   #28
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Kanji components

Quote:
Jan Max Bunzel wrote:
Unfortunately lack of knowledge about the japanese language often makes people seek a deeper meaning of the concept by looking at the graphic components of the chinese character. This in most cases obviously is a fruitless merit.
On the other hand, there are lots of words, where studying their kanji components can help tremendously in understanding them. Also, the "etymology" of a kanji in itself is often rewarding to analyze.
I also believe that this is something Chinese and Japanese scholars frequently do. When they discuss a concept, they hurry to analyze its kanji components, as a starting point for understanding it.

Therefore, there is sort of a feedback: Because the kanji is studied for the meaning of the word, people tend to consider the kanji when chosing and using words.

About fonetics, I understand it so that the Chinese pictograms are usually made up of a part meaning appx "sounds like", and another describing the word's specific meaning. In the Chinese language, though, there are so many words sounding the same, those who put the pictograms together could chose a "sounds like" that also adds something to the understanding of the word meaning.

Applied to this thread, maybe it would be interesting to compare what synonyms to UMU, create, there are. Maybe it would be rewarding to see why Osensei did not choose any of those?
That could help toward understanding what kind of creation/creativity he had in mind.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 06-08-2005, 12:19 PM   #29
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Takemusu

Japanese makes my head hurt....

RT

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Old 06-08-2005, 03:45 PM   #30
Bunzel
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Re: Takemusu

Quote:
On the other hand, there are lots of words, where studying their kanji components can help tremendously in understanding them. Also, the "etymology" of a kanji in itself is often rewarding to analyze.
I also believe that this is something Chinese and Japanese scholars frequently do. When they discuss a concept, they hurry to analyze its kanji components, as a starting point for understanding it.
I think this kind of analysis in rare cases leads to something meaningful. In most cases it leads to interpretations that are far fetched. One part of the Kanji usually hints at the phonetic value, while another part usually hints to the semantic value - however by understanding these components only you will never ever be able to grasp the meaning of even small text. And it rarely adds additional information to text to analyse each Kanji within a sentence into their basic components.

Obviously when someone writes something that contains new concepts - or extensions on existing concepts then the chinese character presents a fantastic opportunity for creating new words carrying more than the obvious semantic values hidden in the writers choise characters. However it is my firm believe that any analysis of this sort needs to be substantially proven by evidence in the authors other writings related to that same concept. Just looking at character itself and saying because it contains this and this component then the author originally meant to say this and this - is simply not a scientific approach.
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Old 06-08-2005, 06:44 PM   #31
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Kanji

Quote:
Jan Max Bunzel wrote:
however by understanding these components only you will never ever be able to grasp the meaning of even small text.
Not only, of course. Did I give the impression of meaning that?
What I meant was that this, too, can help in bringing understanding of a concept, and what its user might be refering to. I mean that it is not very scientific to completely ignore this aspect.

This is particularly interesting, since so many Chinese and Japanese thinkers themselves refer to the kanji they use, their components and their traditional use.

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 06-09-2005, 12:24 AM   #32
Charles Hill
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Re: Takemusu

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Anyway, this post has become too long.,
I have to say, I have never thought this about any Prof. Goldsbury post.

in gratitude,
Charles Hill
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Old 06-09-2005, 01:33 AM   #33
Bunzel
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Re: Takemusu

Hi Stefan

Stefan wrote:
Quote:
Not only, of course. Did I give the impression of meaning that?
What I meant was that this, too, can help in bringing understanding of a concept, and what its user might be refering to. I mean that it is not very scientific to completely ignore this aspect.
No I didn't think so. I know you are very precise and correct in your research :-). I fully agree that understanding the characters may in some cases add to the understanding of a concept, but I would rather address the concept from writings of the founder, or from secondary sources like direct students of the founder than starting from his choise of characters to represent the concept - and I don't think we can disagree on that.

The only thing I argue against is that often people start the other way around like here are the characters for the concept and then they try to explain the concept from the characters. In this case the argument start like "Takemusu is written like this therefore it means bla bla...." instead of using the proper way "Takemusu is name used by the founder to designate his special form of ... the founder writes about Takemusu that it is...."

Stefan wrote:
Quote:
This is particularly interesting, since so many Chinese and Japanese thinkers themselves refer to the kanji they use, their components and their traditional use.
Yes, I find that very interesting too, and whether it can be justified or not depends on each case. The danger for both Japanese and non-Japanese alike is to fall into the trap of thinking that you can always extract a deeper meaning of some concept by looking at the characters. In Nihonjinron this kind of research is even used by some scholars to explain particular characteristics of the Japanese people ;-)
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