Re: Who Sez O\’Sensei Was Wise!

Still taking about the power of myth, does it or doesn\’t place more dependence on someone else, like O\’Sensei, to guide my life? Will it help me turn that focus I have off of someone else I think provides me wisdom and guidance to my own inner voice? Is there myths that do that? Or is it the nature myth power to direct us to the dependence on others?

This is a fine question but one I think that is quintessentially American.

How is this question \”quintessentially American\”? The question reveals a certain thought process. It somehow connects, or possibly even equates, receiving guidance with becoming dependent, and receiving guidance and not listening to one\’s inner voice. How does it happen that those connections are made? That contradictions must be reconciled, and paradoxes expected and accepted when it comes to \”deeper\” things (which are often the same as \”simpler\” everyday things) – these could be difficult to realize with the thinking that is basis for the above question.

In the West we have very few arts that require \”transmission\”. Many of those that did don\’t exist any more because no one wanted to do that kind of work under a teacher. Still, one can see examples that bear… Look at the relationship between the coach and the elite level athlete. …  A writer may have an editor without whom his talents wouldn\’t be sharpened. A recording musician has a sound engineer and producer. … . The fundamental foundation for the transmission of knowledge in the East is the Teacher / Student relationship. \”Transmission\” go ways beyond mere instruction. It is a heart to heart process. It requires a letting go of ones individual concerns. … In fact a great degree of faith is required in the process. That is why the finding of ones teacher is so important. …  Leaving aside that the process was often subverted or that unscrupulous people simply resorted to outright fraud, the system worked and transmitted a certain kind of spiritual and technical knowledge over thousands of years.

This isn\’t a science vs. myth thing. I want to show why I am saying what I am. The thing so powerful that came from the revolution of science was that we could independently find wisdom on our own and not dependent on the myths that lead us to looking at others for guidance.

The revolution of science, while great in many ways, caused us to throw out the baby with the bath water from the standpoint of traditional knowledge. I do not think that science has caused us to become independent individuals from a wisdom standpoint. Quite the opposite. From the Western scientific standpoint, if we can\’t find a way to measure something with a machine, it doesn\’t exist. … . Science has no useful explanation for \”enlightenment\” or mystic union with God. It would like to think it can explain Love as a biochemical process but I suspect that most individuals find that to be unsatisfactory. … . The world O-Sensei lived in was full of kami, contained inherent wisdom that a person\’s mission was to discover. That is the spiritual path in a nutshell… the discovery of ones relationship to the absolute and how one can live with that. Science has no methodology for this. Zen quite explicitly states that the thinking mind cannot even perceive the truth of this.

Scientific method and data may enable us to be more independent (i.e., not require the existence of any other people)  relative to something more scientific in nature. However, it is just \”more\” or \”less\” and not  \”either/or\”.

Even if we took as an example the medical field, we will probably never reach the end of the quest for better diagnostic instruments. We do what we can with our current instrumentation. I.e., the instrument cannot give the doctor 100% of the necessary information such as what is occurring, why it is occurring,  and what should be done. The doctor uses experience and judgment to give the best possible response under the circumstances. This can include what is noteworthy in the first place, hunches about what else to look for, assessment of what is being observed, what course of action will actually be practicable, etc.

Experience and judgment come partly from exposure to others, both good and bad. With no exposure to others (e.g., mentors), one\’s judgment will certainly develop differently than with exposure. Is this \”dependence\” on others, to develop better judgment, wisdom, etc. from outside influences? Are there fields in which an individual\’s development is unconnected from others and one is completely independent?

As stated above, it is precisely because instruments/methods are better and better able to tell me what they are (and aren\’t, if one includes instruction manuals and information from other people) measuring, it is more apparent to the individual what the instrument/method cannot do. At such a point the individual make his/her own assessment, hypotheses, judgment, etc., which are inevitably the product of the individual\’s measurements plus prior experiences. Therefore, for instance, I can know that I am at and angle of x-degrees relative to my target, but there is \”something more\”, such as distance, speed, muscular tension, intention, potential responses, responses to responses, etc., that I factor in to achieve my goal – that I recognize the existence of that \”something more\” at all, and that I can identify and see the significance of that \”something more\” are subsequent stages.

The search for the Teacher is one that entails a leap of faith. The teacher is, by definition, someone who knows what you do not, perceives what you can\’t, can do what seems impossible for you. The fact that there are so few real Teachers of true mastership has caused a major disruption in the spiritual world. Look at Aikido… it has been the blind leading the blind. … The vast majority of American martial artists have Zero experience with any teachers who truly function at what in the East would be considered mastery. So we decide \”Hell, we all put our pants on the same way\” and decide, in true democratic fashion that no one is higher than ourselves. When it comes to a clash between what we want and what our teacher demands we quit and find a teacher who lets us be \”ourselves\”. And that\’s fine for someone but I have never seen anyone who got to a really high level of mastery that way. It is not the function of the teacher to let you be yourself.

I follow him because I think his skill was great and I want to be like him.

Actually, I don\’t want to be like O-Sensei. … . But I want to know, at least to some extent what the Founder knew. I think much of that knowledge is Universal and transferable across culture. … . My job as a teacher of Aikido in the West is to take my understanding as far as it can go but also to pass it down to another generation. …  I have to find a way to create a genuine American context for this knowledge that preserves its depth but is also understandable and of value to American practitioners. …  What is inherent in the Aikido of the Founder that can help us be better people, make or world better, help us lead better lives? It is the job of the non-Japanese teacher of the art to find this out. I can\’t get that from O-Sensei or Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei. I can get help from friends who are also engaged in this process themselves. But without the myth to inspire, without teachers to stand as examples of what mastery REALLY is, the individual simply relies on his own judgment, his own perception, his own experience. That generally results in someone who is very good at being the same person they\’ve always been but perhaps more attached to it.

Another, practical, consideration when examining what an \”independent\” person with nothing but scientific method would be is lifespan. Perhaps a machine can spend forever honing its results, but for a human it wouldn\’t work. And would a machine be able to come up with experiments to do? This is precisely where inspiration and consideration of possibilities becomes relevant. We are all in danger of being satisfied with familiarity. The danger is with respect to complacency and attachment. Inspiration is, \”I don\’t know where it will take me but I\’m going to try it.\” Perhaps even, \”I\’m not exactly sure what \’it\’ is but I\’m going to try \’it\’\”.

Here again, I don\’t question. It doesn\’t occur to me that there might be someone better then him. Maybe that is, because of myth. Which didn\’t occur to me until you wrote about myth, that helps.

We should question, all the time… But we also have to take on faith that there are simply things we don\’t have a clue about right now. For many years I had no idea whatever what my own teacher was doing. I think I had gotten to the point at which I had conceded that I would never be as good as he is.But then I met some other teachers who functioned at that same very high level. They had ways of teaching things that were totally different from my own teacher and suddenly I started to understand what my own teacher was doing. Then, they showed me that there were things far beyond what I had even been shooting for. I am far better than I ever thought I\’d be now and yet I feel like a complete beginner. There is stuff out there that I had no clue even existed. There are folks out there who make the myths real. I don\’t give anything up in this process. I don\’t lose my sense of myself… but what that sense is is constantly shifting.

It is that process of not questioning that I relate to as impulse buying of what and why we are not independent but rather dependent. Does myth lead us to impulse buy or away from that?

We are not independent. We are totally dependent… on our teachers, on each other, on our environment… In fact it is not so much that we are dependent but that we are totally connected. Everything is connected. Virtually all of our problems as individuals and as members of the collective come from our ignorance of this fact and continued attempts to act as if it weren\’t true. The Founder saw Aikido as a practice that would lead us to a better understanding of this fundamental connection. Since we do not inherently understand this connection, the myth inspires us to go beyond our own limitations. The \”myth\” is how the reality of the great teacher lives on after his death to continue to teach and inspire.

\”Lives on\” is relevant because we are connected through space and time. I may not see my teacher for long periods of time. I may never have met someone who is inspiring. How can they affect me then?

It is interesting that the confusion between \”being connected/affected\” and \”being at the mercy of\” arises so often, both intellectually and physically.


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