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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder Of Aikido (12)

by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #83 (January 1990)

The author, Mr. Kanemoto Sunadomari, first met Morihei Ueshiba in 1928. A devout follower of the Omoto religion, he delves deeply into the influence of this religion on the art of aikido. This, the first biography of the Founder of Aikido, was published in February 1969 and is reprinted with the permission of the Sunadomari family.

The Science Of The Soul Of Language

Founder in Ayabe, c. 1922

The Gospel According to John,” in the New Testament of the Christian “Bible” begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” These words are known by virtually everyone, but how many people truly understand the meaning of this passage? Even in the Christian religion, there is no single clear explanation of the phrase, “the Word was God.”

Japan has been described in phrases inherited from the age of myths and written in ancient books, such as, “The nation where the soul of language is alive,” “The nation of Kotodama no Amaterasu [she who shines in the sky, and rules Japan],” “The nation that is nourished by the soul of language,” and so on. This sounds very mysterious when contrasted with the Christian Bible. To understand the eternal profundity of the soul of language is equivalent to having knowledge of the kami (deities). Thus it is impossible to express the idea of the kami perfectly with any language, much less write down everything about the kami.

However, if we study a part of the Kotodama system [a Shinto-based belief that sounds have an intrinsic value capable of affecting physical reality] and apply that part to the 50 sounds based on the pure vowels “a, i, u, e, o,” and the 75 voices, we see that all of them are interconnected. You can understand this secret when you consider the sound “a,” as a written character [in the Japanese syllabary] to be tai [a body] which is visible to the naked eye, and “a,” the sound uttered as the “soul” (rei) of the sound entity. The spiritual essence of the sound “a” has a meaning which becomes the visible Kotodama when expressed positively (yang), while it is the invisible one when expressed in a negative (yin) manner. The function of the V sound gives us the word “to tie together,” which can apply between two people, or between a person and a thing. The fact that they push each other from both sides doesn’t refer to fighting here, but rather to a mutual union in a true sense, a harmony. However, when “u” acts negatively, it means “to forsake” or “rebel.” So you should first seek and discover the function of a sound by these methods in order to understand sounds in their infinite variety. The Kotodama of “u” is pronounced naturally from deep inside the human body. To explain simply, if you were forced down by an object that exceeded the limit of your physical power, you would pronounce the Kotodama of “u” instinctively under the stress of the situation. The most obvious example is the time that Morihei moved a huge stone, as described earlier [AN 80]. The branches and the leaves that derive from the soul of language are called kotoba [words].

By investigating details from the root to the branches and leaves of on [sound] that a man pronounces or is able to pronounce, the science of the soul of language [genreigaku] analyzes the function and minutely examines the means of proper utilization of the sounds. Even if a man spent his entire life at it, he wouldn’t be able to understand all the nuances of “the science of the soul of language.”

The language of prayer used in various religions, such as Norito [Shinto prayer], the Buddhist sutras, or Christian words of prayer can result in strong communication with the spiritual world, when they are Shin [true]. We often say karanen-butsu [to chant empty prayers to Amida Buddha], which is something that often happens because the prayers are not fully imbued with Kotodama, because they die, break, or are obscure, and because they don’t fully utilize the soul of language inherent in the language itself. It does not matter whether the voice is sweet or hoarse. Only Kotodama or the voice of a man who has completely purified his spirit and body can communicate well with the divine world.

Aikido does not use particularly powerful kiai [shouts] in ordinary practice. Instead aikidoka practice with normal breathing. However, in any martial art, when the students are filled with vigor, they cry out “ei!!,” “ya!!,” and “to!!” When these are defined in the narrow terms of martial arts, “e” means to cleave. The shout of “e” has the power to disintegrate the rigid mind and body of the enemy. When we apply this theory to the wider world of morality, “e” means the power of happiness. If “e” is expressed outwardly it represents the kokoro (spirit) which divides something and allots it, while if it expressed inwardly, it is the kokoro which receives what has been divided and alloted. But when this “e” is linked with evil, it gains the power to scatter and destroy the enemy. For example, when “e” is used in the serious occasion of a duel, it is replaced with “ei” and becomes a shout to smash the enemy. When this cry of “e” reacts with “yo” [“sunlight” or “positive”] it becomes happiness, while when it cooperates with “in” [“shade” or “negative”], it means to scoop out.

When Kotodama is applied to a shout of “ya!!” and it acts with “yo,” it means “to cover something from outside”, while when it works on “in,” it is an action to pierce something inside out. A shout of “to!!” means a conclusion, and in Kotodama terms, it has the meanings of “stopping, staying, passing through, or escaping in any direction.”

The greatest and most effective organ of communication between our world and the spiritual world or the divine world is Kotodama. It is assisted by spiritual sight, and spiritual hearing. This is an explanation in simple terms of the science of Kotodama.

As Onisaburo Deguchi had mastered the general principles of the power of divine sight, the power of divine hearing, the power to penetrate people’s minds, the power of speaking for the kami, and the power to see karma, he was already well-informed about and acquainted with the past, present, and future.

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