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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder Of Aikido (13)

by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #84 (Spring 1990)

Morihei Ueshiba moved with his family to Ayabe near Kyoto in 1920 and became a disciple of the Omoto religion and a member of the inner circle surrounding its charismatic leader, Onisaburo Deguchi. In this episode we gain a glimpse of the ideology and planning which led to their famous journey to Mongolia in 1924 where Onisaburo planned to establish a “World Religion.”

Morihei had the ability, when necessary, to pass to and from extra-dimensional worlds including the fourth and fifth dimensions, states which have yet to be explained by our current scientific knowledge. It has often been speculated that there might be a dimension which is academically obscure and different from our own. To express it in the language of religion, the human being in our material world can achieve a state in which it is possible to travel in and out of the spiritual world or the divine world, as occasion demands with the permission of the kami. Only those who have it in their natures to attain a very high level of development and who have sufficiently trained themselves are able to do so.

As mentioned above, various mysteries occurred in the house where Morihei lived at the foot of Mt. Hongu, so it was rumored among his friends and acquaintances that he was possessed by a Tengu. According to the Dictionary of Japanese Language, “The Tengu is an imaginary goblin with a red face and long nose, who can fly freely in the sky, and who lives in remote mountain regions.” Possessions are said to have various ranks, from the higher ones, such as kamigakari (divinely inspired person), shinpyo (spiritual medium), and hyoirei (person possessed by the kami), etc. down to lower ones. Men of noble character are protected by a rank of divine spirit in proportion to the nobility of their character. The deity responsible for individuals is referred to as the “one-man one kami.” I cannot explain further here because the details about this kami would fill an entire book. But no one has seen the Tengu. Or at least, the few people who know this goblin seem to know him well. When considered from the religious point of view, the Tengu and the “Dragon King” assist and help the Chief Deity, and are under his control; thus, they may truly exist.

Mysterious manifestations do occur in our world, and they cannot all be completely denied. Yoshitsune Minamoto [a military commander tragically killed by order of his elder brother, around 1200 A.D. at the be-ginning of the Kamakura Shogunate] was called “Ushiwakamaru” in his childhood. He was brought up near Mt. Kurama, where legend has it that he was instructed in the martial arts by the Tengu. Another legend involves the famous “Hassotobi” [who in a single leap, cleared eight enemy battleships] during the Yashima Civil War [1185J. These legends seem not to be merely fictional tales. There was a bamboo thicket along one side of Morihei’s house at the foot of Mt. Hongu, and there was also a large bamboo grove surround-ing the eighth station of that mountain. Onisaburo at times engaged in secret activities at the summit of Mt. Hongu at midnight. He would sometimes call out, “Ueshiba! Ueshiba!” in the direction of Morihei’s house. One midnight Morihei was called by Deguchi and therefore climbed the mountain to meet him. Despite the fact the night was so dark and he could not see even an inch ahead, Onisaburo brought Morihei to a clump of bamboo. He said to him, “Ueshiba, when you cut bamboo, cut it like this.” He then showed and explained to Morihei how to cut bamboo as if he were teaching a person who had never cut it before. Onisaburo had been involved in agriculture during his boyhood and as a young man, and Morihei, from his youth in Kishu [modern-day Wakayama Prefecture] to his days of reclamation work in the virgin forests of Hokkaido, had spent many years cutting down huge trees, and clearing wasteland, performing feats far beyond the capability of average people. Thus, while this story appears a little bit ridiculous, it can be regarded as a kind of mystical lesson, a “secret recipe for cutting with aiki” that could be communicated only by the Reverend Deguchi to Morihei Ueshiba. The intimate relationship between the two men continued for three years, and they seemed, according to Morihei, like father and son, or brothers. As a result, a reflection of this “secret recipe,” which Morihei alone experienced, can be seen in his sword technique. The most eminent swordsmen of our day, though holding him in awe, are trying to understand and copy his sword art. But no master of any martial art, not even the very greatest, can see the white ball which anticipates the trajectory of bullets, swords, and spears.

Recently, the following event occurred. A certain high-ranking aikidoka visited Morihei’s dojo. Morihei took a stance with his wooden sword, and said to the aikidoka, “Strike my wooden sword with this baseball bat with all your might, as if you were hitting a home-run.” On the first strike, the wooden sword was split in two down the middle, but on the second blow, Morihei’s sword didn’t move even an inch, though the aikidoka struck with all his strength. Though Morihei was at the advanced age of eighty years, he could still perform a miracle such as this.

Now, I will describe Morihei and Onisaburo’s trip to Mongolia, which was a classical adventure, the likes of which Morihei was never to experience again. So, a number of pages will be given over to the tale of his travels.

Onisaburo, who was heavily censored by the police because of his religion, resigned himself to the fact that such persecution was in accordance with Divine will and that there was no alternative but to endure the experience. In his mind he imagined a better world, a mag-nificent Utopia. There were hundreds of thousands of underground believers to whom he taught love and goodness. They came from the the small islands of Japan, where they were characterized by an isolationist tendency, as well as from foreign lands.

Onisaburo realized that the hells of Buddhism and Christianity, and the eternally dark world of Shinto, the world where the sun goddess Amaterasu-omikami hid in anger in her cave, were none other than our everyday world. He exerted himself to the utmost to realize man’s dream of the establishment of a golden and peaceful paradise throughout the world. He would travel to neighboring countries such as Korea, Manchuria, and Mongolia at an early date to unite religious organizations, such as the Futen Religion of Korea, and Do’in and the Scarlet Swastika Association in the Republic of China, which shared his understanding that all religions derive from one and the same root. He also would appeal to religious organizations all over the world. In addition, believers of these religions in China and Korea were eagerly awaiting a Japanese saint to someday visit their country.

Even from the heart of Tanba mountain, Onisaburo watched the future of this foul world, seeing it as if it were in the palm of his hand. On February 4, 1924, when the embers of the first Omoto incident were still smoldering, the festival of Setsubun [ the day before the first day of spring according to the old calendar], the most important annual Omoto event was held. The next day, the 5th, was the first day of Kinoe-ne [the first year of the old sixty-year cycle], a lucky day marking the beginning of the lunar new year. Every year, early in the morning of this first day of the old calendar year we Omoto believers perform Rokugo-hai, bowing to the sun, the earth, and each of the four directions. Then we pray to the Kami to preserve the sacred virtues of our Founder. The Kinoe-ne that year was particularly auspicious because it was a rare combination which occurred only once every 120,000 years.

Kinoe-ne was like the start of a new century, and offered the opportunity for everyone to make a new start, so officials and believers gathered from all over Japan to hear Onisaburo describe his plans for “World Religion” and “World Government.” After the believers went home, the executives, including among others, Masumi Matsumura (Bachelor of Law), Takamitsu Kitamura, and Yutaro Yano (Naval Captain), began to discuss how to propagate the Omoto religion abroad. They thronged around Onisaburo in the inner sanctum of the hall where the festival had been held. The cold wind outside shook the leaves violently, while the sharp silver sickle of the crescent moon began to set behind the edge of the western mountain.

Yano spoke first. “I framed one of your writings, ‘Sun, Earth and Moon, are skewered together to make dumplings, mouth of Onisaburo eating them, dredged sesame seeds like stars,’ and hung it in the alcove of the Sanya Company in Feng Tien. One day a Japanese traveler, Tesshu Okazaki, who was acting as an adviser to the former governor of the troops in Ho-nan Province, Cho-teki, saw Onisaburo’s calligraphy. He spoke the following words:

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