Takemusu Aiki - Lectures of Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido (1)
Aikido Journal #116 (1999)
Aikido Journal is pleased to publish the first of a series of lectures by Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido. These talks were transcribed and edited by Hideo Takahashi of the Byakko Shinkokai (see interview in AJ115) and originally published as Takemusu Aiki in 1976. The importance of these lectures as the primary source of reliable material on the spiritual views of Morihei Ueshiba cannot be overstated.
Readers wishing to plumb the depths of the philosophy of the founder will face a challenge when exploring these texts. The symbology and metaphors employed by O-Sensei originate from Shinto texts such as the Kojiki and are, moreover, influenced by the Omoto religion and its co-founder Onisaburo Deguchi. Also abundant are references to the kotodama, another Shinto belief incorporated into the Omoto religion that holds that primordial vibrations before letters and sounds have an intrinsic value capable of influencing physical reality. The meanings of many passages are obscure and therefore we have often resorted to the use of footnotes in an effort to assist the motivated reader in navigating the difficult text.
I would like to sincerely thank Sonoko Tanaka for her diligent efforts in rendering the Japanese into comprehensible English and for researching the material used in the footnotes. - Editor
It is a great pleasure for all of us who have been studying aikido day after day to know that Takemusu Aiki will be reprinted in a new and better binding.
Takemusu Aiki is a collection of talks by the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, and I express my appreciation to Mr. Hideo Takahashi for his wonderful work. I imagine it must have been an exceedingly arduous task to transcribe and edit so faithfully such difficult content.
As you know, the signficance of the Path O-Sensei illuminated has attracted attention in various fields since he taught about the relationship between body and spirit, especially at a time when mental disorders are considered universally to be a great social problem and this fact has contributed to the growth of aikido.
Of the numerous books on aikido, Takemusu Aiki is the work most representative of O-Sensei’s thinking and strongly speaks to us about fundamental truths. It is, therefore, a book we should always keep at hand.
Moreover, O-Sensei commented, “There is no one other than Goi Sensei who knows my mind.” Goi Sensei was my father’s intimate friend and Mr. Takahashi, a student of Goi Sensei, dedicated himself wholeheartedly to recording O-Sensei’s talks and the compilation of Takemusu Aiki. It can be said that it is high time to publish this new edition and that this book will be considered as a precious record to be read widely by people from diverse fields.
Please accept my sincere congratulations on the new edition of Takemusu Aiki.
Today, as requested, I will attempt to describe for you what aikido is.
- Aikido is the principle of eternal continuation throughout all ages of the one and same system of the Universe.
- Aikido is Heaven-sent truth and the marvelous work of Takemusu Aiki.
- Aikido is the Way of union and harmony of Heaven, Earth and humanity.
- Aikido is, moreover, the Way to take care of the entire creation.
- Aikido is the supreme work of kotodama1 and the Great Way of Universal Purification (misogi).
Those who deeply believe in this Way must serve in the administration2 of the founding of a Universal Nation.
We must accomplish our missions as human beings and become guideposts for the Great Union and Harmony of the Universal Family. Therefore, we must understand Universal Truth, the true state of things, and attain oneness with the mind of God. We must learn from the manifestations and works of God in this Great Universe, and assist in His administration serving as a sword (tsurugi).
In aikido, it is absolutely indispensable that we stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven (Ame no Ukihashi)3. This is essential for us to return to and be unified with God, who is the spiritual source, the Original Parent.
And we must stand on the Floating Bridge even if we can find nothing else. Before God we must give up our ego, freeing our mind of all thoughts and endeavor to be able to execute divine deeds by calming our spirit (kon)4 and returning to God.
The primary divine work is attaining oneness with God, the Creator, returning to and unifying with God in harmony. We can realize this work by carrying out our God-given missions and unifying ourselves with the Divine Spirit, that is, becoming one with the Great Universe.
Therefore, we must put our spirit and body in order, but independently of each other. We prepare our spirit and body in order to advance into the world of ki, ryu, ju, and go.5
When we correctly establish the boundaries between ki, ryu, ju, and go and clearly master them, this is called shikishin, the ability of the mind to see things as they are.
Now aikido is the name given to our practice of the Way to attain oneness with the spirit and body of the Universe, and the Way of unification with the light of harmony.
For example, if there is something dirty on earth, insects come and clean it up. Insects, fish, birds and all other animals have their own way of taking care of impurities in this way.
As human beings we must purify ourselves from all sins and impurities and each accomplish our own God-given missions. This is what aikido offers, and it is for this purpose that you (addressing the Byakko Shinko Kai audience) offer “The World Peace Prayer” which Goi Sensei advocates. However, if you pray in words only, it does not work. You must actually live up to the prayer, otherwise it will be of no avail.
Aikido is the martial art (bu) of truth; it is the work of love.
It is the way to protect all living things of this world, that is, aikido is a compass that gives life to all things.
It is the manifestation of takemusu6 that has given birth to all martial techniques that have so far been created.
The martial arts born therefrom are the law to protect the growth of everything existing in the world in accordance with the law of life and growth of all nature.
It will take too long if I go into the details, so I will explain briefly.
Ubuya7 (houses for childbirth) are where we cultivate and perfect the Japanese spirit (yamatodamashii) that plainly protects principles of the truths existing in all nature.
Therefore, aikido abides on the way of Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayabi8 and is the wonderful work of kotodama that clarifies the true meaning of the unity of religion and states, that is, the happiest form of Great Democracy and Great Freedom.
Aikido reveals the way of misogi, guiding people to the World Peace Prayer and serving as a harmonious compass of the completed unity of all purified ki in nature.
Now we should not fail to accomplish the divine work given to us and should perform our part as children of God being Mercy and Light. We must render service to the work for the creation of a Universal Nation and for the perfection of mankind. Embracing the three worlds—the world of appearance-the subconscious world-the Divine world—we must give our lives to unite in harmony and to advance administration works. This is the way to complete ourselves and is the practice of aikido.
I would like to say this to all of you as one member of the Universal Family.
SU-U-A (Ueshiba Sensei emits kotodama) From these, A-O-U-E-I come into being. A-O-U-E-I are the manifestation of the eight powers (hachiriki).9 The Universe was created through the working of the kotodama.
The Universe is the manifestation of the divine will of the six spirits of TA-KA-A-MA-HA-RA, A-O-U-E-I, the living manifestation of the three elements and eight powers (sangen hachiriki), and the 75 kotodama.
Sangen (lit., three origins) refers to ki, ryu, ju, and go. They are also A iku musubi, + taru musubi, and 2 tamatsume musubi.10 This is the takemusu of aikido. Takemusu is training to cultivate the ability to use gravitation.
Aikido is the work of Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara Ryuou.11
Ame no Murakumo is the work of Universal Ki, the ki of Onogoro Island12, and the ki that breathes and pierces through all the ki of everything existing in the Universe.
Kuki is a double-edged sword which cuts through and unites the appearances of the Great Spirit of the Earth and Heaven. That is, it is a two-edged sword of Heaven and Earth.
Samuhara is a word to praise the highest virtue and merits of the world. (Ryuou means literally “Dragon King”)
Thus, aikido advances toward the perfection of the entire world in order to establish a Heaven on Earth.
Aikido is the Great Way to completely purify the entire world. It purifies and clears away sins, malice and evil thoughts of the Universe and takes care of them.
This is accomplished through kotodama.
The Way of aiki is the way to protect love. Without love, nothing in the world can be realized. Therefore, I believe this world will be destroyed if the true work of aiki is not carried out.
We must protect this world by making our way through the three worlds—appearance-subconscious-Divine. This is the manifestation of Buddha (Saisho Myo Nyorai)
Aiki is a Way whose mission is the reconstruction of this floating world by standing in the center of the Universe.
We purify ourselves—people, nations and the whole world—and advance in the name of God.
Finally, the true work of aikido will commence. I do not know another way other than aikido capable of rebuilding this world.
We have to enter the main gate through budo, protect humanity from destruction, and dedicate ourselves in order to bring peace to humankind. This work is part of the work of the Great God.
The time has come. The work really begins this year.
Aikido is the way of sincerity and sincerity is the Way of loyalty. Loyalty means rendering service to the achievement of the construction of the Universal Heaven, and devoting ourselves to the spirit of construction of a Heaven on Earth.
In order to advance along this Way, first of all we must perfect ourselves. We have to improve and perfect nations, and reform and perfect humanity so that Earth will be transformed for the better.
Aikido is also the working of the five voices—A-O-U-E-I. This is closely related to the combination of nigen (two origins), water and fire. In Shinto, they are the two deities, Takami Musubi and Kami Musubi.13 The world was built through the actions of the flow of these two deities.
These two origins return to the Original Source (Ichigen), the Original Source of SU +.
These two are the sources of spirit and material things. They were born from the kotodama “U” and the kotodama U was born through the development of the kotodama “SU.”
The workings of these voices, SU and U, are the sources of spirits and material things, the sources of everything in the Universe.
Then where does the SU voice come from? It was born from the Great Emptiness, when a point appeared, all of a sudden, in the Great Emptiness.
The Great Emptiness was born from Kuu (Mu) in which everything exists and nothing exists at the same time. (What I call Mu is not Nothingness. It is the world without any object, but only light everywhere. Our world was born and grew from this Mu). However, even saints and sages cannot find a word to speak about it. It is very difficult to explain.14
I will tell you then how I, Ueshiba, was able to understand it. I had performed spiritual practices daily in order to rid myself of attachments to anything in the world and I had the experience of seeing my light body, which was once the body of Fudo Myo Ou15 carrying a great shining light of fire on its shoulders, and at another time I became the body of Kan Zeon Bosatsu.16 I asked questions to myself and then understood. I have the universe inside me. Everything is in me. I am the Universe itself so there is no me. Moreover, since I am the Universe there is only me and no other.
Now, the martial arts issue forth from A-O-U-E-I, which means they are born in the forms of A+2.
If we talk about A+2 in material terms, they consist of Heaven-Fire-Water-Earth, and in spiritual terms the four kon (spirits): Kusu Mitama, Ara Mitama, Nigi Mitama, and Sachi Mitama.17 They were born from the two origins according to the different degrees of intensity and speeds of the actions of these two.
Both spirits and material things are kotodama, and the true nature of the Universe is also kotodama. However, common religious leaders cannot understand this truth. Aikido is the wonderful work of kotodama that can make this truth alive.
Therefore, aikido is a religion without being a religion.
Aikido differs from any other martial arts that have thus far come into being. It is the practice of living all truthfully and sincerely dedicating our whole body and spirit.
It is my wish that you master aikido including its spiritual dimension. Let us study together devoting ourselves fully.
(From a talk given at the Aikido Hombu Dojo on January 15, 1959 on the day of the Kagami Biraki New Year’s ceremony)
(4) The Mission of Aikido
A+2 are Iku Musubi, Taru Musubi and Tamatsume Musubi. They also mean Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayabi. If we look at them spiritually, A=Kusu Mitama, Ara Mitama, + = Nigi Mitama, 2 = Sachi Mitama, and in material terms, A = heaven, fire, + = water, and 2 = earth.
Heaven is truth itself. Its nature is Holy Light itself. Fire is law and it works as a minister. A minister should understand truth completely which means he should master Universal Truth deeply, keep in his mind the Way of truth, laws and ceremonies, and then transmit the laws throughout the world. The meaning of laws understands fully the true significance of all matsuri and teaches this to others (Matsuri means the true match between Heaven and Earth, which are in balance and harmony with each other. Therefore, it is aiki, the aiki between Heaven and Earth).
Water is ceremonies, government officials and Nigi Mitama. It is called Nigi Mitama when it moves harmoniously, that is, unifying Heaven and Earth through ceremonies. This is called iya (respect, ceremony). Faithfullness is essential to this union. Faithfullness means that Love is embracing Love. It is an exchange of Love. All nature should keep this true meaning in mind and maintain it while expressing it in itself in order never to lose it. This is called the Way. It is Earth and it is People.
Following the Way, you should fully embrace and save all truth in your heart without uttering a word, but allow it to penetrate into yourself, so that you will never lose it. You should never deviate from the Way. If you need to leave, that is not the True Way. This Way must be followed absolutely and firmly.
Earth is the place where the Heavenly Light shines. The Heavenly Light will radiate on every human being of the whole humanity, and that will be the time when Japan will manifest its true nature on Earth.
In order to allow this to happen, aikido has the mission and duty to clarify and teach the true meaning of the union of government and religion, and the principle of Truth existing in all nature, and to guide people to practice the Way.
All human beings should stand on Ame no Ukihashi as Ame no Minaka Nushi.18 We have to stand as Amida Butsu.19 We must purify the whole Universe by becoming Light ourselves.
The Earth has already been perfected and Kuni Toko Tachi no Mikoto20 has begun to appear on its surface. Only humanity has not yet completed itself. This is because sins and impurities have penetrated into us. The forms of aikido techniques are preparation to unlock and soften all joints of our body. Beginning now on we must purify more and more sins and impurities of our rokkon.21
Aikido was born for this purification. It is movement with the Divine Sword—Kusanagi no Shinken .22It purifies sins and impurities, clarifies the principle of Truth existing in all nature, and takes care of everything.
The Way of aikido is to give one’s own place to everything in the Universe including even small insects, and to protect the Way of each thing. It also clarifies the Great Way, in which Heaven, Earth and Nature give birth to all things in the whole world and allow them to grow.
In order to achieve this, first of all you should reassure the Saints. You should reassure God and Buddha.
If you have impurities in your ears, purify them. If you have sins on your mouth, clean it. If you have a stain on your nose, cleanse it. You must purify all six organs completely. You have to leave everything to God, offer everything, and give back everything to God, your Parent.
Aikido was born through the actions of the Great Deity of Oo Harai Do when he performed a purification at Ahagi Hara in Odo of Tachibana of Himuka in Tsukushi.23It is A-O-U-E-I, the core of misogi (purification). Thus, aikido harmonizes with all nature while purifying sins and impurities. I, Ueshiba, would like to repair and firmly rebuild this world in correct order through the gate of martial arts.
Translated by Sonoko Tanaka
(1) O-Sensei said, “Kotodama is different from voice. Kotodama is the red blood boiling in the abdomen.” Goi Sensei explained, “Kotodama is the vibration before ideas and senses arise in letters and sounds, that is, the vibration of Light itself—God. When it is manifested in letters and sounds, it is the expression after the work of kotodama has been accomplished.”
(2) O-Sensei also said, “Administration means history, past-present-future,” and “Administration is the manifestation of science.”
(3) Ame no Ukihashi literally means the Floating Bridge of Heaven. It is the bridge that connects Heaven and Earth. Therefore, standing on Ame no Ukihashi means standing between Heaven and Earth. In the Kojiki, the ancient Japanese chronicle, it is recorded that two deities stood on this bridge and started their first work of creating countries (islands).
(4) Kon: Goi Sensei said, “Rei is the manifestation of the Divine Spirit working freely without any hindrance, while kon is the manifestation of spiritual waves that, from the Divine World, are working over other worlds (spiritual world, subconscious world and physical world).” Rei refers to spirit, while kon refers to thoughts that have accumulated in the subsconscious body and subconscious world. When we say reikon we refer to the spirit accompanied by its accumulated thought waves which can be translated as either “spirit” or “soul.” Thus, both “spirit” or “soul” are commonly used to translate either term.
(5) Literally, ki: air, mind, and spirit; ryu: fluid, flow; ju: softness, flexibility; go: solidity, hardness. O-Sensei explains elsewhere, “Ryu, ju, and go work through ki. Ryu is the true nature of animals. Ju is the characteristic of vegetation, and go that of minerals.”
(6) Takemusu is the ultimate Japanese martial art. It is the Divine Work that freely produces infinite-ever-changing techniques.
(7) Ame no Ubuya: In the Kojiki, it is recorded that, after the creation of countries (14 islands), the two deities, Izanagi no Mikoto (male) and Izanami no Mikoto (female) gave birth to many deities. However, when Izanami no Mikoto gave birth to the deity of fire, she was burned and passed away to Yomi no Kuni (Hades or the subconscious world).
Izanagi no Mikoto wanted to see her again and visited her in Hades, but was shocked at the sight of her terrible appearance and ran away. Izanami no Mikoto became furious upon learning this and sent an ugly female devil to chase him. Izanagi no Mikoto threw his hair ornament and his comb and they were transformed into grapes and bamboo shoots. The devil stopped running after him and sat to eat the food. Then Izanami no Mikoto sent a military force after him and Izanagi no Mikoto continued to flee while swinging his sword backward. The military force followed him to the border between the subconscious world and the real world. Izanagi no Mikoto took three peaches and threw them against the enemy and all of the army ran away.
In the end, Izanami no Mikoto herself went after him, so he moved a large rock to block the way. Then the two Mikoto faced each other separated by the rock. Izanami no Mikoto said, “Each day I will kill one thousand people of your world.” Izanagi no Mikoto answered, “If you kill one thousand people, I will build one thousand five hundred ubuya (houses for childbirth).”
That is the background of the meaning of ubuya. Moreover, Mr. Takahashi says here that he directly heard from Ueshiba Sensei that these three peaches that drove away the military force from Yomi no Kuni (the Subconcious World) are aikido.
(8) Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuyhayabi: literally means “True Victory-Self-Victory-Victory-Swift-Day. Its origin is the Kojiki where reference is made to a deity named “Masakatsu-Agatsu-Katsuhayabi Ame no Oshihomimi no Mikoto.”
(9) Hachiriki means literally “eight powers” to wit: movement, stillness, coagulation, dissolution, tension, looseness, combination and separation.
(10) Triangle, circle and square become and then become a circle. I (Mr. Takahashi) heard from Ueshiba Sensei that this is the practice of aikido. Later, Goi Sensei showed me a book of kotodama in which I happened to find the same symbols published as a drawing of the breathing of the Universe.
(11) Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara Ryuou: The name of a deity capable of purifying any karma in a moment. A guess at a literal translation of this term is not possible since the deity is referred to using phonetic sounds of katakana. (Karma means work. It is the work, or creative activity of a person’s thought. It refers to disharmonious vibrations that have accumulated in the subconscious body and subconscious world through cycles of karmic cause and effect).
(12) Onogoro Island: In the Kojiki, when Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto started the creation of countries while standing on Ame no Ukihashi, they put a halberd (hoko: similar to a spear, but with a double-edged blade on the tip) into the ocean and stirred. When they raised the halberd, salt from the sea water dripped from it and accumulated forming an island. This is Onogoro Island. Then the two deities went down on the island and gave birth to many other islands.
(13) Takami Musubi and Kami Musubi: they are, together with Ame no Minaka Nushi, the first three deities created one after the other following the birth of the Universe.
(14) Goi Sensei explains: “Kuu is not a nihilistic or a negative condition. It contains nothing, yet everything. It is the life of God Himself living vibrantly.
(15) Fudo Myo Ou: one of the five deities that beat off devils and save people. His appearance usually expresses anger.
(16) Kan Zeon Bosatsu is a bosatsu (Bodhisattva) who is born into this world having made a vow to work for the deliverance of others.
(17) Four kon: O-Sensei explains in other chapters, “Kusu Mitama is truth, which is the manifestation of all characteristics of the Original Source. Ara Mitama is the first divine work on Earth from which laws were established. Its nature is wisdom. It sets laws with its wisdom. The nature of Nigi Mitama is politeness, ceremonies which signify harmony and union. It is called musubi (union, combination) and also Iku Tama (correct Way). Then Sachi Mitama is charity and it is a Way.” Goi Sensei says, “In Shinto they say, ‘Ichi Rei Shi Kon (one soul, four spirits),’ which means that one spirit has become four activities with four different waves, and that a human being is able to build his character wholly when all four kon harmonize with each other. In some people, Ara Mitama is mainly expressed, while in others Nigi Mitama is manifested. However, in either case, a human being is not able to complete himself as a whole unless all four kon work in him in harmony. Someone might brag, ‘I am rough-tempered like this by nature!” or another might be too shy and introverted and say, ‘I am too meek and mild by nature.’ Neither of them has developed his whole character yet. It is important to achieve harmony among the four kon. It is a very serious matter that one person’s character has been fully developed. Most human beings living on Earth today are still incomplete.”
(18) Goi Sensei said, “In Kojiki, it is written that Ame no Minaka Nushi appeared when the Universe was opened for the first time. Therefore, Ame no Minaka Nushi is the Universal God.”
(19) Goi Sensei said, “Amida Butsu (Amitabha) is the Buddha, the Savior in Buddhism equivalent to the Universal God. It is a Deity and also a Nyorai. Nyorai means, “It comes without coming and leaves without leaving.” It is Emptiness and at the same time it fills the whole universe. Its nature is a shining light in the Heart of the Great God. Amida Butsu has two different works, one is the deliverance of others as a Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) and another is being the manifestation of the Great God.”
(20) Kuni Toko Tachi no Mikoto is the first deity of the seven generations that were born after the very first five Deities in the Heaven. The first five deities are, in order of their birth, Ame no Minaka Nushi, Takami Musubi, Kami Musubi—these are considered as a group of three deities, and then Umashi Ashikabi Hikoji and Ame no Tokotachi.
(21) Rokkon are the six organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, flesh and mind which give birth to the six senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and thinking. Purifying the rokkon means purifying our body and mind by cutting off all relationships with any illusion arising from the six organs.
(22) Kusanagi no Shinken: Also called kusanagi no ken or kusanagi no tsurugi. In the Kojiki, it is written that Susanoo no Mikoto is a son of Izanagi no Mikoto. Izanagi no Mikoto was born as the last generation of the group of seven generations and is counted together with Izanami no Mikoto as a couple, that is, one generation together. Susanoo no Mikoto was exiled from Heaven because of his bad behavior and came down to a place called Izumo where he heard from an old couple that a huge serpent with eight heads lived there and ate their eight daughters. Susanoo no Mikoto made the serpent drunk with sake, and when all eight heads fell asleep, he cut the serpent with his sword. However, when he cut off the middle part of its tail, the blade broke. He thought it was strange and so he opened the tail with the tip of the blade of his sword. There he found a wonderful large sword. He understood the sword was extraordinary and offered it to his elder sister Amaterasu Oomikami. This is the kusanagi no ken.
(23) Ahagi Hara in Odo of Tachibana of Himuka in Tsukushi is the place where Izanagi no Mikoto performed misogi to purify his whole body in seawater after coming back from Yomi no Kuni (Hades or the subconscious world) which is an ugly, impure world. During his misogi, numerous deities were born and Susanoo no Mikoto was the last born when Izanagi no Mikoto cleaned his nose.