Takemusu Aiki - Lectures of Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido (2)
Aikido Journal #117 (1999)
This is the second of a series of lectures of 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 in Japanese in 1976 as Takemusu Aiki. 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, a 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. The extensive use of footnotes will necessarily oblige the reader to refer to previous issues of the magazine and we apologize in advance for this unavoidable inconvenience.
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
I. Aikido is the Way of the principle of the eternal, unchanging system of the Universe.
Aikido is the Way of the principle of the eternal, unchanging system of the Universe. The Great Emptiness was created before the birth of the Universal “SU” voice, the One Original Source (Ichigen), our parent God. Life is the history of the acts of God since then, since the ancient age of deities of our country, and the practices of aikido originate in this history. My aikido is a Way to perform ascetic practices guided by Divine Providence, while expressing the significance of the Divine Sword (matsurugi) and being a manifestation of the sword itself. I regard it as the true martial art (bujutsu). The workings of the Universe are called “takemusu aiki,” and are born from the One Original Source, and unify water and fire, that is, the Breath of Heaven and the Breath of Earth, in order to produce one unified breath.
I would like to explain what this means. When the soul and body bestowed upon me interact with each other as an inseparable union through the workings of “SU” and “U”, I produce the voices “A, O, U, E, I” from the bottom of my abdomen letting them emanate from my physical mouth. This form is exactly the same as the manifestation of the frictional actions produced by the movements of water and fire, that is, the interactions of the two dieties, Takami Musubi and Kami Musubi (see Takemusu Aiki in AJ116), when they dance while ascending spirally to the right and descending spirally to the left.
If we polish and perfect kotodama, the spirit given to each one of us and which is our true nature, all explanations concerning every combination of all things and the wisdom to understand the true state of the Great Creation of this world will be given to us. Moreover, we will also be given the honor of using the “Balls of Michihiru” (Michihiru no Tama)1 according to the Kojiki (the ancient Japanese chronicle), a treasure of our nation, consulting God with the divining sticks (Ame Tsukuri no Kannagi) of Heaven, Fire, Water and Earth, offering abundant things at Oki in Chikura2 in expiation of our sins, and dedicating ourselves to God.
These Balls of Michihiru are given to each one of us in order to accomplish our own missions and works. We, human beings, also continue to preserve our lives thanks to these Balls of Michihiru.
Aikido is a true martial art and is manifested in all martial arts that have thus far come into the world, and in the workings of the Universe, that is, the core of the Original Source of aikido. It is firmly rooted and especially expressed in the actions of the two deities, Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto (see AJ116), when they gave birth to islands and deities, that is, the conspicuous workings of the interaction between fire and water. In other words, the interaction between fire and water are the workings of Ame no Minaka Nushi (see AJ116), and are a manifestation of the Divine Will. Therefore, the One Original Source gave birth to the Two Original Sources. The workings of each Source is an expression of the Divine Will and a manifestation of the complex and subtle interaction between Heaven and Earth, that is, the Life of the Universe, the Breath of Heaven and Earth. No matter what kind of body it has and no matter how small it is, there is nothing that is not a manifestation of the Divine Will. Everything is the Life of the Universe.
I sang thus in praise of aikido in its modern, perfected form:
This beautiful appearance
Of Heaven and Earth
Everything is One Family
Created by the Lord
All blessings of this Great Universe are manifested, without exception, in all deities and buddhas, all nature, animals, birds, fish, and even in insects. Aikido means receiving all blessings into ourselves and performing our duties as human beings. On the subject of religions, I think that each religion should become an ubuya (house for childbirth, see Takemusu Aiki in AJ116) to impart this same teaching. You must assimilate all these blessings into the Breath of Heaven and Earth even when you execute only one movement with a sword. Thus, when performing your duty as a human being, you form a circle as you breathe out through prayer, and a square as you breathe in. Then, you let the marvelous spirit of the Universe move around inside your whole body and purify your six senses (rokkon, see AJ116) allowing them to operate. The circular form of breathing out is the form of water, and the square, that of fire. The circle signifies the Breath of Heaven and the square, that of Earth. Thus, we give birth to techniques combining the Breath of Heaven with that of Earth through the ki of Heaven. This is what we must do and I know, moreover, that all deities will protect us fully on the Way. We must become aware of and realize this on the Way shown us by Goi Sensei. This is my duty. I have to accomplish my mission without forgetting the benefits given to me by the deities.
At a prayer meeting, we have to assimilate the virtue of our very faith into the Breath of Heaven and Earth so that we can unite and harmonize this world under the protection of all deities and buddhas. Prayer is light and also heat. Your prayer must follow the Way of the workings of Heaven and Earth while joining together with all deities and buddhas. We can clarify this if we refer to the workings of “SU” and “U” voices of aiki. Earth cannot function without interacting with the Breath of Heaven, and the interactive Breath of Heaven and Earth gives birth to all things. We fill ourselves with the Divine Spirit and scientifically give birth to martial arts through the breath of kotodama (spirit).
The breath of Heaven is the breath of the sun and moon, and martial art techniques are born when the Breath of Heaven and Earth are united. The Breath of Earth is the tide. The tide respires through the interaction of the Breath of Heaven and Earth. The Earth breathes according to the Breath of Heaven.
The birth of a human being also follows the same principle. A human being is born at the moment right after high tide when the ebb tide begins. However, it’s better that I not talk about the human body because I can absorb everything in one movement of my sword.
I said on an earlier occasion, “Through the union with God we produce techniques that are ever-changing into various forms.” This means we can manifest scientifically the ki of vacuum and the ki of emptiness in techniques while combining and introducing these energies into human nature and techniques. Therefore, we have to produce techniques respecting Futomani in the Kojiki3, that is, the teachings bequeathed by the ancient deities between Amaterasu Oomikami4 and Jimmu Tenno5. The Futomani of the Kojiki is a history from the age of deities and a lifeline to construct the Universal Nation. It is the Constitution of our country.
As a human being, one must engage in ascetic practices ceaselessly by oneself according to one’s assigned mission. In other words, if we thoroughly study our chief guardian deity and also our own body and mind, we will begin to understand the works we must perform in our daily life. At the same time, from the point of view of prayer, I myself respect Goi Sensei and the Way he shows us. Even though I do not constantly remain in this state, when I pray and thank the divine spirits of Heaven and Earth for their great authority every morning and evening, I become so clear and serene in my whole body as if I were a mirror that I cannot express such a purity with words. Everything becomes reflected in me and I begin to understand all just by being here. All attachments vanish and I abide in the breath of our Original Parent emanating light to all things in the Universe.
I find it is the supreme joy to be able to abide in such a state, and ceaselessly continue to praise all virtue of the Universe.
When you offer a sincere prayer, there is no ego in it. All attachments disappear and are transformed into light. I can understand the saints of old when they said they were such and such deities. I perceive that I also seem to abide in the Holy Light of the Great Universe. I think the cause of the mistaken words of former saints lies here. However, today I must perform my duties so that people will not misunderstand. I should not say anything carelessly. Even though I am able to abide in such circumstances, I will not demand that others achieve the same state in one effort, nor do I consider myself particularly superior to others. I only believe that I will be able to humble myself before people and dedicate my services to them as their servant because now I have become able to abide in such a state. Prayer is truly the foundation and the “Great Bridge.” The Great Bridge refers to Ame no Ukihashi (see AJ116). Ame no Ukihashi is the manifestation of the intersection of fire and water. Here lies the divine message that the world will be cleared away vertically and horizontally and administered over.
There is a saying that goes, “Plum blossoms will bloom all at once throughout the worlds of Three Thousand Worlds (Sanzen Sekai).6 However, this does not have only a religious meaning. In aikido, too, this divine message of plum blossoms that will bloom all at once throughout the Three Thousand Worlds is the Way of life given to us. This teaching means that this world begins to be the manifestation of spiritual power starting with the appearance of Ame no Ukihashi. In aikido, it is Nenpi Kannon Riki.7 Of course, without a physical body, that is, haku, our spirits cannot settle down nor can we fulfill our duties as human beings. We have to reveal this conduit of the spirit (Tamashii no O).8
The physical body given to us is an organ of creation and, at the same time, is a place where we perform divine services. It is also a house or an organ where we cultivate our conduit of the spirit. Moreover, the physical body matures and perfects itself magnificently through the spiritual practices required for the birth of spirits. Thus, our body becomes a house for spirits to be born and grow (seicho no ie).
Goi Sensei knows these matters well. We do not need to speak about difficult subjects. If you (addressing the Byakko Shinko Kai audience) only continue to pray without asking questions, Goi Sensei will take responsibility for you. Thanks to Goi Sensei, aikido, too, develops through prayer. In other words, the conduit of our spirit will be purified through prayers.
We hear words such as shikishin9 or hasshiki,10 but we do not need such things. All you must do is to polish the conduit of the spirit. After all, the world has been a physical world thus far. Aiki does not exclude the physical body, but makes it the groundwork and replaces the physical world with the spiritual world. Then aiki builds up a Heaven on Earth and accomplishes its purpose of constructing the Universal Nation.
Takemusu aiki is a service we offer in order to protect the worlds in which all Universal activity occurs, that is, the three Worlds—Appearance, Subconscious and Divine—and help them to harmonize with each other and flourish. We call it “takemusu aiki” when we clarify the true meaning of God’s works, purify the Great Way and dedicate ourselves to assist the Great Way to become wholesome. This is my firm belief.
Therefore, the martial arts (budo) of our country are not called sports. The purpose of martial arts is to shape and perfect ourselves. Once we build ourselves up, we have to realize everything successfully and, first of all, we, as human beings, must protect all nature.
In our country, originally, we do not have such sports as people have in Western countries. Some people are delighted to say that the Japanese martial arts have gained in popularity since they became sports. However, this is a gross misunderstanding that shows they do not know at all what the Japanese martial arts really are.
Sports are games and pastimes that do not involve the spirit. They are competitions only between physical bodies and not between souls. Thus, they are competitions merely for the sake of pleasure. The Japanese martial arts are a competition in how we can express and realize love that unites and protects everything in harmony and helps this world to prosper.
The Way that preserves this world is a competition to protect the spirit and also the physical world. It is a competition to completely guard the Way of birth and growth of all nature, and to lovingly cultivate the Way of flourishing of all, through the breath of A-UM (breathing out and in)11 in which the spirit and physical body are balanced in harmony. This competition was exactly the same activity of the creation of today’s world engaged in by the Great God through the two deities of Izanagi and Izanami. It is the Way to daily thank the Great God for His work and thus it is a prayer. There is nothing better than a prayer. Even when we feel ill or unpleasant, we can become refreshed and get well by offering prayers. I have experienced this through my prayers. I stand on the platform of Heaven and worship God facing to the east and heavenward. I offer my gratitude in prayer standing in the center of the Earth together with everything existing between Heaven and Earth. This is the true aikido and takemusu. This is the source of harmonious interaction between the breath of fire and water.
“The eternal, unchanging system of the Universe” means that the Universe is the Way on which all of the virtues of divine acts under the guidance of our Parent God, the One Original Source, are manifested and everything is in solemn and perfect order just like the innumerable shining stars around their center.
Moreover, through the works of the Four Kon (see AJ116), the Universe manifests itself in the forms of Heaven, Fire, Water and Earth, and clarifies the significance of the union of spirits among human beings. This means exactly the same thing as when a group of deities gathers in dignified, perfect order around their center, Ama Terasu Oomikami, and are reflected in a holy mirror.
In other words, the breathing of A-UM is essential in order to perform our duties in this world. From a spiritual point of view, it is the workings of the Four Kon (Kusu Mitama, Ara Mitama, Nigi Mitama, and Sachi Mitama) (see AJ116) and, from a physical point of view, it is the four great constructive functions performed by Heaven, Fire, Water and Earth. Both material things and spirits belong entirely to our Parent, the One Original Source.
In a sense, with aiki, you purify and remove evil with your own breath of faithfulness instead of using a sword. In other words, you change the physical world into a spiritual world. This is aikido’s mission. The physical body is placed below and the spirit above and to the front. Thus, aikido leads the spirit to produce noble flowers and bear fruits. Being the nucleus of the administration, aikido operates in the service of the Supreme Loyalty, that is, the Supreme Good and Supreme Love in this world. In other words, it means we have to protect and cultivate the true Way of Heaven and Earth dedicating ourselves in order not to disturb the fundamentals of loyalty, the true meaning of the union of government and religion. Then, all deities and buddhas will come and guard us without our needing to ask. In the same spirit as the teachings of the Bible on the return of Michael (see Daniel, 12), all the three worlds will completely admire this Great Saint and follow his words with joy. We must endeavor to perform our assigned missions to lead others in welcoming such a wise, Great Saint.
Translated by Sonoko Tanaka
(1) Michihiru no Tama. Two balls used to freely manipulate the tide. One is for the ebb, the other for the flow. In the Kojiki, it is recorded that these two balls were given to Hoori no Kami by the Divinity in charge of the sea. Hoori no Kami is a grandson of Masakatsu Agatsu Katsuhayahi Ame no Oshihomimi no Mikoto, who is a son of Amaterasu Oomikami (see note 4 below)
(2) Oki in Chikura. In the Kojiki, it is written that Susanoo no Mikoto (see AJ116) was required to place many offerings at Chikura in atonement for his bad behavior.
(3) Futomani. A kind of divination used in ancient times. People divined good or bad luck by burning bones of animals (usually, deer) or carapaces and interpreting the shapes of cracks that appeared on their surfaces.
(4) Amaterasu Oomikami. The sun deity, usually regarded as a female deity, a daughter of Izanagi no Mikoto and elder sister of Susanoo no Mikoto. She was born when Izanagi no Mikoto washed his left eye during his performance of misogi (purification) at Ahagihara (see AJ116)
(5) Jimmu Tenno. The legendary first Emperor of the Yamato line according to the ancient chronicles Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. He was also known as Kamu Yamato Iwarebiko no Mikoto and was a grandson of Hoori no Kami.
(6) Sanzen Sekai. Lit., “Three Thousand Worlds,” an Indian Buddhistic concept of the World or the Universe. At the center of the world there is a high mountain called Shumisen, and the world that surrounds the mountain is this very world where we live and it is called one Shumi Sekai. Sanzen Sekai refers to Daizen Sekai, which is Shumi Sekai multiplied by one thousand three times over. Therefore, the actual number of worlds is not 3000, but rather 1,000,000,000.
(7) Nenpi Kannon Riki (Nenpi Kannon Riki Tojin Dandan Ne). This term originates in Hokkekyo, one of the Buddhist scriptures. It refers to a belief in the power of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. One will not be hurt even if his enemy cuts him with a sword, but rather the enemy’s sword will be broken in pieces.
(8) Tamashii no O. The conduit that ties tama or tamashii (spirit) to the physical body so that the spirit does not leave the body. It can also be understood as meaning “life.”
(9) Shikishin. A manifestation of buddha that is embodied in a physical body in the World of Appearances.
(10) Hasshiki. Lit., “eight shiki.” Shiki refers to an ability of the mind to recognize and judge the nature of material things through the six senses and perceptions. Shiki is one of the twelve laws of cause and effect in Buddhism. The six senses are sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and consciousness. The term Hasshiki includes two more aspects, Mana Shiki (delusion of self-love) and Araya Shiki, the fundamental consciousness of a human being’s existence that accumulates experiences and forms individuality. It is the center of all activities of the mind. Subconsciousness.
(11) A-UM. “A” is the sound produced by exhalation from the opened mouth, that is, breathing out. “UM” is formed with the closed mouth by breathing in. Everything begins from “A,” and with “UM” everything ends. This concept originated in Buddhism.