from Pierre (In a message dated 12/18/05 5:26:11 AM.)
Fugaku and I had a very interesting conversation yesterday evening about the necessary separation of “religious faith” with other human affairs (at least politic, business and media powers :o).
from Pierre (In a message dated 12/19/05 9:07:28 AM.)
Thank you very much for this conversation. I have a very high idea of your influence and I am very worried by the way american governement is mixing up all those dimensions of human affairs. I heard that one american citizen has taken the american government to court in order to suppress the mention “In god we trust” from the dollar bill. That conforted me in the though that “lay thinking” might not be only an affair of “french sensibility”.
from Ito sensei (In a message dated 12/19/2005 2:15:48 PM Pacific Standard Time.)
Dear Group Leadres of Taimyo Meditation Network:
The the above are a copy of the mails exchanged between Pierre, Ula & myself recently.
If I understand his point of view correctly, he told me that, since the principal of our activity is based on our “Faith”, it has a big chance/it is in a big danger to turn into some kind “Religious Business” such as TM (Transendal Meditation), which he (as a sociologist) does not think we should go to…
At this point, I would like to invite all of you to discuss about his advice in order to avoid confusion which may come up in the future, if we are not careful, and set up the clear goal of our movement!
Please let me know your opinion frankly!
from Sylvie (In a message dated 12/24/05 11:28:45 AM)
Cher Ito Sensei,
Pour r・pondre franchement, je ne suis pas s・re de comprendre le propos de votre ・change avec Pierre. Selon les ・l・ments en ma possession, ma compr・hension est qu’il y aurait un probl・me ・ parler de la partie spirituelle du Shintaido.
A partir de cette compr・hension, ma r・ponse est la suivante:
Il est scientifiquement reconnu que depuis l’aube de l’humanit・, l’Etre Humain a exprim・ des formes d’art et de spiritualit・. D・j・ l’homme du Pal・olithique jouait de la musique, dessinait dans les grottes et v・n・rait des dieux. Ainsi ce serait desfonctions vitales pour l’homme conserv・es au fil de l’・volution bien qu’elles ne semblent avoir conf・r・ aucun avantage adaptatif (F. P・try-Cinotti dans Cerveau et Psycho). Et bien s・r l’homme devait combattre pour survivre dans un environnement hostile.
Il me semble merveilleux que toutes ces fonctions vitales, ou besoins fondamentaux, fassent partie int・grante du Shintaido. J’ai appris qu’Aoki Sensei et la Rakutenkai avaient ・tudi・ l’art de la sant・, les Beaux Arts, la voie du guerrier et la spiritualit・ pour cr・er le Shintaido. Ils ont r・uni le Tout pour cr・er un nouvel art du corps qui nous permet de dire que le corps est un message de l’Univers. C’est ainsi que je comprends le Shinta・do: un processus alchimique qui nous permet de r・v・ler notre Humanit・.
A l’heure o・ l’Etre Humain est confront・ ・ maintes difficult・s, dont l’aspect ・cologique n’est pas le moindre puisqu’・ force de maltraiter notre plan・te nous mettons en p・ril notre existence aussi bien que celle de tous les ・tres vivants qui y vivent , il me semble important pour les pratiquants du Shintaido d’・tudier et de d・velopper les diff・rents aspects du Shintaido: la sant・ pour respecter tout ce qui vit, les arts pour ・tre p・n・tr・ par la beaut・, la voie du guerrier qui nous structure dans notre corps et notre relation ・ l’autre, et la spiritualit・ pour ・tre reli・ ・ l’Unit・ de toute chose. Par des pratiques comme Taimyo Network, nous pouvons changer notre conscience, et peut-・tre plus, ainsi que l’explique Rupert Sheldrake ou encore la loi des 100 singes.
Pour laisser les gens libres de choisir leur foi ou leur religion, nous avons, au moment de la r・volution fran・aise, s・par・ l’Eglise de l’Etat. Je pense que c’・tait une bonne chose, notamment pour ne pas m・langer toutes les dimensions des affaires humaines. Ma compr・hension est alors que nous sommes libres d’exprimer les mouvements du Shintaido et autres m・ditations transcendentales.
Est-ce que cela r・pond ・ la question? Je n’en suis pas s・re. En tout cas, je suis heureuse d’avoir eu l’opportunit・ de r・affirmer pourquoi je pratique le Shintaido.
Dans l’attente de plus de pr・cisions pour mieux comprendre le sujet de votre ・change.
from Connie Borden (In a message dated 12/25/05 6:41:46 AM)
Thank you for an interesting question and observation from Pierre. I understand Faith/religion to be separate from spirituality. However, the media, government and fundamentalist groups often confuse these topics. I see Taimyo as a warriors response to tragic events; often events that a warrior would have supported in his or her earlier years. Taimyo is a kata and body movement. Often in the growth of a warrior, he would start to study meditation and calligraphy. This would be even more true in times of peace. Shintaido is healthy exercies for the mind, body and spirit that is based on martial arts with influence from music and art. Thus the study of Taimyo is for the mind, body and spirit. The focus on the practice of Taimyo is around national events to strengthen our selves and others in peaceful outcomes. The “faith” I see expressed is the ‘true nature’ within each of ourselves.
Happy HOlidays everyone.
from David Franklin (In a message dated 12/25/05 10:25:50 PM)
Here is another point of view on the relationship between Taimyo/Shintaido and the political dimension, which is inspired by the philosophy of the “Deep Ecology” movement.
Briefly, Deep Ecology is a philosophy based on a series of connected ideas about our material and spiritual relationship to the Earth. For more details on Deep Ecology, see a 1997 article by professor Michael Zimmerman of Tulane University (in, ironically, New Orleans):
In my own words,
Humans are a part of Nature, we are only threads in the fabric of life on Earth, and not the masters of the planet. From the practical point of view, it should be clear to everyone by now that if we humans (and particularly the inhabitants of the U.S.A.) continue behaving like we can do whatever we want to the natural environment, we may damage it beyond repair (in fact, we may have done so already). We have already made many species extinct; we might make ourselves extinct as well. Many, perhaps most, problems of war and material suffering due to economic inequality can be traced to the fact that some of us want, have, and use much much more natural resources than we need.
This excess of wanting and desiring – the foundation of industrial capitalist consumer society – is tearing apart human civilizations and destroying the Mother Earth. Meanwhile, capitalist consumer society is waging many wars on many fronts – military, political, economic and ideological – to literally take over the world.
Many political activists feel that the most effective way to alter our fortunes and save ourselves and the planet is by influencing the laws and policies of regulating bodies such as governments or the WTO (note the series of protests and sometimes riots at every meeting of the WTO since Seattle 1999. Most recently Korean rice farmers were the focal point in Hong Kong):
The Deep Ecological point of view is that we should also deal with the root of the problem, which means dealing with how we can feel less alienated from the Earth and all the other life-forms we share it with, and how we can stop wanting so much more than we need. Clearly this relates to attitudes and values that are have a long history of discussion in many spiritual disciplines and religions. As Aoki-sensei has written (in the upcoming issue of Body Dialogue, unification (including with our inner selves, with other people, with Nature, or with the highest) is the common ground at the core of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. In Shintaido and Taimyo practice, we can work with these feelings and aspirations through the kata of body movement.
In this way, Deep Ecology provides a philosophical link between spirituality and concrete behaviors, or ways of living in the world, which then have economic, social, and political consequences. To answer Ito-sensei’s question about clarifying the goal of our movement, we could consider Shintaido and Taimyo as concrete examples of the Deep Ecology philosophy in action.
As for Pierre’s question about faith and “religious business,” I would like to refer to a famous speech by black political activist Malcolm X entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet,” delivered in Detroit in 1964.
Malcolm X was addressing a group of black political activists who were involved in the civil rights movement. Many of them were also religious leaders in their communities. Martin Luther King Jr. was of course a (Christian) Baptist minister, and Malcolm X himself was a Black Muslim minister. In this speech, Malcolm X advocates that activists should leave their religion “in the closet.” He said that overt references to religion had great potential to divide people, and that religious aspirations were a matter of private faith. Religion, in his opinion, was a relationship between “myself and the god in whom I believe,” and not an appropriate matter for public discourse on that dealt with worldly actions. Clearly he drew inner strength from his religious conviction, but in this speech, he advocated for a commonly-acceptable philosophy that would unite people (at least the group of people he felt should be united with each other).
best – David
from Lee Seaman (In a message dated 12/26/05 7:07:29 PM.)
As a Christian, I am deeply distressed by how the beliefs of sincere but naive people are being twisted for political ends. Especially after your statement about Japanese nationalism earlier this month, I see so many parallels between attitudes in the US today and in Japan before World War II. It is frightening, frankly.
Shintaido has been instrumental to me in deepening my relationship with God. The most powerful thing I have experienced through keiko is a sense of union with a being bigger than I am, that cannot be accurately described, defined, or delineated by me.
So I agree with Pierre. Many of us have powerful experiences in keiko. Some of us may call those experiences “religious”. But if we think of Taimyo as a “faith” or “belief” or “religious experience”, it will get smaller, I think. And people will be able to waste time thinking about whether they agree or disagree, which is not the point. Agreement and disagreement are “thinking” and “talking”. Taimyo is truly a big mystery, and bigger than that.
In a message dated 12/28/05 11:24:44 AM, JAPOOF writes:
Hi Ito –
Here is my response to what I think Pierre is asking. I am only writing this to you. If you feel you want to share it, okay.
Spirituality vs. Religion
1. The Question
I feel Pierre’s question is bigger than the Taimyo practice – I feel it is about Ito’s influence and actions, and are they a religion, or a spiritual movement?
First, there must be agreement on the definitions of religion vs. spirituality. Here are my definitions, based on broad reading, and my personal interpretations.
Religion is a physical practice that has a structure and rituals. Rituals can include words, actions, music, all done on a regular basis. It can even include human sacrifice or animal sacrifice! (not very often these days.) It is usually performed by two or more people.
The goal of religions are to achieve closeness to the universal being, the higher power, often called God, or Nature, which is non-corporeal, not a physical entity, and provides a higher purpose than day-to-day necessities and requirements such as eating and sleeping. Its goal is also to provide something to believe in, some force of nature that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Throughout history man has aspired to believe in higher powers, and a higher purpose to life beyond basic functionality. Different groups have defined a religion with different ways of achieving this closeness and connection with the higher power and purpose of life itself. The very nature of man has taken this pursuit to lengths where one group’s beliefs are considered the only valid beliefs and other groups’ beliefs and religions are considered wrong, bad, a violation of what is right and true. Yes. Conflict enters the religious picture.
PHILOSOPHY is about reason and logic; religions operate through faith or intuition rather than reason, so they are not a philosophy.
“All religions are the same in their origin [but the] contradictions between them are due only to our imperfect understanding” (Edouard Schuré in Les Grands Initiés.)
Spirituality is an inner state; each individual has personal beliefs and outlook, attitude, and interests. It is non-corporeal, non-physical. A spiritual state is an individual’s feelings, not a group action. A group can have spirituality, but the individual is not a religion. Two or more are required to BE a religion. One person’s beliefs, practices, even rituals, compose their own spiritual statement.
Spirituality is the invisible world of infinite and eternal potentialities, but is connected with the world of actual events through each person.
The danger Pierre warns of is that of ‘following’.
Ito does something, others follow. If each individual arrives at the same conclusions that Ito does after being given the same information, then it is individual choice, and not a religious or ritualistic following per se. If people follow without questioning, through blind FAITH, then this conforms to the definition of religion. It is not bad, but it is not the best way to choose. That is where there can be a danger. There should always be clear understanding when choices are made and behaviors adopted.
3. A Story
A Shintaido student asked me once “Since you’re not practicing Shintaido anymore, how does it feel”. I asked what he meant by not practicing Shintaido, and he said that I no longer attended regular keiko. I found the question odd. It implied that in order to practice Shintaido I had to attend keiko. His church was keiko, and he imposed his values/understanding on others. That is the dangerous thing; incomplete understanding, and imposing your beliefs on others.
I never felt that I stopped ‘practicing’ Shintaido. I feel that Shintaido is in my body, and I often do exercises on my own – warm-ups, different movements, kata with boh, bokutoh, or freehand, tenshingoso, etc. Why was I required to practice with a group? It still perplexes me that such a division would be made.
I was deeply moved by Ito’s statements about Japan’s history, and his efforts to bring people to a ‘higher consciousness’ through the Taimyo network of meditation. It may seem that I have objected to the religious-osity of this practice, or other ideas that Ito develops and shares. I do not at all! I merely point out that, as Schuré said, our understandings are imperfect, while the intent is perfect and wonderful.
I think the onus is on Ito as leader and teacher and man of ideas to be as clear as possible about his ideas, and what his intentions are. It is very important that each ‘follower’ is equally clear that what activity he/she accepts and engages in is clearly his/her choice, with full understanding, or the agreement to try and understand, and not just do it because Ito said so.
from Patrick (In a message dated 12/29/05 9:19:10 AM)
I feel deeply honoured to be included in this forum. I apologize for the assertive style of what follows, which I pray you to believe is only due to my concern for being precise and synthetic. I hope I could at least convey the idea that I have at this stage where I am still developing my practice of Taimyo and Shintaido. The following reflexions originated from a discussion with David at the last Zurich workshop with Ito Sensei, where I was bitterly wondering why we needed to investigate new close-combat technics at a supposedly advanced level. David pointed me to Aoki Sensei’s saying that the Shintaido’s curriculum inverted the traditional martial arts pyramid – but then I still did not see why, as I was still approaching the technics with the same old competitive spirit (and, to say the truth, not being very successfull, esp. face to Andy :)) .
Definition: the Taimyo network is an “extension” of the Taimyo Kata in that it is the Taimyo Kata being practiced synchronously between remote participant. The synchronicity is ensured both in time and by the fact that all participants focuse their meditation on the same object – e.g. historical event or ecological disaster, etc.
So at the individual level the Taimyo network experience is the Taimyo Kata experience : the appreciation and discovery of its benefits can be left to each individual, as the “big mystery” Lee mentioned. In particular I will leave aside the question of whether we believe or not in distant healing and the effectiveness of prayer, because this is no the point. I will also leave aside the relationship with Shintaido, though it is fundamental, but can be developed later (like Hinduism wrtYoga).
For what distinguishes the Taimyo network experience from the individual practice of the Taimyo Kata is the collective dimension.
Regardless of the standpoint (i.e. participant or not), in my view the goal of the Taimyo network “movement” is to counter-balance the negative stream of images that constitute a major part of our inputs as social beings, inputs upon which we base our actions. These inputs determine both our perception of and our participation to our human collectivity. This “current of sadness” (Krishnamurti) and agressivity is growing, due for instance to the mercantile exploitation of images amplifying hatred, disasters, powerlessness, etc.
By changing our approach to these images we can prevent our actions from being pre-determined, e.g. by social archetypes. By communicating our experience, and sharing it with others, we can plant a little seed in their mind. By developing an image of a world — limited in time and population to the Taimyo network — whereby everyone is cooperating and sending their best energy to effectively defeat our worst enemies (hatred, self-denegation, etc.) we make it happen.
By the practice.
In this sense I would say that the Taimyo network movement is the Taimyo network, and that the Taimyo network is the Taimyo network movement.
from Patrick Bouchaud (In a message dated 12/29/05 9:59:57 AM.)
Sorry, missing point:
<< Regardless of the standpoint (i.e. participant or not), in my view the goal of the Taimyo network “movement” is to counter-balance the negative stream of images that constitute a major part of our inputs as social beings, inputs upon which we base our actions. These inputs determine both our perception of and our participation to our human collectivity. This “current of sadness” (Krishnamurti) and agressivity is growing, due for instance to the mercantile exploitation of images amplifying hatred, disasters, powerlessness, etc. >>
The inputs we receive condition our actions, which in turn constitute inputs to others, which react according to these inputs, etc.
According to the images we are fed, aggressivity generates aggressivity, hatred hatred, etc. So the goal is to break free from these cycles and generate new “conditioning” images (eg. aggressivity being defeated by [or with?] understanding).
from David Franklin (In a message dated 12/29/05 12:44:19 AM.)
(BTW, I assume we’re having this discussion by email because there has been some problem with spam on the Yahoo groups site?)
Re-reading what I wrote, I just wanted to clarify some thoughts:
In my previous email, I didn’t clearly distinguish between:
1. Shintaido in general
2. Taimyo Kata, a part of the Shintaido system
3. The Taimyo Network, an international affinity group that uses Taimyo Kata to meditate on (or for) world peace and related specific historical and political events.
In answer to Ito-sensei’s question about clarifying the goal of “our movement,” I suggested adopting the philosophy of Deep Ecology. What I meant was, I think the Taimyo Network should adopt the philosophy of Deep Ecology as a foundation.
I didn’t mean that Shintaido in general should adopt the Deep Ecology philosophy. I don’t think the philosophy of Shintaido should avoid the concept of Ten or Tenshin. I think that the philosophy of Deep Ecology is not complete enough to serve as a foundation for Shintaido, and anyway Shintaido has its own philosophy (though it still seems to be a “work-in-progress”).
However, the Taimyo Network focuses on historical and political issues, so it needs a philosophy that makes personal spiritual growth relevant to those issues. I think that if we study Deep Ecology, we will find that many aspects of Shintaido, including Taimyo and maybe the Taimyo Network, are already concrete expressions of this philosophy.
A good point of Deep Ecology is that it is very inclusive. Of course, there are many groups that draw strength from their sprituality to work for peace and justice. Two recent examples are the Christian Peacemakers, a non-missionary anti-war humanitarian group whose members were kidnapped in Iraq,
and the Catholic Workers, some of whom recently walked 175 miles across Cuba to the American prison/torture facility at Guantanamo Bay, demanding to observe the conditions of prisoners there.
I am inspired by these groups and their actions, but I personally would not want to join a group with the word “Christian” or “Catholic” in its name. (For one thing, it would make my ancestors upset).
Deep Ecology suggests that we include in our “affinity group” not only all humans, or even all living things, but the whole Earth (or even the whole cosmos) and its ecological systems, of which we are a part. On the one hand, Deep Ecology does not ask us to “believe in” anything. On the other hand, it does ask that we develop our awareness of the Web of Life that is greater than any of us, and that we live and act with from that expanded consciousness.
This makes it a good foundation for the “public face” of the Taimyo Network. It makes it possible for anyone to connect the spiritual and political aspects, hopefully without feeling that they are participating in some kind of “religious business” as Pierre said.
from Ito sensei (In a message dated 1/1/06 6:06:29 PM)
Thank you for sharing your opinion/advise/discussion with me! Your thought gave me many hints by which I can clarify what I need to do (and not to do) for this project in the future. I will be happy to continue this discussion and keep receiving your advise, but the following is a note I prepared as my new year’s message to the members of Taimyo network in the world. Hope it will fit to your nerves!
New Year Taimyo
In my practice, I have always felt that “martial arts = the study of physics with our bodies.” This means that even without a great brain, by “studying with my body” I can study as much as I like. In continuing to study how to share the effective use of time, space, and energy with others (including nature), I believe that we are studying physics. Recently I was reading Ken Wilber’s book “A Theory of Everything,” where I encountered the following words from Albert Einstein. And they renewed my conviction.
“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” -Albert Einstein
Isn’t it interesting that such a great physicist as Albert Einstein, such a great creative artist as Shintaido founder Hiroyuki Aoki, and the thoughts and actions of our present Taimyo Network all point in the same direction?
Let’s keep going!