Michael Sheridan; September 2012
The Worst Teacher in the World
There is a general problem in attempting an elucidation of the way of fundamental truth, and this is exemplified in a story recounted by Herrigel in his Zen in the Art of Archery. In so many words Herrigel asked his Kyudo teacher what the study of Kyudo was all about, what he was supposed to be seeking and what he would find.
His teacher replied to the effect that to tell him this would be the mark of the worst teacher in the world, the implication being, perhaps, that an experiential knowledge which should depend upon the heroic efforts of the seeker of truth was too easily trivialised by misguided attempts at facilitation, and that mere verbalisation was of little value.
Thus the direct intuition of fundamental truth is not, perhaps, to be gained by the deviations and postponements of cognition.
But it may be thought equally true that to fail to point out where one should be going, what one might be expected to find and what this all means, risks falling back into an unacceptable aspect of traditional teaching.
At its worst, traditional teaching keeps the student in a world of inarticulate blind obedience to the dictates of the ferociously egotistical, in which the ‘master’ benefits from, and often exploits, unthinking trust.
It may be thought that the intuition upon which all knowledge relies is, although perhaps its own light, not failsafe, and it must be brought to the bar of dialogue and reason.
For if discussion is discouraged: who knows if anything is known; who can know what it is; how can it be known that it is correct; how can errors be rectified; how does one know that the situation is not one in which the deluded delude the deluded, in the passing on of genuine and structurally grounded stupidity though the very tradition concerned with its transmission?
There is another aspect to this problem.
Roussier followed the path of his teacher, Maroteau, the self- proclaimed pioneer of Hakko Ryu in Europe, in going to Japan to take his Shihan examination. He recounts that he was told by a Japanese friend that foreigners were told one thing and the Japanese kept the real secret of it all to themselves.
If this were true it would go a long way towards explaining the self-evident flimsiness of our understanding of the three techniques at issue here, all from the syllabus of Hakko Ryu Ju Jitsu.
These techniques are, Itten no Hi, Sai Ryu and Hugi.
And if this is true, how is one to break through in a situation in which one is being positively misled?
Moreover, this would bad enough if one could be confident that the Japanese themselves really knew what they were doing, and that what they were doing really were acceptable. But it may be that they themselves suffer deep delusion.
For example, and regrettably enough, the details, obtained only with the greatest of difficulty, of the deaths and horrendous injuries suffered by Aikido students at Japanese universities, have been circulated by the British Aikido Board.
They reveal deep and alarming pedagogical concerns about their practice.
They suggest, on the part of the teachers, not only tactical incompetence and strategic ignorance, but also a militaristically pitiless view of the students and an attendant abdication from the duty of care that would be considered obligatory in an enlightened universe of sociality.
Thus it is that, in broaching these issues, I intend to lay the ground for a genuinely educative interpretation of the syllabus of Hakko Ryu Ju Jitsu, which may itself have resonance with other practices and practitioners.
And in doing so I am conscious of revealing myself as the worst teacher in the world, but I think this is a price worth paying.
The particular problematic that is at issue here arises out of a long-term dissatisfaction with the understanding of the technique Itten no Hi, which occurs near the start of the Godan Syllabus of Hakko Ryu Ju Jitsu, at least as it has been passed down to us, and the possibility of its relationship with Sai Ryu and Hugi, as the undisclosed telos of the programme is revealed to reason, a telos which resides in embryonic form at the very start of the syllabus in the technique most often practised and least understood, Hakko Dori, the Technique of the Eighth Light.
The perspective adopted here is one which leans heavily upon the Taoist and Buddhist meditation techniques, at least in simplified and accessible form, and also upon a phenomenological view of the nature of reality; what there is, how this is known and what should be done about it.
I link this insight with the fulfilment of the First Pure Precept, that which enjoins us to desist from evil, and leave the relationship of this fulfilment with the second and Third Pure Precepts, to do only good and to do good for others, in the perspective of a virtue ethics.
By this I mean that, in its preparatory stage, the evil learnt in the evil of learning is unlearnt in the unlearning of learning itself. The mind is cleared of the meaningfulness of its world through persistent, repeated and focussed attention, and this release from the burden of narrow subjectivity is offered as a gift to others in the creation of a sociality in which the identification with the greater, transcendental, universal subjectivity of obedience to the given of the word of discriminative wisdom just is the practice itself, properly guided, and which sociality is carried forward to the wider areas of life outside the dojo.
The technique Itten no hi has been characterised, again, at least to us, as ‘the point between the joints’, but attempts to gain any clearer understanding from experienced round-eyed practitioners have led to no real progress.
We advance an interpretation which will be by no means uncontroversial.
This interpretation of Itten no Hi is carried forward to the problem of Sai Ryu, and then read back into a re-working of the whole syllabus, until we reach again the last technique of the Okuden Waza, Hugi, in which the practical moral dimension of the insight we have gained is disinterred.
But this, as indicated above, is by no means the end of the matter.
The bright indifferent attention to difference of our insight is to be carried forward, beyond any focus on any particular technique to a generalised bright indifferent attention to difference allowing the world to reveal itself, in the passivity at the heart of our agency, in its suchness,
This passivity allows the deep structures of the world, and the deepest structure of all, to reveal themselves in their most universally and transcendentally real appearing reality in a phenomenology of its ontological, epistemological and ethical truth.
This movement has the particularity of moving us from the narrow world of our partiality to an effacement of the small self through the habituating repetition of attention, into the revelation of the great self in the universality of its transcendental existentiality.
Thus is achieved the distance of the sameness of mind from the difference which it synthesises into its experience.
There are four elements to the nexus of concepts under consideration here, and we begin with Tanden, the practice of natural breathing centring upon the abdominal area in Budo.
This technique can be taught by the requiring that student place two hands on the lower abdomen and to push against these hands as he breathes in, and to allow the hands to push the abdomen back in as he breathes out.
As well as the undoubted physical and emotional benefits of this practice, there is the benefit of the strengthening of the spirit through persistent and repeated concentration, revealing the mind in the existential mode of the presencing of the presented.
Mind is revealed in the structure of existence, and this structure, temporalising reflection, is the ground of the genesis of being through temporalising and temporalised reflection.
Thus the sameness of the same mind incarnated in the same material body synthesises the difference of the original chaos into the difference of the world as a world, a possible experience.
The mind is its world in the mode of not being it, it identifies as a sameness with the difference it holds together as a world.
It is able to do this as a being of a different nature from the beings over which it holds sway.
For the mind is a temporalising being, having as its mode of objectivity the three ecstatic modes of temporality, the present, the null point through which it immediately passes its future in the present and consigns it to its past in the present.
Thus the nature of the standing out of existence is as a permanent possibility of not being what one is, and this is realised in the existentialisation of desistence from one’s objective spectacle.
The mind, the enduring presencing presence that brings the upsurge of the presented to presence, is, for once, not unnoticed.
It is the transmission of the doctrine of mind.
But in the practice of Tanden, should this be not focus enough, the expansion of the abdomen takes place accompanied, in the next step, by an expansion of the lower back.
This is known as ‘making the cavity’, also as ‘bellows breathing’.
Next, within the cavity, there is the one point, Itten no Hi, in an interpretation consistent with the Seika no Itten of the great Tohei Sensei.
This point is as much made as discovered through the use of the mind to effect a counter-movement of drawing in behind and below the navel as the abdomen expands on inhalation.
This point can be revealed by a technique not dissimilar to the Kuatsu of Judo, by pinching behind and below the navel.
This merely indicated where the attention is to be focussed; the work remains to be done.
Should this focus not suffice, and it should not, for we have hardly got beyond the beginning stages of the project, the bellows type effect of the maintenance of the one point raises the mind from the one point up the inside of the body to the back of the neck and the inside of the head.
Thus, this repeated practice of mind revealing itself to itself in its experience of concentration takes on a different location, in the third eye, behind and between the eyes, in the technique of Sai Ryu.
This point can be indicated by a light tap between the eyes.
Again, the work remains to be done.
This, typically, will yield feelings of euphoria and perceptions of light, themselves of limited and merely indicative value.
It is now necessary that the factor common to these three techniques, the distancing of mind from its objective world through repeated and persistent and guided practice, be taken forward from this practice into the wider world, and this is prepared for in the formal practice of Hugi.
Thus, in our next stage, Hugi, the taking forward of the concentration occurs as a pre-emptive Sen-no-Sen.
The very point of the failure and the frustration attendant upon this technique is that if pre-emption does not occur the consequences are painful indeed. However, a proper appreciation of the methodology, the purpose and its social context, brings great understanding.
The purpose of Hugi is not, having given oneself to the Nidan Waza which initiates it, to resist, if this were possible, an achieved technique, but to be encouraged to extend the mind, under very controlled conditions, through and beyond, back from its solipsistic training, into the recycled syllabus and beyond.
And one’s partner here, in spite of appearances to the contrary, is charged with the responsibility for this facilitation.
Advancing from the practice of Hugi, just as the solipsistic enlightenment of the ninth picture of the Ten Oxherding Pictures is practically resolved in the ‘re-entry into the market place’ of the tenth picture, the common element linking the three preceding techniques is generalised in an approach to the whole of the appearance of the self-world.
This approach is a proactive regulative structure which carries forward the distance of desistence found as the link common to each of the three techniques.
This is the essence of what is known as Naga meditation, active distancing from the phenomenal in the very act of heightened attention, disclosing the ‘important matter’ of the realisation of the upsurge of the great event of mind.
Thus, to recapitulate, the common link of the mode of heightened repeated attention to the limited object of mind, giving a dissociation from the object through the habituation to and exhaustion of its meaning which clears the ground of determinations of the small artifice of the social subject, reveals its original transcendental universality, its existentiality, as the structure of mind, in the intentional unmaking of the artifice of its deluded, that is, partial, finite, being.
This allows for the identification with the universal being of a more fundamental, existentially minimal, moral universe, grounded upon the original co-responsivity of sentience, compassion, learned through the reciprocity of training.
Thus, in this perspective, the point of Hugi is to facilitate the realisation of the partner’s mind in its protentive and pre-emptive protective mode. Thus it must be handled with care and consideration, in the very mode which is correct for enlightened protection in the world of men.
It might even be that a consideration of this perspective might permit us to re-think the concept of Kaeshi waza, and take us away from the limited, dreary and interminable talk about counter-techniques, in a discourse which does little else than re-affirm the negative, partial and unenlightened aspects of Budo.
For this sensitisation is the incarnation of Kanzeon, she who listens to cries of humanity, the deity of compassion, the ground of love and wisdom.
Thus grows discriminating wisdom from delusion.
As the Cha’an Buddhists used to say, and probably still do; ‘Look into this!’