This morning we are looking at #11 of Tohei Sensei’s “13 Rules for Instructors.” I’ll read that to you now.
“#11 Do not be an arrogant teacher. It is a characteristic of Ki training that a student progresses by following a teacher, and a teacher progresses by leading the students. Please train together with mutual respect and caring. Arrogant people must know that they have a shallow mind.”
The dictionary says that arrogance means possessing an inflated sense of one’s importance and abilities.
Why would we do that? Why would we have an inflated, or an exaggerated, sense of our value? It must be that we don’t think much of ourselves if we feel the need to exaggerate our own value. That’s right, what creates a state of arrogance is an inferiority complex. This is what pushes us towards this exaggerated sense of oneself. And along with that, we’re constantly looking for other people to confirm our exaggerated sense of ourselves. So, we always need plenty of approbation, lots of others saying nice things about us, others often indicating our success.
I always say that if we’re going to believe the nice things that people say about us, then that means we must also believe the not so nice things people say about us. If we don’t want to believe those negative comments, then we must not allow our ego to revel in the positive ones!
The opposite of arrogance would obviously be the state of mind we call humility, or beginner’s mind, which is a nice way to identify it. But the functioning activity of humility is what we call practice. When we’re practicing, we cannot be arrogant, we cannot be exaggerating ourselves, because looking towards the self requires looking forward and looking backward in time. Right? An arrogant person needs always to look forward into the future, concerned about being impressive, saying and doing the right thing, being sufficiently entertaining and charismatic that everybody confirms that we’re okay. And then also this arrogance is looking back and constantly re-examining our past words and actions, just to make sure that we didn’t say something that was offensive, and that what we did say was clever and impactful.
So that right there is the anti-training rhetoric going on inside our mind. That activity is being attracted to and losing oneself in what is not true. Instead, our practice is to be present, not looking forward, not looking back, but intensely engaging in what is arising and arising moment after moment. And it requires all our attention to practice this way. This is shugyo practice.
It is the first part of the year right now, and we usually entitle our first seminar of the year as the “Shugyo Tassei Kigan Shiki” seminar. This means “I pray that I will be in shugyo practice throughout the year.” In other words, “I will constantly be practicing with full attention in the moment.” One might say “I pray that I will not be arrogant all year!” And there is no standing still in this life. We’re either moving forward to meet that description in our practice or we’re moving backward away from that. There’s no treading water. We are practicing something in every moment. So, looking forward, looking backward, and examining oneself, comparing our self to other people is all going backwards. That is how this superiority and inferiority business is established and maintained within us, by comparing ourselves to other people. When we’re doing that, we cannot be practicing progressively.
We all have arrogance. No one is free of it. When we think we are free of arrogance, we’re probably being arrogant to think so, exaggerating our humility. We want instead to be engaged in our practice 100% and not worrying one way or the other about arrogance or humility. When we are engaged in our practice, there is no sense of self, positive or negative. There’s no sense of time passing. There’s no sense of place. We’re just completely engaged in following the Mirror Universe, moment by moment by moment. In this way we’re free.
Okay, let’s begin our sitting.
Ki Breathing – 10 minutes
Ki Meditation – 10 minutes
Mind Body Meditation – 10 minutes
Breakout discussion rooms – 10 minutes
Okay, let’s begin with Room number one.
Student: Good morning, Sensei. Good evening, everyone. I was in group #1 with Eiko, Kayomi and Fincher. I guess the conversation began with the question, why would the teacher who’s in the position of sharing something with students, ever be arrogant? Why would this happen? The teacher is in a position of giving, sharing, and helping others.
And then there were also comments about why there are these “two sides of the coin”, arrogance and a sense of inferiority. And we kind of finished our conversation by discussing whether, if we all have this seed of arrogance within us, then trying to get rid of it would seem like a futile effort. Right? It’s like arrogance trying to get rid of arrogance.
So, for the solution, we came up with noticing and recognizing, realizing that this is the condition. This is what is in this moment when we’re speaking, acting in a certain way. that arrogance is present. Right? Inferiority is present.
Okay, thank you very much. I just got an email this morning from a student in a dojo far away. He has been practicing Ki Breathing for one hour each morning for 35 or 40 years. And lately, he’ll sit down to begin breathing, and he has a bell that goes off in one hour. And he said, “I’m missing the hour now. I don’t know what happens.” And he asked if I could I comment on that?
Yeah. So, this right here is related. Of course, it’s self-obsession to worry about what time it is, just like worrying about being humble or arrogant. When we’re practicing, when we’re living life completely, just like when we’re having fun doing anything, we completely forget about ourselves. In fact, if we even begin thinking about how much fun we’re having, the fun kind of goes away. You can’t be reflectively self-obsessed or self-conscious or all the fun stops. In this way, self-obsession is a kind of bondage.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t notice what’s going on. But we don’t invite it. We don’t seek it out. You know, eat when you’re hungry. But if you’re not hungry, why would you eat? When a subject comes up in the present, it needs to be noticed and dealt with, listened to, and embraced, or at the least engaged in some way. We don’t know in what way it will be addressed, because we can never know ahead of time. But we can always know that there’s only one thing that counts, and that’s what’s happening right now. So, we always just address this.
This is interesting, because in some sense I must do this every week when I am preparing to send a note to the group about the coming Sunday. I look at what is up for us to address this week, and I see that it is “arrogance,” and you may think that I sit and intellectually consider what I know about that. But it’s not quite like that. I mean, I have to be very careful. I just sit down and be present with it and see what comes up for me. And then I write that down and send it out to you folks. I don’t think we even need to analyze that. I’m just saying that learning how to address something like this, and how not to, is hugely important.
One person in your group was wondering why a teacher would ever become arrogant. Well, let me tell you, whether you are a teacher or not, everybody has self-obsession, students and teachers alike. This is the kind of thing that is not worth worrying about but is very worth paying attention to when it arises. I think that’s what this whole life is about, just learning to deal with what needs to be dealt with today. You know, “Look at the lilies of the field” kind of deal. This is what that Jesus of Nazareth was talking about. Don’t worry about whether we’re going to be humble or arrogant, just pay attention and be in complete service to whatever the moment brings. There is sacrifice and there is a willingness to serve. The automatic result is humility.
Okay. Thank you very much. Next group please.
Student: Hello, everyone. I was with Olaf, Luz and Phoenix. And we shared with each other. Olaf told about what you just commented on, about how to properly balance between arrogance and humility. And I told them that I was more, I would say, touched by the phrase in your email for this lesson, that teachers should be a proper representative of practice.
Should be a “shining example.”
Student: Yeah, that’s right, a shining example. And for me, I understand that maybe I’m not enough of a shining example. Because I don’t know if I really fulfill my attention to the practice. And I’d say what you said touched myself inside of me. And I don’t know whether I am arrogant, or humble. And I don’t know how to just notice this. And, as you said, to serve the moment should we somehow deal with this inside of us?
Well, yeah, that’s a good question. You know, when we notice something, it means that there’s something there for us. It doesn’t mean that we must torture ourselves trying to figure out why. When we give our attention over to the moment, to what is arising, and what is arising constantly is this phrase that “the teacher must be a shining example,” then it feels a certain way inside us. Right?
Yes, it gives us a certain kind of feeling. Maybe it’s almost an unsureness, or a lack of certainty about that statement. And I think maybe that’s a very healthy thing to be “unsure.” If you go to your students while being unsure, then that is being a shining example right there. Do you see? And because you are unsure, you have a beginner’s mind, then it is not a self-conscious, premeditated shining example. It’s just being real. And that’s what the students long for in a teacher. They want a teacher who’s having their same experience, one who understands them, and supports in them what he is supporting in himself, which is the requirement to practice and to be present. Students want a teacher who is not hiding his natural self from them.
Okay. All right. Group 3, please.
Student: Hi, good morning and good evening to all and, hello, Sensei. Rene here. I was in the group with Mele, Gloria and Christel. I think maybe if we look at arrogance as a bad thing, then we’re looking for counters to it. So, Christel brought up the idea of honesty in the dojo as maybe a counter to being arrogant, where you share, you’re open and you’re sharing honesty. Gloria brought up a similar idea in the sense of humbleness and she used Naluai Sensei as an example, referring to when he said, “we should be open to other people’s teachings” And then Mele brought up the idea that we must let go of being arrogant. She took what you were saying about being 100%, in the moment and that we are constantly judging ourselves looking in the past and trying to be something in the future. For me, I kind of think of it as like driving down the highway and running into those bumps on the road, where it gives you an indication you’re not quite in the middle of the road. So, I’m wondering if it may be that arrogance is not a bad thing. It’s just the condition of what is and that it is something to be aware of when you’re hitting those bumps. So, is it not arrogance to think that we must be perfect? It’s like Mele brought up, that it’s kind of this cosmic arrogance, to imagine that we have more control over conditions than we really do?
Thank you very much. Yeah, really, I agree. Come on! What really is arrogance? What really is an inflated sense of how important I am, an inflated sense of my abilities. And what about to become perfect, or even to be honest, or to be humble? Or to be any word we can think of? It’s completely beside the point, this figuring out of the degree of something. We’re supposed to be practicing, not figuring out what everybody’s supposed to do, what we’re supposed to do, and then comparing the two! I mean, I certainly do appreciate the idea of honesty. We like that. And I appreciate the idea of humility. We like that, too. No one likes the idea of arrogance, although we all practice it all the time, naively. You see, we’re just judgment vehicles. We’re monsters, in the sense of constantly judging ourselves and others to be this, that, or the other thing, instead of just practicing. Yes, it’s true that we are always looking to balance something. But that is an intellectual exercise. Or we’re looking at another teacher or another student and saying that this is a good example of arrogance or humility. Come on, who are we to judge such a thing? How can we possibly know that? Is that not arrogance to think so?
Please, just practice, just be unsure, just be a beginner. Because that’s our natural state, one of unknowing, a kind of awe or openness, which is true awareness. That I like.
Thank you very much. Okay. Next group please.
Student: Good morning, good evening everyone. The first thing I ask is, am I arrogant to think I’m not arrogant? And then Tracy just laughed. But of course, Curtis Sensei is saying that the students are a reflection of the teacher, and so when he sees me out there maybe he thinks, “Oh, I better teach a little differently here!” But then, there is Sally Worcester, you know? She’s the most humble person I know, to be honest. And then, also since Tracy and I beat ourselves up a lot, you know, maybe my arrogance is thinking I should be better than I am at whatever it may be.
Thank you, David. The three great teachers I’ve trained with Koichi Tohei Sensei, Shinichi Suzuki Sensei, and Shinichi Tohei Sensei all have had one thing in common. I’m sure there are many other great teachers, but those are the three that I’ve trained with most. And the thing they all have in common is their emphasis is only on basics. I will say that I only trained with Tohei Sensei during the second half of his life. So, maybe when he was younger, he was a little more into entertaining, which helps to bring in students, because he may have felt he had to do that at that time. But as he matured, it changed, and likewise for Suzuki Sensei, and now look at Shinichi Sensei, focusing on basics at his young age. Of course, he can really like no one else move when he wants to, and he is plenty entertaining when he does show us some fancy movement. But I always feel that it is in the service of teaching the value of basics. So, basics in Aikido training is like basics in life. It’s doing the fundamental practice again and again and again, mind leads body. You know how many seminars Shinichi Sensei starts with rising on our toes or shaking the hand of our partner? And of course, he progresses from there through all the basics of how to give our self over to our partner, to connect, to be there for them in the moment that is arising. And there’s no room in any of that for worrying about whether we’re good enough or not.
Thank you. Next group please.
Student: Good morning. Good evening, everyone. I am Vitali. I was in group #5 with Lynn Sensei and Bill, and we discussed arrogance and what does it mean not to be arrogant. It means not showing that you’re somehow special.
The question is does a student feel that his or her Sensei is special? I do. I think my Sensei is a special person. And I communicate with my Sensei as if he is a special person because of respect and because of our culture. And because he knows much more than I do. And my students see how I communicate with my Sensei, and they try to communicate with me in such a way. How should I show to my students that I am not so special? What can I do and is this a problem?
So, let me ask you, why do you feel required to show your students that you are not special? That you are not arrogant? Why do you feel this necessity?
Student: Because I guess the gap between me and my Sensei is much more than me and my students, and I think I am closer to my students than they realize.
Well, alright, so if I understand correctly, you feel your teacher is a special person, as you must, because he’s your teacher. But that doesn’t mean he’s trying to make you think of him as special or not special. If he is special, then he is not thinking about it at all. He’s only giving you his sincere practice all the time. And so, if you’re doing this with your own students, that’s enough. You don’t have to be concerned with “Am I special?” or “Am I not special?” “What could I do to be more special or less special?” That’s arrogance to even think about it. Just meet with your students and connect with them personally, as I think you know and do, and that’s enough. And then you will grow with your students. Tohei Sensei says in the saying for this week. “The teacher learns by leading the students and the students learn by following the teacher.” This is natural. So, leading the students means giving them your 100% attention and support. That’s enough, then they’ll probably think you’re special, but whether they do or not doesn’t matter to you. Right?
Okay. Okay. Thank you very much. And thank you, everyone,
Domo arigato gozaimasu.
I look forward to seeing you next week. I really enjoyed this.