Human Nature

Hello everyone, nice to see you all. Onegaishimasu

Tonight, I’m going to read you, Shokushu #10 ,”The Principle of Non-Dissension”

“There is no conflict in the absolute universe. conflict arises only in the relative world. If we are to lead others, we must unify mind and body and practice the principles of the universe. Do not say that this is the world of survival of the fittest, where the stronger prey upon the weaker. The true way to peace is exactly the same as the principle of non-dissension.”

So, tonight, we’re addressing Tohei Sensei’s, phrase,

“Human beings exist as part of great nature.”

You know, Tohei Sensei would say to us that just because we’re doing something that is normal does not mean we’re doing something that is natural. In other words, that which a human might habitually or repeatedly think, or say, or do, just being a human doesn’t make it natural. And even if you can argue that it is natural to be normal, he would say, it’s maybe not the highest way, the most natural way.

Aikido is the way of peace and harmony. That’s completely natural. But maybe it doesn’t include all of nature. Maybe it doesn’t include acting from our animal nature. In other words, the point of being human is that it includes something called “choice.”

Let’s just leave that there for a moment while we do some Ki Breathing. And then we can look into it a bit more.

Ki Breathing (10 minutes)
“Human beings exist as part of great nature”

Sayaka, would you read that in Japanese for us please? (Sayaka reads)

Thank you very much. It says in the Shokushu I read tonight that conflict exists only in the relative world. Relative world means the world of opposites, right? So that’s why there’s conflict. Opposites come together and cause conflict. So, does that mean it’s required that we have conflict in the relative world? Aikido is the way of peace and love, the end of suffering.

How can we live in a world of no struggle, of no conflict, when we are following our habitual, normal way?

We can never defeat the opposite of peace, which is struggle, or war. If we want to defeat struggle, we must struggle. If we want to defeat war, we must go against something. The reason war exists, the only reason it exists, is because two opposites are going against each other. So, if we go against even war, we are creating more conflict. Likewise, we can never defeat the opposite of harmony. We can never defeat the opposite of relaxation. That’s tension.

Of course, we can live in peace, and we can live in harmony, and we can live in with relaxation. But is it enough to be natural in order to do that? No, we must make a choice to do that. Animals are natural. And yet they fight and they kill. When we say natural, does it mean that we have to be animalistic? No. We have a choice. We have the one thing human beings have, that nothing else in the universe has. And that’s choice. Our choice options are to choose whether we are in attention or not in attention, whether we are noticing what we’re thinking, what we’re saying, and what we’re doing, or not. That’s awareness, folks. Noticing is awareness. We have a choice, whether to be self-aware, and take responsibility for the choices that we make.

There’s never going to be a time when there’s no war. There’s never going to be a time when there is no conflict here. This earth life is made of opposites. That’s the relative means. So naturally, there will always be conflicts. But it doesn’t mean that you and I have to cause, or even participate in those conflicts. It doesn’t mean that you and I have to fight against the thing that we don’t like. No. In Aikido we don’t fight against the thing we don’t like, we stand for the thing we do like. This is the way of non-dissension. This is what non-dissension means that people often misunderstand. They think non-dissension means like, letting them walk all over you. You know, like turning the cheek means a kind of cowards way. No. It means the opposite. It means not fighting against that which you disagree with, but standing up for that which you do agree with. You see? And that’s what I say is the whole point of being natural as a human.

The thing that Tohei Sensei would say most often to us when he’d walk around the dojo was, “It looks like you want to throw that person,.” “It looks like you want to win over that person.” Of course, he was right. We did! That’s exactly what we were trying to do, is win over the other person. I definitely wanted to throw those guys, every single one of them. And I wanted to do it better, quicker, faster and more effectively than they did too. So, it took many, many years of practice, or at least it did with me, before I stopped doing that. Maybe in your case, it won’t be true that it takes so long to get to the point where you see suddenly, “Oh, wait a minute, it’s all about connection not control.” Even when Shinichi Tohei Sensei is teaching us connection, I see people thinking it means a new secret way to control others. That’s not natural folks. We only want to be in harmony, we want to be connected and in harmony and peace with each other. How many times when you’re on the mat with your partner practicing, can you truthfully say you are at peace and in perfect harmony with that other person. Of course, we’re all learning, and the process of learning means that there’s a lot of bumping going on. Right? There’s a lot of moments when your partner feels heavy to you. Why is that? Because you’re trying to throw him, you’re trying to control him, and he’s resisting you. That’s why he feels so heavy.

I’m making a case for being natural. The way I see it is simply that being natural means the highest way and the only sensible way, because the whole point of living like this is to reduce the suffering of others and of ourselves. And whenever we go against what someone else is saying, or against what someone else is doing, or against what someone else believes we cause him suffering. And causing suffering is the opposite of the spirit of non-dissension.

So, you know next time you come upon something that you don’t agree with, don’t back down, stand up for what you do agree with, stand up for what you do believe in, stand up for what you feel strong strongly about, while at the same time holding the hand of your partner, while at the same time being lovingly connected with your partner.

I say this is the natural way. This is what I got from him. Okay. I hope that that gives you something to discuss with each other tonight.

Moderator: Okay, everyone’s back, sensei.

Great. Okay, let’s begin.

Student: Kayomi spoke a little bit about what is the true nature that you speak of? And we all shared a little bit. And what question I came ahead with was, how did we get so off? So, if we came in, you know, as infants, and if this is our true nature, what happened? Lynn Curtis Sensei explained that we’ve had conditioning and that’s what has maybe gotten us to have more conflict. But why are there so few of us who realize, who are able to be in loving awareness all the time? Why is it so hard? Why do we have to work so hard at it?

Thank you. A very great question. Are you able to be in loving kindness all the time?

Student: I’m working on it.

Yes, or no?

Student: No.

Why not?

Student: It is usually because I want something a certain way. Or I don’t agree with somebody else. And I’m not able to completely accept them and just embrace them. But I so loved what you said that, instead of reacting, I need to just try to stay with what I am for. Rather than going to the negative side, we just stay on the plus side.

Thank you. Of course, we come to the earth and are given these bodies, from whereever. And with these bodies comes the great requirement of surviving. All we want to do is survive. We just don’t want to survive physically, we also want to survive emotionally and intellectually. And well, maybe let’s say when we are born, we’re not real sure what all this means. So, we watch our parents, and we watch the rest of the world. And we copy what they do. So, when we have kids, we’re basically making ourselves a mirror for them. This is how they learn to be who they are as they grow up, so naturally they grow up with all the same mistakes that the parents already have. I read that someone said, “When I first got married and decided to have a child, I promised myself that I would not make all the mistakes my parents made, and I haven’t made them. What I did learn is that there are an infinite number of other mistakes we can make, not just the ones your parents made!”

So yeah, odds against awakening to any kind of original condition are tremendous. The odds against taking responsibility for our own state of mind are great because when we are kids growing up, we don’t know anybody that does anything like this. No one suggests this to you. In fact, you probably don’t hear anybody offer anything like this until you pursue it yourself, and find somebody like a teacher, or a friend in a group, and they say, “Come join us because we’re exploring this.”

You may think, “Well, wait a minute, why isn’t everybody doing this? Because if we did, we wouldn’t be suffering to begin with.” But then also please remember that this wouldn’t be Earth, and so wouldn’t be the place of conflict if everyone saw this. It wouldn’t be the training ground that we need, would it? See, if we have this insistence on receiving pleasure all the time, instead of pain, if we have that requirement, that desire, and there’s no opposite, it won’t work as a training ground. If the world doesn’t naturally prevent you from getting your way all the time, then you’ll end up 300 pounds on the couch. Right? Smoking a doobie! That’s what you’ll do because it’s pleasurable.

But ultimately, it’s only natural that if you’re a human being with this ability to notice and be aware of what we’re thinking, what we’re saying, and what we’re doing, it’s only natural to take responsibility for that fact and act on it. And in practice, that’s what Tohei Sensei felt was the natural way, following the way of the universe.

So why don’t we do this when we don’t? I say we all know that we don’t and that we all know we’d like to. And so we see that there are some serious contradictions involved with us humans. We do have these tremendously powerful conditioned structures within us that are built up over our whole lifetime that demand we follow what everyone else is doing. And these structures have to be respected and dealt with. We can’t just turn away from them or bury them. We have to bring them up and resolve them, because they represent energy. And we have to have the whole energetic mechanism working together, otherwise it’s not going to be strong enough to look directly in the face of reality. So, we need to transform those structures, because of all the energy that’s caught up in the false assumptions and false expectations, in beliefs that lead to complaints and arguments. All that committed energy has to be captured and returned to the fold so that it’s all positively working with us. And we do that only one way, and that is noticing… paying attention. Okay. Good question.

Student: Good morning. I don’t want to repeat all the point, but it was a very interesting discussion. And we all agreed that kind of a basic question pertaining to what you have said. It seems that you can be very easily misunderstood when you say, “Don’t go against whatever other people say. Stand up for what you think and what you think is right.” This can sound a little relative unless we make sure that what we stand up for is not also a relative thing. And we just don’t see that it is going against others, if you know what I mean. So, how do I know that what I stand up for is not something that is also against somebody. It’s just because of my limited view that I think it’s the right thing to stand for

Do you mean to say, “How do I know that someone won’t object to what I have to say?” Well, they probably will. Everybody is not practicing non-dissension. I’m not asking all the rest of the world to do this, only you and me. We only ask this of ourselves. Right? Now, I’m not even asking you, to tell you the truth. I’m only saying this is how I’ve learned to be. If you like, you can try it too. I know you would like to because I know you. But I’m not here, we’re not here to relieve others of their delusions. We are here to relieve ourselves of our delusions. So, we know that when we go against something and try to put something down and defeat it that we’re causing suffering there, and here. That’s war. That’s fighting. Right? That’s true dissent. So non- dissension doesn’t mean doing nothing. Non-dissension means always representing that which counts to you, which doesn’t cause suffering.

Now, how do we know we’re so great that we’re always right? Well, we don’t and we’re not! We will constantly say stupid things. We’re humans. So, we learn by living over and over and over and over. That’s illumination. And we follow ideas until we say, “Hey, wait a minute, what was I thinking? That is crazy.” And so, change, evolution happens. I just hope you don’t run out of problems. See what I mean? That’s when we stop learning. Yes, yeah, of course. Of course.

We have a big responsibility just as human beings. I say that I have a responsibility to my students. So, I do, but really all I can do to fulfill that responsibility is to be true to what I’ve learned. And too often, I’m either not true to what I’ve learned, or I haven’t learned it yet. Too often, I catch myself, “Oh, wait. I know better than that.” Or, “I see more clearly than that now. So, that’s what caused that problem.”

Our normal way can be almost anything. It depends upon what we have been conditioned to do. You can say, well, that’s natural for me to do that. Because my parents did it and they taught me to do it and so that’s natural. But that may not be natural. That may be just normal. The more natural we become, the further we move away from normal and the closer we ccome to the actual nature of being human. This means the taking of responsibility, noticing, and owning what we are. So don’t worry about the other people. Thank you.

Student: Hello, Sensei and everybody. And we dealt with some pretty heavy things. We all certainly agree with what you talked in the beginning about how it’s so important to stand for, and not against. But Joelle brought up the interesting point, that take, for example, in the World War II, when the French Resistance people decided not to let the Nazis keep killing and destroying, and they actually took the initiative to fight. And yet it was for what we would perceive as a “good cause.” And we discussed the ramifications of that. John said that the Buddhist point of view is to first come with compassion for the other person. We ran out of time to really chew through this extremely universal conundrum. When is it still acting in keeping with a position of peace inside when we must actually harm in order to save?

When we were fighting in Vietnam, most of us didn’t like that fight. That was because we could see that the claim that these people needed to be killed because they had a different philosophy of government than we do was false. So that didn’t sit very well with many of us. However, during World War II, it was very, very clear that we might be facing the end of civilization as we knew if that juggernaut of Nazism was allowed to continue and prevail. So, those individuals, like our parents, that went in and worked against the Nazis, whether they were in the French Resistance or any of the Allied soldiers, everyone gathered together on two opposing sides and fought it out. Fortunately, the side that likes freedom and democracy more than controlling other people with fear and force won that fight, they won the war. So, we really liked them and supported their efforts for the most part.

I feel Like it would be arrogant of me to say too much about that, since I was not there then. I mean that I don’t want to say anything about whether that was necessary or not. I am here in this body that is here in America right now. My view today is that fighting against anything can’t be defended. Neither side of a battle can be justified. I’ve never seen or heard of a battle that was a “good” one. For me, that’s just how I see things. I am definitely a pacifist, and I would not kill other people in a war like that, because I know those individuals on the other side are being misused as well. So then, I would just be increasing their pain and struggle. And naturally, whenever we do that, we end up being affected in ways that are very difficult to move beyond. We call this “post-traumatic stress disorder,” and I think doing that kind of fighting really never leaves us.

On the one hand, I don’t want to put anyone down who has had to make that choice, who did that kind of fighting for us. Because in some sense, I’m grateful that WWII was resolved as it was. But on the other hand, standing back from it and looking at it from here, I can see a much better way to resolve difficulties with other people. And that’s what I want to stand up for, that much better way. Okay.

Student: Thank you sensei.

Student: Good evening, everyone. I noticed lately that I get sad and kind of pissed off whenever a teacher introduces the idea that when you awaken you enter a sort of limitless state. And I may really misunderstand what is meant by that limitlessness. But usually it is suggested, as far as I understand, that you get better at practical things when you practice, and when you reach some realization. And, because mind leads body that shows in your movement, and in whatever you touch or do. It does help me to Keep One Point, I see that. When it’s suggested that when you must love whatever you do, and be connected, then naturally, of course, things become better because you don’t struggle. Okay. I get that. I can’t always do it, but I get it. But when it’s suggested that your limitations disappear, then I think that I get conflict inside and I get pissed off, and I tell myself that I just don’t believe it. I say to myself, “It’s your own fault because you don’t believe this. That’s why you are not succeeding.”
So basically, Sensei, how do I make peace with this struggle inside of me and not just be a dumb follower of somebody who says something that I don’t believe? Should I take my own experience for it?

I understand that this happens. It has happened to me too. I hear something I just can’t agree with because I don’t think that it makes any sense. And when that happens, then I remember that I’m not here to be told how things are. I’m here to discover how things are.

There are two parts of this here. First, it is my responsibility to notice when I get upset like that, when I might feel “pissed off” as you say. I must remember that anything that upsets me, it’s upsetting me, I’m the one getting upset. So, I am the one who must deal with that. I have to discover why what they’re saying to me upsets me. And that’s not easy, because there’s this big ball of conditioning in our subconscious mind. It is so dense and confused that it’s like a big snarl of twine. We have to very, very carefully work our way through that snarl, and pull it out and make it into a nice even ball again. A ball of twine that can be used all the time very effectively, as string. But when we can’t use it at all, when we’re snarled, so upset, basically, we are suffering, we’re struggling.

And secondly, I think it’s really important to remind ourselves that the teacher’s job is not to only tell you the way it is, and if that happens, then as a student you must not take what the teacher says as gospel. Please don’t believe anything I say, or other teachers say, without checking it out first. Please find out for yourself. And if something the teacher says upsets you, then you know that that particular thing is really important to you, and you need to look into it very deeply.

You know, we’re all in this same situation. I don’t care how long you train, or how “perfected” you are. You’re always going to have some kind of issues come up, you’re going to hear people say things that you are just not going to agree with. This happens even with people that you care very much for, right? So, you think, “Wait a minute, I love this person. How can I be so upset with him? Or her?” That’s a good question. So then, where is the problem? Over there? No. The problem is always with us. And the solution is always noticing.

So, I am sorry to have to say it over and over again, but sitting, sitting, sitting is the answer to the question you’re asking. How do I deal with this struggle that keeps arising in me when I hear people say things that I don’t agree with? Well, we all have this problem. How do we deal with it? We face it. We stop telling ourselves that the problem is over there.

That’s what tonight’s phrase is all about. Taking responsibility for being a human is the natural way. A human is the only one on earth that has the ability to self-realize, to be self-aware. You yourself said that you know that practicing that does make it easier for you. It’s just that all possibility of difficulty is not completely eliminated, and never will be. Okay. Yeah, more work. more work to do.

Student: One person in our group, Vitaly, had a question but he was very upset over his question, and with language difficulties he couldn’t articulate it. So, he didn’t want to ask a question. I think he’s going want to email you later, rather than putting himself on the spot right now. But anyway, we had a really good talk. This phrase kind of reminds me of the koan “First there is a mountain, and there is no mountain, then there is.” We tend to get tied up in and confused by the world of shoga (the relative world) and the world of Taiga (the absolute world). When we are caught up in the relative world, which you’re talking about relative to war and peace and that, we tend to forget that there’s a bigger picture here, folks – the absolute, Taiga. We’re in this all together. This reminded me of that quote that Ken MacLeod had said, ”Why do we train? To make the best of a bad situation.” Jan was really involved in asking about what the word “nature” means. I just kind of said that Tohei Sensei is talking about the universe. You know, that we live in this world of connection.

I’d like to know what the question was that Vitaly had.

Student: Well, he couldn’t articulate it. He just said that something was very upsetting. So, it probably touched something very personal with him. I do have another question about last week’s discussion session. I read the transcript and I had a question.

Student: Oh, may I add something about what he said? I talked about the Buddhist approach to the world’s construction. In Buddhism, there is karma, so we try to choose a kinder, more positive side, in order not to gather negative karma. So, if anybody wants to attack us, certainly this person is filled with anger or arrogance or ignorance or something like this, something negative, yes?

What is what are you trying to get to here?

Student: I’m trying to get to that Aikido also gives us the key to solve problems in a positive way.

Okay, thank you.

I have approached this tonight, of course, in the only way I know. And the ideas I mention here can be very controversial. It often brings up stuff in us. We often react in one of two ways. These talks either make feel like we agree completely, and want to repeat back what has been said, or we just want to resist. We often feel obliged in some way, because of our conditioning, to stick up for ourselves, to defend our families, our community, and even to fight for our country. And it may sound like what I’m saying is that we must not do that. So, this is very, very controversial, and I have to say that, because of that, please listen very carefully to this kind of thing. I certainly want you to get exactly what I’m saying about it, and also to stick very closely to what Tohei Sensei is the teaching here. Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. That’s what we’re doing here.

That’s what we’re examining. Yes, there are a lot of different teachings, lots of different teachers, and they are no doubt all brilliant, that’s great. But I don’t want to hear about them, or what they have to say, here. I want to hear about what you are doing in relation to this incredibly difficult situation that we find ourselves in here. These phrases of Tohei Sensei’s are designed to challenge you to either face and be vulnerable about what you are yourself, or not. If not, then often we just fill the time with speculation. Of course, what I am asking of you is much more difficult.

I think what I said to Merthe is really important. Please don’t believe anything I say, please explore this for yourself. What do I mean when I say I’m clearly not satisfied when I see you summarizing what I have to say, or speculating about what I have to say, or riffing on what I have to say? I mean that this is not being provided solely for your entertainment. I put it out there so that you have a chance to look at yourself in the mirror right now while I’m here looking at you, and to see what this does to you. And believe me, if you’re honest, you’ll see it does a lot. It moves a lot of pieces around inside of us.

Let’s face it, folks, the fundamental teaching of this art that we’re practicing is that the best defense is no defense. Instead, it’s asking us to open ourselves completely to those we may even perceive as our enemies.

Now, I would like to know what your question was from last Friday night that you wanted to ask.

Student: No, it’s okay.

Maybe just ask me now.

Student: Okay. In your transcript, you said, “In every discipline, there’s something called mastery. Of course, it’s not easy to achieve that level. Because of this difficulty, there are only a few that reach whatever you might think mastery is. To me, mastery basically means that you no longer need to watch yourself and control yourself to be effective and useful in any situation.” You’ve often referred to Suzuki Sensei, as a master in some of the things you’ve said and written. The question is, would you not say that mastery really is what you leave behind in the students you’ve touched, in the people that you’ve trained? Isn’t that what really equivalents you to a master?

I don’t know. Yes, that is often what we say. However, to me, you are a master or not, today, while you’re alive and engaged in the practice. You’re either a master at it, or you’re not. We can also look at teachers’ students, and find out a lot about that teacher, that’s true.

What I mean is, when you see a guy like Suzuki Sensei, what I would think if I met him was Wow, I bet he has a lot of really great students. As it turned out, he just has a lot of students who like to say he was our great teacher. As if that is like our claim to fame, since we were his students, and because he was such a master. So maybe some of that kind of rubbed off on us a little bit.

What training with Suzuki Sensei did for me was that it inspired me to want to practice much more deeply. It made me think there was a chance I could understand what he understands that I can experience what he is experiencing, someday.

Okay, I think that’s enough. Thank you so much for your inspiring questions.

Domo arigato gozaimasu

(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 16. April 2021)