Don’t fight the darkness… just turn on the light!

Good morning everyone.

Students:  Good morning, sensei.

This is our 2019 Omiki seminar on Kauai. It’s so nice to have a seminar here on Kauai after so long. I hope everyone is enjoying being here as much as I am. Of course, we are continuing the same practice that Koichi Tohei Sensei gave us, and that Shinichi Tohei Sensei has been refining and improving for us over the past 20 years. Every time I see him, he basically teaches the same thing, but better, right? So, it just becomes more and more refined all the time.  It is amazing because, well, I started training with Suzuki Sensei and Koichi Tohei Sensei way back in the early ’70s. Through the years, their teaching also became more and more refined of course, and then when Tohei Sensei passed away and my teacher Suzuki Sensei passed away, I thought, “What’s going to happen now?” And with Shinichi Tohei Sensei, we didn’t skip a beat. 

When I say that the teaching still continues to be refined, I mean that it’s always the same fundamental principles being expressed, but as time goes on, it becomes much more available to all levels of practitioners.  This next year, 2020, our Founder, Koichi Tohei Sensei, would have been 100 years old, and I know that he would be enormously happy and proud of all of you because we’re still doing this and still discovering how to allow the universe to have its way with each of us on and off the mat. 

As we have learned over and over again, our habit is to want to manipulate and control circumstances and people and things in our daily life, let alone on the mat. We are just habitually addicted controllers. That’s the way we are, because we feel that we are the “doers” of everything, and we need to do even more to control and improve the amount of success or pleasure in our life, to remove the amount of failure or discomfort in our life. That’s OK.  I suppose it has to be, because it’s not going to go away, in any case. But that is certainly not our highest way to live, is it? 

Even so, most humans live their lives like this. Of course, there is generally some relative degree of control, depending upon which advantages you may have inherited in this life.  There is the advantage of wealth.  There is the advantage of location. There is the advantage of race, and even gender.  We can become relatively expert in sports, or business, or medicine, or some other pursuit.  You can even become expert in Aikido, in the Aikido movements, the Aikido philosophy, the Aikido history. You can learn and talk about all this knowledge, but, in the moment, can you be free of all that information that you think you are? Can you be free of controlling, and can you effectively point to that experience of being free, for the sake of another human being? 

All right, so, this has been the theme of our seminar. You have the microphone. Please speak to me without hesitation.

Student:  Sensei, I don’t have a question, but I just wanted to express, I remember the first seminar that I went to with you and you had mentioned or used the words “we live in a perfect world.”  


Student:  You know, even though I didn’t fully understand it at that time, I did share it with the Veterans in my group. Some of the Veterans understood it for their own reasons, but I didn’t fully understand it.  You talked earlier about coming to a seminar, and how it’s almost always repetitious. It’s the same thing over and over. However, it becomes more in detail, more refined, so as I come to the seminars, and I’m thinking about this “perfect world,” as you say, and then yesterday you mentioned about doing nothing and just being. So, I was just thinking about that. I said to myself, “that’s a perfect world!” If you do nothing, you’re just being, and that’s a perfect world.  So, thank you.

Only someone who lives in an imperfect world needs to improve it.  When we see that things appear to be out of order in our world, we feel compelled to put things right.  This is natural.  Of course, we know people are suffering in this world. Can we just let somebody starve to death or get beat to a pulp or be unfairly used in some way? No, of course not. That is not at all what this means. Change, evolution, is already happening and you are a part of that already.  Just notice what you perceive, what you feel, and what you do, and allow everything to continue with good will.  In this perfect world, everything continues, no matter what.  Change happens, evolution proceeds, actions take place.  However, human suffering takes place, when we attempt to change the actions of change itself.  Do you see?

The ones that are masters at truly standing up in our history, like Suzuki Sensei or Koichi Tohei Sensei…well, maybe you wouldn’t include them with the likes of Gandhi, for instance, but I would. It’s not that someone has to have 10 million followers to be true.  Both these men understood what it meant to allow evolution to move through them without attempting to overtly change what was taking place, from their own small mind.  And, that’s how all change happens, noticing, and being here for noticing, being present.  This is how evolution works. Oh, the evil cannot stand in the face of that awareness. It cannot. It cannot. People are having trouble with the politicians that are lying.  But are they sure that they are completely true? This is a mirror Universe, so what should we expect when we look upon another?  When we criticize and fight, that is darkness against darkness.  That’s why there is so much struggle. It’s all a big mess of confusion, and it is not for us to join with that, out of frustration. 

Obviously, I feel Koichi Tohei’s teaching is very important. And yet, the older I get, the more I realize his approach to life is not generally known. As Koichi Tohei Sensei used to say, “This way is not known in the public world.”  Of course, there are well-meaning people whose hearts are huge and desperately, sincerely want to help others.  But unfortunately, ultimately, nobody is the source of helping anyone. There is no school to go to, to teach you how this works. I mean, yes, you can come to Aikido, but it’s not very well-known, and not so easy to find the kind of Aikido, Tohei Sensei’s Aikido, that might emphasize this. 

Student:  These seminars are repetitious, but also so different every time. I notice that as I change, the seminars change.  When I first started going to seminars, it was about the camaraderie and the friendship and that kind of thing, and then it kind of mutated to more, okay, how do I get better, to now it’s, like you said, it’s not about doing, but it’s just more about do you accept yourself, as you are right now? And that’s very hard for everyone. I know, for myself, It’s very hard to do.  But you know, the training kind of reveals that to us in layers. It’s a matter of time. It’s just like peeling an onion. It gets subtler and subtler.

Yes, we learn not to stand in our own way. 

Student:  You know, when I’m sitting, there’s a lot of imagining going on.

When you’re meditating, you mean?

Student:  Yes, sensei.  I mean, there is imagining what I’m seeing. You’re often saying that we have to see what’s going on, but in my case, there’s a lot of imagining of that.  In this seminar, you have been talking about filling the dojo, filling the space, whatever, and so it kind of dawned on me that I can imagine that, filling the dojo with my presence. But that’s not exactly what you’re talking about here, is it? Is all of this some kind of product of our imagination?

Oh, I see what you mean. No, it is not that at all.

Student:  You see? So, I’m just asking for, I guess, some confirmation here. You’re talking about our awareness and not our imagination, yes?

When we practice Ki Meditation, Shuchuho and Kakudaiho, you know, we always say that the two experiences, concentration and expansion, are the same. Bigger, bigger, bigger and smaller, smaller, smaller, the same. The macrocosmic and the microcosmic are the opposite, relative to each other, but, as Tohei Sensei said, they are the same, experientially. So, this is a really good practice to do every morning to help us move beyond mere imagination. I didn’t appreciate it so much early on in my training, particularly because my own teacher really emphasized Ki Breathing, and so I’d spend most of my time Ki Breathing.  And then I realized that this form of meditation is the same as Ki Breathing.  Mentally, it seemed the same to me, because, by then, I was practicing universal breathing, which is filling the universe when I’m breathing out and then bringing the whole universe into my one point when I’m breathing in. So, what’s the difference between that and Ki Meditation? That is the definition of Ki Meditation.  The feeling of the expansion and concentration, the feeling of breathing out and breathing in, is the same. 

So, maybe that helps us to see that the experience of being here, right here inside our self, and then being everywhere, is the same, and so we might begin noticing that in our practice. One Point is the center of what we call “the universe,” and this is an experience, it is true.  It is not a thing, not a relative fact. When you die, you will know that, because there will be no facts left.  But let’s learn this, let’s experience this, before we die, now, and not wait until we die. You know, some say you have to die first, and then you can die happily later, when the body dies.  You do not want to die without having already experienced this now. This “experience” I am referring to here, is the experience of being everywhere, and the very center of everywhere, all at once. In this sense, “experience” simply means “directly knowing what is.”  This is far beyond imagination.

This is being completely calm, as in weight underside.  This is like experiencing the weight of every atom in our body naturally lying in its original, stress-free state. We say “weight underside,” but it’s simply a whole-body feeling that is in every atom in our whole body.  In the Japanese language, Tohei Sensei’s third Basic Principle is not “Weight Underside.”  It is “Calmness.”  Someone in the west translated it as “Weight Underside,” and it stuck. That phrase, “weight underside,” works well, because it infers “naturalness,” and at some point we begin to realize that the whole universe has weight underside, not just me. The whole universe is naturally weight underside. This is the ultimate calmness.

Student:  Thank you, Sensei.

Student: Hello, sensei. This is going back to what someone else was saying.  He revealed that, in his Ki Breathing, he can sometimes be stuck, like how we’re so often stuck in our heads.  This happens while we’re at home, on our own, doing this, you know, and I have trouble starting and stopping again.  What I mean is, let’s say we’re sitting with you like this here in the dojo, and I definitely experience this feeling of unification.  But then, as soon as I go somewhere else, it’s gone already, and I’ve got to try to restart it again, somehow.  I always tell myself that I should remember when I come back tomorrow to the dojo, to keep that feeling as when we’re sitting like this with you.  But it is a little hard for some reason. How do we do this…is it more sitting? Or is it just showing up at the dojo more often?  “Both,” I guess, is probably the answer, but I don’t know.

Yes, I think it’s all of that.

It is showing up at the dojo, and sitting and sitting and sitting, and then showing up at the dojo some more.  Unless you’re doing all of that, unless you’re taking advantage of every opportunity that is available to you, you can’t really complain that you’re having a hard time with it.  Look, it’s not that I was not lazy at times. I am sure I was.  But I went to every seminar, I went to every class, I sat every morning, I did everything I could…I read every book. I thought I did everything I could do, and still, I didn’t know what was going on. Still, I couldn’t understand what Suzuki Sensei was trying to teach me.  In all those years, year after year after year, he would just tell me, “No, no, how come you don’t understand, I’ve been teaching you, it’s right here, can’t you see it?” So we have to be patient also.  It can take time.

This kind of practice is very difficult. So, I completely sympathize.  But we still have to do it!  I do sympathize, but…. please, take advantage of every opportunity, and I promise you some day it will open up for you. Go to the dojo. Sit. 

I was watching the Ki Breathing today. Some people have a very hard time with Ki Breathing. So, I know that it is difficult for you to be Ki breathing in the morning, alone.  Maybe you don’t have that habit yet.  Okay, I’m not saying you have to do anything. I mean it is your life. You will do what you will do.  But, if you want to experience this feeling you experience when you’re with me, at other times, like when you’re driving down the street, or at work, or with your family, then you have to be relentless about the practice.

Student:  Right, I get that.

Student: Sensei, can you talk about the relationship is between reiseishin and taiga?

The relationship between reiseishin and taiga? So, these can be seen as two ways of saying the same thing. 

Student:  Right.

Which I think you suspected, if you didn’t know already.

Student:  Right

But to look a little closer, with the Japanese language, of course, the characters have multiple inferences, implications that we who speak only English often don’t appreciate.  Even the words “reiseishin” and “taiga,” when written like this in Romaji, still speak to us differently. “Taiga” is made up of “tai” or “dai,” which is “big,” and “ga,” which means “self.” So “taiga” means “big self,” or we sometimes say “universal self.” Reiseishin is another way of saying universal self. It’s a little more rei-like though…meaning a little more god-like…or divine. Koichi Tohei Sensei wouldn’t say the word “god,” so much, but he would say “divine.” “Reiseishin,” or “reisei-mind,” is a little more sacred mind or a little more divine mind than taiga. Can you see? “Taiga” is more like just stating the condition of the absolute. Reiseishin might be asking you to look a little more deeply into the nature of big self, of taiga, the absolute.  By the way, “sho-ga” means, of course, beginning self, or small self.  Tohei sensei often just translated shoga as “selfish mind.”

Student:  I’ve got a question. You know we do Sokushin no gyo every time we have a seminar, and…as we’re going through it, and we get to the part where you’re speaking words in Japanese, the Norito, I just wish I knew what you were saying in English, so I can connect to it.

Our Sokushin no Gyo chant is “to ho ka mi e mi ta me.”  This literally means “sword, mirror, crystal ball.”  We say, “With the sharp sword of my will, I penetrate the mirror universe, and polish my character like a beautiful crystal ball.”  Norito, the part that I read at the end, is a bit like saying this same thing over and over.

Student:  Yeah. Every time I hear that for myself, I’m thinking I wish I knew what it was saying to understand and be connected to what’s being said. Because, for me, it is the same with the Hawaiian language, you know, the chanting, and it’s interesting but I don’t understand the English version. It sounds nice and everything, but I don’t understand it, so I cannot connect with what they are saying. Is it possible to get an English version of what it means?

Yes. The English translation is available on the internet. Everything is on the internet these days. 

Let me say this: You must know that, when religious-type people talk about things like “the universe,” they say words like “God” or “Jehovah.” Of course, there are many names, but when you say those names, it can sound like you mean something different than this, right here, right now, right? It may sound like it’s referring to something that is out there somewhere.  When I was a little boy, and my parents sent me to church school, the ministers talked like there was actually an old man in a clouds, somewhere up in the corner of the sky. 

Using names like that can be very misleading, because of the possibility of a conditioned view from our past, so I don’t really prefer that. I don’t mind, exactly, but I much prefer to say “the universe,” because, for me, this is so clearly referring to all this right here.  And then, if you hear it like this, then maybe at some point you begin to realize, “Oh yeah, this taiga is me. “Universal self” is me. It’s not only Tohei Sensei or Jesus or Buddha. We’re all exactly the same, in terms of our fundamental right to this. Even Jesus said we are all the same, you are me, you are the same as me, you are the son. However, son, father, mother, those are also names. Again, be careful, because this kind of thing can be very misleading. 

I guess I could read the Norito in English, but I just don’t think it would roll off the tongue the same way. I think we like this in Japanese. You know, my teacher, Suzuki Sensei, asked me to learn to read it. It took me at least five years to learn to read it. In fact, I am still learning.  I’m going to make you listen until I die, because it took me so long to learn, so maybe I am attached, maybe just a little bit. I have asked you folks to learn to read it also.  Some heard me, some did not.

Student:  Well, now I think you are right, though, Sensei.  There is a great difference saying it in Japanese versus saying it in English.

Yes, there is.  And if you really want to know what the exact words mean, then you can always go on the internet and look it up, and the translation will be there.

Student:  Thank you, Sensei.

Student:  Sensei, two-part question, is there a dualistic nature of Ki? Second part, how do you restore Ki? If there’s imbalance in an individual, how do you correct that imbalance? Do you absorb it yourself or do you drive it out?

All right, wow, let’s take these one at a time.  Your first question is, “Is there a relative Ki?”

Student:  Yes, I mean is there a dualistic nature of Ki?

Yes, relative, dualistic, same thing. Well, it depends on your perspective, doesn’t it? Yes, if all you see is the relative condition, then you are seeing negative and positive, and everything on a scale in between. So, in that sense you can say, oh, there must be negative Ki, if there is positive Ki.  When I was younger, I struggled with this question really endlessly.  Now I suggest that what we might think of as negative Ki is basically just a misunderstanding.

Simply put, when we become angry with someone, it means we have temporarily lost the way, forgotten the nature of life’s unifying principles.  It means, at least for the moment, we just miss-understand. 

Let me see if I can make my view of this clearer.  It seems obvious, when we think of how cruel we can be to others, that evil exists in certain human beings, and I think this would be what you mean by “negative Ki.” It is surely taking the gift of life that we have all been given, and misusing it.  And it is really just ignorance.  This is the misunderstanding. Misusing Ki of the Universe is ignorance, but so also is seeing this misuse as evil.  What I mean by this, is that negative Ki is not a thing, but the absence of a thing. Ignorance is like darkness.  In the relative world view, there is light and there is darkness. But that is a limited view.  Darkness is not a thing. It’s an absence of a thing. You cannot drive it out.  That would be ignorance itself, just more darkness. You want to remove darkness?  Turn on the light!  Turn on the light and there is no darkness…like there never was. It completely disappears. 

In this case, “light” is seeing clearly, noticing what is actually going on.

So, it helps to look at that second question of yours with that same understanding.  You asked what to do with an imbalance. 

It’s not that there’s never any disease or injury.  Of course, there is.  We all experience these from time to time.  And some of us are even born with physical problems. You know if you ask Suzuki Sensei or Tohei Sensei, they would say to give the doctors their due and let them fix you when they say they need to, but don’t suffer because of it.  This is Kiatsu.  We all get sick. Don’t make it any worse. There’s nobody that’s pure enough that a virus won’t attack them. So, don’t expect that. That doesn’t exist as a possibility, and so it’s not an evil thing when you have some kind of physical or mental problem.  It’s a natural thing and it happens to everyone.  We want to be careful about even calling this kind of thing an “imbalance.” 

Of course, the more we come to the dojo and the more we sit, the more we experience this universal joy, and then perhaps you have some new level of facility to deal with either a physical pain or some kind of chemical problem, or even something like the loss of a loved one. Any of these can also be devastating in their impact. But with all of this, it is not necessary to suffer. It’s painful, yes, but suffering is extra, something we add on to pain.  We don’t have to react to that pain, meaning we don’t have to suffer because of the pain. 

We can’t avoid pain and pleasure, but we don’t have to suffer because of them, pain coming, pleasure going. Suffering is a reaction to a condition that is already here. That’s like worrying about something that you can’t do anything about.  So, not suffering is Keeping One Point. Keeping One Point is turning on the light, and the light might show that you have a very painful knee or head or heart. The light might show that. But it will also shine on the bigger picture. And if you see the bigger picture, you might see that what you are going through is, in fact, quite important and necessary, being exactly at the right time and exactly the right way and exactly what your particular character requires to awaken from sleep, okay? Okay. 

Student:  Oh, so sensei, you know, I noticed at the beginning of class, we do the meditation to bring us into the natural state of letting go. So, is it we need to have that awareness to transfer it when we start doing the various trainings, and then that’ll allow us easier to have the awareness to see a connection between things and people?

Okay, I’m smiling because the way you’re saying it is like, “Okay, I have this awareness now, and I need to hang onto it, all the way through the class.”  I do understand what you mean by that, and yes, of course, the whole idea is to maintain mind/body unification throughout. But maintaining mind/body unification is definitely not clinging to something from the past, or repeating something that came before, so we have to be careful that we don’t try to preserve a feeling for the future, to use it somewhere else, because there is no past in this present moment. There might be an idea from the past, but there’s just this reality here and now. You can’t take something from some other dimension and try to squeeze it into the present moment. 

Student: I see what you’re saying, Sensei.

Whether we’re doing meditation or stretching or Kiatsu or weapons or Sokushin no Gyo, it’s all the same.  Always, it’s now. Always, it’s here. Always, we are completely present.

All right then, thank you, everybody.

(Hawaii Ki Federation – Omiki Seminar Q&A, Kauai, November 2019, with Christopher Curtis Sensei)