Forgiveness means allowing others to be who they actually are, without trying to control who they should be. When we forgive others, at the same time we are forgiving our own ignorance and selfish need to control everything about our life.
We practice connection in Aikido, because in order to have connection with another human being, we must give up controlling them in any way. Any effort to control who they are, what they think or say, or how they act, kills our connection with them. So, we don’t try to do something like not controlling others. Instead, we practice connecting with them. This is the spirit of non-dissension.
Maui Shunshinkan Dojo on Zoom, 28. June 2020:
Good morning, everyone and good evening, everyone. Onegai shimasu. I hope everyone is well. Nice to see you.
I’m going to read Shokushu number 10, this morning, “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 a world of survival of the fittest, where the stronger prey upon the weaker. The true way of peace is exactly the same as the principle of non-dissension.”
Koichi Tohei Sensei taught us that when you stand up, you stand up for the presence of something. You never stand up for the absence of something. This is the meaning of non-dissension. Non-dissension does not mean you never stand up. It means you only stand up for something. You never stand up for nothing. You know, people think that relaxation can only exist when there is no tension. This is wrong. People think that peace can only exist when there’s no war. This is wrong. Or that harmony can only exist in the absence of conflict. This is impossible. The world we live in is made of conflict. When you fight against something you are the problem. You make yourself part of the problem. When you fight, if you must fight, fight for something, and then you’re part of the solution. It’s like someone at a board meeting who criticizes what others are doing but takes no responsibility for the solution. If you don’t have a positive suggestion, don’t say anything. Didn’t your mother tell you that? My mom told me, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say nothing at all!” This has some value.
So that’s the principle of non-dissension, if you really look at it, OK?. Really we’re here to support each other. “Each other” means everybody. Many many people are in a state of disarray and filled with conflict, filled with dissension, filled with distrust, filled with anger and war. Does that mean we fight against them? Is that the way? That’s not the way to union with the Ki of the universe. That’s not what we’re practicing. So a clear understanding of this is very important. You know, I see people standing with signs. That’s great, as long as your sign says you’re for something. If the sign says you’re against something, then you are part of the problem, you are not a part of the solution. And I know that people don’t always understand this because they’re not taking into account that darkness is not a thing. It doesn’t exist. It’s the absence of something. Darkness is the absence of light. You cannot chase away darkness. You cannot fight darkness. If you try, you become darkness. Fighting is the absence of light. Yes? This is the principle of non-dissension. Just shine the light of your awareness on whatever it is, and there is no darkness. It’s as if it was never there. A very important part about our practice!
Ok. Let’s begin with some Ki breathing …
(20 Min. Ki Breathing)
Stretch … Now we’ll do Ki meditation: Shuchu ho, Kakudai ho …
(17 Min. Ki Meditation)
All right. Now we’ll do whole body meditation …
(10 Min. Whole Body Meditation)
Earlier, I said that when someone thinks that harmony can only exist when there is no conflict, that people are so wrong. When I say “wrong,” I mean they just don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand. Wrong isn’t bad. Wrong just means – like Tohei Sensei would always say, wrong means when you want to go south but you’re going north. That’s wrong. It’s not bad. When you realize that south is that way, then you turn around and you start going south. As long as you’re in the process of going where you need to be going, and you know what you’re doing, it’s not wrong. I hope you see how this applies to the spirit of non-dissension.
I’d like to hear someone comment about this or if you have a question, that’s fine, too.
Student: Good morning. I’m just thinking of this directly in terms of what you were talking about before with respect to turning things Inside out, right? About thinking that we have to be on one side or the other, like either right or wrong or one thing or the other is it, when that’s missing the whole point. Very hard to figure out how to do something with that, but I want to hear more about it. I’m just trying to see how those connect. Thank you.
Do you folks know about Socrates? Socratic Method? There’s both a Socratic Method and Socratic Dialogue, and each are different. So this is important in terms of the question you’re asking. The Socratic Method is that, for instance, Socrates would say something positive about “justice,” maybe talking to somebody that is doing an injustice. Ok? But he understood that everybody feels they are just in what they’re doing. So, the Socratic Method is to talk to someone in such a way that you help them see that they believe in actual justice, as you do. You never have to tell them that they’re wrong. No one likes to be told they’re wrong. If your sign says “you’re wrong,” you are part of the problem. That’s what I’m trying to say.
It’s not that you never take a position. This is an important distinction because it’s an extension of what your question is asking. If your life stands for justice, you don’t have to stand up for justice. If you stand for a problem, if you personally stand for injustice, no matter what you do, no matter what you say – it might sound perfectly just – it’s still unjust, still Injustice, because that is what you are. That is what you are standing for. We have lots of examples of that in the news today. It’s important if you’re a teacher, for instance, when you see the news, to be able to tell right away what is going to help and what is going to harm the group. It’s not easy because the news people are often confused about this, if not only the people themselves. And if you’re a student you should also be watching to see if you can understand: What is the problem and what is the solution?
Everybody wants to think of themselves as just, but not everyone is in touch with justice within themselves. So before you go out of your door, you want to sit very carefully, dive deeply, study thoroughly yourself, and make sure you understand what you’re doing. Otherwise, don’t do anything.
Ok. Someone else, please.
Student: I get caught in the semantics of the word “against,” you know the situation currently in America. I’m definitely against police brutality and torture and child abuse. And so when you say that we shouldn’t hold a position of “against,” well, of course I’m against these things. So I get caught in my mind trying to figure out what you’re saying there.
Socrates would just ask you, “Ok, I understand you’re against those things. What are you for?”
Student: I’m for peace and love and harmony and cooperation and collaboration.
And those are the things that will make a difference. Being against those things won’t make any difference at all. You will only make it worse. It’s like you’re getting sucked into the fire, you know? The devil tempts you, as it were, to find someone with an ax to grind. Those people who like to fight want you to be there standing against them. They’re looking for someone to go against, because they’re only happy when they’re in conflict. They’re only fulfilled when they’re in conflict. So people that like power and exercise power – often indiscriminately – are very happy when you fight against them. Our president is a perfect example. He’s thrilled when he gets to insult someone or fight with someone. We’re always watching, wondering where’s the positive? What’s the solution here? It’s never there because that’s not what his state of mind is.
Koichi Tohei Sensei is teaching us to represent the solution, to be the solution. That’s what “extend Ki” means. I don’t want to say someone is bad because they’re fighting against somebody. It’s just they misunderstand. That’s not useful. That will not lead to peace. You like peace, vote for peace. You like peace, don’t vote for war. Don’t try to stop someone else, no matter what they’re doing. It’s just like in the dojo, you don’t try to stop someone from moving. You move with them. You become one with them and then you resolve it together. This is Ai-Ki-Do.
I didn’t just bring this up randomly, but I read Tohei Sensei’s “Spirit of Non-Dissension” first: If we don’t take what we learn in the dojo and apply it to our lives … again, we might not say that makes you bad, but maybe wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. What you’re doing must be useful and supportive and loving and those things that you stand for or that you like. If you like them then you stand up for them. You don’t stand for something else. If you don’t like war, you don’t go out against something because then you’re standing for war. That’s what fighting is, it’s going against. This is not openly understood in the world and even in our own bodies.
I will tell you something, if I may. I have to write a lot of emails, not just in my work but mostly in Aikido to people that are looking for an understanding about something. When I’m writing those kind of emails I have to be in a state of non-dissension. When I say something that is truly not supportive, something in my body must go “ugh,” something has to hurt in the body. So we have to get to the state of mind that says, when we think it might be a good idea to go fight with those people because we don’t like what they’re doing, something in our body prevents us. We have to be that mind-body unified, something in our body prevents us. For our body, the only healthy things to eat are harmony, love and peace. When we eat something that is the opposite, it makes us sick. Is that all right?
Student: Thank you, Sensei.
Does anyone else wants to say anything?
Student: So when you say you stand for peace and love and all that. What does that look like if you’re in a situation where somebody else is abusing somebody else? Then what does that look like when you stand for peace and love and all that?
That’s a really good question, often asked. Do you know the little story written by Terry Dobson? This is a true story – he was on a subway and a drunk came onto the subway. This drunk came in the car and he was starting to abuse people. And Dobson, who was young, thought “Ahh, a chance to use my Aikido. I will take this guy down.” He felt justified, because the drunk was wrong and he was threatening people. And just as he was turning and starting to approach this guy, a little old man came up to the drunk and put his arm around him and started laughing and saying, “I see that you really love to drink sake. Me too, I love sake. I have sake with my wife. Every night we have a few glasses of sake, and we relax and we really enjoy it. It’s a wonderful thing, don’t you think so?” By this time, they were sitting down and the man had his head on the old man’s shoulder and was crying. Ok? That’s the answer to your question. That is Aikido, not what the Aikido student was going to do. Admittedly, that’s very difficult. And that is a kind of what-if situation, and we never ever know what it’s going to be like when something like this happens to us. Sometimes, unfortunately, there is nothing to be done. It’s out of your hands. Is that ok?
Student: Hai. Yes, Sensei.
Student: Sensei, thank you for giving me the floor. Hello. I’m listening to the discussion and I think I understand and I agree with what you’re saying. But I’ll make a connection with something I read from Tohei Sensei. It’s the end of his book, “The 13 Rules for Instructors.” It’s rule number 9. It starts by saying, “Do not become angry” etc. “Be angry only when the rights of nature or of your country are endangered.” Then he says, “Concentrate on the one point and become angry all over. Know that he who is easily angered loses courage at important moments.” Of course, I see that he’s preaching one thing, and he’s also balancing what he has just said by the fact that we can fool ourselves and not be courageous when it’s really needed. But why do you think Tohei Sensei is emphasizing the rights of nature and the importance of the country?
Well, I think that we need to stand up for nature and stand up for our country and for our community and for our family and for our loved ones. We stand up for them. We stand up for nature. And, yes, we might even be incredibly passionate and even angry in our body when these important things are being threatened. Our body may be aflame with justice.
Tohei Sensei used to teach this story about himself. He said when he was younger a parent came to him and said, “The teacher of our children is using corporal punishment. He’s hitting them when he feels they’re out of line. And we don’t want him to do that. Could you talk to him, please?” And he said, “I’d be happy to. Send him to see me.” So, of course, when the teacher is sent to see Tohei Sensei, and of course he’s got a chip on shoulder when he walks in the door. Tohei Sensei knows that it’s going to be like this. So right away Tohei Sensei offers him a cup of tea and talks to him very nicely and he says, “I hear that you believe in corporal punishment.” And the teacher says, “You’re right. I do. When these kids are out of line you’ve got to slap them a couple of times. That’s the only way to get them back in line.” Tohei Sensei said, “Oh, I agree with you completely. It’s very important to discipline children. So go ahead and do that.” And the guy is amazed and says, “What? Ok, well, thank you.” And as he starts to leave, Tohei Sensei says, “Just a moment. Just a moment. Would you make me a promise before you go?” And the man at this point says, “Anything. Whatever you want.” “Just promise me that you will never hit a child when you’re feeling anger.” And the teacher did agree, and he never hit another child in his life.
That’s what Tohei Sensei means when he says not to have anger indiscriminately in you, just for any old reason. Recognize anger. Maybe when that which is justice is being defiled, you become very passionate about justice. But it doesn’t mean you turn yourself into your enemy. Basically, when those school kids were misbehaving, that teacher felt he was being attacked, so he struck out at them. He fought back. And he’s big and powerful, and so they’ve got to listen.
That’s the way the countries in this world act. That is not “sticking up for your country.” That means fighting with another country in order to get your way. That is the opposite. That’s not representing justice or truth or equality. No, that’s the opposite. That’s tearing it down.
Student: Does it mean there’s a sense of absoluteness? When there’s this level of aggression, there’s no discussion and the only way out unless you die is to …?
Let me put it this way: We are in a world made of conflict. You cannot expect there to be no conflict. There are plenty of people who will fight the other country. But even so, I will not represent that as the way! If they ask me to speak – they probably won’t – but if they ask me to speak, I would go speak on behalf of justice and equality and truth. I would hope that I could reach another person that’s listening on the other side and that we could begin a dialogue, begin to lead to some sort of denouement for the problem.
Personally, I would not take up arms, no matter what. That’s my understanding of my life. That’s what my life taught me, not just Tohei Sensei, you know. Look, just watch TV one night. There’s Tohei Sensei’s lesson right there in front of us, every night. The world has run amok fighting with each other. Everyone is wrong because no one knows what they’re doing. Maybe not “no one,” but it doesn’t seem to be very prevalent. Non-dissension doesn’t seem to be prevalent in people’s awareness out there. I don’t hear it being represented. But there are famous people from the past, like Gandhi, there are famous non-dissension practitioners, who were brilliant and passionate and compassionate. We have those kinds of people to thank.
Student: Thank you, Sensei.
Thank you very much. I think we’re a little bit past our time, but it was really worth hearing what you had to say. Thank you so much and I’ll see you next time. Bye bye. Domo arigato gozaimashita
(Online Training with Christopher Curtis Sensei, 28. June 2020)