Koichi Tohei Sensei’s
Four Basic Principles
Rest in One Point
Weight is Underside
Ki Extends Infinitely
Onegaishimasu. Good evening, everyone.
Students: Good evening, Sensei.
These next four sessions will focus on Koichi Tohei Sensei’s Four Basic Principles. However, before we begin this discussion, I will read the “One Point in the Lower Abdomen” from Koichi Tohei Sensei’s Shokushu book:
“The universe is a limitless sphere with an infinite radius. This condensed becomes the individual, then further condensed becomes the One Point in the lower abdomen.
This gift of One Point is the very center of the universe. Let us calm our mind in this One Point, and we will automatically experience the infinite Ki of the universe.”
Next, I’d like to read one more Shokushu selection, which is “Reiseishin,” or “Universal Mind:”
We, as human beings, are given a mind that is directly connected to the universe. This is Reiseishin.
Water, when it settles, can clearly reflect the moon. When our mind becomes calm, Reiseishin expresses itself clearly and unmistakably. Once this mind arises, in that moment any selfish urges and desires disappear, and the universal mind of love and protection for all things shines forth.
Let us polish our Reiseishin”
I read Reiseishin as well, because the reference is of each of us being one with the Universe and One Point being the center of that Universe.
Tonight, we begin with “Rest in One Point.” We can use Tohei Sensei’s Five Principles of One Point to help us understand this teaching more deeply.
1) A posture in which you do not focus on the lower abdomen.
2) A posture in which the upper body weight falls on the one point.
3) A posture in which you don’t notice your breath.
4) A posture in which you can accept all things.,
5) A posture that initiates all action.
Please pay particular attention to #5, the summary: “A posture that initiates all action.” What he is talking about here is the creative force itself. Resting in One Point is a physical and mental “posture” that is in touch with and utilizes this creative force. All action initiates itself through our mind body via what we call the One Point of the lower abdomen. Sometimes, I talk about it as being a gateway between small mind and universal mind, or Reiseishin. This is what is called in a sci-fi film…
Yes, “stargate.” A stargate is something you step through from one world to another, but of course, you…
Student: Also a wormhole.
OK, thank you. I can see we have many sci-fi fans here. Of course, we don’t physically depart from this world, like we might in a wormhole. It is important how we understand this One Point. The Four Basic Principles are a very important aspect of this teaching. When Tohei Sensei gives us the Five Principles of One Point, he’s really hoping to clarify further what his experience of what he calls “resting in the One Point in the lower abdomen” is.
In our case, we have decided to practice Aikido. And very specifically, we have decided to practice Tohei Sensei’s Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, or “Mind Body Unified Aikido.” So, what Tohei Sensei said about this, both when he was teaching and in the Shokushu and in his other writings, provides big clues for us. It’s not that there is something that we must figure out. But it is very important that the kind of practice we do leads to a relief of struggle, or suffering. Because if it doesn’t do that, then why bother to practice it?
When I’m with students, the most common question that I get about Aikido is “I don’t understand One Point.” There’s a highly experienced person from another school of Aikido, that comes and trains at my seminars in the Netherlands. On several occasions, he has expressed to me that he doesn’t understand One Point. Basically, he says that he thinks he understands it until each time he sees me again. Then he doesn’t understand it anymore. His difficulty is that he wants to pin down the meaning of One Point, so that he has something he can hang on to. But this is not possible with something like One Point. And since he is from another school of Aikido, he is not practicing and teaching One Point, except when he comes to see me. One Point is not something we just learn about, and then we have it. It is something we constantly practice experiencing. It is a way of living.
I often recount this similar story for students who seem to be struggling with discovering an understanding of One Point in the lower abdomen: I always went to visit Koichi Tohei Sensei at least once a year in Japan, and each year before I arrived, I would imagine that I had a new level of understanding. You know, I had trained and trained to get to a point that I could wrap my mind around a subject, to conceptualize it, and so imagine that I understood it clearly. Being a teacher, I could teach it. Then I would arrive in Tohei Sensei’s presence, and it would all just blow away. Suddenly, I had no idea what I thought I had known.
Basically, Tohei Sensei has always taught that the fundamental principle is that nothing is permanent, everything changes. The three principles of the universe are, it’s always expanding, it’s always contracting, and this process is one of constant change. So, obviously, if we try to cling to a certain fixed understanding of something as the final answer, we are going to be very confused and disappointed.
Maybe, when we have an experience, and it teaches us something we value. We learn something…let’s say we have a deep experience of stability or universality. Later, we may be tempted to repeat that experience, hoping to make it a part of us. Of course, the memory of this experience is already a part of us. But memory is not a living thing. Therefore, we need to have the experience anew.
We were all born with One Point in the lower abdomen, this gateway from the finite to the infinite. In the Shokushu I just read, Reiseishin, Tohei Sensei says, “We, as human beings, are given a mind that is directly connected to the universe.” We were all born unified, connected. And this is not just mind and body unified, but Tohei Sensei is saying here that universal mind and small mind are unified. We’re all born with this condition, and anything we do to try to pin that down or, identify it, defies its very nature, which is a living, changing center of the entire process.
This One Point is a gift. Everyone in the world is born with this connection. We are experiencing it all the time, but because most people don’t practice, it is not recognized. When Suzuki Sensei first taught me about One Point and helped me to experience it by guiding me a little bit, it seemed that I was familiar with the experience that he was calling “One Point.” Of course, my capacity to rest in One Point was very small at the time. I was easily distracted away from that resting feeling. Naturally we don’t just jump into full-blown capacity to rest in One Point all day long. We must practice. We start with Ki Breathing, Ki Meditation, coming to class all the time, and gradually we begin to build that capacity. This capacity to rest in this One Point is a kind of peace, a kind of a joy even. No matter what arises in our life, within us or apparently outside of us, we learn to experience it with equanimity when resting in One Point.
However, and this is an important point, it doesn’t mean that we are trying to put an end to our reactions to what arises. If we attempt to put an end to our reactions to what arises, we will struggle, because immediately we are seeing our emotion as separate from us, an object, and something we need to control, or even eliminate. And as soon as we see that separation, we are suffering again.
So, the point here is we just learn to rest in One Point. No matter what comes up, allow it to come up, allow it to play through us, let it do its thing. The wonderful thing is, when we are experiencing One Point, the more capacity we have to do that, the more those things come up and then can be allowed to move along. It doesn’t mean we don’t get angry anymore. We may become angry, but then right away we can let it go. We discover that it is not the emotion that is a problem, but the false narrative that surrounds the emotion that allows us to cling to it for years, sometimes for a lifetime.
There is one other thing that I’d like to say about this and that is that we often imagine that the universal condition, called Reiseishin, is far away from us, because it does not appear to our senses. We can’t get our mind around it. However, infinity is not somewhere far out or far off. We say “infinite universe,” and when we use those words, maybe we conceive of it as being far away, but in reality there is no “out there and in here.” What is not here, is not there. Everything is right here, right now in our presence. It is said that “Spiritual yearning is like being a fish swimming in water while longing for wetness.”
We have the choice to rest in One Point or not to rest in One Point. That means to be aware in the present moment or not to be aware…to be ignore-ant of it or not. Even if we can grasp this as an idea, we can still be ignorant of the experience of it. So, that choice to be in One Point or not is available, and must be chosen by us in every single moment. And this is not a condition to be attained by this choice. It is not missing and then we acquire it. It is this natural condition already existing but not recognized for what it is.
In the ancient spiritual tradition, the four aspects of mind are said to be:
It’s so near that we can’t see it,
It’s so deep that we can’t fathom it,
It’s so fine that we can’t accept it,
It’s so simple that we can’t believe it.
These are four reasons why it is so difficult for us to see what mind is, and these apply directly to the One Point. Experiencing One Point is “knowing” mind. Of course, what we discover is that there is nothing to “know.” We can’t see it, we can’t fathom it, we can’t accept it, and we can’t believe it. It’s just too close to home. It’s our very nature. From birth we have been experiencing it. And yet we come to Aikido and we think we have a lot of work to do so we can learn to be in One Point. We just have to let go of all those assumptions that we have been cluttering up our mind with and get back to basics. Basics means being present.
Okay. If you have any questions or comments, please ask.
Student: Sensei, can you please comment on the differences of the two mindsets that you were referring to? I mean the difference of the mindset that wants to achieve something, and then the mindset that, let’s say, resides in One Point.
The impulse that wants to achieve something remarkable and the impulse that wants to make the way of the universe clear is not the same. Nor is the source of those two impulses the same. Achievement is an action, and it is creative. That sounds fine, but the impulse to achieve something is subtly tainted. Achievement always manifests colored by self-benefitting ambition. When we personally want to achieve something, we are making a certain assumption about the nature of being human, and that assumption is that there is something that we must gain, achieve, acquire in order to be full.
Here lies the paradox. For a human being, there is nothing that needs to be achieved. We have it all. And yet, in the beginning, if we don’t practice with a goal like sincere hope in our hearts, there is no forward motion. Practicing with heartfelt attention brings us closer and closer to our original nature. In the beginning, everybody must have this goal in order to practice, for without it, we will never train. However, this is like trying to acquire something and at the same time pushing it away. To have a goal, a hope, is to push what we already have off somewhere into the future, only to be obtained later. “Later” is never lived.
Student: Sensei, you’re saying One Point is the point in the lower abdomen, but it’s also resting in awareness so, to me, I think I may be localizing it too much. If it’s one point here, [points to lower abdomen] where resting in awareness is, or how do they relate?
Tohei Sensei would say that the center of awareness is here [points to lower abdomen], that is where we experience this resting in the One Point. It’s the center of awareness itself. So, when I say we must make a choice to be in awareness or not, it means the same thing as making a choice to experience One Point or not. All the other choices we make are conditioned responses. If you say this choice also involves conditioning, then I would say that is true, only so long as the choice is conditional on achieving something.
“Resting in awareness” is resting in this condition and it’s not a thinking kind of resting. As you have heard so many times, Aikido is experiential, like a feeling, not like thinking. Ultimately, it’s a knowing with no object of that knowing. It’s an objectless awareness. It’s just resting in knowing itself. This is not about knowing some specific thing. It’s resting in a mind state that is original, from before the beginning, and it is infinite. This is our natural condition. It’s not something to be worked out, obtained, or achieved.
Student: So, Sensei, can you say what is the difference between what the Japanese call the “hara,” and the One Point?
Yes, hara refers to the whole abdominal area. The One Point is the very center of the lowest part of that area, the lower abdomen. I mean, this is how we say it, but again, if we look there, there’s nothing physical to find. This is an experience of the mind body we are referring to. If you find that difficult to understand, that may be because you find it difficult to consider the mind and body as one.
Student: I notice in the Shokushu, it says that this is “a posture in which you don’t focus on the lower abdomen.” Is that correct?
This just means not to go around thinking, “One Point, One Point, One Point,” like this. Tohei Sensei liked to say, “Dasupanashi,” which basically means we don’t have to turn water off, but that we can just “let it run.” When we turn on the faucet, we don’t have to keep holding the faucet. We just turn it on and it’s running until we turn it off.
Something else is that we want to avoid thinking of ourselves as the subject and this One Point as the object. That’s where it gets dangerous. When we think to “focus on the One Point” that way of seeing refers to two things, “a self, doing the focusing” and the “One Point,” a subject and an object. It’s very difficult to avoid thinking in this subject/object way. With practice, the One Point is not seen as an object of our consciousness but is experienced as the very center of our consciousness. This is a very different way of experiencing life. The One Point is not the object of our attention. It’s the very center of our attention. Not only that, but that awareness can be experienced not as a subject or an object. Then what is it?
This is easy to misunderstand, when we are still used to seeing everything from the perspective of verifiable subjects and objects. As mentioned, students often express to me how frustrating it is for them, and it always is frustrating for them because they’ve made the One Point into an object, with themselves as the subject, and this makes it very difficult to experience it fully and freely without feeling the need to acquire it, and then to keep it, to hold on to it.
The One Point in the lower abdomen is already our original condition that we were born with. Let’s honor it in that way.
Thank you very much. We’ll close.