Self Victory

Sunday Class, October 30, 2022

This morning we are addressing the third of Tohei Sensei’s “13 Rules for Instructors,” and I will read it to you here: 

“There is no conflict in the absolute universe. Conflict only occurs in the relative world. Winning by fighting is a relative victory. Winning without fighting is an absolute victory. A relative victory will always be lost eventually. We should train to commit ourselves to the principle of non-dissension. Be happy to throw and be happy to be thrown. We will see remarkable progress in our practice if we train the correct principal by supporting each other.”

Many years ago, back in the early 1960’s, when our teacher Shinichi Suzuki Sensei was training in Japan with Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, O Sensei, the original founder of Aikido, O Sensei asked him to help him to prepare for a calligraphy that he wanted to do, by mixing the “sumi,” the ink. O Sensei completed that calligraphy and then presented it to Suzuki Sensei saying, “This is my teaching.” Some 30 years ago, Suzuki Sensei presented that same calligraphy to me. And to this day that calligraphy hangs in a small alcove in my home where I sit in the morning. 

This calligraphy says, “Masa katsu a gatsu kachi haya bi.” This means “True victory, self victory, is victory over time and space.” This was O Sensei’s awakening into the challenge of conflict in this world. And this was the seed of his teaching of Aikido, “the way to union with Ki of the universe”. 

“True victory, self victory, is victory beyond space and time.” He is saying that true victory is beyond the relative condition of the self. In other words, this does not refer to a relative victory. It describes an absolute victory. What is that!?

When we don’t agree with someone, it is because they have a different idea, a different belief, or are taking a different kind of action than we prefer. Basically, they’re clinging to one idea, and we’re clinging to an opposite idea. As a result, we have conflict. This is what we call a “relative conflict.” And this relative struggle can produce a relative fight. And if we win this fight, that’s a relative victory. 

However, we don’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” In other words, we don’t want to throw away what matters most along with what matters least. The ultimate truth is that the other person is a perfect reflection of who we are. We are both infinitely small sparks in the vast unlimited universe of humanity and beyond. And when we fight each other to win, we are showing ourselves to be willing to throw away our humanity for the sake of a belief in something very small and ultimately insignificant, relatively speaking. We’re willing to sacrifice who we are essentially to win something temporary. Even if our victory lasts 100 years, in the vast span of time that is still quite petty and temporary. 

We just went through the Five principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido recently, so what did we learn? We learned that there can be no true victory for anyone, no resolution of conflict, without treating the other person with respect and dignity. In other words, we always treat the other person like we would like to be treated.

Sound familiar? It’s simple. It’s been taught for thousands of years, and yet we still don’t quite seem to get it. We are still subject to the ubiquitous “instant emotional response.” We are quick to sacrifice our humanity for the sake of our own selfish clinging to some idea, some belief, some structure, or form. It might be our country, or our school of Aikido, our family, our race, or our religion or just some kind of idea about what we imagine to be the best way to do something.  The things we find to fight about are literally endless.

In our deep-seated hearts and minds, we all want to honor and be honored in this way that our great teachers, O Sensei, Tohei Sensei, and Suzuki Sensei, honored and taught us the spirit of non-dissension.

Alright, let’s do some Ki Breathing 

Ki Breathing – 20 minutes

Ki Meditation – 13 minutes

Mind Body Meditation – 12 minutes

After sitting like this together for 45 minutes, maybe we notice how easy it is to have compassion and feel a deeper understanding of humanity. Everyone has become calm, and our pettiness falls away. We see that the key to everything is awareness, paying attention. We cannot become calm and then pay attention. We must pay attention to become calm. Our degree of calmness is a side effect, a result, of the degree of the intensity of our attention. The degree to which we are aware and include all possibilities in our awareness, is exactly the degree to which we are calm. As a result of this calmness, we are more likely able to have compassion and respect, and so offer dignity, to others. 

However, this kind of attentiveness to what we feel deeply within does not always have a rational explanation. We do it because we know that this is how we love, and so, what we love. This is what we honor within ourselves and in others. 

Perhaps you have some question about how this works in your life or comment about the spirit of non-dissension? Please say something.

Student: Good morning, Sensei, this is Fincher. I am wondering if you could comment on the sense of adventure that comes to us when we let go of our own importance and allow all possibilities to come forth.  Could you speak to that?

That’s an interesting question.  Yes, we normally think of our sense of adventure as having very much to do with competition with other people or things, like climbing a mountain, running a race, or getting that job. Maybe it’s even just having a better understanding of something than the other guy. That kind of adventure can be intellectual, or physical, or even emotional. It is all about us and our struggle to survive and to win over, not necessarily other people, but the challenges of this life. And of course, that’s a very relative way of seeing “adventure.”

The true adventure to me, and for anyone who’s practiced for very long I would guess, is what O Sensei is talking about when he says, “true victory, self-victory, victory that transcends time and space.” That victory he is pointing to is to be true to the deepest, eternal, or infinite part of ourselves, the very foundation of who we are. That is the real adventure that brings possibilities that we cannot even imagine.

We are joined together here, having these kinds of discussions about how to be true to ourselves. And we naturally bring out in our questions, our concerns about the competition offered to us by these attractive, shiny things that we’re surrounded by. And yet again, when we sit together like this, just for a few minutes, less than an hour even, it completely transforms our sense of ourselves into the bigger picture. And I think to me, this is what always regenerates the true adventure of being true to myself, and how much I value that over everything else. Thank you. 

Someone else?

Student: Good Morning, Sensei. We often think of death and dying as something negative. But in relation to this saying from O Sensei, I’m reminded of something that Krishnamurti used to say, that “we must die to every moment”. And, you know, it seems like somehow that’s related to this idea of victory over self and over time and space. So, I’m just wondering if you could say something about that?

Yes. In addition, I think that the Christian Bible says, “We must die to be born again.” I think this is addressing the same thing. Of course, how we spend every minute involves sacrifice. Our attention is our “currency” with which we purchase our capacity. We have but one choice in every moment, and that is where we put our attention. And when we turn away from our temporary survival, the winning of momentary glory, or even dignity, when we spend our attention to attempt to preserve that part of ourselves, then this only serves to decrease our connection with the universal.  Instead, we must die to ourselves in each moment.

Often, we’re living in such a way that we’re afraid we’re going to die. But instead, we have the constant opportunity to allow ourselves to fall into this vast and deep infinite space, which is empty of any concerns whatsoever. The true adventure I was talking about, of courses, is the challenge of remaining in this universal condition, which we almost cannot do intentionally. Of course, how we use our attention is intentional. But the infinite is so obscure and so indefinable, and so unattainable that it’s almost like choosing to fall backwards off a cliff without looking to see if there’s even a bottom. We just dive. And I say “backwards off a cliff” because it can be so disorienting, especially in the beginning. It seems so unfathomable that it’s like diving into a mist, something completely unknown. 

And one other thing, how is it that we know to do that? No one can show us this. We are born knowing this already. The instructions are written within us beyond our genes. And this sacrifice is so inbred in us that we’re constantly imitating it in daily life, aren’t we? That’s why we think competition and winning is so important. That’s why Fincher brings up these two adventures. The adventure of daily life is like a story, or a picture and at the same time a distant echo of the real. In the picture, at one point we finally we die. In that picture, that story about reality, we die and that’s the end of it. But in actuality, we can die in each moment and that’s everything. And what happens in relation to our daily struggle appears as a resonance of what is, constantly showing us the way. 

Thank you for that question. 

You know, in talking about something like this, I don’t know what that means to everybody, but what this points to is not a conceptual place to arrive at, you know. This begins with a feeling we have in the most genuine part of ourselves. And we listen to that. It is difficult to put this in clear terms with words. We’re going where we cannot see ahead of time. We never get to see this ahead of time. Just like when we die physically, we don’t know what’s going to happen after. Therefore, anyone who speaks about this process, must have been there first.  And even then, because the experience is so empty of definable characteristics, it is difficult to speak of.

Thank you. Would anyone else like to say something? Or ask anything? Please speak up. Don’t be shy.

Student: Good morning, Sensei. It’s Phoenix.

Good morning, Phoenix.

I think what struck me most in what you said today is about “attention.” And I’m thinking particularly about when I am in, you know, when I have an opinion about something, so to speak, and how just having that opinion sort of clouds my mind, right, because that’s all I’m thinking about. I am sort of building my case, so to speak. But it’s exactly those moments that paying attention to what is happening is so essential. And just hearing you saying it, it made it so much more obvious to me that that is the choice. Sometimes I do it, and sometimes I don’t, but now, I don’t know, it just reached me in a different way.

Thank you, we can’t always control these things within us, of course, but noticing this choice of “being aware of, instead of being occluded by,” this is it. We can notice when we’re plotting our success. And we don’t have to do anything about it, except pay attention. We simply must notice it again and again and again. And then the nature of that struggle changes all by itself. It changes, and it always changes in favor of freedom. 

We are playing the long game here. We don’t know when we’re going to die. But on the other hand, we cannot be impatient. Our choice is always to notice and allow this respect for the universal, permitting ourselves to have the dignity of change taking place spontaneously. 

Thank you for taking time, as you all have, coming here this morning. 

Thank you very much. 

Domo arigato gozaimasu.