November 18, 2005

Two quotations

Two new quotations, the first thanks to Stephen Billias and the second to Patrick.

A religion that is small enough for our understanding would not be large enough for our needs.

Arthur Balfour, the First Earl of Balfour, English Statesman (1848-1930)
"The moment you come to trust chaos, you see God clearly. Chaos is divine order, versus
human order. Change is divine order, versus human order. When the chaos becomes safety to
you, then you know you're seeing God clearly.

Caroline Myss

Posted by mandragore at November 18, 2005 11:53 AM

And the one million dollar question is: what is the difference between chaos and... a mess? Proposition: a mess is chaos turned into a religion.

This was supposed to be some kind of Jodan cut, a bit short I agree, but you were already there :) Now comes my tentative Shudan:

If I look around at nature and at other people I cannot see change. I mean: I do not see things changing. I only see them changed, or about to - but that I can only infer from the past. Hence all I can see of my life is a chaotic succession of still frames, about which I can either wonder - like a child seeing white rabbits pulled out of a giant hat by some hidden magician - or flip. Usually I will flip - I am even encouraged to do so by others and society, if not by nature. I will flip for things changing either too fast, or for them not changing fast enough. I will flip for all kinds of reasons, including for no reason, until at some point I get so tired of flipping that I decide or accept that there must be a reason not to flip. Since I cannot find this comforting reason around me I derive that my perceptions are limited, all happening on a so-called "horizontal" plane from which I can therefore derive a normal, which I call "vertical". Here we go again, but it is much simpler this time, for if I look beyond me at the unknown and unknowable source of all mysteries not only can I not see change, but by definition I cannot see anything. Of course I can just remove the "I" from the equation, and leave all responsibility and meaning to others, who will be all too happy to take it from there. The other alternative, since I cannot see, is to "imagine". I will therefore start building my own religion (or my own interpretation of the religion I have chosen) create my own "philosophy" that connects my chaotic succession of still frames together and make them flow one into the other. I gain a lot from this process, enlivening my life and, for a while at least, enjoying perfect freedom and responsibility, until at some point I get so tired of having to constantly reinvent and adjust my philosophy that I decide or accept that there must be a way not to fool myself any more. This is when I start actually looking *into* myself, first as the only place where I can "see" change and observe chaos, then...

Ready for your next Tenso - or did I miss the point?

Posted by: Trickpa Chaubdou at November 20, 2005 05:05 AM

How about this one:

"I thirsted for rationality in religion, for the worship of truth, whatever and wherever that might be. There was no spectacle more painful for me than the sight of a conscientious and intelligent man defending an absurdity which even a child could see through, simply because it formed an article of his faith to which he must hold at any cost, even if that cost included the sacrifice of reason and truth.

"The conflicts and controversies going on between different faiths on the one side and between faith and philosophy on the other, made me wonder whether it would ever be possible to have a religion that possessed an appeal for all human beings, that would be as acceptable to the philosopher as to the peasant, and as welcome to the rationalist as to the priest."

- Gopi Krishna
Living with Kundalini, the Autobiography of Gopi Krishna
Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993.

The author was born in 1903 and lived in northern India, a middle-class civil servant for most of his life. He was not a "professional" monk or guru and never lived in an ashram, but he started practicing meditation in late adolescence and supposedly had an authentic enlightenment/kundalini awakening. He never founded a school or attracted followers, though he did write several books.

For me, this quote is suggestive of what we hope Shintaido can be (though I'm not sure the word "religion" would still apply). I remember one time when Michael and I were on a beach near Boston with a guy named Bill Mock, who had practiced Shintaido years before at Hobart, doing some keiko. After Bill and I did Tenshingoso Dai to the ocean, Michael -- who was observing us from a distance, incognito -- overhead some bystanders commenting:

He: What the hell are they doing?
She: I dunno, must be some kind of religion or something.
He: Well I wish to hell they'd do it someplace else.

So while it seems we still have a long way to go, I'm optimistic that Shintaido has the potential to include a broad spectrum of people (note that as of this writing, the Shintaido of America Board is planning a marketing campaign). There have been a few intellectuals with public stature (who Gopi Krishna might call philosophers and rationalists) who have been impressed by Shintaido, for example authors Stanly Krippner and Alan Watts. I was told that Ito-sensei and Aoki-sensei met Alan Watts in the early seventies, and Watts witnessed a Shintaido demonstration at a conference of some kind. He was enthusiastic enough that he promised to help promote Shintaido (but unfortunately he died a short time later and the plans were never realized).

What can we extract from this that will help our keiko and our gorei? Gopi Krishna sees the religious or spiritual urge that the individual experiences as the result of larger forces, working simultaneously "from the inside" and "from the outside." In other words, there is both something we open ourselves to, to let it in, and something we are driven to express and release.

Clearly the movements of Shintaido are concrete examples of both. The question is, should we just do the kata and let them work on us, or is it more effective to make the verbal articulation of Shintaido philosophy (especially the aspect related to Tenshin etc.) part of the training method?

Pros and cons of explicit articulation of spiritual philosophy (in abbreviated form):

Anything that smacks of "religion" is a turn-off for many people. Discussing aspects of spirituality beyond one's personal experience is dishonest and risks making one appear foolish or worse. Many people crave a (shallow) intellectual understanding, sometimes as a way to avoid the real (and sometimes quite physical) work of self-transformation -- therefore, it's better to stick to the kata, which should itself be sufficient.

The philosophy is an intergral part of Shintaido. The original Rakutenkai members spent a lot of time studying philosophy and spiritual topics. The philosophy gives us a compass or litmus test to make sure we are doing the actual techniques correctly and not heading off on the wrong path. It helps us remember what the purpose of the techniques should be (beyond martial arts effectiveness or making our bodies healthy).

And now the key point (on the Pro side), inspired by a recent article in the New York Times science section about hypnosis:

Our reality is constructed according to our beliefs, which can be strongly influenced by what we consciously verbally articulate. (For example, people under hypnosis actually perceive different colors, according to the verbal instructions they are given. There is a physiological basis for this in the structure of the brain). Maybe if our conscious beliefs about Tenshin and the invisible world are not developed, it can prevent us from perceiving and experiencing those kinds of phenomena.

Posted by: David Franklin at December 4, 2005 07:09 AM

Depends on what you mean by Shintaido 'philosophy'.

In terms of ultimate goal I do not think Shintaido has anything new to say compared to existing religions. I do not even think any religion says anything fundamentally different from the others.

But each has a different way to say it, different 'vehicles' that lead to the same ultimate realization - namely that along with the attitude of going towards instead of away from what disturbs you most, 'something' else develops and starts shining through.

Shintaido's 'vehicle' is the body.

Maybe this actually disqualifies Shintaido both as religion and philosophy, depending on what we take as a definition of these terms? Sure, we know that the creation of Shintaido as a 'new body way' was (at least partially) driven by spiritual concerns, and we Shintaido practitioners have experienced that Shintaido's practice leads to spiritual realizations, and that the 'something else' mentioned above develops and starts shining through (or so we think). But should we not see this as a consequence almost secondary to the sake of Shintaido as a form to be preserved?

So related to the topic of 'philosophy' my personal preference would be to stick to the practice and articulate fundamental, albeit practical, principles focused on guiding and supporting the practice.

If this is doable, then I have no doubt that the 'philosophy' will just shine through.

Otherwise, well : that's an interesting question, isn't it?

Posted by: Patrick Bouchaud at December 5, 2005 11:06 AM

Here's another quote from the Thich Nhat Hanh book:

"In the teaching of the Buddha, faith is made of a substance called insight or direct experience. When a teacher knows something, he or she wants to transmit that to disciples. But she cannot transmit the experience, only the idea. The disciple has to work through it by himself. The problem is not to communicate the experience in terms of ideas or notions. The issue is how to help the disciple go through the same kind of experience."

Which is another way of stating the old Zen saw about not confusing the finger pointing at the moon with the moon itself.

Posted by: mt at December 5, 2005 05:08 PM

When we cut our finger what remains of the moon?

Posted by: Patrick Bouchaud at December 6, 2005 02:55 AM

Use the middle one.

Posted by: mt at December 6, 2005 09:06 AM