Aikido, The Stuff of Bodhisattvas?

There is a lot of wobbly theorising about the concept of so-called “karma.” Be that as it may, there is no doubt that, in the Nature of the Universe, the pendulum must swing, cause must beget effect and rebound is inevitable. “Every jot and tittle is measured..”

The Laws of the Universe are precise, exacting in the long run, it would appear. Equilibrium is everything.

Scientific understanding is slowly catching up with what the ancients simply knew.

This is a vast and broad subject, but to keep it brief, I’m going to the nitty-gritty bottom of the barrel. Violence. Attrition. Friction. Stress. Something every living being, in some way, has to contend with, on a daily basis.

Why am I suggesting that Aikido may hold the potential stuff of Bodhisattva training? Well, nothing awakens in a comfortable state of stagnation. The whole of evolution is composed of battles for survival. This develops awareness and skill and the long journey to awakening then takes place.

The complacent become extinct and get recycled.

Awakening is a progressive concatenation of endless stages which never ends. Commensurate to the degree of awakening, the workload increases, the challenges escalate and the degree of difficulty is augmented.

If you wanted to believe that there is a “resting place” anywhere at all in the Universe, dream on. You will be disappointed!

The only “peace” you will ever get, is when you’ve learnt to centre yourself in the midst of intense activity. Peace in creative output. There is nowhere to run and hide. Especially from the results of your own actions and causes you have put into motion.

There is no real or lasting “peace” to be found in the rot of stagnation. True joy is in refining skill in action, the making of harmony. And sure, inbuilt into the Great Universal Blueprint are the snippets of rest and recovery that make a balance.

Get it right, is all of the law and the Universe is patient, having eternity on its side. We handfuls of dust and micro-consciousness can choose to get it wrong and pay the price for as long as it takes for our attitudes to shift and to want to choose to get it right.

Harmony! Harmony is a choice. It is not bestowed. We earn it and we learn it.

On this basis it makes total sense then, to simply set about it and stop attempting in futility to avoid it. Hence the Path, Do or the Way.

The bottom of the Universe, the ancients said, was akin to: “A bed of seething snakes..” Please bear with me. The bottom of our brain, the R complex, is similarly composed and predisposed. That’s where we find all our lower, destructive attributes lurking. And also our survival ones. The dojo, some say, should be seen as a pit of snakes.

Why this?

Well, we are, in case you may have forgotten, re-enacting the murderous tendencies of battle. Albeit softened. We attend, in order to improve our abilities of dealing with challenge and attrition. To meet it. It would be as easy as it is for the other 99% to go home and sit in a daze either in front of our effluent TV lifestyles, or in poverty somewhere deprived on the planet.

What is it that drives an individual to seek self-correction, so much so that he or she is prepared to sacrifice trivia, to meet themselves in the face of attrition, and this as a choice?

What drives you to Budo practice? I’m talking to serious Budoka here, not the wankers of various descriptives with self-delusion and ulterior motives foremost. Yes, sadly, these too are identified.

Consider this. Over aeons of long periods of either peace or war, we as a species have either stagnated most comfortably; or have been beset with invasive war. Either “we did it to them, ” ‘or “they did it to us.” Yes, the dark side is alive and well.

As Verbal said in “The Usual Suspect,” “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The even greater deception is found in the belief that a “god” and a “devil” exists “out there” somewhere nebulous instead of inside ourselves. Yes, the so-called “devil” is in you. In all of us. He’s no devil at all, simply the reptilian tendencies of the R complex, used to surviving the perhaps not so allegorical, “bottom of the Universe.”

But why ignore looking up? That too exists.

And yes, the bottom of the Universe does in fact exist as external expression. Ask any returned soldier. Because of modern media and journalistic warriors we’ve been able to see, from a distance for a few minutes occasionally, a small part of what, real people are going through for years. Murder, rape, atrocity, mass destruction.. The bottom of the Universe hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s not far away. Even in the suburbs. Look at the crime and homicide statistics, the extraordinary numbers of jail population, drugs, exploitation.. you get the drift.

If you don’t, may I suggest that you remove your head from the proverbial?

That said, over aeons of mutual destruction, based on ignorance, superstition, greed, fear, and a host of “bottom of the Universe” predispositions, some individuals slowly learned that such silly behaviours were getting us nowhere and keeping us in the sewers of existence. Indeed, some have not learnt this, and still strive for “power.” What power? A brief candle in three score and ten?

In the face of the Universal existence, that’s not even a firefly farting. There is no such thing as “power.” Especially for humans, sub-humans and the like. Delusion. But there are those who still chase this vainglorious mirage and inconvenience everyone else in the process.

True Power resides in the ability to Create Value, against the odds.

Herein comes into play, the skills of the peaceful warrior, who chooses to play neither the game of bully, nor victim, but rather hold the line that is integrity!

But how do we address these inevitable predispositions of war? There is nowhere to run. Especially from yourself.

Yes, all you “nice” people out there. When the right buttons are pressed, let me assure you, you will emerge as demonic as the next lost soul. You can also shine. If you could see the goings on in war zones where nice people often betray trust to survive and where those previously considered bad, sacrifice themselves to save others, you would know: Not all things are as they seem, nor can you truly know yourself until tested. Make no mistake of that. Niceness is a very recent invention. Survival as old as the Universe Itself, and before authentic goodness can emerge to shine brightly; a rather shallow fair-weather act. To earn merit, we are constrained to go through the fires of transformation. Yes, the pain of change. The living friction of Universal Energy!

We can drag our feet and be unwillingly forced onto the way as is the wont of the great masses, or we can choose to address this question of harmony and soul restoration. One thing we cannot do is sit on the fence. The lukewarm will get spewed out.

Re-enaction of “safe” violence in the most primitive of ways can be seen “in the ring.” That square arena where fools try to play god, with infantile rules best suited to profiteering, where the reality of true and final destruction, weapons, does not enter. These players end up in hospital, early ageing, decimated, handicapped or dead before their time.

Not much chop to anyone with half a brain.

Flower arranging is great, but tapping a gunman with a posy will also see us dead, an early demise resulting from delusion.

The Middle Way. Somewhere between living in total and abject denial and that of mercenary predatorialism, dwells the seed of a nascent sun, the soul, awaiting to be reborn to clarity. “The Heaven and Earth connection,” in O’Sensei-speak.

The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, would often iterate, “Welcome the attack..”

We’ll yes, it’s your best teacher. If you live.

How do you get this gift and get to live as well? Where else than a dojo, where it can be modulated with mutual respect, courtesy and increased safety.

Herein the Path.

And in the sharing of refinement of skill, we can all gain from each other’s common sense.

Over aeons, if reincarnation is true, and the evidence now points to the fact that something is indeed eternal and continues even if in some it forgets. This something, this atom or atma or hard drive backup, slowly learns from the greatest teacher of them all: Experience!

It make sense then that the getting of experience, being able to be simulated, modulated and made safer, could help lend a hand in fast-tracking some modicum of solid clarity and awakening.

Instead of wasting lives upon lives to live and to die in ignominy, endlessly doing it to them, only to get it done to you by them.. on and on, much like broken LP going round and round, scratching the wheel of life, suffering in futility, simply learn to take ukemi and get on with the job. Exchange energy and be done with it; but with respect!

While you are at it also learn to deliver will, ki, intention, energy with harmony and with excellence, and this in a harmless way.

O’Sensei quote again: “Loving attack and peaceful reconciliation.”

Starting to make sense?

In one lifetime of regular daily practice, you will experience thousands of lifetimes of both attack and successful harmonising of these “snake like” predispositions, and this among friends.

After training, you go home, not bleeding and broken, but invigorated, refreshed, vivified, less “rusty” with false pride humbled and sober; awakened by one more instalment of credit paid into your Cosmic account. It may well be a slow and exacting process, but it pays off the great debt.

You have expended and sweated and purified your bloodstream, your circulation has enhanced, you have met both yourself and discomfort willingly, your ancient instincts to survive have not only found expression in being honoured, but this in their refinement as well. This shugyo (austerity) is misogi (purification) as well!

Those of you who train know the benefits. Better than any drug and more addictive than the very essence of life itself, because your learning is becoming CONSCIOUS! At deep levels you previously did not know existed. Or which were forgotten. And this heals the psyche, uplifting you in the process as well.

Compressing lifetimes of intense give and take relationship in one life, can only have salubrious effect. Done in an atmosphere of respectful meditation during such intense activity of the dojo (the place of the Way), we simulate the movements of Ancient Great Nature and the Universe Itself; and in so doing, we reclaim, in stages, our attunement with our true Origins over and beyond mere concepts or systems of dogmatic belief. Rather, what is, simply as it is. And all of it, with all its nuances, gifts and transformative tests and tribulations which then empower you to navigate the remainder of life with commensurately augmented skill, care, attention and respect for life…

We of Aikido no longer see threats. We notice gifts of energy. We no longer scamper as frightened animals using the same fear to worry about bills, debts, mortgages and other trivialities. We choose to shine, moment to moment and in the process of becoming dragons of wisdom, are learning to shine like the suns which quietly devour the dark instead of fearing it.

Nothing is ideal. But within that, there exists nonetheless the perfection of the ages, in the innate wisdom that the Universe Itself has experienced, with each big bang, with each in breath and outbreath, contractions and expansions in its own countless deaths, rebirths and journeys… and more!

We re-enact all this in our Aiki Budo training practice.

Is Aiki Budo a path that can lead to Bodhisattvahood and beyond?

Decide for yourself.

Nev Sagiba


  1. Len Ferrara says:

    Great article, thanks!

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