Interview with Hideo Takahashi by Stanley Pranin

Morihei Ueshiba and his association with Masahisa Goi of the Byakko Shinko Kai

Morihei Ueshiba described his enlightenment experiences and spiritual understandings in a book called Takemusu Aiki. This work, based on a series of lectures by the founder of aikido edited and compiled by Hideo Takahashi, is an invaluable document for those seeking an understanding of the deeper meaning of the art. In this interview, Mr. Takahashi talks about takemusu aiki and his spiritual master, Masahisa Goi, the founder of the Byakko Shinko Kai and a close friend of Morihei Ueshiba.

AJ: I understand that the Byakko Shinko Kai is a third-generation descendant of the Omoto religion.

Takahashi Sensei: In historical terms, it can be said that “Seicho no Ie” was born from the Omoto religion and that the Byakko Shinko Kai was born from the Seicho no Ie. After the war, at the beginning of 1945, Goi Sensei got to know about the Seicho no Ie and involved himself in its many activities, eventually becoming a local instructor. Then, in 1949 he started a spiritual ascetic practice in order to achieve kuu (stillness). Goi Sensei said: “Kuu is not a nihilistic or negative condition. It contains nothing, yet everything. It is the life of God living vibrantly.” Goi sensei called it “the practice of freeing your mind of all thoughts,” and he practiced it without eating for three months in the middle of the town. Finally, he succeeded in no longer having any human thoughts and attained Oneness with God—one’s own true nature. At that time Goi Sensei was still an instructor of the Seicho no Ie, but what he was doing began to stray from the practices of this religion. Therefore, Goi Sensei was asked to resign from his post as instructor and this led him to start a spontaneous gathering of people. Thus, the core group of the Byakko Shinko Kai started in 1951. In 1955, it became a religious corporation, and one or two years after that, Goi Sensei became acquainted with the name of Ueshiba Sensei.

What led to the meeting between the two men?

Ashihei Hino wrote about O-Sensei in a novel called King’s Throne (Oja no Za, which was serialized in the magazine Shosetsu Shincho. This was the first instalment of the story. Goi Sensei read the novel and remarked, “He (O-Sensei) is a great man. He is not an ordinary person.” Then Mrs. Hayashi, a member of the Byakko Shinko Kai, happened to tell Goi Sensei that she knew Ueshiba Sensei. Her husband was a member of the Board of Directors of the Aikikai or some such position. Goi Sensei felt he would like to meet Ueshiba Sensei. There was only one person in all of Goi Sensei’s life that he ever wanted to get acquainted with, and that was Ueshiba Sensei. I heard that Ueshiba Sensei knew that he was going to meet some special person, and was expecting someone to introduce him to the person he was meant to meet. Therefore, when Mrs. Hayashi told O-Sensei that she wanted to introduce Goi Sensei to him, O-Sensei said, “Oh, it was you I was waiting for.” Hearing the name of Goi Sensei, O-Sensei said, “He is a wonderful human being.” Finally their meeting took place at Jinbo-cho, Kanda, in Tokyo, in October 1957.

Around 1957 or 1958, when we built an annex to the main building at the Headquarters of Byakko Shinko Kai, we laid down judo mats so that people could practice aikido. This new building was finished in November, the month of Goi Sensei’s birthday, and Ueshiba Sensei came to our dojo to give a demonstration of aikido. After then O-Sensei visited our dojo several more times and taught us aikido directly. I was also one of his students at that time.

Were you taught aikido regularly by Ueshiba Sensei?

No. What I did regularly was to listen to Ueshiba Sensei’s talks, which then became the contents of the book, Takemusu Aiki. O-Sensei said to me, “Takahashi-san, come to Iwama. I will talk to you about aikido,” so I went to Iwama every month. From April of 1958 through the beginning of 1961, I visited Iwama once a month to listen to O-Sensei’s lectures. Then I wrote them down in manuscript form at home and went back to O-Sensei again with them for review. After I obtained his approval, I published them in our publication, Byakko. On my first visit I brought a tape recorder with me, but Ueshiba Sensei did not allow me to use it. I had to take dictation while listening to O-Sensei and I had quite a hard time because there were many words I had never heard of before. Ueshiba Sensei had a notebook in his hands and read to me what he had written down. When I look back now how it was then. I realize that I truly received private lectures, face-to-face, about “Aiki.”

What was the subject of O-Sensei’s lectures?

All his talks were about spiritual matters. The book Takemusu Aiki contains what Ueshiba Sensei talked to me about face-to-face, as well as one of his talks from “Meetings With Ueshiba Sensei” which were held once a month at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo.

One can imagine how hard it must have been to follow and record O-Sensei’s lectures since their content is so difficult to understand.

I am pleased to know that I managed to produce a rather good work. When I was with O-Sensei, I was completely absorbed in listening to him and writing down his words. This was different from understanding what he was saying. I could record his words because I was meeting O-Sensei face-to-face and directly listening to his lectures. I was in such a special atmosphere. If, for example, I were to listen to a tape of O-Sensei’s lectures or something else that remains today, I wonder if I would be able to understand his words. Direct communication with a living person is different.

Did you ask Ueshiba Sensei to explain the meaning of any words that you did not understand?

No. The atmosphere was such that I could not ask him to repeat what he said or to answer any questions. Ueshiba Sensei was talking with the conviction that I knew all the names of the deities, too. Therefore I wrote wrote down what I heard, for example, in katakana (one of two Japanese phonetic alphabets), and when I got home, I looked up the words in the mythological books, such as the Kojiki, to find out the Japanese characters. When I could not locate the characters for the words anywhere, I left them in katakana.

Did Ueshiba Sensei correct and change those words into the correct kanji?

No. He left them as they were, no matter how they were written, in hiragana (the other phonetic alphabet) or katakana. However, he certainly checked my manuscripts each time, reading them through in front of me. Sometimes he corrected a few things, but usually almost everything was okay as it was written.

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