Interview with Seishiro Endo (2) by Stanley Pranin

This interview was published in Japanese in Dou, No. 144 (2005) by Aiki News, Japan and translated into English by Daniel Nishina and Akiya Hideo for Cosmos Online. We would like to thank Stanley Pranin, Aiki News, for his kind permission for the translation and issuing it here.

Seishiro Endo Sensei

We previously inquired about your aikidô training about ten years ago (issue 106). This time we would like to ask about your changes of thought about aikidô since then, from the viewpoint of “dô” or Tao.

Japanese people have a tendency to attach “-dô” to everything. This can be seen not only with budô but also with sadô (or chadô, the art of tea ceremony) and kadô (the art of flower arrangement), for instance. We even hear of sumô-dô, salaryman-dô, keiei-dô (the way of business). People attach “-dô” to various aspects and activities of our lives in order to give them special meaning or to distinguish them as areas of mastery. Yet, I don’t think many people, including myself, really know what “dô” is. At some point I began to wonder why there were two ways to say one thing e.g. budô/bujutsu, kendô/kenjutsu, jûdô/jûjutsu, aikidô/aikijutsu, and thus started to explore the difference in meaning.

I feel I more or less have a grasp of the meaning of “jutsu,” but when it comes to “dô,” I feel it means something immense, deep, wide, and unclear. In my desire to somehow make it clearer, I sought books relating to Taoism, Lao-tzu (Lao-zi) and Chuang-tzu (Zhuang-zi). Tao can also be found in Confucianism and its virtues: Jin (?, humanity), Gi (?, righteousness), Rei (?, propriety), Chi (?, wisdom), Shin (?, faithfulness). It is said that Tao is to seek and realize, and thereby equip the self with, these virtues. We might say that this is “Tao for the people.”

According to Taoism these virtues comprise a Tao as conceived by humans, and true Tao is that which has existed before this artificial Tao ever came into being. Lao-tzu expressed as follows: “The path that can be regarded as The Path is not the great eternal Path. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name1.” This means that Tao is a fundamental, universal principle that has always existed before any artificial Tao came into being.

In Chuang-tzu’s book of “Chi-hoku-yû” (?? ????)2, it is written, “There is nowhere that Tao is not. It is everywhere.” The entire universe is Tao, and it is ki that gives birth and life to all the phenomena in the universe. It is also said that in order to know that ki and the flow of ki, one must know Tao. It appears that this is the origin of the words, “Seeking Tao,” and “Mastering Tao.” Lao-tzu referred to one who has mastered Tao as “mu-i-shi-zen” (????, natural and unaffected). Chuang-tzu interpreted this as “emptiness unlimited” or “absolute nothingness3.” When one grasps and masters the flow of ki of all the phenomena in the universe as it is, one is in the state of “mu-i-shi-zen” and “absolute nothingness.” To strive to attain such a state is a true way of life for humans. This is what Taoism teaches.

What has changed in grasping aikidô as Tao?

I encountered the following words regarding seeking Tao: Lao-tzu said, “In studying, one accumulates everyday. In carrying out Tao, one reduces everyday. Through reduction upon reduction, one reaches the point of doing nothing, whereupon everything is complete.” Dôgen said, “To choose the path of Buddha is to learn the self. To learn the self is to forget the self.” Kanô Jigorô named jûdô and took as a key phrase, “Softness overcomes hardness,” based on Lao-tzu’s 36th text, which states, “Soft and weak defeats hard and strong.” “Soft and weak” means soft and supple. When one is in such a state one can feel ki, match the partner’s ki, and fall into a state of riding the flow of ki. From there one becomes able to move in a “mu-i-shi-zen” manner. On the other hand, “hard and strong” denotes a rigid and unyielding state, in which one can move only with the ego fully exposed. Based on these ideas, in seeking Tao, I now have as a major goal to practice softly in such a way that I rid myself of egotistical consciousness.


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