Remembering Mochizuki Sensei: Lessons and Reflections on Flexibility Overcoming Rigidity, Maximum Efficiency and Mutual Welfare — Part 2 by Patrick Augé

Minoru Mochizuki Sensei demonstrating tachidor at his Shizuoka Dojo in 1992

Minoru Mochizuki Sensei demonstrating tachidor at his Shizuoka Dojo in 1992

“The next step consists in applying the antidote to fear: familiarity. Little by
little, we become accustomed to the thought of the obstacle that bothers us.”

Patrick Auge Sensei

Patrick Auge Sensei

If we train ourselves to mindfully deal with the small challenges of daily life, we will prepare ourselves to handle the greater challenges that will appear as we progress on the path.

The point is to develop awareness, a by-product of concentration. Here, if we reflect on the fact that we are strongly attracted by some things and hate others, especially those that prevent us from getting the things that attract us, then we can look for the root of the cause. It may be associated with a strong emotion that arose sometime in the past. For example, our mother might have given us something at a moment when we were feeling happy and that became a favorite; or we might have received something after being scolded and we have hated it ever since; or we may face something that we don’t know and our conditioning, fear of the unknown, makes us reject it automatically.

If we force ourselves to behave according to what we think is expected from us (“If I don’t do it, I won’t get promoted!” Or “I will look stupid, ignorant, etc.!”), then we act out of obligation (rigidity). We bottle up all the frustration, and we set an internal time bomb that will detonate as rebellion, mental and/or physical disease, etc. If we force ourselves to do something out of fear, it will bring the same result as running away from it: unfinished business that will haunt us as long as we avoid managing what scares us.

The next step consists in applying the antidote to fear: familiarity. Familiarity implies moderation. Little by little, we become accustomed to the thought of the obstacle that bothers us. For example, we have a disagreement with our teacher. We sit down in a quiet place and do deep breathing meditation (shinkokyû mokusô) until our mind starts calming down. It may take several minutes and multiple start-overs, according to our training and the intensity of the emotion. However, the point here is not to eliminate the emotion (rigidity)—it acts as a signal of something that should be paid attention to and is also a reminder of our humanity—but to develop the skills to work with it (flexibility).

Once the mind is calm—and it will become calm—we can ask ourselves the following questions: “Am I here to learn or am I here to prove that I am right and that my teacher is wrong? Which is more important to me? Is my teacher teaching in order to continue his study and does he have his students’ best interest at heart; or is he just doing it for himself?” These are important questions that a serious student should ask himself. The teacher-student relationship is not a smooth path; it is paved with obstacles to overcome, such as greed, fear and doubt. Once our answers to those questions are clear, we develop understanding and wisdom (intelligence of the heart). We should contemplate this new understanding for some time in order to make sure it’s internalized and will be there when emotions arise again. The intensity of the emotions will depend on how long and to what degree we have let the chatter of the mind (the bat in the belfry) nourish them uncontrollably.

Then we are ready to go back to our teacher and confirm our will to continue our study under his guidance. This may be a humbling experience for us, but what better way is there to cultivate humility—an essential quality of a teacher—than humbling ourselves? On the other hand, if we look at it as humiliation, it’s an indication that our ego (the little dictator) stands in the way and that we have more reflecting to do.

The same process can be applied to relationships. We may have a broken relationship with a parent for example. One or both of us refuse to meet. But if I decide to apply the principle of flexibility and efficiency, I may think something along these lines: “He/she has been suffering as much as I have, or more, whatever the cause of the split. As his/her child, I am younger and his/her life will likely finish before mine. Who knows what he/she will face at the moment of his/her death? Once he/she is gone, it will be too late to do anything about it, and I will be haunted with that thought until the end of my life. Therefore, I will take the first step and I will let him/her know in an appropriate way—kindly, respectfully, truthfully, and in a timely manner (on his/her birthday, at Thanksgiving or at Christmas, for example)—that I wish for us to see each other. Once the seed has been planted, I will let it take care of itself.”

Mochizuki Sensei also said that Budô was forgiving. We forgive our enemy, but we do not forget his negative actions lest he repeat them. He still has to correct himself and repair the damage caused; it’s all part of his study and of the other students’ study, those who are mindful. That’s the meaning of shugyô.

Mochizuki Sensei had to expel some students due to their recurring negative behavior. However, he always kept his door open in order to make it possible for the student to go back to Sensei, apologize and correct his behavior. To Sensei, Budô was forgiving (yurusu), which means that expelling a student (hamon) was a wake-up call for the serious student to review his motivation and correct his behavior. It’s an aspect of the evolution of Bujutsu, in which hamon was final, into Budô.

Unfortunately, few took advantage of that opportunity to improve themselves and preferred to quit or start their own rônin organizations.

Minoru Mochizuki being interviewed at his home, c. 1987

Minoru Mochizuki being interviewed at his home, c. 1987

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