Interview with Mr.Hiroyuki Aoki (Part3)
From Part 2
However, later, I started to suffer thinking that if I pass through this state even further, the only thing left for me to do would just be to renounce the world and enter the world of the Buddha and Gods. I suffered for about 2 months, not being able to come up with any ideas for martial arts, calligraphy, and work. Then one day, I started thinking, “wait a minute”. I reconfirmed to myself the commitment I had made before. Rather than to pray to Christ in front of the cross, worship Buddha statues in a temple, or send prayers to Amaterasu Omikami at a Shinto shrine, I had decided to carry all of them with me and yet turn back again, to live with the people. When I reconfirmed this, everything cleared up again as if my spiritual world opened up widely. I could see everything around me more vividly than ever. This happened very recently, around Fall 2013.
I found out soon after that this stage of one’s spiritual journey is depicted in the eighth picture of Jugyuzu (Ten Ox Herding Pictures), “Ningyugubo (Both Bull and Self Transcended”. This is the world of Mu, where both the Bull and Self have disappeared. Nothing remains… And after that comes “Henpon Kigen (Reaching the Source)” with only flowers in full bloom, symbolizing pure nature. And in the final tenth picture, a young ox-herd boy is talking with the Hotei (a god with a potbelly who is one of the seven Gods of good luck). My guess is that this picture has 2 meanings: “To become a Hotei” and “To go and be with the people as you have become a Hotei”.
In other words, to renounce the world or to return to society to join the common people. When I thought in the beginning that my only option is to renounce the world, I couldn’t bear the pain, and couldn’t see anything at all. However, when I chose not to look up at the altar but instead decided to pick up the altar, cross, and Buddha statue on my back and turned back, I saw the common people very clearly. I knew this is the path for me to take from now. So now, I’m in this tenth stage, mingling with the people. And just for your information, this Jugyuzu was illustrated by a Zen monk named Kakuan about one thousand years ago. I’m impressed such a noble monk existed at the time.
What I want everyone to know is that even if you are not enlightened, if you can mingle with the people, live with the people, and help the people, you are just the same as one who has attained profound enlightenment.
*From Wikipedia: Ten Bulls or Ten Ox Herding Pictures
Eight Picture: “Jingyugubo” (Both Bull and Self Transcended) – Everything is now forgotten and gone back to Mu (nothingness). Even the enlightened practitioner is not a special being but realizes who he really is by nature.
Ninth Picture: “Henpongengen” (Reaching the Source) – The original beauty of nature manifests. True Satori lies in such primordial nature.
Tenth Picture: “Nittensuishu” (Return to Society) – Into town…the practitioner (the boy has become a Hotei) who has attained enlightenment goes back to town, plays with the children, and guides the common people.
When I was young, I entered, or in other words, came out into the stage depicted in the eighth picture. I could clearly notice my change myself at the time, as my techniques totally changed all of a sudden and many strange things started to happen. For example, even when I blocked my students’ attacks very lightly, they would get bruises, or just a slight touch of my hands tore their keikogi (practice uniform). At other times, when I reached my hands on a branch, many leaves fell from the tree all at once. These are all stories from many years ago though.
I was shocked by the world of Mu. In the beginning, I even felt I had entered the wrong place and was struggling to come out of it. These were things I had never been taught in Christianity before. However, I found out that in Zen, they did teach these kinds of stages of a practitioners’ progression. Rinzai Shu (Linji school) had already established a well-organized system like a school curriculum, illustrating the spiritual progression of a practitioner. In fact, if you read Mr. Suguru Arai’s “Evangelium according to Thomas” carefully, you will find it written there too.
I was 31 years old when I entered this world of Mu, and then 76 when I transposed into another world from there, into a beautiful world filled with full-blown flowers. After that, I made the decision to go back to the streets and mingle with the people when I was 77.5 years old.
Interestingly, every time I enter a new stage, my techniques would also change. Many strange techniques were born. Yes, our techniques change when our hearts and minds change.
Although the Ten Ox Herding Pictures end here, my opinion is that there is another eleventh stage after this, which is breaking out into another realm, or attaining a kind of super-consciousness, and these states also have stages of development in itself.
Let’s go back to talking about techniques and trainings. As you know, there is a word called “Tongo (sudden enlightenment)”. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was always thinking that there must be a way for people to develop themselves both spiritually and physically, cleanse and relax themselves internally and externally, and be in a sublime state or achieve enlightenment in just a second through Shintaido. I was wondering if there is a way to achieve such state of awareness in an instant, without having to train for years.
*Tongo: A Buddhist term. Achieving enlightenment suddenly without training for years.
With this in mind, one day, while I was doing Kumite (partner practice), receiving my partner’s attacks and throwing him again and again, my partner started moving at a furious speed. When the intensity of his movement reached the climax, it ended all of a sudden, and he entered a totally liberated state. All his movements had stopped, leaving him in a state of pure ecstasy and euphoria. Whenever my partner enters such a state, I would just let them lie down and rest, and their faces usually shine beautifully like a Buddha.
Do you remember that in the black and white video, we were doing this practice on the beach? I would let them lie down like that after they reach the height of the practice, do it with another student, and then let that student lie down afterwards too. Then, they would eventually fall asleep on the beach so pleasantly. I guess they break free from their straitjackets. And of course, even if it’s not Budo training, with any other exercise, if you lay down with both hands wide open on the beach after intense training, you will enter a very similar state.
Us humans tend to achieve a very liberated state all of a sudden when we reach the peak of a particular movement. And if we repeat it many many times, we will be able to reach that height instantly. So advanced practitioners are usually able to reach that state in 20 to 30 seconds or so, whereas not-so-advanced practitioners or those who are stubborn are never able to reach that state no matter how hard I try to guide them.
The human body is very interesting. Whether it be “runner’s high” or intense martial arts training, there is a certain point where you enter a liberated state of awareness. I created an exercise called “Meiso Kumite (Meditation Partner Practice)” for people to experience this state more easily through simple movement.
Is it “Wakame Taiso (Seaweed Exercise) ”?
Yes, it’s “Wakame Taiso (Seaweed Exercise)” and “Hikari Taiso (Light Exercise)”. It works better if your partner also initiates movements actively rather than just receiving in “Wakame Taiso”, so this combination of “Wakame Taiso” and “Hikari Taiso” works very well. Your partner tries to follow your movement actively in “Hikari Taiso” (you pull), and just fully receives in “Wakame Taiso” (you push). The pushing and pulling are polar opposites and therefore good to do both to create balance.
*Wakame Taiso (Seaweed Exercise)
One time, when I was 39, I was doing “Wakame Taiso” and “Hikari Taiso” with a British lady. And in a moment, she reached the height of the Kumite and entered a highly enlightened state. It was just about 20 or 30 seconds after we had started. I didn’t know what had happened to her, but the same thing happened to the next lady I did Kumite with again. And at that moment, I realized I had completed creating what I had been working on for over 10, 20 years. And at the same time, everything had finished. Everything I had been building and accumulating collapsed all of a sudden, and I totally burned out. This was right after I turned 39.
It was as if a woman that was impossible to get told you, “Okay, I will marry you” all of a sudden, but you fell out of love as soon as she accepted you (LOL). In other words, I was totally burnt out after I reached the goal I was seeking for years, just as a person who had only been dreaming of climbing Mt. Everest all his life reaching the summit. The writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa writes about a similar situation in his novel “Imogayu (Potato gruel)”.
I can speak normally like this now, but at that time, I couldn’t even show my face whenever the order-taker came to me. That is how much my heart was exhausted, and I didn’t know what had happened to me. Now, I know we call it burnout syndrome, but at that time, these syndromes weren’t as common as they are today. So I was suffering from burnout for many years, not being able to feel any self-confidence nor able to socialize with people.
So this is when you were already teaching as Founder of Shintaido?
Yes, of course. So I went to San Francisco to take a rest, after organizing the training program and telling my students what to practice. Since there was a Shintaido group in San Francisco already, all the students welcomed me with much respect and gathered around me all the time. However, I could not stand being surrounded by people although they were my beloved students, and decided to go to Los Angeles instead. But even there, I had many students coming to me, and finally decided to run away to Mexico.
Before I left Japan, I told my wife I will be back in about a month and a half to 3 months. But since I realized I don’t speak any Spanish, I started going to a Spanish Language School for a short term while in Mexico, and then went to visit Guatemala. Before taking off though, I got very ill in Mexico and lost 12kg. Becoming skin and bones, I was thinking whether I would be dying today or tomorrow, but in fact, I didn’t die that easily. So I decided why not die while traveling then, and started traveling around Central America without any plans.
After traveling in Central America for about 3 months and when I was about go back to Japan, people were excited with the news on Panama Canal handover. So I decided to go visit the Panama Canal before going back, and found out that just across the canal is South America. South America seemed vigorous and attractive, so I decided to fly to Colombia by plane. And this is how my long journey began. I visited Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and stayed in Brazil for 4 months. I had many friends in Brazil from when I was teaching Karate, so I started teaching Shintaido to Brazilians there, and even went on TV. As time passed, little by little, my heart, mind, and body started to recover and I was finally ready to go home.
Did you also teach Shintaido while you were traveling in Central and South America?
Not really. I was just traveling around because my spirit was totally weak and wanted to run away. This is strange, but at the time, I thought that martial arts is not a very nice thing to practice. You pretend to pull but push, pretend to move right and attack from the left, or thrust into the opponents’ unguarded area, and so forth. There’s so much deceiving in martial arts. Nothing is more odious than practicing how to deceive each other in martial arts (LOL). You find someone’s weak part and try to cut into that area. Normally, you would offer help to the weak, right? But in martial arts, you try to attack the weak unguarded areas, or deceive your opponent in order to attack. So I thought I have done so much bad in my life…just kidding. However, around this time, I was creating a system of practice for Bojutsu (Stick Fighting) based in Shintaido.
My opinion is, and I also say this to myself, that martial artists must be more worthy of gaining respect. As you know, chief priests and temple masters of big temples are highly respected, and people join their hands in prayer naturally toward somebody who has completed a 1000-day Circumambulation. In China, there is a Calligraphers Association run by professional calligraphers in every province, and the Director is highly respected and worshiped by the people.
However, even with years of severe training, martial artists are rarely respected in the same way. Even if a Judo medalist, Olympics medalist, or Karate World Champion walks on the street, who would clasp their hands together in prayer towards them? Nobody would. Why? I think us martial artists should take this more seriously. All the bad news we’ve been hearing on the news concerning the Judo world between last year and this year has been very disappointing.
To Part 4