Irimi and the Dalai Lama

So I’m a little behind in the news, mostly because I do not follow the news. Occasionally, though, there’s a nugget that meshes well with with our studies. That not even I would expect this one from the Dalai Lama just makes it all the more interesting:

From “Celebrity Supporters | Armed Forces Day

I have always admired those who are prepared to act in the defense of others for their courage and determination. In fact, it may surprise you to know that I think that monks and soldiers, sailors and airmen have more in common than at first meets the eye. Strict discipline is important to us all, we all wear a uniform and we rely on the companionship and support of our comrades.

Although the public may think that physical strength is what is most important, I believe that what makes a good soldier, sailor or airman, just as what makes a good monk, is inner strength. And inner strength depends on having a firm positive motivation. The difference lies in whether ultimately you want to ensure othersโ€™ well being or whether you want only wish to do them harm.

Naturally, there are some times when we need to take what on the surface appears to be harsh or tough action, but if our motivation is good our action is actually non-violent in nature. On the other hand if we use sweet words and gestures to deceive, exploit and take advantage of others, our conduct may appear agreeable, while we are actually engaged in quite unacceptable violence.

The ultimate purpose of Buddhism is to serve and benefit humanity, therefore I believe that what is important for Buddhists is the contribution we can make to human society according to our own ideas and values. The key to overcoming suffering and ensuring happiness is inner peace. If we have that we can face difficulties with calmness and reason, while our inner happiness remains undisturbed. The teachings of love, kindness and tolerance, the conduct of non-violence as I have explained above, and especially the Buddhist theory that all things are relative are a source of that inner peace.

It is my prayer that all of you may be able to do your duty and fulfil your mission and in due course when that is done to return to your homes and families.โ€

~ Dalai Lama

The emphasis added is my own.

In my experience, Aikido and Zen–or, Buddhism in a broader sense in this case–are predisposed to attract certain broad personality types, including pacifists, where here “pacifism” like many other –isms represents a fixed view. Given a fixed view, it is natural to project that view upon and to see it reaffirmed within your practices and daily life.

But there is something inherent in each of Aikido and Zen practice that defies holding such fixed views. An Aikido student’s notion of non-violence may be challenged the first time a punch lands solidly on her, while a Buddhist’s notion of violence may be challenged on his reading the Dalai Lama’s words above. With practice, perhaps you eventually see Aikido and Zen for what they truly are.

But perhaps that’s just my view…

So, just what are Aikido and Zen absent your view and my view?

O-Sensei and Bodhidharma are waiting on our responses…

By Joe

Puzzle Wrestler & Mountain Herder. Math & Computer Nerd since the 80s. Longtime linux (current debian, ubuntu, raspian, centos, gentoo), currently fighting feebsd. Over-complicates networks for fun, occasionally secures them for profit. Develops own tools & services (cli, web services, and lately some android). Degrees in Math, Belts in Aikido. Zen, Motorcycle, Ham Radio, Homebrew (Ale, not Radio), Coffee & Tea, some Mandolin & Fiddle, MDA Advocacy (son with Duchenne), โ€ฆ


  1. Fascinating – thank you for posting it; I don't generally look for or follow what he says. Yes, the paragraph you emphasized is very striking.

    I find myself of two minds however: on the one hand he is describing what an existentialist would call acting in "good faith" versus in "bad faith." In general this is an important part of how I, as an atheist, frame my ethics.

    On the other hand "if our motivation is good" is too easily a case of "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

    Just a first impression reaction here – there is much to think about. Thanks again for posting it.

  2. One stand-by question I would ask when encountering different AikiWeb folks after long discussions would be something like this: "As the bokken swings downward toward your head, what is real?" In that moment, there's no irimi because of this or tenkan because of that; there's not necessarily even time for an "Oh, shit!!!" But if you've practiced, whatever you've absorbed as your experience is all available to you—including perhaps an "Oh, shit!!!"—err, "kiai!" ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But similarly, whatever you've not practiced—for whatever the reason—is not available to you.

    We die for our beliefs, but that need not be the end of us. Do you see how?

    If we identify the word "intention" with "belief," we're in a similar boat. Intuitively, we understand that the "right reason" may be quite wrong. In some respects, though, if we do something for any reason, then that reason is precisely the wrong reason.

    However, if you must have a reason to do what you do, then by all means hold the intention to do good—whatever that means ๐Ÿ™‚

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