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Asking for Simplicity

Kawaraban No. 29


by Kenji Shimizu

I wish you a very happy New Year. Every year I spend the turn of the year at home, but especially this year I was taken by surprise about the people and their fading New Year’s mood. I hardly could find any New Year’s decoration in my neighborhood. Also Japan has begun to change, I thought to myself.

Some people lament over the loss of the typical New Year we had until now, but I do prefer simplicity. There is a saying: ‘As long as your heart is filled with bad thoughts, the way of the warrior will not lead to strength’. In this sense simplicity frees your mind. But especially the Japanese are living in a society, where you show a defined facial expression (‘tatemae society’). The true intention always steps back, and things will be said with the ‘tatemae face’. You could call this as well a society of untruthfulness. If only lies are being spread, our country will count for nothing any longer worldwide. Of course there are limits even to real intentions. Surely there would be a positive effect on our children, who will carry the future of Japan upon their shoulders, if we would live in simplicity and would show our real intensions.

Recently I read a paragraph in the book of monk Yamada Mumon of the Rinzai sect, which caught by my eyes.

< Buddha Shakjamuni gathered small pieces of cotton, which had been thrown away by people, sew them together and wore this garment made out of rags. He named it `field, that generates happiness`, meaning, that a monk should become a rice paddy, that produces happiness for people.

Thus monks let weave special brocade fabrics, which will be ripped before being sewn together. People wearing such splendid garments in seven or nine layers on top of each other might be called crazy.

What’s more the monk’s society is structured into ranks like bishop and priests, culminating in discrimination by color, although they pass on Buddha’s teachings about the equality of all human beings. Which is quite absurd.

Well, aikido, too, becomes more difficult the longer you practice.

It is similar to the previously mentioned simple self. Freeing oneself from the state of mutual influence of body and mind, getting rid of the ego, which distinguishes between other people and oneself. When you slip into the opponent, you can move freely, and without sticking to forms merging with the opponent.

Your shoulders should be free of any tension all the time.

My wish for this year is to come closer to this state of mind – if only a little.

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein and Peter Nawrot 01/2003