Silence's wonderful flavour
When Shimamoto Katsuyuki Sensei (7th Dan Aikikai and Zen priest) was young, he spent a long period of time in a zen monastery. When Sensei visited us in Israel just a few weeks ago, he spoke about his experience as a student of O-Sensei and also about his life as a zen monk.
My wife asked him about life in a zen monastery, and he told us that he cherishes his memories of many hours of hard work and meditation. He said that everyone used to go to sleep very early, in order to wake up at about 4:30am for morning work and meditation. The young monks have to wake up even earlier - at 2:30am, and to clean the whole temple so it will be shining and ready for the morning meditation. The rest of the monks still have two more hours of precious sleep, so the monks who wake up in the middle of night, have to be careful and silent. Each movement has a certain method (saho in Japanese). How to walk, how to stand and kneel, a way to fill the bucket with water, a way to spread water, a way to wipe the wooden floor, a way to squeeze the cloth... just like martial arts' kata. Of course, while quietly cleaning, no one is allowed to speak, not even whisper. It is time for cleaning the temple and the heart.
In the Zen monastery, it is also not allowed to speak while dining together in the dining room. The monks eat quietly their modest and simple vegetarian food.
Shimamoto Sensei's wife was listening quietly the whole time, and then she said: "when we eat in silence, we sometimes can discover a wonderful flavour".
Her words struck me. I was amazed by the deep meaning of these words, and I suddenly came to understand several things that were in my mind in the past few years.
A couple of years ago, I visited in Los Angeles to train and teach in a memorial seminar for O-Sensei and Furuya Sensei. Furuya Sensei was a great friend and teacher. In his dojo in Little Tokyo - Los Angeles, just above O-Sensei's photo, I saw an ancient Japanese calligraphy with the words: Shusei (practice serenity)
Fujita Sensei once told us: "A good dojo is a dojo with three qualities - The dojo must be clean, the dojo must have O-Sensei's image of photo hanging high enough so it can be viewed by everyone while training, and a dojo with people who train quietly. Since the day he said so, about four years ago, I have been trying to convey this message to my students, and training really became more quiet and more fruitful.
In silent training, we can find something wonderful.
Lets find a wonderful flavour in serenity.
When we begin our class and end it, we always sit quietly for a few seconds. At that time we have to look at O-Sensei's photo and remember that he is the one who created aikido. While looking at his image, we should try to realize those things that Aikido training gives birth to. At that time, we feel deep gratitude to O-Sensei. Thanks to him we are here together now, developing ourselves and our society through sincere aikido training. All thanks to him. To show our deep gratitude and respect we make a common Japanese gesture - a deep bow.
Please have a wonderful summer.