Spiritual teachings of Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido. 
Lectures by O Sensei from Mitsugi Saotome's book "The Principles of Aikido”.

The Importance of Learning.

"First you must gain insight into the natural world. You must learn to see the depths of its reality. If you glance casually over the things of this life, their real significance eludes you.

  "I want my students to observe all of life's phenomena. This includes listening to people, taking what is valuable from what they do and say and making it your own. All of this is raw material for your reflection and your inspiration. It can begin to open your soul. Paying attention to the realities of this world will lead you to fresh insights. If you make use of these insights in your daily life and contemplate the results, your life will become more orderly. Step by step you will raise your spiritual level. Preserving in this kind of honest and open-minded examination of yourself and the world will eventually enable you to grasp the divine wisdom and supreme consciousness that inhabit the material world. I want my students to accept life in all its forms as their teacher. If they succeed in doing this, they will grow in both depth and purity. The vital energy of nature is the greatest teacher of all.

  "Examine the orderly cycles of the sun, moon, and stars, the gradual change of the seasons, the flow of a river through an open valley, or the graceful movement of water as it rushes between rocks. You can learn to see parallel movements within your own body as well. You will also gain knowledge and progress toward true understanding by reading ancient texts and studying the many wonderful interpretations of them by teachers past and present. You must then translate the insights that you gain into your daily life and practice them through the way of bu. As you experience things on an increasingly deeper level, you must continually reexamine the truth of your understanding of reality and nature. Both the written and the spoken word will help you toward this goal. it is the task of the budoka to make what he learns new and to make it an integral part of himself. The student of budo cannot afford to overlook the fine arts or the sciences. Knowledge surrounds us in an infinite variety of forms. Do not slight any of them or take any of them lightly.

  "There is nothing in this world that cannot teach us. Some people, for example, will shy away from the teachings of religion. This is evidence that they have not grasped the deeper meanings of these teachings. Religious teachings contain much insight and wisdom. You must understand this and express your understanding through budo.

  "In my younger days, I became a convert of a certain religion, and in one of its songs I discovered a phrase concerning "the plum flower that blossoms once in three spiritual worlds." First, the five petals of the plum blossom represent the five forms of universal energy: earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. If you think of the plum blossom in this way, you will discover in this phrase a lesson about the universe itself. You can see the plum blossom as an actual manifestation of the universal spirit. Also, in the way that the plum blossom opens once and never again you can see the reflection of the unique beginning of creation. Looked at differently, the opening of the plum blossom represents the opening of the rock door of heaven told of in Japanese mythology.

  "This world is actually a complete manifestation of Heaven and Earth. We, as human beings created in the same divine, universal image, must make this earth into a truly heavenly place. We must complete and perfect human society. It is important that the people who train themselves in budo encompass the universe within themselves. The mission of Aikido is to achieve this harmony with the universe. To accomplish this must become your whole mind and heart."

The Purpose of Aikido.

"I wonder if you grasp the real purpose of Aikido? It is not merely training yourself in the techniques of bujutsu. Its other purpose is the creation of a world of beauty, grace, and elegance. It is to make this world a better place, a world of joy. As I am always saying, God gave us this world, and the world is all one family. We have the continued privilege of enjoying its beauty and splendour. It is our obligation, as human beings, to establish a society that does justice to that beauty and splendour. Our goal in budo is not merely to protect ourselves. We must accept the gift of the divine love of God and constantly strive to honour that gift by nurturing the changes that will bring happiness to the world. If we truly honour the sacred heart of budo, we must work for peace, for a world without quarrels, without misery, without conflict. This is the real reason that we practice Aikido. Aikido is a way of making the universal principle clear. Its purpose is to create a reasonable and logical world. The society that harmoniously combines body and mind produces a world of unity. We ourselves must take the responsibility to realize the heart and mind of God.

  "We cannot place exclusive importance on either the material or the spiritual world. In reality they are one and the same thing. The modern age has witnessed great progress in the physical sciences, but the science of the soul and spirit lags very far behind. The development of the spirit is not only a very important part of the true mission of science. It is the inescapable responsibility imposed on us by our very existence, an existence that comes from God and is therefore bound to his purpose. It is our duty as aikidoka to strive to understand that divine intelligence and employ that understanding in order to practice Aikido as the great and universal science of life that it is. All of us carry a piece of the purpose of God within us, and we must do our utmost to accomplish this purpose. We cannot allow ourselves to forget or ignore our divine and original ancestor. To accomplish the divine purpose is the reason that we are alive.

  "In other words, we must never allow ourselves to forget the concept of chushin, our centre. All things are controlled by the stability and the quality of their center, the place where their being is born. We may call this place the life force, or kannagara, the universal flow of divine consciousness. Whatever you wish to call it, it is the force that comes from our hara. The only "original" sin is to lose this connection with our origin and to be oblivious to the great gift of our life. To forget your true nature is the beginning of a greedy attachment to life, which is the beginning of sin. This is the root of all chaos in modern society. Our life, as human beings, is blessed even beyond that of other forms of life. If you do not acknowledge this, you force disorder and chaos upon nature. We must not forget our obligation as human beings. That obligation is to create the paradise that is this world's true form.

  "Once we are truly aware of the universal plan and its divine purpose, we no longer have any real choice but to apprentice ourselves to the service of this most superb and sacred endeavor. This is the essence and heart of budo, and it is the principle aim of Aikido. When we become aware that our life is a gift from the divine consciousness of the infinite universe, we come to realize our true nature as children of God. We were born on this earth so that the great task of our creator might be fulfilled. To work for its accomplishment is our own greatest fulfilment as well.

  "In Japan, the feeling of shame is regarded as a certain kind of sensitivity and, therefore, a virtue. How can we not feel shame if we ignore our divine nature and our true purpose in life? This is the origin of all shame. Real understanding of Aikido will only come about through daily purification (misogi) and through constantly striving for the creation of a better world. Where a centre exists, it implies all that surrounds it.

  "If our centre is strong, however, the distinction between the centre and its periphery disappears. We no longer see inside and outside as two entities but as parts of a whole. They serve the same function, and work for the same ultimate purpose. The infinite universe and the way of Aiki are the light that signals the dawn of the consciousness of human beings."

Aiki No Kurai (aiki consciousness).

"Saotome, if you wish to understand aiki no kurai, study the world of nature. Think of how an eagle, flying high in the sky, is able to catch fish which swim beneath the water's surface. From the shore, where we must stand, the current of the ocean distorts our view; yet from high aloft the eagle sees the fish, indeed, the shadows of the fish, as if they were reflected in a mirror. The eagle plucks the fish from the water as easily as we might pick up a stone on an open plain. Likewise, the eagle cannot match the swift-footed rabbit on the ground, but from the sky he easily follows the rabbit's course. Aiki no kurai is not only a teaching of the martial arts, but a lesson of nature itself. Nature is also our dojo. The intricate variations of the seasons, the beauty of the flowers in the field are our teachers, and they lead us to the highest consciousness of aiki. Any serious student of Aikido must observe the phenomena of the universe in motion to find the meaning of their study. As you come to understand these phenomena, you must apply your understanding to your practice of budo. This is my teaching.

On an occasion on which O Sensei lectured to a religious group.
O Sensei said,

"The demonstration of Aikido that I just gave to you may have given you the impression of an old man playing with children. There is much truth in this impression. Unless you bring a sense of pleasure and of fun to your Aikido practice, the truth of Aikido is difficult to attain. I take great pleasure in my pursuit of the path of the gods. Aikido must be a dance of the gods. Remember the myth of "Ama no iwata biraki," the opening of the rock door of heaven. In this ancient story Amaterasu Omi Kami, the sun goddess, hid herself in a cave and sealed it with a door of stone, and the whole world became veiled in darkness. In order to bring light back to the world the other gods devised a plan. They staged a dancing drama in front of the door to Amaterasu's cave. As they danced and celebrated, the sounds of their laughter and enjoyment reached the goddess's ears, and she opened the door a tiny way, curious to see what revels were going on outside her cave. At that moment, Teji Kara no Mikoto, the god of incomparable strength, pushed open the rock door and led Amaterasu back out into the world, and the world was once again filled with her light. This old story provides a lesson concerning the duty of budo. Just as the strong god brought Amaterasu's light back into the world, budoka must work to create a paradise on this earth, to bring light to the world's people. This is the true purpose of budo. Just as you, who follow the teachings of your religion, all pray for peace and human happiness, the Aikido of Ueshiba works for precisely the same goal. In the eyes of God all of humanity is one family.

  "The young students who participated in this demonstration with me are shihan-dai. I send them to teach at universities and military academies. When they venture out on their own, they will become great teachers and aikidoka. Yet even then they will have far to go to master the real depths of their study. I myself am still a student of the way. The wisdom and the laws of God are immeasurable and unfathomably deep.

  "You might ask what is the most important thing in Aikido training. It is to look at yourself, your innermost soul. The reality of your own life must surely lead you back to its origins, to the beginning of the universe. If you succeed in doing this, you will intuitively realize that your past, present and future, already integral parts of your being, are manifestations of the divine will and the love of God. Each of the individual cells of your body carries a map of the divine plan of creation. Because of this we can realize directly the great love of the creator. Universal consciousness is our birthright. We must go beyond all antagonism and disunity. This is what constitutes aiki no kurai.

  "I would like to show you the kotodama of Aikido and the kagura mai, the dance of the gods as they stand on the floating bridge of heaven. It has been a long time since I performed this kagura mai. When performed with the spear, it symbolises the working of the creative energy of the universe. It portrays the divine inspiration of the Kojiki, the legends of origin of Japanese mythology. It is the scientific laws of the universe represented through bu. The secret toward which this old man is training himself is the way to open the rock door that shuts the light away from the human mind. It is to change the world of war and ignorance into a world of divine light. It is to improve the spiritual quality of all human beings and to open their intuitive consciousness. This is the purpose of the original bu, which has been reborn as Aikido. That is why I call Aikido the budo of love. It is receiving the spirit of God.

  "Neither budo nor religion seeks only individual salvation. Their higher mission is the search for peace and harmony for the whole human race. Reading prayers and scriptures does not suffice. We must express this consciousness through our actions. This is the spirit and the intent of budo. The path must be of universal love for all sentient beings. Science has already produced enough weapons to destroy the whole world, yet the science of the spirit is miserably underdeveloped. As a result uneasiness and fear are omnipresent in modern society. But aiki is also omnipresent, and it is eternal; it is the function of life energy itself. Aikido was born of a deep wish to realize the unity of humankind and to tap the power of the harmony of creation and the true nature of the human spirit.

© Aikido Alive U.K.