Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Reality of War : War is violence and violence is unpredictable

The Dalai Lama, in an excellent analysis of the Reality of War, clearly states that although he is personally deeply opposed to war, he does not advocate appeasement in front of unjust aggression. 

I want to make it clear, however, that although I am deeply opposed to war, I am not advocating appeasement. It is often necessary to take a strong stand to counter unjust aggression. For instance, it is plain to all of us that the Second World War was entirely justified. It "saved civilization" from the tyranny of Nazi Germany, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it. In my view, the Korean War was also just, since it gave South Korea the chance of gradually developing democracy. But we can only judge whether or not a conflict was vindicated on moral grounds with hindsight. For example, we can now see that during the Cold War, the principle of nuclear deterrence had a certain value. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to assess al such matters with any degree of accuracy. War is violence and violence is unpredictable. Therefore, it is better to avoid it if possible, and never to presume that we know beforehand whether the outcome of a particular war will be beneficial or not.

A similar position is developed by Yagyu Munenori in his Heiho Kandesho : It is sometimes justified to kill a dangerous man to preserve the life of others. 

This kind of position is delicate. What exactly does constitute a threat ? If somebody verbally threatens to kill you, does that threat justify killing him in self defense ? 

If a country threatens to nationalize some of the assets owned by corporations of another country, is it justified to attack them to defend the interests of these corporations ? 

If a group of fanatics in a part of the world uses chemical weapons to kill civilians in the context of a civil war, is it a threat that justifies "punishment" ? 

Would this punishment really punish the guilty ones ? Would this punishment really prevent the recurrence of such an horror, or could it exacerbate it ?

War is violence and violence is unpredictable. Therefore, it is better to avoid it if possible, and never to presume that we know beforehand whether the outcome of a particular war will be beneficial or not.

The only people who gain anything out of any kind of war are the shareholders and employees of corporations of the armament industry and the politicians receiving funds from these corporations.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Kuan Yin

Kuan Yin (also spelled Guan Yin, Kwan Yin) is the bodhisattva of compassion venerated by East Asian Buddhists. Commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin is also revered by Chinese Taoists as an Immortal. The name Kuan Yin is short for Kuan Shih Yin (Guan Shi Yin) which means "Observing the Sounds of the World".

In Japanese, Kuan Yin is called Kannon or more formally Kanzeon; the spelling Kwannon, resulting from an obsolete system of romanization, is sometimes seen. In Korean, she is called Kwan-um or Kwan-se-um. In Vietnamese, she is called Quan Âm or Quan Thế Âm Bồ Tát.

Kuan Yin is the Chinese name for the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. However, folk traditions in China and other East Asian countries have added many distinctive characteristics and legends. Most notably, while Avalokitesvara can be depicted as either male or female, Kuan Yin is usually depicted as a woman, whereas Avalokitesvara in other countries is usually depicted as a man.

I always had a personal appreciation for Kwan Yin, for I believe she is the oldest goddess in the world. Her other names are Isis, Ishtar, Marie and Myriam, among others, and we have representations of her dating from way before humans could write...

The Venus of Brassempouy - 25,000 BP
This Satue of Kwan Yin moved to the Mokurai Garden last July. She greets me and I bow to her everymorning morning on my way to the Dojo.

John Blofeld wrote about her in a beautiful book :

She is the embodiment of selfless love, the supreme symbol of radical compassion, and, for more than a millennium throughout Asia, she has been revered as “The One Who Hearkens to the Cries of the World.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The unification of Japan

The second half of the 16th century saw the final unification of Japan.

3 men of exception carried out this amazing task.

  • Oda Nobunaga (1534 – 1582)
  • Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537 – 1598)
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616)

One of the various warlords plundering the land which was only nominally under the authority of an emperor isolated in Kyoto, Nobunaga began the process of unification.

Nobunaga only united about 30 % of Japan. He had given momentum for is successors but was assassinated by one of his disgruntled generals in 1582. 

Both Hideyoshi and Tokugawa were his faithful vassals. 

Hideyoshi,  a military genius, was the son of a farmer. He raised in the military through his own valor. He has often been compared to Napoleon. Practically, Hideyoshi achieved the process of unification.  In 1590, he was controlling most of Japan.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was a general and vassal of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. After Hideyoshi's death in 1598, Ieyasu got rid of his son and installed the Tokugawa shogunate that would last 250 years. 

There is a Japanese saying: "Nobunaga pounds the national rice cake, Hideyoshi kneads it, and in the end Ieyasu sits down and eats it."

Friday, September 6, 2013


There is a vast potential, latent within human beings that remains undiscovered because of the limitation placed on consciousness by habitual preoccupations. 

The recommendation that all cravings be relinquished does not mean that detachment itself is a goal; it is a means of breaking through self-imposed restrictions and opening up this inexhaustible treasury of potential.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle.

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

This is generally attributed to the Buddha.  

If you try to figure out when and where He said that, from which Sutra it comes from, you better be patient and ready to never find it ! 

It is a common use to attribute to famous people words someone less famous said... Lao Tzu, Confucius, Abraham Lincoln and Einstein, among many others, are also credited with lots of apparently deep things they probably never said. 

Go figure...

Years ago, before I moved to the US, I suffered from depression. It lasted several month. It sucked. Nothing mattered to me anymore. The only time I was able to forget about my misery was when I would get on a mat to teach or study Ju Jitsu or Kendo. 

Once a month I would drive to Paris to study Ju Jitsu under Master Rolland Hernaez. I was just 1st degree black belt then. 

One night I had been driving 2 1/2 hours under rain and slit to get there, wondering why I was doing this, feeling sorry for myself - depression does that to you... I had arrived early at the Dojo and was changing clothes, by myself in the dressing room. Sensei Hernaez opened the door to see who was there. He looked at me, said nothing, and smiled - a big smile. I suppose he was happy to see me there. 

All of a sudden, my sorriness gone. Light had chased the darkness away. 

He must have been 7th Degree Black belt in Ju Jitsu back then. (Not counting his ranks in Karate, Judo and Aikido...) I was just a shodan, and this great Man  smiled at me... He did not have to do it, but he did and it made a big difference in my life.

Never waste an occasion to smile to people. It's easy to do, it is free to you, and you never know what you can bring them.