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Thread: mokuso question

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    Default mokuso question

    I'm curious if anyone has any comments or knowledge about silently reciting norito, kun, or some kind of maxim during dojo mokuso (meditation before/after keiko).

    I believe this is the case, for the instructor at least, in some if not many traditional dojo.

    A friend passed on to me something titled "gosei", which is such a maxim, apparently recited silently in kendo. Following is the romaji followed by my loose translation:

    Gosei

    Hitotsu, shisei ni motoru nakarishika

    Hitotsu, genko ni hazuru nakarishika

    Hitotsu, kiryoku ni kakuru nakarishika

    Hitotsu, doryoku ni urami nakarishika

    Hitotsu, busho ni wataru nakarishika

    **

    Five points to reflect (self examination)

    Item: did I oppose my own sincere integrity?

    Item: did I speak or act in ways that were disgraceful (shameful)?

    Item: did I neglect the cultivation of vital energy (ki power)?

    Item: did I avoid strenuous exertion?

    Item: was I indolent (lazy)?


    I've been generally told to "clear my mind and focus on the upcoming tasks/previous instruction" while taking mokuso. I've heard some dojo, like karate, recite verbally a kun or maxim instead of using silent mokuso. I've further heard that some classical styles recite Shinto norito of some sort.

    Any comments appreciated - don't feel obigated to paste the exact content of your "gosei" if doing so is not comfortable. Just curious how common this is.

    Regards,

    [edited translation to reflect the intended past tense]
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 16th January 2002 at 20:09.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

  2. #2
    Yamantaka Guest

    Cool Re: mokuso question

    Originally posted by Nathan Scott
    I'm curious if anyone has any comments or knowledge about silently reciting norito, kun, or some kind of maxim during dojo mokuso (meditation before/after keiko).
    I believe this is the case, for the instructor at least, in some if not many traditional dojo.
    Any comments appreciated - don't feel obigated to paste the exact content of your "gosei" if doing so is not comfortable. Just curious how common this is.
    Regards,
    YAMANTAKA : Just repeating what I learned from one of my sensei, many years ago...
    MOKUSO is wrongly understood, in the West, as "Meditation". It isn't. It is more similar to mind and body relaxation. As you relax your body, you relax your mind. Since it is very difficult to "empty the mind" (stop thinking), I was taught that instead of the myriad thoughts that crowd our minds, I should try first to concentrate in one thought (the wind, the singing of a bird, the sound of a machine...) and try to progressively relax the mind.
    Of course, concentrate in just a norito might be a way but I believe the problem of emiting and thinking about the norito is much more troublesome than listening to the sound of a bird...
    IMHO

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    Default

    Ubaldo-san,

    Hmmm, sounds kind of like meditation! Anyway, this is more convenient a term than "mind, body & spirit calming break"!



    Thanks for the input.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Good topic, Nathan. I hope we see more posts. In kendo practice, I usually pray (being a Christian) or try to empty my mind with breathing meditation. I either recite a mantra ("maranatha," breathe in on the "mara" and out on the "natha") or try to counting meditation. That's where I try to count concentrating only on the numbers. Once my mind wanders, I start over at 1. Usually sounds like this in my head:

    1... 2... cold water... d'oh!

    1... 2... that was a good kote - d'oh!

    1... sex... d'oh!

    1... 2... food... d'oh!
    We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular. Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula.

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    Nathan - A very good question indeed. I have also been taught that the moksou was a cleansing technique of sorts to prepare for the upcoming practice or battle or what have you. Also in my Dojo we did a mokuso at the end of our practice as well as before and after a doing a Kata. I found it to be a great calmer before doing a Kata infront of my Sensei or before a test.
    I never really did any sort of mantra but I did try to find my own center of calm.
    Last edited by Markaso; 25th January 2002 at 23:49.
    Mark Posselius

    Yep, and the practice goes on!!!

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    My understanding of mokuso is more toward those posters who reflected a stillness or emptying of the mind. Rather than a checklist or a mantra, more of a conscious stilling of the ripples in our spiritual pond. Definitely connected to training, but usually following training, as we do it, but both are acceptable. So is a personal meditation. We really use it as a quieting time for students to use as they wish.

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    Mr. Gillespie - Nicely said! Before or after or both, All I think are acceptable. I know I need and enjoy a good Mokuso.
    Mark Posselius

    Yep, and the practice goes on!!!

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    looking at the characters that are used to write mokusou, you get:

    "moku", meaning "silence; to become silent"
    "sou", meaning "to imagine; to turn thoughts over in one's mind"

    in that sense, "silent mokusou" is a good example of redundancy. it also sounds rather strange to discuss talking during mokusou, since such a thing represents a contradiction.

    Mr. Scott, i'm afraid i don't have any direct knowledge of various spoken rituals during martial arts training, but i have certainly read about them here at E-Budo (e.g. i'm pretty sure Toby Threadgill has made mention of this practice in his dojo). is it your impression that such rituals replace the practice of mokusou, or that both practices are followed in conjunction? it would be interesting to hear from you and others on this point.

    warning: nitpicking thread drift dead ahead!

    Yamantaka-sama, i think you raise a very important point as well, but i think that your claim that mokusou is not "meditation" might sooner be applied to the practice of zazen. my little exercise in etymology suggests that one may think of anything that one likes during mokusou, in fact turn those thoughts over in one's head quite actively. your "focus on one thought" seems very similar to what i've heard about Rinzai sect zazen. perhaps Mr. Kondek's prayers have something in common with this. in either case, the practitioner is actively manipulating their own thoughts, and as Mr. Scott says we might as well call this meditation.

    on the other hand, Mr. Gillespie's description is pretty much my (very limited) experience with Soto sect zazen: in essence, not thinking of anything in particular. Soto zazen really does differ from meditation in that way; it is "sitting for the sake of sitting". like Mr. Gillespie, i tend to use my mokusou (we do it at beginning and end of jo class) for this purpose of allowing myself to become calm. much like dust suspended in a glass of water, you can do nothing to the glass to move the dust to the bottom. you can only wait for the dust to settle as the water and gravity allow.

    my apologies, Mr. Scott, for dragging this thread way off topic. for what it's worth, i hope to hear more information regarding your original question.
    Jeff Hamacher
    Those who speak do not know,
    Those who know will not speak ...
    So I guess that means I don't know a thing!

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    Hello,

    is it your impression that such rituals replace the practice of mokusou, or that both practices are followed in conjunction?
    To be honest, I'm not really sure, which is why I thought I'd throw it up here.

    My main training has been under Obata Toshishiro sensei. During his class, mokuso is called briefly, and we are taught that this is the time we use to clear our minds of whatever stress, tension and/or mental activity we have accumulated over the day. This is intended to allow us to focus fully on the forthcoming training, which is important for learning and for safety.

    After class, mokuso is called briefly, and we are taught that we are to play back what was taught during training, as well as any specific corrections that were offered. This mokuso at the end of class may include verbal comments from the Instructor (Obata sensei in this case), in which he may re-emphasize a principle or point, or simply recite the names of what was gone over during class that night.

    I've adopted this application of mokuso in my own dojo, as it makes sense to me, and well... it is how I was taught.

    I believe that there are some traditions that, at least at some stage of the instructor's initiation, include silent (spoken in the mind only) recitation of some kind of scripture. I can think of two cases in which I believe this practice is adhered to, and both of them have a shinzen at their shomen. So perhaps in these traditions it is some kind of Shinto norito - perhaps adapted to fit within the context of the tradition (like a harai).

    As long as we're yacking, here is another aspect to consider in regards to this question.

    It would seem that mokuso is fairly common in modern budo, and is typically translated as "meditation; contemplation."

    However, there is another term that is sometimes used, perhaps by older traditions, called "mokuto". Until a couple of years ago, I thought it was the same term altered slightly to fit within various Japanese regional dialects. It turned out that mokuto uses different kanji than mokuso, and means "a silent [tacit] prayer; a silent tribute."

    Mokuso is clearing and/or focusing the mind, while mokuto is silent recitation

    So this is probably where the division is made. A better question, I guess, might be to ask "what arts/dojo use the term mokuto?"

    Any further insight by anyone?

    Regards,
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 29th January 2002 at 06:53.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Hi Nathan,

    What I've been taught mokuso is used for concentrating/focusing on training.
    George Kohler

    Genbukan Kusakage dojo
    Dojo-cho

  11. #11
    Yamantaka Guest

    Cool THE QUESTIONS CONTINUES...

    Originally posted by Jeff Hamacher
    looking at the characters that are used to write mokusou, you get:
    "moku", meaning "silence; to become silent"
    "sou", meaning "to imagine; to turn thoughts over in one's mind"

    Yamantaka-sama, i think you raise a very important point as well, but i think that your claim that mokusou is not "meditation" might sooner be applied to the practice of zazen. my little exercise in etymology suggests that one may think of anything that one likes during mokusou, in fact turn those thoughts over in one's head quite actively. your "focus on one thought" seems very similar to what i've heard about Rinzai sect zazen. perhaps Mr. Kondek's prayers have something in common with this. in either case, the practitioner is actively manipulating their own thoughts, and as Mr. Scott says we might as well call this meditation.
    YAMANTAKA : Mokuso might also be translated as "Imagine nothing(silence)", in which case, to "actively manipulate one's own thoughts" would be senseless.
    On another point, what I said was that the translation of Mokuso in the West was incorrect,in my opinion,as many other japanese words. Perhaps a better translation would be "Mental relaxation" or "Quiet Mind". But, of course, this translation of Mokuso as "Meditation" is widespread and usually accepted without much thinking.
    My thanks for a very good post. I hope some other people, like Dr. Goldsbury do come in to enlighten us still more.
    Best

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    Mr. Scott - Maybe, and I think I might be reaching here a bit but I think that the practice of mokuto might be practiced by the Dojos that might have a Buddist link or it may be the head Senseis upbringing with a Buddist background as for you question:

    "So this is probably where the division is made. A better question, I guess, might be to ask "what arts/dojo use the term mokuto?"


    We might want to ask, it could be easier, what arts/dojo are more apt to use the practice of Mokusou? Maybe we could get the answer to your question a little faster this way.
    Then go on to your original question. I think that this plan of questioning might bring up som interesting information.
    Last edited by Markaso; 29th January 2002 at 14:51.
    Mark Posselius

    Yep, and the practice goes on!!!

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    Post more etymology

    Yamantaka,

    the term mokusou may be interpreted to mean a number of things, i suspect. for example, your teacher says that mokusou is not "meditation" as it's understood in the so-called "West". fair enough. as the posts in this thread indicate, each dojo appears to have its own method, so to speak, and in some sense everyone is correct in their method. i'm not going to argue with people who have many more years of experience in martial arts or far deeper understandings of japanese culture than i can ever hope to.

    on the other hand, my point was that the character sou itself has the meanings that i listed above. its principal meaning, as i understand it from my dictionary, is "to think of/consider many thoughts at once". silently considering various thoughts, to me, can be called meditation. i think that etymology backs up my opinion on this, but as i said above, i believe that there must be many different practices of mokusou. thus, we can agree to amicably disagree.

    Mark,

    mokutou is defined in the Kojien quite simply as "silent prayer". the definition makes no specific reference to Buddhism. this appears to differ from norito in that the latter is read or spoken aloud, at least according to the definition i have.
    Jeff Hamacher
    Those who speak do not know,
    Those who know will not speak ...
    So I guess that means I don't know a thing!

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    Mr.Hamacher -

    You have a very good point indeed. The difference between Mokusou and Mokutou might not be at all that diffierent. But I do know that some sects, here in Japan, do a chant of types with their eyes shut. I heard the term for that a while ago and that was Mokutou. The person that was explaining it to me might not have given me the right word. I may stand corrected but I will look into it though and see what I can find out. Stay tuned.

    As I said before to Mr. Scott:
    "Maybe, and I think I might be reaching here a bit but I think that the practice of mokutou might be practiced by the Dojos that might have a Buddist link or it may be the head Senseis upbringing with a Buddist background ".
    Mark Posselius

    Yep, and the practice goes on!!!

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    FWIW, the simple translations I offered above came from Kenkyusha's New English-Japanese Dictionary (what is "Kojien"? Did you mean to write "Kojiten"?).

    Mokuso and mokuto are not interchangable terms, I know that much. They do have a slightly different function. I do agree that medititation is not always "thoughtless". Perhaps this is zazen, but one type of meditation is that in which you focus on a single subject, as opposed to the typical juggling of things on the back-burner of your mind. Some meditation is designed to enhance your senses.

    I think it is safe to say that mokuso serves a useful function in martial arts. Mokuto might be more of a continued tradition though, but keep in mind that the instructor is the only one that seems to be in on the "silent prayer". The rest of the students appear to be basically doing mokuso. Perhaps the "silent prayer" part of it is considered optional for students. Recite 'em if you got 'em?

    Regards,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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