潜 Moguri: Diving Into Infinite Courage

Racing Gravity, photo by cmaccubbin
There is a secret to 潜 moguri gata. It is of the deepest importance, yet is not taught. It is expected that the students find it for themselves, yet, how many do?

To confront death and enter. Diving down into the chaos of a moment in combat despite the danger of an upraised sword or hail of gunfire… Soke calls this 沈勇不動 chinyuu fudou, a composed and unwavering courage in diving. He compares it to a bird diving into water (more on waterbirds in moment...).

To nurture this courage we must understand the reality of what we are diving into. If we can grasp this meaning, we will understand it is more than blind faith or courage, but rather a strategy for survival and victory.

When we dive down we are diving into infinity of life and death contained in ourselves, in our opponent, and in that eternal instant. The instant that contains a swinging blade, but also is empty. The instant erupting with gunfire, but also forever silent. We are part of that same space.

One of my favorite poems captures this spirit in a waterfowl:

The Little Duck
By Donald C. Babcock
Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn’t a gull.
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree.
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you.  He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity—which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
He has made himself a part of the boundless, by easing himself into it just where it
touches him.
There is a very big secret in that poem. When you enter with this knowledge, or even, this truth… You make a space for yourself in infinity in which you can be safe. The kukan expands to protect you.

I know this sounds very philosophical… and it is. But it is also what lies behind something as basic as 潜 moguri gata.

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