of aiki shrines and fellowship gardens
In June of this year when Nadeau sensei’s group visited the Aiki Shrine in Iwama, there was a very tangible sense that Osensei passed through. When I later talked to Nadeau sensei about this he indicated that it was too bad that the situation didn’t allow us to hang out with or sit with this very special energy. The events that were planned for the day and the size of the group would have made this very difficult. Even though it was a magical time on a magical day, there is something about Japan where one thing just moves onto another. I think Osensei’s spirit is available to us at all times, but the location was an ideal one for just immersing, and that just didn’t happen.
I’ve only had one other comparable experience. It was in Encinitas, California, at the Self-Realization Fellowship Gardens. When I first started aikido many of the students and teachers were influenced strongly by the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. I read his “Autobiography of a Yogi” and was very moved by the life of this incredible man. For a couple of years I studied some of his lessons put out by the Self-Realization Fellowship. So I’ve always felt a deep connection to him.
In 1994 I was in San Diego for a 2 week healing intensive. We had a scheduled day of recreation at the beach. On the way the people in the car I was in decided to make a quick side trip to the SRF Friendship Garden in Encinitas. As we entered the garden a part of me sensed something vast was going to happen. It was in late summer and the flowers, plants, and trees were just so alive. There were just colors that were so vivid. Anyway, I found a place on the lawn where I wouldn’t be blocking anyones path and just sat. I believe I was there for about an hour. The others in the group probably sensed something was happening with me and just let me be. As I closed my eyes, it was as if everything in the garden stll existed but in a state of animated colors . The colors in this state were even more brilliant. A huge white bird flew into the scene, landed, opened its wings, turned around and became Yogananda. Remembering his Autobiography, I asked him, as he had his teacher Sri yukteshwar, to show me God. He touched me on the chest and I felt my breath stop. It is the only time in my life that I have been in a breathless state. There was a sense of endless expansion. Things were both dark and cool and bright and alive.. I was able just to commune with Yogananda’s spirit for the hour. At the end he told me that if I ever needed him, to just call.
When I opened my eyes, one of the group said “Boy, I wish you could have seen your face when you were meditating! Fortunately, I got a picture with my camera.” It turned out later that though she had taken a picture, there was no film in the camera. So I’ll just have to take her word for how I looked when I was in that state of communion. Even though the setting in Iwama was very different, the experience, though shorter, was similar. I guess that is what it is like when a major presence passes through.
The following video was shot in 1992 at our old location in Japantown, San Jose. It was the April 26th annual training and ceremony commemorating Osensei's passing. I was taught a little iaido by Hikitsuchi sensei, then later studied him doing a demonstration at the Hongu Grand Shrine. I picked up most of it by studying his movement on film.