WORD ORIGINS, GENIUS AND KONKO DAIJIN

BY

ROBERT PAOLINELLI

One of the first rules one learns when studying linguistics is that all languages change all of the time. One need not look too far back to test this rule. Just pick up any work of literature of the 19th Century, and the above rule will be confirmed. If you want further confirmation, read anything from the Elizabethan era--Shakespeare, for example; or, if you still want further proof, try reading Chaucer in the original 13th Century English and you will have to acquiesce to the regularity of this fundamental rule. This rule can be applied to most languages, too, and is not limited to English.

When it comes to the changes in the meaning of individual words, this same rule of linguistics also holds true. Many words fall out of use, often disappearing altogether; some words change meaning, or the strength of their original meaning is weakened. The word genius, for example, which in English means an exceptional intellectual and creative power or one who possesses such a power, has gone through a tremendous change and, except in one, rarely used sense, has no bearing on its original meaning.

Genius, comes to us from the Latin, genius, genii, and has nothing whatsoever to do with intellectual or creative power as we know it. The genius of the ancient Romans was an "anonymous deity who protected all groups of people and the places of their group activities." The number of genii was unlimited. As stated above, we have a meaning in English close to the original Latin, i.e. genius as "a peculiar, distinctive or identifying character or spirit: the association and traditions of a place," and we will sometimes see the phrase, genius loci, which is pure Latin, and means, of course, the genius (or guardian spirit) of a place. So something of the original meaning of genius is still with us, but is not often used, but is, nonetheless, of perfectly legitimate usage.

When we hear the word genius, we usually associate it with some accomplishment in the arts or sciences. When we learn that Mozart and J.S. Bach were both skilled musicians and talented composers by the age of eight, we say they were geniuses; and, indeed, they were; so, too, Ludvig van Beethoven and Felix Mendlesohn, both child prodigies, as well as other 18th and 19th Century composers--too many to mention here.

We have artist-geniuses, such as the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, Michelangelo Buonarotti and the greatest genius of all time in the West, Leonardo Da Vinci. There are any number of fields where the legitimate label of genius may be applied, especially in the sciences, mathematics, and invention: Albert Einstein, and Thomas A. Edison, to mention only two. But do we sit up and say "Genius!" when we hear the names of Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu or Konko Daijin? I hardly think we do. And that is because, as mentioned above, we usually associate genius with some material, musical, artistic or scientific accomplishment.

However, like the first rule in linguistics, we too must change our notion of what genius means, and not settle for only the obvious.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, America's preeminent philosopher said: "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men--that is genius." {Essay on Self-Reliance}

Here Emerson has illuminated the essence of genius and expanded its definition, beyond its accepted sense. That is a tremendous leap in language--and follows exactly the old dictum that all languages change all of the time.

Genius, then, if we accept Emerson's extended conception, is not so much the manifestation of some talent or other, but is predicated on knowing one's true heart and, further, knowing that the message (as it were) is true for all of humanity. Every sage who has conceived universal thoughts has known this. We only need to compare various religious thoughts to see that all wise, insightful seekers, through- out the ages, have come to (more or less) the same conclusions about the human condition and the path to personal salvation.

To have such insight is no ordinary reflection, no carefree musing of a warm spring day, but rather a profound insight into the universal, spiritual recognition of one's true self,relative to the material world.

When Konko Daijin was a youth, he was known as Shinjin Bunji, Pious Bunji, which indicates that early on, he was aware of a deep stirring in his soul; but because of his social station and undeveloped thoughts, he was not able to articulate these stirrings, except through pious works, which are, incidentally, part of the natural progression of spiritual development. And these pious acts of kindness, for which he was known, lead him to a greater calling, that of Ikigami which was the reason for his being in his transformed, adult life.

How could a farm boy surrounded by superstition and ignorance know he was a spiritual genius? Obviously, he could not know, for he had no spiritual models to follow--but, he had an indomitable faith and it was with this faith and a life-long process of questioning and struggling and suffering, and examining his own thoughts, his genius, in relation to what he had been taught and what he saw and experienced to the contrary, that he was able to break through his learned, cultural limitations, forced on him by constrictive traditions of thought, and, ultimately, self-realize the divine within himself, passing therefore, from simple piety to spiritual genius.

To be able to make the profound connection between one's self and God, Tenchi Kami no Kami, is no easy task; to reach this level of intimate knowledge of the cosmos is not common--but not impossible, either. Konko Daijin himself stated that his having plumbed the awesome depth of god-realization, did not make him unique, on the contrary he said everyone has this same potential power. What makes Konko Kyo a rather unique religion is the doctrine that anyone who aspires to the god-head can reach it. We have been shown, by the example of Konko Daijin's life, that through constant faith, appreciation, meditation and subjective examination of one's life and where one stands in relation to the subtleties of the universe and the gross realities of the manifest world, one has the possibility of reaching this exalted position.

Here are Konko Daijin's words on this subject: "Any of you can receive Divine Favor and become a living god by your faith." I would like to change his quote by one word: "Any of you can receive the Divine Favor to become a living god by your genius,"--that is, by knowing that what is true for you, is true for all.

What I have tried to point out in this paper is that one need not be a genius, in the accepted sense, to strive toward divine consciousness. One need only search deep in one's heart, where the spiritual genius of the ages sleeps, only waiting to be awakened by being conscious that one is carrying the sacred light of spiritual understanding within one's self.

The End

WORD ORIGINS, GENIUS AND KONKO DAIJIN

BY

ROBERT PAOLINELLI

One of the first rules one learns when studying linguistics is that all languages change all of the time. One need not look too far back to test this rule. Just pick up any work of literature of the 19th Century, and the above rule will be confirmed. If you want further confirmation, read anything from the Elizabethan era--Shakespeare, for example; or, if you still want further proof, try reading Chaucer in the original 13th Century English and you will have to acquiesce to the regularity of this fundamental rule. This rule can be applied to most languages, too, and is not limited to English.

When it comes to the changes in the meaning of individual words, this same rule of linguistics also holds true. Many words fall out of use, often disappearing altogether; some words change meaning, or the strength of their original meaning is weakened. The word genius, for example, which in English means an exceptional intellectual and creative power or one who possesses such a power, has gone through a tremendous change and, except in one, rarely used sense, has no bearing on its original meaning.

Genius, comes to us from the Latin, genius, genii, and has nothing whatsoever to do with intellectual or creative power as we know it. The genius of the ancient Romans was an "anonymous deity who protected all groups of people and the places of their group activities." The number of genii was unlimited. As stated above, we have a meaning in English close to the original Latin, i.e. genius as "a peculiar, distinctive or identifying character or spirit: the association and traditions of a place," and we will sometimes see the phrase, genius loci, which is pure Latin, and means, of course, the genius (or guardian spirit) of a place. So something of the original meaning of genius is still with us, but is not often used, but is, nonetheless, of perfectly legitimate usage.

When we hear the word genius, we usually associate it with some accomplishment in the arts or sciences. When we learn that Mozart and J.S. Bach were both skilled musicians and talented composers by the age of eight, we say they were geniuses; and, indeed, they were; so, too, Ludvig van Beethoven and Felix Mendlesohn, both child prodigies, as well as other 18th and 19th Century composers--too many to mention here.

We have artist-geniuses, such as the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, Michelangelo Buonarotti and the greatest genius of all time in the West, Leonardo Da Vinci. There are any number of fields where the legitimate label of genius may be applied, especially in the sciences, mathematics, and invention: Albert Einstein, Thomas A. Edison, and Buckminster Fuller, for example. But do we sit up and say "Genius!" when we hear the names of Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu or Konko Daijin? I hardly think we do. And that is because, as mentioned above, we usually associate genius with some material, musical, artistic or scientific accomplishment.

However, like the first rule in linguistics, we too must change our notion of what genius means, and not settle for only the obvious.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, America's preeminent philosopher said: "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men--that is genius." {Essay on Self-Reliance}

Here Emerson has illuminated the essence of genius and expanded its definition, beyond its accepted sense. That is a tremendous leap in language--and follows exactly the old dictum that all languages change all of the time.

Genius, then, if we accept Emerson's extended conception, is not so much the manifestation of some talent or other, but is predicated on knowing one's true heart and, further, knowing that the message (as it were) is true for all of humanity. Every sage who has conceived universal thoughts has known this. We only need to compare various religious thoughts to see that all wise, insightful seekers, through- out the ages, have come to (more or less) the same conclusions about the human condition and the spiritual path to personal salvation.

To have such insight is no ordinary reflection, no carefree musing of a warm spring day, but rather a profound insight into the universal, spiritual recognition of one's true self,relative to the material world.

When Konko Daijin was a youth, he was known as Shinjin Bunji, Pious Bunji, which indicates that early on, he was aware of a deep stirring in his soul; but because of his social station and undeveloped thoughts, he was not able to articulate these stirrings, except through pious works, which are, incidentally, part of the natural progression of spiritual development. And these pious acts of kindness, for which he was known, lead him to a greater calling, that of Ikigami which became

the reason for his being in his transformed, adult life.

How could a farm boy surrounded by superstition and ignorance know he was a spiritual genius? Obviously, he could not know, for he had no spiritual models to follow.

But, he had an indomitable faith, and it was with, and through this faith and his life-long process of questioning and struggling and suffering, and examining his own thoughts (his genius) in relation to what he had been taught and what he saw and experienced to the contrary, that he was able to break through his culturally conditioned limitations, forced on him by constrictive traditions of thought; ultimately, he self-realized the divine within himself, passing therefore, from simple piety to spiritual genius.

To be able to make the profound connection between one's self and God, Tenchi Kane no Kami, is no easy task; to reach this level of intimate knowledge of the cosmos is not common--but not impossible, either. Konko Daijin himself stated that his having plumbed the awesome depth of god-realization, did not make him unique, on the contrary he said everyone has this same potential power. What makes Konko Kyo a rather unique religion is the doctrine that anyone who aspires to the god-head can reach it. We have been shown, by the example of Konko Daijin's life, that through constant faith, appreciation, meditation and subjective examination of one's life and where one stands in relation to the subtleties of the universe and the gross realities of the manifest world, one has the possibility of reaching this exalted position.

Here are Konko Daijin's words on this subject: "Any of you can receive Divine Favor and become a living god by your faith." I would like to change his quote by one word: "Any of you can receive the Divine Favor to become a living god by your genius,"--that is, by knowing that what is true for you, is true for all.

What I have tried to point out in this paper is that one need not be a genius, in the accepted sense, to strive toward divine consciousness. One need only search deep in one's heart, where the spiritual genius of the ages sleeps, only waiting to be awakened by being conscious that one is carrying the sacred light of spiritual understanding within one's self.

The End