Akuin Akka — From the Egg of a Serpent, Comes a Serpent 悪因悪果

From an evil source, comes evil results -- we strive to remove negative influences in our lives.

Akuin Akka 悪因悪果 [pronounced "ah-koo-in ah-kah"] is a fundamental truth that is found in many cultures and many philosophies. It literally means “from an evil source, there comes out evil things” but it can also be more liberally translated as “Sow Evil, and Reap Evil.”

This is a very old piece of wisdom in Japanese culture as well, and in the far past,  the understanding is that it literally was translated and understood to mean "from the egg of a serpent, comes a serpent." In more modern times, the expression has been generalized to be less metaphorical and refers to evil directly.

We Lay Our Own Foundations

Evil is a broad concept in akuin akka. It can be truly bad things, bad actions; it can also be more prosaic and mean that we receive bad results when we do not take care to create a good foundation.

On the dojo floor, if we accept poor attention to detail, if we accept not trying our best, and if we accept that our training is centered around “good enough” – then surely we will arrive with an equally mediocre, bad result.

What we put into our training is very directly related to what comes out of it. What we get out of our lives is directly related to what we put into our days and years.

There are so many "secrets to success" – but among them surely is that if we actively and eagerly seek out high performance opportunities, we will be rewarded. No matter how simple or menial the task, we are called to be excellent many times every day.

The Good is All Around Us; But So is the Evil

While surely we control our own destiny, external influences that aren't good for us affect us. As much as might want to think of ourselves as immune to such influences, we are not.

Evil influences can be as simple as friends that don't share our values and work ethic. Or they can be much worse: jealously guard your mind and spirit and do not allow it to be polluted with ideas or people that do not elevate the ideals of constant improvement and striving to achieve positive results.

Conversely, there is so much good around us as well. Good books, good ideas, and good people – all of these lead us to perform better and have more fulfilling days and years in our lives. Truly, these are the antidote for any of the serpent eggs that might cross our path.

The Antidote to Evil

In order to become a better person, a better karateka – in order to truly engage in ren ma (read more about ren ma here) – we must instead commit ourselves to the hard work and dedication necessary to achieve that kind of result.

One cannot get good results from bad training. One does not build a good life with bad effort.

And of course, in life outside the dojo, akuin akka teaches us to carefully build our life in a good, strong, thoughtful way. To handle our business affairs in a sloppy manner is surely sowing an evil seed that one will blossom into trouble and bad results. And to be careless in our personal relationships today will no doubt lead to misunderstanding, strife, and disappointment in future days.

In fact, akuin akka gives us a blueprint for our lives.

It teaches us to build solid, responsible, good lives by being solid, responsible, and good today. Even if we see others possibly engaging in shoddy work and poor spirit, and seemingly getting “good” results right now, we can be certain that over time, in the days ahead, such shoddiness will be rewarded with an evil result.

Do not be such a person: instead, build your life from a good source. The good results will follow.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
悪因 evil cause (akuin) [made up of 悪 waru, evil; and 因 in, cause]
悪果 evil results (akka) [made up of 悪 waru, evil; and 果 ha-te, fruit {as in, results of}]

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in Mill Valley, California at the Goju Karate dojo on 21 May 2012, and then again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 19 April 2023.