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John Matsushima 01-03-2007 05:24 PM

Western religion and Aikido
 
It is in obvious question that many ponder the relevance, or necessity of spirituality in Aikido. But for those who do want to include it, why do so many seem to practice the traditions of the East instead of their own? Why do people chant kotodama who can't even speak Japanese? I have seen many people bow before kamidana and shrines in their dojos, and clapping their hands before practice and not even know why, thinking that it is just a form of "respect". I don't even know why so many people in the west even have these things in their dojos if they aren't somehow rooted in Shinto or Buddhist religions.
To me, Aikido as an art would be much richer for those who include spirituality to keep to whatever faith they had before they started Aikido. For example, I would say if you are Christian, then you should say an Our Father and pray for world peace before practice and have a cross on the wall instead of a picture of "The Great Sensei". I'm not saying that I think you have to be Japanese to follow these Eastern traditions, but why not just follow your own? Instead of bells and incense and little oranges on a shrine, why not something a little closer to our hearts? Practicing a faith, one which we can trully understand and is close to our hearts, I think would bring new meaning and depth to our practice of Aikido.
This is not a question of whether or not spirituality should be a part of Aikido, but that for those who do think so, what are your thoughts ?

Gwion 01-03-2007 05:53 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Having lived in Japan for 3 years and speaking fluent japanese, and having practiced at a Soto Buddhist temple, and upon coming back to the states to continue Aikido practice here, I have to say I've given this a lot of thought.

In some ways, American practice is more "japanese" than practice in Japan. I have seen much more rigidity in dojo etiquette, ritual, bowing, in Ohio or LA than I have ever seen in Tokyo or Osaka.

Part of me says, "well, this is how westerners play dress-up" they want to add this different cultural experience to their lives, and I say more power to them. So what if they overread significance of certain things and overemphasise the mystical nature of something as simple as bowing respectfully? I mean, a true and earnest handshake is just as deep and mystical if you want it to be, isn't it?

But there is a bad side, one of abuse, as can happen with all things, especially unfamiliar imports. I've seen Aiki cults in the states, and abuse of the title 'sensei' to the degree that Ueshiba-sensei would probably roll over in his grave, or stare down angrily from heaven.

I'd say, let a laisse faire attitude prevail, and let each student incorporate as much or as little of the eastern spirituality and ideas and as much or as little western spirituality as they want. No sensei is in charge of your soul. Besides, religion is the window, not the light itself, so we don't need to get too caught up in what particular frame or tint ours has. Me, I'd like to be able to just open it up and let the breeze blow in.

jeff. 01-03-2007 06:11 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
for me: this is the real question here:

Quote:

John Matsushima wrote:
why not something a little closer to our hearts?

frankly, i feel alienated from western religions. not that i don't think they are beautiful or whatever. but, in my heart, i feel more affinity with taoism, buddhism and esoteric shinto. i am attracted to the eastern religio-philosophical understandings / explications of reality. they tend to make more sense to me than do western ones. i have no idea why, really. its just true.

this does not mean i disagree with some of what you wrote in spirit. i think "spirituality" in aikido can come from any tradition, ultimately. but, for this reason, i think the value of using japanese forms of etiquette is as a more or less neutral center point. so we can have a unified practice. bowing in can just be about respect, or it can take on religious significance. depending on the person, and their views.

plus its fun. maybe, in that sense, it is playing dress-up. but for me, dress up has always been about trying to understand yourself and the world around you thru various lenses. so no issues there.

yup.

jeff.

Qatana 01-03-2007 06:39 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
How is One's "actual" religion determined? Birth or Choice? Personally, I choose choice.

Erick Mead 01-03-2007 11:38 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
It need not be so much of an either/or. It is true that many in the West would find themselves closer to depth in their own tradition, if they sought it out. But many are alienated from it, mainly because they have never learned what it holds. I may suggest one or two things for a few to think about.

The air of mystery that too many give to Eastern religion is more the mystery of novelty foudn in what is mere commonplace to the native participant. There is mystery there, surely, but the novelty part is not it. You have to get well past that, in any spiritual tradition, to face the depths of true mystery that lie within.

Having said that, one should not distinguish overmuch unless something is plainly contrary.Even then you should explore why it is or seems so. Paradox is a rich source of truth. Niels Bohr, quoting his father once said that "There are small truths and great truths -- the opposite of a small truth is false; the opposite of a great truth is also true." St. Thomas Aquinas said, paraphrasing 1 Corinthians, that, "All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, comes from the Holy Spirit."

People place too much weight on the externals and too little on what is going on within them, and between them and the people around them.

The Founder made connections between East and West that few have seriously explored. Take kotodama for instance: He said that ""Kirisuto ga ‘hajime ni kotoba ariki' to itta sono kotodama ga SU de arimasu. Sore ga kotodama no hajimari de aru." (‘In the beginning was the Word', spoken by Christ is this kotodama SU. This is the origin of kotodama.) " Logos. Rich stuff is there to mine, trust me, East or West.

You can explore them both together. Brush the figure of "Juji" and place it above the portrait of O Sensei on the kami dana. It is the Cross of Aiki. Read what O Sensei wrote about that. Find the connections that make sense to you. When asked if there were affinities between his art and the teachigns of Christ, he said "Yes, because Jesus said his technique was love and I, Morihei, also say that my technique is love. Jesus created a religion, but I didn't. Aikido is an art rather than a religion. But if you practice my Aikido a great deal you will be a better Christian." Find out why he said that Aikido could make you a better Christian (as well as a better Buddhist, or any other honest faith).

I would recommend following where the connections you find lead. Be mindful of your purpose in doing it. I think that John's stated point of concern is echoed in O Sensei's concern also. "... give no rein to the spiritual horse.. or it will lead into a dark path." St. Paul in his letter toTitus also cautioned this attention to the interior purpose of our learning and practicing even outwardly good things. "To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted. "

The late John Paul II said that it is of the essence of Christianity to be a "sign of contradiction" or a sign that will be spoken against.

We practice Aikido. It is a warlike art that does not make war. A means of opposing violence without resisting it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that justified violence, respecting the rights of others, is carried out by those who "make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, .... [and] bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death." In Christian terms, we find spiritual poverty in war and its arts, not the vainglory or ego gratification of violent contest for its own sake.

Given the foundation of Aikido in the same love that founds the Peace of Christ -- I'll begin with the prophecy of the priest Simeon given to Mary at the Temple when Jesus was consecrated. "Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thought of many hearts may be revealed."

I wil leave it with several things Christ said about peace and violence that illustrate this profound sign of contradiction echoing within Christianity and Aikido also:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. "

"You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently."

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

"He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."

The last one is a summation of the spirit that lies within Bushido.

And I'll close with with St. Paul: "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?"

So, choose the rod, and train, train, train ...

Jorge Garcia 01-04-2007 04:31 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

John Matsushima wrote:
It is in obvious question that many ponder the relevance, or necessity of spirituality in Aikido. But for those who do want to include it, why do so many seem to practice the traditions of the East instead of their own? Why do people chant kotodama who can't even speak Japanese? I have seen many people bow before kamidana and shrines in their dojos, and clapping their hands before practice and not even know why, thinking that it is just a form of "respect". I don't even know why so many people in the west even have these things in their dojos if they aren't somehow rooted in Shinto or Buddhist religions.
To me, Aikido as an art would be much richer for those who include spirituality to keep to whatever faith they had before they started Aikido. For example, I would say if you are Christian, then you should say an Our Father and pray for world peace before practice and have a cross on the wall instead of a picture of "The Great Sensei". I'm not saying that I think you have to be Japanese to follow these Eastern traditions, but why not just follow your own? Instead of bells and incense and little oranges on a shrine, why not something a little closer to our hearts? Practicing a faith, one which we can truly understand and is close to our hearts, I think would bring new meaning and depth to our practice of Aikido.
This is not a question of whether or not spirituality should be a part of Aikido, but that for those who do think so, what are your thoughts ?

This is a deep question with lots of answers.

In the West, we have not only a bias against our religions but in some cases even a hatred and I might add, it is a mindless one. I have friends who would never allow a prayer to the Christian God to be offered in a dojo and that would be offensive to them but then turn around and allow all kinds of Japanese Shinto practices in the dojo with no question at all. Part of this is because they lack awareness of the Shinto nature of the practices and it is their own ignorance of that which gives them a benign attitude toward it.

Also, the Japanese world view is open to many religions while the West mostly has "one true religions" so we are more sectarian than the far Eastern people tend to be. Again, this is raw ignorance.

Here's the weird part. As a Christian, it is easier for me to participate in the Japanese rituals than it may be for them to do the reverse. It is like the Apostle Paul's argument that it is OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols because there really are no other Gods (He taught there was only one true God). In other words, any Christian offended because a fellow Christian was eating meat that had been in a pagan sacrifice was in fact weak in his understanding because what he was being offended at was a myth with no fact in spiritual reality. (ICorinthians 8:1-6) If I accept the tenets of the New Testament, I know that the particular beliefs of Shintoism aren't true and that O Sensei really isn't coming back by the clapping to observe the practice or aid it in any way. It's just clapping with no real metaphysical results. In that case, because I hold to the tenets of my religion, it is easy to go along and ignore the Shinto but accept clapping as a cultural practice rather than a religious one because by clapping, I, in my heart am not accepting Shinto cosmology. I am just clapping because my teacher is clapping.

Finally, Kisshomaru Ueshiba said that the final criteria he had for the expansion of Aikido to other countries is that Aikido not be internationalized culturally. He said, "As far as Aikido is concerned, the uniqueness of Japanese philosophy forms its essence, and my conviction is that anyone who disagrees with this is no longer an Aikido practitioner. The meaning of internationalization is not that the unique tradition becomes internationalized, but that Aikido practitioners in every country should change and unite with the tradition."

So we have a compromise. Me as a Westerner not accepting O Sensei's Omotokyo or Shintoism but willing to participate in some outward forms that are part of the Japanese culture because they have no basis is metaphysical fact (in my mind). At the same time, I as a western Christian can find some commonalities where we do touch on some spiritual truths that are commonly true and I can accept O Sensei's and Aikido's overall general philosophy without having to check in my mind at the door and drink the Kool-Aid. If I can accept most of the more general philosophical results or conclusions, then I can do Aikido and promote it's philosophical "ends" without having to accept it's philosophical "means". I can strive for peace and harmony and ki- mind - body coordination - it's "end", without having to believe that when O Sensei practiced Aikido, he really stood on the rainbow bridge between spirit and matter - his "means".
Best wishes,
Jorge

guest89893 01-04-2007 08:49 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

John Matsushima wrote:
To me, Aikido as an art would be much richer for those who include spirituality to keep to whatever faith they had before they started Aikido. For example, I would say if you are Christian, then you should say an Our Father and pray for world peace before practice and have a cross on the wall instead of a picture of "The Great Sensei". I'm not saying that I think you have to be Japanese to follow these Eastern traditions, but why not just follow your own? Instead of bells and incense and little oranges on a shrine, why not something a little closer to our hearts? Practicing a faith, one which we can truly understand and is close to our hearts, I think would bring new meaning and depth to our practice of Aikido.
This is not a question of whether or not spirituality should be a part of Aikido, but that for those who do think so, what are your thoughts ?

Not to sound arrogant - but know that yes some of us do in fact include our western religions and beliefs into our Aikido. Making Aikido richer...I can hope so, but if it is then- that is through the ever slow process of one student at a time, myself hopefully.
When I bow it is actually twice - first always to God (and that is what I say as I bow). At our dojo, I teach the Sunday class (God's seventh day by Christian beliefs...hmmm), Before walking in front of the class, yes a prayer and a bow with the second prayer/chant/spiritual focus etc. -"Through my sword, peace."
Because as Eric kindly pointed out in quoting Matthew, Jesus comes with a sword. Does everyone at my dojo know I put my "western beliefs" into my Aikido? Yes, but I do not expect or push it on anyone. I have included a link from our dojo website it is an article I wrote - it is not the view or opinion of our dojo, nor the dojo's head teacher. It is purely mine and I am fortunate that I can express my own perceptions/thoughts/beliefs in an Aikido article and have posted on our site as well as some others. Please understand, I add the link only to direct you to the 4th paragraph which to me more clearly answers your question of are some of us including our "western" religion/philosophy into our Aikido.
http://theaikidodojo.com/articles/irimi_tenkan.htm

Erick Mead 01-04-2007 09:46 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Jorge Garcia wrote:
This is a deep question with lots of answers.
....
If I accept the tenets of the New Testament, I know that the particular beliefs of Shintoism aren't true and that O Sensei really isn't coming back by the clapping to observe the practice or aid it in any way. It's just clapping with no real metaphysical results. In that case, because I hold to the tenets of my religion, it is easy to go along and ignore the Shinto but accept clapping as a cultural practice rather than a religious one because by clapping, I, in my heart am not accepting Shinto cosmology. I am just clapping because my teacher is clapping.

Oh, we can give it greater depth than that and still reconcile both traditions in harmony. That is our purpose in Aikido, after all.

Shinto can be accepted in every particular where it does not conflict with revealed truth. If anyone thinks the concept of kami is necessarily offensive to revealed truth, then they have not properly understood the concept of kami. "Thrones, powers, dominions ...?"

As to O Sensei's veneration according to Shinto tradition in the dojo, in Catholic tradition, we are simply asking for his intercession in our practice to make it fruitful and acceptable to God. If we are faithful, he is merely dead -- not utterly gone.

We rely on something the Apostle's Creed describes as the "communion of saints" to support us in perservering in faith. Even in the Protestant branches, even the more Calvinistic doctrine, this is not an alien concept, either. The Westminster Confession (adopted by the Philadelphia Baptist convention in 1688) described it as those "being united to one another in love, have communion in each other's gifts and graces" by the mediation of Christ (the divine Word). We merely ask thatw e be permitted to commune with him in his art, spiritually, as we commune with one another in his art, materially.

O Sensei was clearly a man of prodigious virtue. One can debate the particular profession of Christian faith by O Sensei in any exclusive or dogmatic sense, but he clearly identified with the Divine Word or fundamental reason and will underlying creation. Christ was hardly exlcusionary in his modes of teaching. O Sensei also teaches the invocation of LOVE in accordance with that will among mankind, and specifically applying it towards one's enemies on that basis.

That hits the necessary high points of the evangelium ("good news") for me. I do not have authority to teach that he was teaching the Gospel in another form, but by no evidence I have seen am I required to assume or act as if he wasn't (and privately, I may permissibly assume that he was.) That delicately suggestive but steely ambiguity is quintessentially both Catholic and Japanese in its feeling.

It is no more impermissible nor unfaithful to observe or venerate the kamidana in accordance with Shinto ritual in a genuine spirit of faith as to the "uniting to one another in love" that occurs in the proper Aikido practice than it was for St. Paul to point out and venerate the statue of the "unknown God" for the benefit of the Athenians and in accordance with their own traditions.
Quote:

Jorge Garcia wrote:
So we have a compromise. Me as a Westerner not accepting O Sensei's Omotokyo or Shintoism but willing to participate in some outward forms that are part of the Japanese culture because they have no basis is metaphysical fact (in my mind). ... I can strive for peace and harmony and ki- mind - body coordination - it's "end", without having to believe that when O Sensei practiced Aikido, he really stood on the rainbow bridge between spirit and matter - his "means".

You need not necessarily assume that the inward forms are at odds. The Floating Bridge merely describes the human condition, and he merely advocates that we fully realize the condition of our true nature. If O Sensei did have some "good news" to teach (and who is there to say he did not?) then you shortchange a very possibly true spiritual gift by not exploring its interior dimensions for yourself in a spirit of faith.

Masagatsu agatsu! Katsu Hayabi!
"True victory is self-victory! Day of Swift Victory!"

In twenty years of looking at it, I have not found a single essential thing in Aikido that is not a part of Truth. My own shallow dalliance early on was progressively deepened. It brought me full circle to the roots of faith expressed in tradition and scripture.

Takumi 01-04-2007 10:17 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Aikido is supposed to be a martial art. Not a religion. Although it has spiritual aspects, it is not in anyway religious. O-Sensei's religious beliefs may have helped him to find the Art of Peace but he did not in anyway impose his beliefs into the practice of Aikido.

If westerners were to impose their religious beliefs to make the spiritual part of Aikido more understandable, then it would be ruining the whole practice of it.

The clapping and bowing at the beginning of class is supposed to be respect to O-Sensei and to show that your mind is ready to learn Aikido for that class. At the end of class it is a respect and thanks for the knowledge and ancestors of Aikido.

guest89893 01-04-2007 10:40 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Dylan Clements wrote:
Aikido is supposed to be a martial art. Not a religion. Although it has spiritual aspects, it is not in anyway religious. O-Sensei's religious beliefs may have helped him to find the Art of Peace but he did not in anyway impose his beliefs into the practice of Aikido.

If westerners were to impose their religious beliefs to make the spiritual part of Aikido more understandable, then it would be ruining the whole practice of it.

The clapping and bowing at the beginning of class is supposed to be respect to O-Sensei and to show that your mind is ready to learn Aikido for that class. At the end of class it is a respect and thanks for the knowledge and ancestors of Aikido.

Sorry to disagree with you Dylan, but you are not correct. O-Sensei clearly was directed to start his own dojo as a part & path of his religious/spiritual beliefs. O-Sensei most clearly did impose his beliefs into the practice of Aikido. How do you think it became a "Do?" So, you can choose to see the clapping and bowing as just respect to O-Sensei, but that is not all it means or its purpose. Finally, have you researched all the meanings of the Japanese affectation (think that is the right word) for "O?"
Again, I am not telling you to follow how I approach Aikido -it is always an individual quest-but if you think how I and perhaps others are approaching Aikido is ruining the practice...well please come down and take my class or train with me here or any of the seminars I am attending. Afterwords beer,food,& coffee while we argue/discuss/share and perhaps add one more friend to the growth of peace through Aikido.
Gene

jonreading 01-04-2007 11:21 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Read, "In the Dojo: A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts ," by David Lowery. Mr. Lowery does a great job to discussing the integration of Japanese and American influences in the dojo.

There is an old tale of a beggar who tricks a cook into letting him make stone soup. As the story goes, the beggar asks for food from a kitchen and he is denied. He lements about his hunger and begs at least for a pot in which to cook a soup, a stone soup. The cook, whose has never heard of stone soup, is intrigued and permits the beggar to use a kitchen cauldron on a fire. The beggar boils some water and drops a stone into the cauldron. The beggar tastes the soup and begins to amend the soup with various spices, vegetables and meats. Eventually, he finishes the soup and the cook is amazed how good stone soup tastes. In this tale, what once was water and stone becomes something entirely different right under the cook's nose.

I believe that aikido is Japanese, founded by a Japanese martial artist in Japan. Aikido is neither American nor European, it is Japanese. To preserve the history and culture of aikido, one must preserve its foundation. Do I blame a child that cannot add or subtract? No, I blame the education system that did not properly educate the child in addition and subtraction. Similarly, I wouldn't hold aikido students responsbile for not receiving proper education from their instructor of the history of aikido, I would fault the aikido instructor whose is ignorant of her heritage.

Qatana 01-04-2007 12:36 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
"It is true that many in the West would find themselves closer to depth in their own tradition, if they sought it out."

I do not have to go any deeper into the religion that my grandparents practiced than the fact that the men are supposed to thank god every day that they were not born a woman.

Kevin Leavitt 01-04-2007 01:26 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
I always love this discussion!

Living in Bavaria Germany for the last couple of years I have found Christian religion to be a little different here than in the states. I am judging this as an outsider, so I freely admit my ignorance on this area.

Catholicism his the dominant religion in Bavaria and is pretty ubiquitous and pervasive here. Part of your taxes go to the church for the most part, there is only one church, there are no evangilical or protestant churches in our communities, everyone is catholic, my sons "public" school did prayer, and crosses hung everywhere, they did religous ceremonies and things in the school.

It is a part of their community and ingrained, it was not thought of, nor worn on the sleeve, nor were did I ever felt judged for being a "non-christian". They do not prosetylitize, or preach, it is just there and it is apart of what you do.

I am comfortable with it, and never felt put upon. I cannot say I feel the same way back home in the states where we seem to put a great deal more emphasis on religion...yet we preach separation of church and state, where in Germany there is no separation of church and state!

I am beginning to think that the U.S simply puts alot more conscious thought or attaches criticality to religion as linked to spirituality than many other cultures in the world.

Not judging this as good or bad, as I think there are tremendous issues that go along with "group think" that can develop in homogenous societies like we learned in the past from Japan and Germany in WWII. I think we have seen this a little lately in the U.S. as well, but now I am getting into politics which is a very, very dangerous area! :)

I personally find the Kotodama interesting, as well as yoga chanting, and benedictine monks chanting as well. I find them all analogous and based on the same thing.

I personally don't put a lot of attachment to things like bowing, kami, or pictures on the wall. I do think it is possible to take an unhealthy approach to them when you attach more meaning and significance to them than is necessary.

Something about idol worship. I know from by studies in Christianity and Buddhism that both caution against it.

guest89893 01-04-2007 03:17 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Nice post Kevin.
BTW I know it's a bit of a drive -but did you take your son (family) to Nuremberg (Did I spell that right?) Square to the open air Christmas market underneath the Church, -not far from the castle? It was/is one of my favorite places during Christmas time.
Grus Gott (hope I spelled it right),
Gene

Kevin Leavitt 01-04-2007 03:49 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
yes we go to the Nuernburg Kristkindl Markt every year...it is one of the most enchanting places you can go during the holidays. There was no snow this year, but it was warmer so we did not freeze to death. But you have not experienced Christmas until you have been to this market!

Gruess Goett would be the correct spelling without the umlaut. My computer is set up for french so I cannot do the umlaut! und meine deustch est nicht sehr gute!

Erick Mead 01-04-2007 06:20 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Dylan Clements wrote:
Aikido is supposed to be a martial art. Not a religion. Although it has spiritual aspects, it is not in anyway religious. O-Sensei's religious beliefs may have helped him to find the Art of Peace but he did not in anyway impose his beliefs into the practice of Aikido.

Quote:

O Sensei ("Art of Peace"-- ed. J. Stephens) wrote:
The Art of Peace is the religion that is not a religion; it perfects and completes all religions.

In O Sensei's conception the practice of Aikido is a direct emanation of the "Art of Peace" that is
also transmitted through the kotodama, all of which spring from the root sound of creation "SU" (the Breath of Life, the Word of God, the Divine Logos). As such, there is nothing whatsoever remarkable, theologically speaking, about the quoted statement from an orthodox Christian perspective.

Or this one:
Quote:

O Sensei wrote:
The Art of Peace that I practice has room for each of the world's eight million kami (gods), and I cooperate with them all. The God of Peace is very great and enjoins all that is divine and enlightened in every land.

"St. Thomas! Paging St. Thomas Aquinas!

Erick Mead 01-04-2007 06:38 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Jon Reading wrote:
I believe that aikido is Japanese, founded by a Japanese martial artist in Japan. Aikido is neither American nor European, it is Japanese. To preserve the history and culture of aikido, one must preserve its foundation.

I wholeheartedly agree. But empty forms are dangerous because they will be filled haphazardly as easily as they are filled intentionally. Something must fill them or they may just as well collect all manner of unsavory things. Aikido practice must be in-formed.

While cannot one understand O Sensei without a Japanese context, one cannot understand him from a purely Japanese context, either. He certainly confused many of his native-born deshi on these topics. He went out of his way to draw the connections for us to very fundamental Western spiritual ideas.

He plainly did not mean to be understood solely from a Japanese context.

Erick Mead 01-04-2007 06:55 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Jo Adell wrote:
"It is true that many in the West would find themselves closer to depth in their own tradition, if they sought it out."

I do not have to go any deeper into the religion that my grandparents practiced than the fact that the men are supposed to thank god every day that they were not born a woman.

Well -- that would not be terribly deep, now would it?

And Oh. I love the ones along that same line::
Quote:

Q: Will you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and join the Church of God in Perfect Holiness Bible Prophecy Temple?

A: My grandparents were Catholic. My parents were Catholic. I am a Catholic.

Q: So just because your grandparents and parents were Catholic doesn't mean you have to be. What if your grandfather was a idiot, and your father was idiot -- what would that make you?

A: A member of the Church of God in Perfect Holiness Bible Prophecy Temple?
--- With due apologies to the member of the Church of God in Perfect Holiness Bible Prophecy Temple.

Sorry, Sam.

Jorge Garcia 01-04-2007 11:27 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Erick Mead wrote:
Oh, we can give it greater depth than that and still reconcile both traditions in harmony. That is our purpose in Aikido, after all.

Shinto can be accepted in every particular where it does not conflict with revealed truth. If anyone thinks the concept of kami is necessarily offensive to revealed truth, then they have not properly understood the concept of kami. "Thrones, powers, dominions ...?"

As to O Sensei's veneration according to Shinto tradition in the dojo, in Catholic tradition, we are simply asking for his intercession in our practice to make it fruitful and acceptable to God. If we are faithful, he is merely dead -- not utterly gone.

We rely on something the Apostle's Creed describes as the "communion of saints" to support us in perservering in faith. Even in the Protestant branches, even the more Calvinistic doctrine, this is not an alien concept, either. The Westminster Confession (adopted by the Philadelphia Baptist convention in 1688) described it as those "being united to one another in love, have communion in each other's gifts and graces" by the mediation of Christ (the divine Word). We merely ask thatw e be permitted to commune with him in his art, spiritually, as we commune with one another in his art, materially.

O Sensei was clearly a man of prodigious virtue. One can debate the particular profession of Christian faith by O Sensei in any exclusive or dogmatic sense, but he clearly identified with the Divine Word or fundamental reason and will underlying creation. Christ was hardly exlcusionary in his modes of teaching. O Sensei also teaches the invocation of LOVE in accordance with that will among mankind, and specifically applying it towards one's enemies on that basis.

That hits the necessary high points of the evangelium ("good news") for me. I do not have authority to teach that he was teaching the Gospel in another form, but by no evidence I have seen am I required to assume or act as if he wasn't (and privately, I may permissibly assume that he was.) That delicately suggestive but steely ambiguity is quintessentially both Catholic and Japanese in its feeling.

It is no more impermissible nor unfaithful to observe or venerate the kamidana in accordance with Shinto ritual in a genuine spirit of faith as to the "uniting to one another in love" that occurs in the proper Aikido practice than it was for St. Paul to point out and venerate the statue of the "unknown God" for the benefit of the Athenians and in accordance with their own traditions.
You need not necessarily assume that the inward forms are at odds. The Floating Bridge merely describes the human condition, and he merely advocates that we fully realize the condition of our true nature. If O Sensei did have some "good news" to teach (and who is there to say he did not?) then you shortchange a very possibly true spiritual gift by not exploring its interior dimensions for yourself in a spirit of faith.

Masagatsu agatsu! Katsu Hayabi!
"True victory is self-victory! Day of Swift Victory!"

In twenty years of looking at it, I have not found a single essential thing in Aikido that is not a part of Truth. My own shallow dalliance early on was progressively deepened. It brought me full circle to the roots of faith expressed in tradition and scripture.

Eric,
You listed my quote so I will respond that of course, I was only speaking for myself and I still stand behind everything I said, for myself of course. Just for the record, I could never agree with some of your suppositions because they aren't faithful to the intent of the writers. None of the classic Fathers responsible to the Ecumenical Creeds would have accepted O Sensei's beliefs and neither would have the Westminster Divines or anyone from the Reformed tradition. Calvin nor any of his immediate predecessors would never be found accepting the Shinto or the Omoto kyo world view or cosmology. That is a certain fact without debate in both conservative and liberal traditions. Your statements may be an accurate reflection of what you believe but your post stretched all factual credibility. Sorry but you are just incorrect. I pride myself in researching the truth and accepting it for what it is but as much as I respect O Sensei, His religious beliefs were definitely NOT compatible with any version of classic and orthodox Christianity in the mainstream for the last 2000 years. Some of the things he taught and believed were in fact true but the fundamental things he held to were not compatible with Christian teaching that accepts the basis of classical historic Christianity.
Again, I respect your right to make the connections you did and your Christianity may be sufficiently diluted to accept fully all of O Sensei's belief system but it still differs substantially from all of the sources you cited without question or debate from all the important and credible sources. I would have loved to correct you point by point but I'm sure it wouldn't chnange you and you won't change me so it's wisdom to call the truce now bow out here because I don't want this discussion to degenerate into a religious argument.
I wish you the best always,
Jorge

John Matsushima 01-05-2007 05:44 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
I think it is not a matter of which religion you choose, or even if you choose one at all. But I think whatever we do we should act with sincerity. I think it is a mistake to chase after the Omoto-kyo practices just to make our Aikido better. If we choose religion, I think the most important thing is to follow our hearts for the purpose of being one with the universe, one with the God. Those who are spiritual, practice their spirituality in everything they do, from the moment they get up, to the moment they go to bed, not just because Mr. Ueshiba did it.
Erick gave us a lot of good information, I thought, showing that Western religion supports the same principles and ideas that Ueshiba held close to him (peace, love, harmony, etc). Reading those things, I could imagine that Ueshiba would have been the same no matter what religion he practiced. Omoto-kyo just happened to touch his heart and so that's why practiced it; not to make his budo better. Maybe someone can correct me, but I don't know of any of Ueshiba's uchideshi who became an Omoto-kyo follower. I have read that even Chiba sensei went off to practice Zen because Ueshiba's spiritual beliefs just didn't make sense to him. If one is serious about the spirituality found in Aikido, then I think it is better to practice a way which holds some meaning to the individual to bring fruition to these principles. And I'm not just talking about Christianity; if you are a Jew, Muslim, agnostic, or whatever, the point of it all is based in love and harmony.

"We must follow the way, but remember that the way is not the way."

Which leads to another important point that Jorge made as well:

"..as much as I respect O Sensei, His religious beliefs were definitely NOT compatible with any version of classic and orthodox Christianity in the mainstream for the last 2000 years. Some of the things he taught and believed were in fact true but the fundamental things he held to were not compatible with Christian teaching that accepts the basis of classical historic Christianity."

I agree with this because of the fundamental idea that while it is OK from Ueshiba's view, and from the Buddhist view to practice other religions, in Christianity it is not because of the tenant "There is only one God and there shall be no other god before me." That would make for a very interesting discussion on another thread.

Finally, for those who just like to play dress up and learn and be a part of Japanese culture, then if you are serious, then please do some research and find out more about it. I think we come to the dojo to learn and practice, not to dance around in ignorance.

Sincerely,
John Matsushima

Takumi 01-05-2007 05:45 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Gene Martinelli wrote:
Sorry to disagree with you Dylan, but you are not correct. O-Sensei clearly was directed to start his own dojo as a part & path of his religious/spiritual beliefs. O-Sensei most clearly did impose his beliefs into the practice of Aikido. How do you think it became a "Do?" So, you can choose to see the clapping and bowing as just respect to O-Sensei, but that is not all it means or its purpose. Finally, have you researched all the meanings of the Japanese affectation (think that is the right word) for "O?"
Again, I am not telling you to follow how I approach Aikido -it is always an individual quest-but if you think how I and perhaps others are approaching Aikido is ruining the practice...well please come down and take my class or train with me here or any of the seminars I am attending. Afterwords beer,food,& coffee while we argue/discuss/share and perhaps add one more friend to the growth of peace through Aikido.
Gene


Thank you for letting me know that. I will try to re word it.

I ment that during your practice of Aikido you did not need to adapt his religious beliefs and that you could still believe in whatever religion you want to believe in. Aikido is just a spiritual path without having to make your religion shinto, buddhism, or the religion that O-Sensei practiced (I don't remember the name of it).

I was wrong to criticize the partnership of religion and Aikido together. It would not ruin it, I just personally don't prefer it. I never was a church going fan, and if I had to say I was any religion it would be buddhist. So that is why my views are different than yours. But I also believe that if buddhism was to be integrated with Aikido it would indeed destroy it for me. I like the fact that Aikido is purely about finding the way to The Art of Peace. The religious part of any religion should stay in whatever place of worship they have. Otherwise it becomes too much of that religion and too little of Aikido. The way( :do: ) changes to a different way. But that is only my personal view on it and is also why everyone's Aikido is different. This way people find the best way to practice Aikido for themselves.

Thank you for your insight though. I think I will take you up on your offer sometime, I am really interested in seeing how it works out. :)

guest89893 01-05-2007 08:56 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Kevin Leavitt wrote:
yes we go to the Nuernburg Kristkindl Markt every year...it is one of the most enchanting places you can go during the holidays. There was no snow this year, but it was warmer so we did not freeze to death. But you have not experienced Christmas until you have been to this market!

Gruess Goett would be the correct spelling without the umlaut. My computer is set up for french so I cannot do the umlaut! und meine deustch est nicht sehr gute!

Well meine deustch est nix. Sorry no snow - but what an enchanting site and wonderful place to experience!
I have got to get back over their with my wife and son, oh well maybe next Christmas.

guest89893 01-05-2007 09:42 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Dylan Clements wrote:
Thank you for letting me know that. I will try to re word it.

I meant that during your practice of Aikido you did not need to adapt his religious beliefs and that you could still believe in whatever religion you want to believe in. Aikido is just a spiritual path without having to make your religion shinto, Buddhism, or the religion that O-Sensei practiced (I don't remember the name of it).

I was wrong to criticize the partnership of religion and Aikido together. It would not ruin it, I just personally don't prefer it. I never was a church going fan, and if I had to say I was any religion it would be Buddhist. So that is why my views are different than yours. But I also believe that if Buddhism was to be integrated with Aikido it would indeed destroy it for me. I like the fact that Aikido is purely about finding the way to The Art of Peace. The religious part of any religion should stay in whatever place of worship they have. Otherwise it becomes too much of that religion and too little of Aikido. The way( :do: ) changes to a different way. But that is only my personal view on it and is also why everyone Aikido is different. This way people find the best way to practice Aikido for themselves.

Thank you for your insight though. I think I will take you up on your offer sometime, I am really interested in seeing how it works out. :)

Ahh... I understand your point and yes it can always turn into a danger if "religion" is pushed or the main focus of Aikido. I and where I train/teach is a dojo noted for never loosing site that Aikido is a martial art.

A religion is often defined as a service or worship of God. Like David dancing up to the temple to honor God, perhaps that would more accurately describe what I am writing about to a degree. If you had walked up to the road and saw David's dance, you would simply see someone dancing or celebrating something. A deeper eye might see a person, dancing, temple ... and conclude this is for this man a religious or spiritual expression, and for someone else they may simply walk slowly and softly on the same road and for him/her that is expression to God. It is in the transformation of ourselves and the manifestation of that effect on the world that is the religious/spiritual path, the DO. Oops, okay so now I'm preaching. Sorry.

In order to get up that next level into the "Aiki" for me, I have to use the foundations that exist within my Catholic upbringing, my Christian Faith to draw the spiritual connect to O-Sensei's teachings. You must believe in something (In my opinion) in order to make that next jump. And yes, I do know or have heard of some of O-Sensei's uchideshi becoming members of his religious sect -just cannot remember the names (perhaps someone else can help here)- for I believe the very same reason. The other example given was Chiba becoming a practitioner of Zen B. -and he had explained why in an interview somewhere (I think AJ).

Oh and BTW, the offer to visit and train at Jihonjuku was real. We love having visitors come train with us on the mat and join us off the mat. Which reminds me, thanks to all who came and trained at the ASU Winter Intensive last week. It was awesome training and meeting old and new friends.
Gene

Takumi 01-05-2007 10:13 AM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Gene Martinelli wrote:
Ahh... I understand your point and yes it can always turn into a danger if "religion" is pushed or the main focus of Aikido. I and where I train/teach is a dojo noted for never loosing site that Aikido is a martial art.

A religion is often defined as a service or worship of God. Like David dancing up to the temple to honor God, perhaps that would more accurately describe what I am writing about to a degree. If you had walked up to the road and saw David's dance, you would simply see someone dancing or celebrating something. A deeper eye might see a person, dancing, temple ... and conclude this is for this man a religious or spiritual expression, and for someone else they may simply walk slowly and softly on the same road and for him/her that is expression to God. It is in the transformation of ourselves and the manifestation of that effect on the world that is the religious/spiritual path, the DO. Oops, okay so now I'm preaching. Sorry.

In order to get up that next level into the "Aiki" for me, I have to use the foundations that exist within my Catholic upbringing, my Christian Faith to draw the spiritual connect to O-Sensei's teachings. You must believe in something (In my opinion) in order to make that next jump. And yes, I do know or have heard of some of O-Sensei's uchideshi becoming members of his religious sect -just cannot remember the names (perhaps someone else can help here)- for I believe the very same reason. The other example given was Chiba becoming a practitioner of Zen B. -and he had explained why in an interview somewhere (I think AJ).

Oh and BTW, the offer to visit and train at Jihonjuku was real. We love having visitors come train with us on the mat and join us off the mat. Which reminds me, thanks to all who came and trained at the ASU Winter Intensive last week. It was awesome training and meeting old and new friends.
Gene


Oh! I understand what your point is as well. It also takes that extra something for me to understand the Aiki on a more moral and off the mat way. I personally believe (and did before practicing Aikido) in a lot of the beliefs that O-Sensei had so it is easy for me to understand.

I completly understand what you mean by using religion to help you understand the Aiki part. I like how you have made the adjustment to do so and have not lost the meaning of Aikido. I would definetly love to visit and so how this is achieved! I am very interested in this now... i never realized how differently one can percieve the :do: part of Aikido. Thank you again for your invitation, I think the next time I am around there I will definetly visit.

Erick Mead 01-05-2007 01:46 PM

Re: Western religion and Aikido
 
Quote:

Jorge Garcia wrote:
Just for the record, I could never agree with some of your suppositions because they aren't faithful to the intent of the writers. None of the classic Fathers responsible to the Ecumenical Creeds would have accepted O Sensei's beliefs and neither would have the Westminster Divines or anyone from the Reformed tradition.

The intent of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church with regard to Shinto, as to which they had absolutely no knowledge, or Omoto, which did not even exist at the time, is a speculation of debatable significance. That also seriously overstates the case that I made:
Quote:

Erick Mead wrote:
Shinto can be accepted in every particular where it does not conflict with revealed truth.

We are not talking about professions of faith. We are talking about the practice of Aikido in the context of Western religion.

I do not take a position on primacy of anything other than revealed truth. Doctrine is not contested. I think it can be affirmatively stated that Shinto has virtually no affirmative doctrinal statements, at least not in the Western sense.
Quote:

Jose Garcia wrote:
Calvin nor any of his immediate predecessors would never be found accepting the Shinto or the Omoto kyo world view or cosmology.

An assumption we will never be able to test. The Good News is good for all peoples and all times, but all peoples at all times are not the same in their understanding or application of it, nor is therei need for any particular aspect of grace the same, either.

Moreover, the graces of the Church are not static, but grow in history and in wisdom, like the seed of the mustard tree. Different branches have had and do have different conceptions of stablizing doctrines in the course of that growth for their times and circumstances. The simultaneous universality and variety of those ideas of stabilizing infulences only deomnstrates the fact that the faith is a living and growing thing.

I strongly contest the inevitablity of conflict on essentials of the underlying conception of Truth expressed by O Sensei in the practices and rituals of Aikido passed down to us. NOT egaging them and examining them carefully and faithfully is a pointless and overly inhibiting objection. Semina Verbi. Seeds of the Word are everywhere. The good news is found in some capacity wherever the Spirit moves the hearts of men. The seeds should not be discarded because you find them among what you deem to be inessential chaff. Was St. Paul wrong in preaching the statue of the "unknown god" to the Athenians?

There is no difference in this context if we are to take the broadest possible and therefore least doctrinal conception when addressing a context far removed from Western ideas of doctrine and theology.
Quote:

Jose Garcia wrote:
Sorry but you are just incorrect. I pride myself in researching the truth and accepting it for what it is but as much as I respect O Sensei, His religious beliefs were definitely NOT compatible with any version of classic and orthodox Christianity in the mainstream for the last 2000 years.

I don't have the authority to say that they are compatible in every particular, nor did I. But then, on the other hand, neither has anyone else made such a determination as a general matter. It is quite literally an open question with suggestive things to discuss. Prejudgment has no place in religion or in any other aspect of life.
Quote:

Jose Garcia wrote:
Some of the things he taught and believed were in fact true but the fundamental things he held to were not compatible with Christian teaching that accepts the basis of classical historic Christianity.

In addition to Aikido training, O Sensei's root practice (his daily observance) was Chinkon Kishin. It means "calm the spirit, return to the Divine." Chinkon Kishin incoporates martial techniques of spiritual significance as well as kotodama.

If O Sensei understood his cosmology in terms of the Divine Logos (which he expressly did), how is Chinkon Kishin and the practice of kotodama anything but oriented toward "SU" "the Word," the Saving Name - "I AM"?? In it essentials, it is Christ-oriented, when observed from a Christian perpsective. It therefore cannot be condemned out of hand. That understanding is at least at the level of the God-fearers in the early Church who associated themselves with synagogues thorughout the Greco-Roman world and who formed the ready corps of Gentile converts to Christianity.
Quote:

Jose Garcia wrote:
Again, I respect your right to make the connections you did and your Christianity may be sufficiently diluted to accept fully all of O Sensei's belief system

It isn't and I didn't, especially not in the way you mean. The care that I put into my statements is a reflection of both my openness to the creativity of the Spirit working in the world and my deep respect for orthodoxy and the need for stabilizing authority. They are never really at odds. You really should read Chesterton's book by that title - "Orthodoxy."
Quote:

Jose Garcia wrote:
... it still differs substantially from all of the sources you cited without question or debate from all the important and credible sources. I would have loved to correct you point by point but I'm sure it wouldn't chnange you and you won't change me so it's wisdom to call the truce now bow out here because I don't want this discussion to degenerate into a religious argument.

I anticipated that you, or someone from your perpsective, might like to try to correct me, which is why I laid the invitation on the table. As long as we do not depart (and we have not) from the "sprirt of gentleness" counseled by both St. Paul and O Sensei, what's the problem with religious debate in reference to Aikido -- given the topic at hand?


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