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Brendan Basone 06-19-2004 11:45 AM

When you bow do you worship or just...
 
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

Don_Modesto 06-19-2004 12:25 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Brendan Basone wrote:
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

An often-asked question. Do a search for more answers; mine follows.

Someone in the last few months posted to the effect that it was disrespectful to wash your belt. A more experienced practitioner responded that that must be an American tradition because the Jpn sure wash theirs.

Possibly some Americans worship when bowing. One of my epiphanies regarding Jpn tradition occured once while waiting in my dentist's office (in Tokyo). This old woman came in and...bowed toward the office. Maybe she was worshipping the cruel HA-GA-ITAI DA YO! NO KAMI. I tend to think she was just showing courtesy which is what I take bwoing in the dojo to be.

Let us know what you conclude.

Nick P. 06-19-2004 01:36 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
It like nodding your head when you make eye contact with someone: a sign of politeness and courtesy/respect (as Don mentioned).

Chuck Clark 06-19-2004 02:00 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Thinking of my intent when taking part in reigi (both in and outside the dojo), I find: courtesy/respect/gratitude/humility. On any given day, the part that fluctuates the most is the humility, I'm sure. I do not detect any reverence or worshipful attitudes about reigi in any of the people I train with in the Jiyushinkan.

Chris Li 06-19-2004 03:48 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Nick Pittson wrote:
It like nodding your head when you make eye contact with someone: a sign of politeness and courtesy/respect (as Don mentioned).

It depends where you are, I suppose. If you cross yourself when you enter a Catholic Church are you worshipping? Strictly speaking, I suppose that it depends upon what your inner mindset, but at the very least you are performing a ritual of worship. Some dojo have everyone bow to a shrine and/or perform some kind of basic Shinto ritual, some don't.

Now depending upon your religious beliefs, this may or may not be a problem. Despite what many Aikido people say about a gesture of respect, many people have problems with performing a religious ritual outside of their own religious beliefs - regardless of the mindset used when performing it. Some people's religious beliefs even include very specific limitations on what or who can be bowed to (again, regardless of the mindset when the bow occurs).

Japanese people tend to be fairly flexible about religion and religious practices. I've spoken to more than one Japanese shihan (all students of M. Ueshiba) about this, and the response was invariably along the lines of "If you don't want to bow than don't bow". I practiced at numerous dojo in Japan, and I can't imagine that kind of thing becoming a major problem - most Japanese would probably just look at it as another odd foreign quirk. Interestingly, the only people that I've run into that try to hold a really hard line about the bowing stuff were non-Japanese.

Best,

Chris

gilsinnj 06-19-2004 09:06 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
When bowing to the front of the dojo, you are showing respect to all the people that have practiced and taught Aikido before you. When you bow to your instructor, you are showing respect to the instructor who will be teaching you now.

Our style has tried to limit the amount of ritualistic practices that reflect may have at one point reflected O'Sensei's religious and spiritual beliefs, but now are done as dogma by people practicing Aikido. Our Sensei believes that so many Aikido schools have just adopted the practice of going through certain motions without questioning them and understanding their original purpose.

-- Jim

Charles Hill 06-19-2004 09:37 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Christopher Li wrote:
I practiced at numerous dojo in Japan, and I can't imagine that kind of thing becoming a major problem - most Japanese would probably just look at it as another odd foreign quirk.

Hi Chris,

Don`t you think that the "odd foreign quirk" becomes a major problem when the other members continue to keep that person on the outside (soto) instead of bringing him/her in (uchi)? I have seen numerous times where a non-Japanese insists on doing things her/his own way in the dojo. The Japanese seem to accept it but then they seem to not take any personal responsibility/interest in that person`s progress.

Charles Hill

Chuck Clark 06-19-2004 11:27 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Hi Charles,

If the "out of step" foreigner doesn't seem motivated to get in step, just about all of the Japanese that I've known since the fifties just smile at them enough to not make any waves but don't get involved with them any further. On the contrary, many of them will go out of their way to share with and help those that have an interest in learning and have earned their respect.

Come to think of it, it's pretty much that way in the good dojo that I'm around these days. Whether in Japan or here in the US.

Chris Li 06-20-2004 01:10 AM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Charles Hill wrote:
Hi Chris,

Don`t you think that the "odd foreign quirk" becomes a major problem when the other members continue to keep that person on the outside (soto) instead of bringing him/her in (uchi)? I have seen numerous times where a non-Japanese insists on doing things her/his own way in the dojo. The Japanese seem to accept it but then they seem to not take any personal responsibility/interest in that person`s progress.

Charles Hill

Chuck's answer pretty much covers it, but I doubt if the behavior in question would be enough to actually get you ostracized unless you were fairly obnoxious in how you went about it. Basically speaking, foreigners usually get a lot more leeway in Japan than native Japanese do.

Best,

Chris

Charles Hill 06-20-2004 03:26 AM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Hey guys, thanks for your replies.

In my experience, teachers and even sempai in Japan are constantly throwing out tests. They might show a little something or make a small comment and then sit back and see what the student will do with it. Most, foreigners (again, just in my experience) seem to miss this(along with a number of Japanese, as well.) I`m not talking about ostracization, but the loss of a chance to move in, as opposed to up.

At a pub recently, my teacher talked about a foreigner who used to train at the dojo. The shihan really liked him but felt that his lack of Japanese language ability caused him to amaeru too much, and this prevented him from really getting to the place where he could receive the shihan`s teaching. I feel that if something so innocent as a lack of language ability could cause this, refusing to bow would be an even bigger block.

Thanks,
Charles Hill

Chris Li 06-20-2004 11:04 AM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Charles Hill wrote:
Hey guys, thanks for your replies.

In my experience, teachers and even sempai in Japan are constantly throwing out tests. They might show a little something or make a small comment and then sit back and see what the student will do with it. Most, foreigners (again, just in my experience) seem to miss this(along with a number of Japanese, as well.) I`m not talking about ostracization, but the loss of a chance to move in, as opposed to up.

At a pub recently, my teacher talked about a foreigner who used to train at the dojo. The shihan really liked him but felt that his lack of Japanese language ability caused him to amaeru too much, and this prevented him from really getting to the place where he could receive the shihan`s teaching. I feel that if something so innocent as a lack of language ability could cause this, refusing to bow would be an even bigger block.

Thanks,
Charles Hill

Americans often think that not speaking Japanese is not so important, even if they live in Japan - after all, they speak English, which everyone ought to understand! Try taking on a couple of non-English speaking students who speak only, say, Swahili, and see how easy it is to teach them subtle and complex points.

I'd say that Japanese ability is the number one block at the dojo if you're training in Japan - anything else can pretty much be worked out as long as you're able to communicate.

Best,

Chris

Tharis 06-20-2004 01:37 PM

Respect vs. Worship
 
Quote:

Brendan Basone wrote:
When you bow at the close of an aikido lesson do you worship or just show honour to a person or philosophy which improves self esteem?

I feel it meant to much when I bowed and had to pray later because of it concerning it.

There are Biblical examples of this such as when Namaan the Syrian who asked a prophet for permission to bow with the others to a false God. And there were many examples with Jesus. Early christians chose death instead of calling the Emperor lord...

What's it to you fellows? How do you deal with it according to your conscience and faith?

IMHO....

OSensei is not a false God. He was, literally, a great teacher, not a deity.

I'm Christian, and my feeling on the whole bowing to the shomen thing is a sign of Respect, not Worship. It has nothing to do with self esteem or showing honor. It's simply an act of thanks.

The Emperor of Rome insisted upon being treated like a God. It was one of the bases of the power of the empire. OSensei may have felt he was the reincarnation of a Shinto deity, but I don't think he demanded absolute submission from anyone. He simply taught.

The bow is just a show of respect and thanks, not worship. It's not a kowtow.

A lot of it is a matter of how you see it.

Does that help?

Yours in ukemi,

Thomas

Don_Modesto 06-20-2004 01:37 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Christopher Li wrote:
Some dojo have everyone bow to a shrine and/or perform some kind of basic Shinto ritual, some don't.

After Ellis' comments about Kuroiwa, I wanted to watch him again on the 85 Expo tape. Fast-forwarding through, I saw several instructors bowing to the banner above the stage which basically said, "Friendship Demo."

SeiserL 06-20-2004 03:35 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
IMHO, bowing is a cultural means of showing respect.

Noel 06-20-2004 07:48 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Personally, Brendan, I wouldn't get too worked up about bowing. Then again, I don't get worked up about the lawn either, and the better half, well...

Seriously though, I've known devout Muslims who will not bow, for religious reasons, and never seen anyone give them static about it.

It's also been mentioned that if you don't bow at the person/picture/whatever, that it's not worshipping, and therefore OK. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that is enough for your conscience. 'Course that's also mentioned in a book that the Yoshinkan guys tend to question the veracity of, so...

Ultimately, IMO, you have to be true to your faith. If you can sleep with the decision you choose, then you made the right one.

My cent-and-a-half,
-Noel

Paula Lydon 06-20-2004 10:44 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
~~Actually, I use the beginning and ending bows to clear myself as much as possible before class and to be thankful generally for the lessons I received during class. I don't see bowing in any religious sense and therefore have no conflict with it. It is, to me, a form of humble gratitude, not necessarily to any beliefe, person or philosophy~~

xuzen 06-20-2004 11:02 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Dear friends,

In Iceland, you greet each other by rubbing nose...
In Most Western European countries, you greet by shaking hands...
In Arabic countries, you greet by hugging or kissing cheek to cheek...
In Indochinese countries, you greet by clapping your hands in prayer...
In Japan, you greet by bowing and since in Aikido you start the class by seiza (sitting posture) you do a rei i.e., a bowing from a sitting position.
I guess if you do want to you can shake hand with your sensei, if he doesn't mind...

Just my thought...
:D
Boon

Chris Li 06-21-2004 01:26 AM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Lynn Seiser wrote:
IMHO, bowing is a cultural means of showing respect.

It can be, or it can (in Japan or in other cultures) be a means of showing worship. It depends on where you are and how you interpret things.

In my experience the usual response to a religious concern about bowing in the dojo is to dismiss the problem by stating that the bow is just a means of showing respect. Respectfully ( :) ), because you believe it to be so doesn't meant that other people also believe the same way, or that they ought to believe the same way. In many dojo the bow and the bowing ritual are clearly connected to religious symbols and ritual. If that doesn't cause a problem for you then that's great, but for some people it's a serious religious question.

In any case, I think that in most instances a simple talk to with whoever's in charge ought to resolve things without making a mountain out of a molehill.

Best,

Chris

Brendan Basone 06-21-2004 02:28 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
so then i think i will now prepare by bowing to yahweh tsidkenu and by praying. yahweh is my god the almighty actively present with his people. tsidkenu is righteousness which involves only true worship and respecting and honouring people as due. then at the dojo i will explain this to the aikidoka i think it is and will enact a bow to yahweh tsidkenu with respect and honour to the right persons. a rightly divided heart. a clearer conscience.
thanks.

Magma 06-21-2004 02:49 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Bowing is what you make it. However, that is a cerebral choice that you make.

The physical position of a bow is nothing. On point, look at the stretches that are in the same position - even seated stretches where you bend forward to the ground. In those cases, there is no question of if there is worship going on, because the mind has clearly made up that this is only a stretch and nothing more.

So?

When bowing to shomen and to sensei (and in greeting/leaving a training partner), it is up to the mind to determine what is going on. If you feel like you are worshiping the high wall, or OSensei or your instructor, it is because you have chosen to inject this into the physical act of bowing. If, on the other hand, you feel like you are only showing respect to those that have gone before, then you are likewise injecting *that* into the bow. Personally, I find that the latter is much more in tune with the need and call for the bow in the first place, and that is where my mind is as I approach the ritual.

Of course, belief is not a conscious, active thing. You can't choose what you believe - not and have it be sincere on a philosophical level. So, if you feel that you are worshiping in your bow, then perhaps you are. I just wanted to point out that that may be something you are bringing into the bow yourself. Maybe that helps you see things differently; maybe that helps you clarify your beliefs. However, do what is right for you.

Geoff Flather 06-27-2004 02:55 AM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Good day to you Brendan,

If we are responsible for our own actions, then a bow is what we make it.

Or are we God`s automaton ?

I recall at no time in my experience, God requesting that I bow only to God. Only that I seek God.

The one thing we all have in common is that we all make mistakes. Do you think that our Creator would not know this ?

The word "sin," is a Phoenician word that means fall short, and is derived from an archer who falls short with his arrows.

We all do this even when we are unaware of it. Ignorance prevents us from seeing our own sin, and there are many facets of ignorance. Yet God forgives us, so why not accept such a gift of forgiveness, and get on with attempting to be the best possible person that only, you can be.

When the race is run, you may then be confronted by God, as someone who invested God`s talents, and were able to give return more, than they had been origionally given. Not one, who placed their own limitations on themselves, or allowed others insecurity or ignorance, to restrict their own effort, and will to do so. You alone will be responsible, at such a time, not others.

Please accept my thoughts on your thread, and please forgive me should I have given you the impression of being sactimonius, it was certainly not intended.

Yo-Jimbo 06-27-2004 03:18 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
To me it isn't a big deal either way, I bow not because I'm supposed to or have to, but because I choose to respect the tradition and the others involved. I avoid doing things that I think are wrong; people have the right to govern themselves. Hopefully, when anyone bows, they know why they are doing it. Two people could be doing it right next to each other and be doing it for different reasons. Two people could be refusing to bow right next to each other for completely different reasons.
If you can't bring yourself to bow for any reason within your conscience, please don't abandon aikido over it (typical aikido practice spends little time doing it and little hinges on it). Perhaps, some will interpret not bowing as disrespectful or closed minded, but that should only matter if it is being done to impress someone with how virtuous one is instead of placating whatever Power(s) one consigns.
Yet, I would throw out the following (which I hope would bring this eternal debate some resolution). What would you do if I told you that *insert other faith than your own here* did *insert common activity here* as a way of worship? If someone worships the Green Mother by sitting down in a chair and eating food, communes with the 8th plane by sleeping on their side or shows their respect to the inner beast by defecation (a strange sort of deification), are you ready to stop doing all these things? These are all things you can't avoid you say. These are all hypothetical you say (although I made them up, I wouldn't be surprised if people somewhere did all of these). I have to sleep, but I don't have to bow. OK, well, some Baptists have been known to do submersion in water as a form of worship (I think they call it by the same name that we Catholics do, baptism). Anyway, I'd like to see the hands of everyone that is now ready to give up bathing and swimming so that no one will think that they've gone Baptist (or Catholic, or whatever).
I guess it has always seemed to be just another of our very human hypocrisies to me. Then again if your religion/personal belief has very specific verbiage on this subject, I suggest you continue to do whatever will protect your soul/karma and not bother with permission from any other authority than the one it belongs. We humans may even achieve great things if we can just figure out to whom that authority really belongs.
Although I am trying to sound sanctimonious, I'm sure God will continue to keep me in my place (most likely by ignoring me as the insignificant nuisance I am). Though I am not worthy of wiping the dust from anyone's feet, I would still try to lift everyone upon my shoulders.

David Edwards 06-27-2004 04:05 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Boon Soh wrote:
Dear friends,

In Iceland, you greet each other by rubbing nose...

Just on a cultural matter, before addressing the main issue of this thread.... I read that, and mentioned it to an Icelandic friend of mine (having lived in Iceland all her life, yes)... who says that she's never heard or seen that, and that Icelandic people just greet by shaking hands / saying hello / etc. What weird and outlandish customs these far-out little cultures have, hey? :p

On the main issue of this thread, I'll just copy'n'paste what I wrote in the "Aikido and being a Christian" thread:

What I have mainly to offer new to this discussion: on the subject of bowing to a portrait of O Sensei (as is traditional in my own dojo, and throughout at least the three biggest associations in this country). Jesus was questioned about whether or not they, the Jews, should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asks them to bring him the coin they use to pay, and they bring him a denarius, and he asks whose portrait is on it, whose inscription. They answer "Caesar's". Thus he says to them "So give to God what is God's, and Caesar what is Caesar's"

Thus I say, give to God the respect that is due to him, and give to O Sensei the respect that is due to him. We know perfectly well that bowing in this context is a sign of respect, not worship. And if we do... All-knowing God certainly does, and understands perfectly.

David Yap 06-27-2004 10:34 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

David Edwards wrote:
Thus I say, give to God the respect that is due to him, and give to O Sensei the respect that is due to him. We know perfectly well that bowing in this context is a sign of respect, not worship. And if we do... All-knowing God certainly does, and understands perfectly.

Good post, David E

My two sen on this thread is this:

I have across some sensei who would start the class in ceremonious way, clasped their hands in silent prayer (or with incomprehensive mumblings), clapped their hands twice, then bowed to kamiza (or towards the picture of O Sensei) and then repeat the process twice more before turning around to bow to the class. The bows towards the kamiza were done by the whole class in unison. Those who would not follow the process were always frowned upon and sometimes regarded as arrogant.

I think the knife always cut both ways. Sensei who insist (that students should follow such ceremonies) are just as arrogant in the sense that they ignorant and insensitive to individuals' religious beliefs & sentiments.

As for me, bowing once is traditional (respect), more than once is worshiping. Our collective aim at the dojo primarily is just to train.

David Y

David Edwards 06-29-2004 04:43 PM

Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
 
Quote:

Geoff Flather wrote:
The word "sin," is a Phoenician word that means fall short, and is derived from an archer who falls short with his arrows.

We all do this even when we are unaware of it. Ignorance prevents us from seeing our own sin, and there are many facets of ignorance. Yet God forgives us, so why not accept such a gift of forgiveness, and get on with attempting to be the best possible person that only, you can be.

Hmm... I just checked some online etymology dictionaries and encyclopaediae and things, because I recalled reading a little while ago that "sin" literally meant "disobediance". The most informative reference I found, that seems to encompass most of what I read in various other areas (including a brief mention to the Greek word for falling short often being translated as "sin" in the Bible), you might find informative: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin. Don't mean to be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs here, I do realise from the "Aikido and being Christian" thread that you are a priest, and taking into account your age you're somewhat older and probably wiser than I ... just thought you might find it informative anyway :)

Seeing sin in the light you mention it does also elevate to greater importance also the humility that tends to come with regular Aikido practice (amongst other endeavours; but this trait, as a general rule, is especially notable in Aikidoka). Seeing that we all make mistakes by necessity, somewhere along the Path, and that that's ok and natural, and good as long as we acknowledge those mistakes and try to rectify them as we go along.

And in the case of religion, praying for forgiveness for our past mistakes, and guidance and help to assist us in ma1king fewer mistakes in future, is usually a strong feature too.


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