Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Re: Religion and Aikido
Many who practice Aikido shy away from this subject because they sense conflict. Some fly at it like moths to the flame, heedless of the burning. But neither is true Aikido. We must address the sources of conflict on their own terms, not try to deny them, and certainly not try to foment them. We must also not try to destroy the expression of the conflict, or worse, pretend that conflict does not exist or that the causes are somehow not significant or capable of merely being ignored.
As Catholic and a lawyer I like to define terms, and sometimes I get a better understanding that way. (Sometimes I understand better by shutting my mouth, but this is not one of them -- I hope-- or if so, I am sure I will discover that too, in due course.)
I always make distinction (as does my Church) between things that are of the Spirit and those that are of Religion.
The difference is the distinction between faith and religion: one is a state of mind, the other is an outward, usually communal, expression.
Religion is a Latin word coming from religere -- to bind, or fasten together. It is therefore the exception to the rule of the practice in most religious traditions to do so without some reference to other persons (even when they are not actually present) to whom we are bound in fellowship.
Spirit is also Latin, coming from spiritus -- breath, breathing
Spirit both directly denotes and connotes the same meaning as Kokyu.
A technique applied limply, without projection of one's center (esse -- being), lacks kokyu, it is an action without spirit.
Kokyu is the expression of ki, which also means breath in another sense.
Aikido, as practiced, is therefore inherently spiritual.
In a practical sense, religion is the outward expression of inwardly perceived truth in forms that are commonly understood by the adherents (-- "those who stick to") a particular religious system.
Religious acts are communal and expressive acts. Acts of faith are solitary and ineffable (-- "not expressible"). And yet faith cries out for expression in external forms, some of which engage our conscious minds and some of which do not.
Most religious acts occur in a system of doctrine, which is necessary to give expressive actions a material foundation that can be commonly understood.
Some religious acts are not doctrinal and therefore are not outwardly indicative of nor dependent upon a particular system of religious doctrine.
A good example is contemplative meditation. The act is essentially the same across religious traditions, including the several variation of methods used to focus awareness. The physical disciplines to achieve appropriate mental awakening and alteration of perceptive faculties are well-understood, empirically proven on a neurological basis, and materially effective in practice, both objectively and subjectively. It is a practice directed at the conscious mind, but to calm, rather than to excite, the desire for expression. When given a particular form of expression and focus, such meditation is by all means religious, but it is not doctrinal.
Doctrine is an unavoidable cause for religious conflict. The various cords that people have throughout history chosen, in their respective times and respective places, to bind them together in a common expression of sipiritual feeling, vary as widely as historical experiences among human beings. To reach common understanding it is necessary to have common references, and to a great extent the selection of these references simply happens. The depth and richness of religious imagery, paradoxically, depends upon its more particular cultural circumstance, rather than upon its more universal charatereistics.
Doctrine is both indispensable and yet also incomplete by reason of the historical accidents that give rise to particular accretions of religious concepts. Doctrine is necessary to enlighten and to exercise the conscious minds, to aid understanding, and to put into application respective attitudes of faith. Doctrine is therefore an indispensable element of all religions, and yet is also, for the same
reason, an unavoidable cause of conflict among them.
Religious actions that do not depend upon doctrine, such as meditation, are an opportunity to join together (religere) beyond the bounds of our particular religious community, in a common action with religious significance but not bound by doctrinal teaching of a particular religious tradition.
Aikido is religious in this latter sense. It lacks any doctrine. It is an outward expression of an attitude of faith that is experienced communally according to forms of action that are empirically valid, and both objectively and subjectively effective. It is directed at and engages the conscious mind through the instrument of the body. Practice of aikido quells desire for self-directed focus and the desire for predetermined action or result. Practice does not destroy aggression, which is a fundamental and indispensable human trait, but transforms it into something nobler, greater and worthy of our time and attention.
Speaking to Christians now (especially Catholics), Aikido is an opportunity to become both a witness and participant, directly, in certain material aspects of the transformative mystery of the Incarnation.
I cannot speak to Protestants as they are all apostate heretics and doomed to . . . .(Oh wait a moment, I've got this silly doctrine thing in reverse.... ;-} )
Speaking to Taoists, Aikido is just walking -- you know, with strong feeling about it.
Speaking to Buddhists, Aikido is a means to show the causes and a means to aid cessation of suffering for all sentient beings.
Speaking to Jews, Aikido is an expression of the Law of God to train in righteousness and to spread righteousness among the nations.
Speaking to Muslims, Aikido is a means to do the will of the merciful and compassionate God in a mutual struggle (jihad) to find true freedom (ijtihad).
Speaking to Shinto-jin, Aikido is kannagara, the path of kami, to seek harmony with the opening and eternal chord of creation.
Aikido is all this, ... and less, ... and more ...