Re: Religion and Aikido
Let me first say that this has been a very interesting thread to read so far. It seems that almost everyone on these threads has seen Aikido as a complement or as a conflict with their proclaimed religion. Some people may deny that Aikido is anything more than martial arts, and that the philosphical and spiritual aspect is just something vestigial to training. Others may lavish in the spiritual and philosophical aspect, and see this as the true foundation of all Aikido, and of their own personal beliefs. For some people, Aikido bridges the gap between Western thought and religion, and Eastern thought and religion. Possibly it is a way to "keep" the religion you may have grown up with, and exercise an interest in Japanese culture, religion, and thought.
In short, Aikido is either a manifestation of another religious doctrine (as I might classify Erick Mead's perspective), or of an innate spirituality that hasn't really fallen into a specific religion (like Joshua Paszkiewicz). But what if we say that Aikido is religion? I'm not saying that Aikido should be made, or has been made into some sort of weird cult. All I'm saying is that what we do, what Aikido has always been, is a form of religious practice, and is therefore religion. Look at what we do--is a dojo really so different from a church or temple? On the mat, don't you respect your sensei with similar reverence as a priest? Don't you connect to the people at your dojo just as you might with the people in a church community? Wasn't that first roll a sort of "leap of faith?" You wear your nice pants to do Aikido, and your other nice pants to go to church. My point is, Aikido is inherently religion, we just don't call it that, and we do it very differently. The foundations of our religion is getting sweaty and smacked around, while manifesting peace and harmony. The foundation of one school of Buddhism is sitting on your butt for extended periods of time, while manifesting compassion and wisdom.
Of course the upshot of all this is that Aikido is not just religion, nor is it just some sport. Anyone can say that a sport is a "way of life." Before I did Aikido, skiing was my "way of life." So to fully realize the depth and breadth of Aikido, we have to strive to fully understand the mundane, everyday side. How do to Ikkyo, how to apply atemi, how to roll. But we also have to fully consider the "big idea" philosophical side. What is peace, really? Why not use force? How does this apply to my life? But you can't have one without the other; Aikido provides both the questions and the answers.
So I'd encourage people who've been struggling with this issue to see that Aikido is, for each and every practitioner part of their lives, and by being part of their lives, it's also an intrinsic part of their individual spirituality. How you deal with it is up to you.