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Old 01-18-2006, 08:41 AM   #40
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,568
Re: Religion and Aikido

Mark Freeman wrote:
...If God created all men in his own image, why did he create atheists? perhaps to give himself a challenge?
"To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition."
Woody Allen

Mark Freeman wrote:
Personally I see some fundamental differences between aikido and religion. ... The main difference I see is one of 'faith' in that to practice aikido you don't need any ( I do and I don't ), to practice a religion you do. ...
Religion does not require faith, which is perhaps one of its blessings for those who doubt they will ever find any. Indeed, a particular religion may be practiced without much faith at all to speak of. Amongst modern Jewry this is not uncommon, and an atheist Jew is not a contradiction in terms in today's world. It is not too dissimilar in many Christian communities. This same sensibility in religious observance is virtually endemic in Japan.

Mark Freeman wrote:
Ultimately I see it as a way to hone oneself as a human being, and for that to happen I must practice overcoming 'my own' issues that may impede my progress. To achieve this I do not need an afterlife punishment/reward system, a doctrine, a book, or any other trappings ( apart from kit and a mat ). But hey, thats just me.
Religion is not necessarily about life after death. Religion has a function apart from metaphysics. It happens that this also serves its metaphysical function, but in does so whether you choose to "believe" this, that or the other thing.

"Religere" is the Latin root, which means "to bind together." That is what religion does -- it binds individuals to one another in a way that both celebrates the fact of individuality while diminishing the pain of separateness. Religion makes concrete the reality of "Tat tvam asi" "This thou art."

The recommendation of practice and observance over "faith" is a constant, whether you be Catholic, Methodist, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or Jew. Not so different after all from what Mark's Sensei said:
Mark Freeman wrote:
"Don't 'believe' what I tell you, do what I show you, and decide for yourself!"
Faith is not required, only practice. Practice is good, useful and requires work. Plowing will not make seeds sprout, but it makes it more likely than on hard earth. Faith will look after itself if the work of practice is done.

Aikido is just such a practice. If try to avoid the word "religious", we fear a vibration in the air. To fear a word is mere superstition of magic. Aikido helps to bind and connect us to one another in an exceedingly concrete way. I agree that faith is not required, but I disagree that religion is not involved.

Religious practice makes us realize we are one, even when we are at odds and in actual physical struggle. That is Aikido. If we realize this fully, we are enlightened -- in every sense of that word. If we live our lives in such practice we are saved -- from the false sense that we were ever truly alone.

Northern Europeans had a different sensibility of faithfulness, fate, nobility and obligation to forebears in their religious thought that still survives in Christianity today even in the context of salvation theology. It echoes in a different tone and flavor the ethics of bushido that Aikido exemplifies.

He "saw in his thought the brave men of old
walking under the vault of heaven
upon the island earth beleaguered
by the shoreless seas and the outer darkness,
enduring with stern courage the brief days of life,
until the hour of fate,
when all things shall perish,
light and life together."

J.R.R. Tolkien, Preface to Beowulf

And yet that precise sensibility was the predicate for a glimmer of joy in an unlooked-for hope:

"From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
a light from the shadows shall spring,
renewed shall be blade that was broken,
the crownless again shall be king."

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Aikido is that glimmer of joy found underneath the falling sword.

Erick Mead
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