Re: Religion and Aikido
It's always difficult to tell what influenced what in the ancient world. Every culture has started with with certain common set of myths and symbols which seem to go back so far that there's no telling when or where they actually originated...
If one reads the works of someone like Mircea Eliade on archaic religions one can clearly see that there is a common set of shared myths and symbols which get incorporated in virtually every faith. Carl Jung accounts for these by talking about the "collective unconscious" and this is probably as good as any way to describe the various stmbolic structures which we all seem to share and which, I believe, actually give much of religion it's transformative power.
Myth and ritual, are on some level, the "machine langauge" of the Mind. Every spiritual system has relied on this to "transform" it's adherents. Anyway, we have a shared symbolic structure which is cross cultural. As the various modern religious traditions developed they picked this up and then transformed it according to the culture in which the new faith was developing.
This is why it's so difficult to tell at a later time, what influenced what... In many instances they started with w shared set of symbols and even similar myths lomd before any contact was made.
Toaday one can see how powerful this underlying symbolic and mythic structire is... as the great Religions have revealed their various weaknesses and people have fallen away, especially in the West, people are constantly re-inventing thier faith by appropriating the symbolic structures of our previous traditions out of contect to create satisfying new traditions of spiritual practice. One can see this in recreations of Native American or shamanic traditions, recreated Celtic / Pagan traditions, etc We often laugh at these people and see their efforts as unauthentic. We consider extreme examples of these to be "cults", a word that now has all sorts of negative overtones that were not there in its original usage.
The desire to impose a spiritual structure onto Aikido is completely understandable. It was there at its start and has been removed by many people passing on the mechanics but not the internal content of the tradition. For those looking for something beyond mere self defense this is essentially unsatisfying and people will automatically start reinserting those spiritual principles into this vacuum. It is my preference to try to discover and pursue the knowledge that was already there at the inception rather than re-invent them on my own but one way or another people will be inventing, re-inventing, or re-discovering all sorts of spiritual and even religious principles in connection with their Aikido practice. This will happen automatically and inevitably as long as people believe that Aikido is something beyond a weird, dancelike set of movements for self defense.
As for the gentleman who said he was an Atheist and that Buddhism contains no concpet of God, this isn't true. Buddhism accpeted the entire pantheon contained in Hinduism. They also accpeted the Gods and Goddeses of every culture into which they moved. Like the Greeks they had Divine Beings but they didn't look at these divinities as the source for all knowledge, all moral distinction, etc. The reason Buddhism doesn't talk much about the Gods is not that they rejected them but rather that Enlightenment has nothing to do with them. The Gods themselves can be as "Ignorant" of their True Nature as any mortal. So Buddhism simply addressed the Four Noble Truths:
1) the Existence of Suffering
2) the Origin of Suffering
3) the Cessation of Suffering
4) the Eightfold Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering
This is not in any way Atheistic, it just doesn't look to a God (s) for salvation.