Thread: Spirituality
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Old 06-30-2006, 12:56 PM   #87
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,616
Re: Spirituality

Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Warning: Very Long Post Ahead.
I'll likely fail in making mine shorter ...
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
... to join the New Religion of which she was an active member (active enough to make house-to-house calls, Jehovah's Witness-style). When I stated that my Catholic Christianity was sufficient, her answer was eerily similar to Morhiei Ueshiba's comment about aikido. There was no problem whatever in being a Catholic and joining this new religion, for doing so would make me a better Catholic: it would 'perfect' or 'complete' my Catholicity. This leads me to the second observation.

2. Japanese have no problems about embracing several religions at once and I think this colours Morihei Ueshiba's views on religion.
And yet, I have the impression that the kindly old proselyte for her sect meant it in a way different from that meant by O-Sensei, and that O-Sensei came to understand it in a way different from what Onisaburo meant when he said essentially the same thing. They seem to see the addition of every possible spiritually efficacious practice as part of bringing spirituality "to completion."

They seem to assume that all religious conflicts are only apparent and need not be resolved. Becasue they need not be resolved, no connection betwen them is ever really established. They pass like ships in the night -- one unaffected by the other, which to the Western mind leads to the sometimes odd-seeming adoption of the Western wedding trappings, utterly disconnected from either its own tradition or the native traditions that it supplements.

This is in fact a larger criticism of Japanese culture, which is in my view a consequence of a common misreading of in-yo as a cultural paradigm. Many very intransigent and dangerous problems are not addressed because the appearance of any conflict is to be avoided (the status of ethnic Korean Japanese being a sterling and sad example.) If anyone has been in Japan and seen a groups of very loud drunks after the end of the workweek (no decent Japanese would be seen drunk alone) being studiously "not seen" by passers-by -- you know precisely what I mean.

O-Sensei understood conflict as very real. He fought in Manchuria. He was bodyguard for a dissident figure of national proiminence. He did not assert that conflct did not need ot be resolved. He prescribed direct entry (irimi) and connection with the opponent, without opposition to him as the solution to a conflict once it had arisen. For this reason, O-Sensei's approach is much more in keeping with the objective and rationalist elements of Christian tradition partuicularly, and Wetsern tradition generally, which posits very real and objective opposition and conflict to exist in spiritual matters.

In this sense O-Sensei's view or approach to the religious question is almost the obverse of ordinary Japanese syncretism desribed above, despite his using similar language to describe it. Aikido is a practice of spiritually efficacious dimension. O-Sensei plainly viewed it as a practice that could be grafted within other traditions, but, as he said to Andre Noquet -- not in the sense described above.

Andre Nocquet -- Aiki News # 85, (summer 1990) wrote:
I asked him one day if there wasn't a similarity between his prophecies and those of Christ. He answered, "Yes, because Jesus said his technique was love and I, Morihei, also say that my technique is love. Jesus created a religion, but I didn't. Aikido is an art rather than a religion. But if you practice my Aikido a great deal you will be a better Christian." Then I asked, "Sensei should I remain a Christian?" He replied,
"Yes, absolutely. You were raised as a Christian in France. Remain a Christian." If he had told me to stop being a Christian and become a Buddhist, I would have been lost.
It seems to me that O-Sensei sought connection, not as a sterile adjunct, but as a fertile participant in new growth within ans trengthening existing traditions, rather than altering it or simply being laid alongside ( like utensils in a drawer), unconnectedly, in the manner of Omoto (as I perceive Onisaburo's writings) and the kindly old lady Prof. Goldsbury mentions.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Actually, when I retire from Hiroshima University, I could get a lucrative 'second-life' job as a 'priest' at 'Christian' weddings. Christian weddings are very popular nowadays and wedding 'churches' are springing up all over the place, a notable one being a smaller but almost exact replica of Cologne Cathedral not far from Fukuyama JR Station. Of course, I would not need to be ordained. Fake ordination papers would be furnished by the wedding company and I would simply need to look benevolently 'priestly' and unctuous, and speak very good Japanese.
This a good point to make. Japanese religion is almost purely sacramental in its approach, focussed on (almost any) action deemed spiritually efficacious. Fundamentalist Protestantism is by contrast almost purely scriptural and creed centered in its focus, to the near exlcusion of sacramentla acts. Islam has a curious mix of the two -- a universal faithulness to a minimalist creed (Tawhid), and a minimalist set of sacramental observation, salat, zakat etc. with a maximalist but widely diverse scriptural tradition over which there are many contending interpretations, at least four main traditional schools, plus Shi'a, and Sufi and other more minor sects and varaiations.

Catholicism embraces a more evenly balanced tension between creed/scriptural fidelity, and a sacramental life of spiritually efficacious actions. That, in very basic sense, is what makes it "catholic," i.e. -- universal or all-encompassing. Mind and body. Objective and subjective.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
The fact that 'foreign' religions were not allowed to take root in Japan is well-known. What is more interesting is the extent to which those who do embrace 'foreign' religions actually 'Japanize' the content.
For the aforementioned reasons, Japanese religion has very little difficulty in accepting any spiritual practice, regardless of context and adapting it to their sacramentally-centered understanding of spirituality. Islam on the other hand depends on its social cohesion across many cultures for adherence to a single untranslated text and very small set of sacramental observances and creed requirements, such that the adoption of any practice seen as "spiritual," that is not in strict comformity with those observances is seen as threatening to the most essential elements that tie adherents of very differnt backgrounds together. Fundamentalist Protestantism has the same basic issue.

Catholicism finds ways to embrace "gifts of the spirit" to expand the sacramental side of life, not in the somewhat ad hoc manner of Japanese culture, but in a way that considers, reflects and then critically adapts spiritual practices seen as efficacious vehicles of God';s grace, so long as it is seen that they do not impair of undermine the sacramental life of the Church already established in its scriptural revelation and proven traditions. Classical Buddhism also had aspects of this same deliberate openness to human experience as contingently valuable revelation of its own kind.

For this reason it is fascinating to see the coalescence of contemplative practices jointly within sacntioned Catholic religious orders and traditional structures of Buddhist sangha (Morning Star Zendo being an excellent example, whose Roshi and Dharma heir is also a Jesuit priest. The book ' Zen Catholicism' by Dom Aelred Graham is also a treasure for such exploration)

I find that Aikido is an able adjunct to Christian faith in the Catholic tradition, in just this same way. Given the manner in which Zen is now being adopted within Christian tradition I have a concrete basis for this hope and expectation for aikido, that O-Sensei perhaps could not have, but to which he plainly aspired. It should have greater exposure in this sense.

Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
One might compare Japan with a country like France, where I stayed for two years as a student of philosophy. Postwar France, like Japan, has suffered a decline in spiritual values, and this would probably be measured by the sharp decline in church attendance. The magnificent cathedrals and churches that are dotted all over France are more like museums or empty shells than centers of a living faith, but the spirituality that has so declined is still expressed in terms of a religion commanding a specific set of beliefs. Where you do not have such a religion, in a country like Japan, because one was never allowed to take root, how do you measure the loss of spirituality compared with what has gone before?
The experience of aikido in the secular West has great possibility, but Europe also is in great danger on this front (read Pope Benedict's "Truth and Tolerance," which will explain the basis for gathering rapprochement this theological Pope is making among the secular intellectual establishment in Europe).

But I will note one thing as to aikido specifically. Nearly everyone I have known who is more or less secular in their orientation, yet seems to seek for the spiritual foundation "behind" aikido. I suggest that the way in which O-Sensei transmitted it neither depended upon nor intended any such foundation as a necessity. Possible, yes, reproducible, perhaps, but not necessary.

That does not mean he intended for aikido to be apart from a living spiritual tradition. Too many people, I think, do not give O-Sensei sufficient credit for understanding the world outside of Japan, simply on the evidence he was so deeply attuned to his own native tradition. His own reading and the breadth of library give the lie to that.

Perhaps O-Sensei demonstrated his method to emulate -- not his actions to reproduce. Kotodama, for instance, while it gives insight to understand how he related deep tradition, communication in language, sound and movement to physical action and spiritual effects, is almost incomprehensible, and of therefore doubtful utility to anyone who does not natively speak Japanese.

One cannot help, however, to notice the religiosity with which O-Sensei viewed his art, and the heartfelt expression of spitual consequence he gave it in his Doka. He did not attend to seeing that his deshi transmitted very much of this esoteric knowledge of his views on Shinto, but he was, neverthless, very outspoken about it in other settings, and committed to it in his own life. This is a discrepancy to be reconciled. This is one way to reconcile it.
It seems almost a direct challenge (irimi) to confront aikido in our OWN traditions and to create musubi with the tools he gave us.
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
I think I will break off here, otherwise this post will become unmanageably long.
Ditto, here. I think I achieved what you avoided

Erick Mead
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