Re: Western religion and Aikido
Having lived in Japan for 3 years and speaking fluent japanese, and having practiced at a Soto Buddhist temple, and upon coming back to the states to continue Aikido practice here, I have to say I've given this a lot of thought.
In some ways, American practice is more "japanese" than practice in Japan. I have seen much more rigidity in dojo etiquette, ritual, bowing, in Ohio or LA than I have ever seen in Tokyo or Osaka.
Part of me says, "well, this is how westerners play dress-up" they want to add this different cultural experience to their lives, and I say more power to them. So what if they overread significance of certain things and overemphasise the mystical nature of something as simple as bowing respectfully? I mean, a true and earnest handshake is just as deep and mystical if you want it to be, isn't it?
But there is a bad side, one of abuse, as can happen with all things, especially unfamiliar imports. I've seen Aiki cults in the states, and abuse of the title 'sensei' to the degree that Ueshiba-sensei would probably roll over in his grave, or stare down angrily from heaven.
I'd say, let a laisse faire attitude prevail, and let each student incorporate as much or as little of the eastern spirituality and ideas and as much or as little western spirituality as they want. No sensei is in charge of your soul. Besides, religion is the window, not the light itself, so we don't need to get too caught up in what particular frame or tint ours has. Me, I'd like to be able to just open it up and let the breeze blow in.