Re: Western religion and Aikido
It need not be so much of an either/or. It is true that many in the West would find themselves closer to depth in their own tradition, if they sought it out. But many are alienated from it, mainly because they have never learned what it holds. I may suggest one or two things for a few to think about.
The air of mystery that too many give to Eastern religion is more the mystery of novelty foudn in what is mere commonplace to the native participant. There is mystery there, surely, but the novelty part is not it. You have to get well past that, in any spiritual tradition, to face the depths of true mystery that lie within.
Having said that, one should not distinguish overmuch unless something is plainly contrary.Even then you should explore why it is or seems so. Paradox is a rich source of truth. Niels Bohr, quoting his father once said that "There are small truths and great truths -- the opposite of a small truth is false; the opposite of a great truth is also true." St. Thomas Aquinas said, paraphrasing 1 Corinthians, that, "All that is true, by whomsoever it has been said, comes from the Holy Spirit."
People place too much weight on the externals and too little on what is going on within them, and between them and the people around them.
The Founder made connections between East and West that few have seriously explored. Take kotodama for instance: He said that ""Kirisuto ga ‘hajime ni kotoba ariki' to itta sono kotodama ga SU de arimasu. Sore ga kotodama no hajimari de aru." (‘In the beginning was the Word', spoken by Christ is this kotodama SU. This is the origin of kotodama.) " Logos. Rich stuff is there to mine, trust me, East or West.
You can explore them both together. Brush the figure of "Juji" and place it above the portrait of O Sensei on the kami dana. It is the Cross of Aiki. Read what O Sensei wrote about that. Find the connections that make sense to you. When asked if there were affinities between his art and the teachigns of Christ, he said "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." Find out why he said that Aikido could make you a better Christian (as well as a better Buddhist, or any other honest faith).
I would recommend following where the connections you find lead. Be mindful of your purpose in doing it. I think that John's stated point of concern is echoed in O Sensei's concern also. "... give no rein to the spiritual horse.. or it will lead into a dark path." St. Paul in his letter toTitus also cautioned this attention to the interior purpose of our learning and practicing even outwardly good things. "To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted. "
The late John Paul II said that it is of the essence of Christianity to be a "sign of contradiction" or a sign that will be spoken against.
We practice Aikido. It is a warlike art that does not make war. A means of opposing violence without resisting it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that justified violence, respecting the rights of others, is carried out by those who "make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, .... [and] bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death." In Christian terms, we find spiritual poverty in war and its arts, not the vainglory or ego gratification of violent contest for its own sake.
Given the foundation of Aikido in the same love that founds the Peace of Christ -- I'll begin with the prophecy of the priest Simeon given to Mary at the Temple when Jesus was consecrated. "Behold this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thought of many hearts may be revealed."
I wil leave it with several things Christ said about peace and violence that illustrate this profound sign of contradiction echoing within Christianity and Aikido also:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. "
"You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently."
"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
"He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."
The last one is a summation of the spirit that lies within Bushido.
And I'll close with with St. Paul: "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?"
So, choose the rod, and train, train, train ...