Re: When you bow do you worship or just...
I didn't really want to get involved in this discussion, but some of the posts on this thread drive me nuts.
First let me preface by saying that I am NOT an expert on Japanese culture, and I will not pretend to be. I do consider myself a fairly astute student of American and Western culture, though, and I will try to comment from that perspective.
I am an atheist. I could "worship" in a mosque, a church, a synagogue, and a Shinto shrine, all in one day, and I would not be sinning. I would also not be worshiping. The only consequences for me would be of my own conscience, depending on the reasons I "worshiped". I have to make this choice, for instance, when having Thanksgiving dinner and the host says grace. Or when at a funeral. Do I pretend to go along for the sake of not making waves, or do I respectfully but conspicuously not participate? Not that my beliefs matter to this discussion. I'm just trying to let people know where I stand.
I am fairly new to Aikido, and so far I have only had the wherewithal to commit to the physical aspects of training. I wonder though, for a truly committed Aikidoka, can O Sensei's teachings be applied selectively? It is unlikely that I will incorporate his religious teachings (and some of his teachings were very specifically religious). I'm simply not looking for a religion. Or, on the other hand, the study of Aikido might open me up to his religious teachings. I'm Atheist, not Agnostic, but that doesn't mean I'm closed to the possibility of personal change.
I suppose where I differ from many on this thread Is that for me the issue of religious aspects of Aikido is problematic, and not easily dismissed. Like I said above, I know much more about American culture than Japanese. What offends me is the American "smorgasbord" attitude to culture; that we can pick and choose as we find it convenient. "I study Aikido, but not the Shinto stuff, cause I'm Christian." Or whatever. Americans seem to do this with everything. Food, movies, music, religion, fashion. The world is simply our buffet, for us to chose a little of this and a little of that. This attitude seems to be behind the people who dismiss possible contradictions between religion and monotheism out of hand, saying that the bow to the shomen or kamiza is just "respect".
I don't know whether it is just respect or not. I'm not taking a stand on that, out of admitted ignorance. What if it isn't, though? What if something about Aikido, which we all love so much, requires a specific religious path to truly appreciate? That would be as devistating for me as an Atheist as it would for the many Christians on this board. I do not want a religion, and they do not want a different one. I do think it is deeply disrespectful to O Sensei to assume prima facie that his religious teachings are simply a modular appendage to Aikido, to be removed or ignored if they do not fit our sensibilities, religious or otherwise.
I do believe that there are those worthwhile pursuits which come with that stress and that demand. Some of the most worthwhile things make us choose. We can't always have our cake and eat it too. Or our flan, or our baklava or tiramisu, depending on what part of the world we wanted to eat from that night. Again, I'm not taking a stand, just requesting that we not be so quick to assume that things always happen to work out in the way we personally find them convenient.