The sword as a mirror to the soul...
My sempai has mentioned that quote from Toyoda Shihan a number of times. It's a good one to keep in mind because it has meaning at so many levels. On one level, we work to get the kinks out of our technique as we strive for an ideal. On another level, we work to get the kinks out of our soul as we strive for a higher ideal.
For me, that higher ideal is the Christian ideal as I understand it. To me, being a Christian means having the utmost compassion, patience, and love for our fellow humans just like Jesus did when he was on Earth -- everything else is just details. Strangely enough, the ideas of love and compassion were central to O Sensei's outlook on life too. Therefore, I have no difficulty integrating my faith and my spiritual practice of Aikido.
As an aside, I like the fact that with Aikido, I can literally "turn the other cheek" while still performing a powerful technique that leaves my attacker unhurt (when I'm good enough), but no longer a threat.
I have studied Zen, Tao, Confucianism, and even a little Buddhism in addition to my upbringing and studies as a Christian. (In fact, I see a lot of similarities between Jesus and Buddha.) In addition, I consider myself a rational man and a scientist. I've learned a lot from my studies, and continue to learn a lot during my practice of Aikido. The neat thing is that Aikido, while it has a strong spiritual side, leaves a lot of room for one to explore that spirituality in almost any context that we choose. I can identify with Johannes: I, too, have had many moments of doubt in my faith -- still do. Mr. Davidsoon, I have two pieces of advice:
* It is okay to believe in two seemingly contradictory ideas (how can one thing be both itself and its opposite?). There are a lot of mysteries in this life, and there is no rush to know the answer to all of them.
* A painful spiritual journey is a natural part of the quest for enlightenment. Age 15 is not too young an age to begin your quest, just beware that you will probably never end the quest once you've started it.
Thank you, Johannes, for starting this discussion. There is no easy answer to your struggle, but a frank and open discussion (like the one here) can't hurt. :-)
[Edited by jxa127 on January 10, 2001 at 01:58pm]