Bryan Bateman wrote:
Thanks for your reply. The book is still a little above me I'm afraid, as are the other "spiritual" books that I have read
. I have no idea how much he is taking for granted, I don't even know that what he says is correct per se <shrugs shoulders>. It seems that he mostly makes observations on old quotes and teachings from Kaiso based on his (Sunadomari sensei) experience. It was an interesting book though, one that I will no doubt read again, and certainly food for thought.
I have the book, but not the Japanese work of which it is a translation. I do not think you need to worry about whether he is correct(!); I am sure he is.
For me, the question is how much he takes for granted that we probably wouldn't, and one could pose the same question of M Ueshiba's douka and other lectures. It is a serious question for me because I have studied Japanese for many years now and have learned how to read older Japanese texts. Perhaps this is because I studied Classics at school and university and was taught that to understand what Homer, Plato and Aristotle really meant, you had to read Greek.
I think the question of what is taken for granted is important. For example, in anorther thread David Valadez mentioned that in Omoto-kyou the works of John of the Cross were read and, presumably, studied. When I was an S.J., we studied John of the Cross and his compatriot Teresa of Avila, almost certainly because Ignatius of Loyola was part of the same tradition. However it was study based on practical training, in the sense that our meditations and spiritual exercises were undertaken in the light of what Ignatius and his two compatriots taught.
So what would Onisaburo Deguchi have made of John of the Cross and can we find any influences in, for example, "Reikai Monogatari"? I have no idea: I have not even begun to look. However, when I was a novice, the general question of the compatibility of Christianity and Zen was a matter of serious debate. The crucial question in the debate was: to what extent could one achieve enlightenment by means of self-directed training? The answer given our superiors was: one couldn't. Enlightenment was a gift and the only way one could receive it was to live a life of heroic virture and even then, this could never be a guarantee. Those who embraced Christian Zen were not happy with this kind of answer. I could go on and explain why, but the post would become intolerably long. We might discuss it further when we meet in April.
As I said, all these are serious questions for me because this is how I have come to approach aikido and this is where I am at present.
In terms of David's original question, in my opinion the parallels with Christianity are so striking. If one is a member of an aikido church, the answer will depend on what the church teaches. If the church is Catholic, i.e, Aikikai, this will be what the Pope (Doshu) says it is. In this connection, I remember a discussion I had with the present Doshu. I had asked for the Japanese original of O Sensei's "Budo" manual. Doshu took me up to the 3rd floor of the Hombu, unlocked the case where the book was kept, took it out and gave it to me to look at. There were just the two of us and Doshu talked for a while. What he said, basically, was: 'Read the text; study it; but be aware that aikido has changed since my grandfather produced it. Aikido is a living tradition and I have inherited it from my father, who inherited from the Founder. My son will inherit it from me. It is my job to transmit the essence, as I understand it.' I was somewhat chastened, for Doshu had revealed his heart and I felt for him. However, his answer was classic 'iemoto' thinking, in the sense that the understanding of the art is based not on the relationship between individual student and individual master, but on the organization.
If one is not a member of an aikido church, one's belief as to what aikido actually is can depend on many things: a textual canon, or one's teacher, or oneself\in varying combinations. Thus some aikidoists are very happy to 'just train', regardless. Others look at O Sensei's words in English, via Mr Stevens' translations or Jun's weekly quote, and use these as a training guide. Yet others do not really care about what O Sensei said, since it is too remote, and prefer to believe that aikido is what their sensei says it is.
Anyway, I have gone on for too long. In Hiroshima we train on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and also on occasional Sundays at a different location. Since there will be a large number of you, we should probably train on a Sunday in Hiroshima. Perhaps you shoul discuss this with Carolin. I think you should know her from trainiing in Kobe and I will send you her e-maiol address via PM.