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Old 09-10-2005, 02:34 AM   #19
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Re: Omoto-kyo Theology

David Valadez wrote:
Hi Erick

No doubt -- Shingon is relevant here. That was something I have tried to say as well, in response to those that like to see Aikido as being not related to Buddhism.
To just do Ikkyo over and over again, to rely upon its "talismanic" potency, is to, in my opinion, practice superstition. Moreover, it is to never do Ikkyo right.

p.s. Again - please write more on Shingon if you can spare the time and energy. Thanks in advance.
First things first. I never do ikkyo just right. Been trying to do that off and on since 1986. That's what keeps me practicing.

Bigger picture, I agree. To become entranced by the specific technique is to become entrapped in one desire.

But ikkyo gets better and better the more its actual connection to your partner moves from the wrist to the elbow to the shoulder to the center. But to do that, you have to progessively abandon the wrist, and then the elbow and then the shoulder and then learn to simply step in and stand at the center.

The process of abandonment of each immediate and successive desire as it appears is not talismanic, it is highly instructive and effective in both physical and psychological terms.

The work works on me, whether I am fully conscious of that fact or not. Ikkyo ... ikkyo, ikkyo ... Guess what we're practicing tonight?

Shingon and Omoto.

Omoto is interesting and sincere, but it is such a "new age" type of religious movement (even if it is late nineteenth century) that it is difficult for those not already interested in it to become so. O-Sensei, I think realized this, and his approach to these issues confirms it in my view. That is not to say that he did not take things from his Omoto experience and incorporated them in the implicit pedagogical purpose that underlies Aikido. If a student has not realized there is a teaching purpose other than are techniques by the fifth or sixth class, then he or she is not paying adequate attention.

While we have seen similar efforts in the West in a variety of settings in recent decades, Omoto is actually contemporary with a similar synthetic religious effort at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, in the Theosophical, Transcendental and Aesthetic movements. Yeats, Emerson, Steiner, are good examples of this trend of thought. Marxism also falls within this same group.

All of these movements, while quite different in their particulars, were born of the same apparent disconnection between the traditional religious rites and structures, and the simultaneous need to adapt to, and distaste of, the aggressive hyper-rationalism of the industrial revolution that was ongoing in the West and Japan at that time.

Like Omoto (and other Japanese "new religion" movements) these Western movements were highly creative in their use and selection of various historical antecedents to found their particular approach to the same essential problem. Like Omoto, these movements became involved in significant social controversies of their times, often incurring official wrath, and or proscriptions of various sorts.

I make this point to show that what is going on is larger than some unique aspect of Japanese religious culture. It is in fact a problem of modernity, apart from particular culture. Modernity is highly corrosive and quickly dissolves traditional cultures of all types. These movements are basically all cultural salvage missions, which goes far in explaining the fervor and energy of their adherents that is often difficult for the outsider to fathom otherwise.

I believe the impulse of Omoto, like these others, is in the right direction. However, in reaching for a universal solution to this universal problem they become too focused on appearances and particularities. In Omoto's case it may also involve trying to encompass too many particularities at one time. This accounts for the complexity of the Omoto theology, although it is a stretch I think to call it thus.

I would describe Omoto's theology, like that of many other such movements as synthetic, rather than syncretic. "Syncretism" is rooted in an historical incident in classical Western antiquity whereby the different factions of Crete found a way to bridge their differences and to unite against a common foe. Thus, a synthetic religion pieces together parts that fit some preconceived organizing principle. Syncretism is a more organic process and permits differing traditions to find the common threads that can bind them closer together, while simultaneously acknowledging their critical differences.

Sutra is a word for Buddhist scripture, but its meaning in Sanskrit is "thread," and is a direct cognate to the word "suture." There is a common thread of meaning that can be traced. It is a historical exercise as much as it is a topical exercise. Analogous principles and concepts are not uncommon even in wholly disconnected cultures, but when one finds such things that are both analogous as well showing they have a common source, and thus homologous, we have some real meat to chew upon.

Tendai, Shingon, and Jodo are all deeply connected with the Silk Road. Ch'an (Zen) is a more wholly Chinese creature with Taoist roots. That corridor created cultural interplay to both East and West over the span of some fourteen centuries. With the advent of substantial navigation contacts in the fifteenth century, and the abandonment by the Chinese of any similar significant efforts after the voyages of Zheng He, the Silk Road fell into relative decline as a cultural transmitter.

It is in these sources and the threads of relationship that can be followed from East to West, and from West to East, and ultimately through Shingon, Tendai, Jodo, Ryobu Shinto and Kokugaku Shinto, Omoto and to O-Sensei. Here is where I think a really useful effort lies.

Omoto is valuable in this area precisely because it picks up where the kokugaku (to which it is a reaction) leaves off and gathers together a great many of these threads. They are not always found in the most coherent order, however. The energetic hodgepodge that characterizes Onisaburo's writings, is a rich source to mine, which O-Sensei plainly appreciated, but it was desparately in need of thorough organic principles which betrays its synthetic nature.

This sense of a need for the syncretic approach is what brought Kukai and Saicho to China in the first place. He had finally abandoned attmepts to understand Buddhist teaching from the transmitted and several times translated sources available in Japan. So he went to the clearing house for Buddhist, Taoist and Christian writing in the early 9th century, Chang-An. They needed to study enough to put be able, not merely to transfer Chinese Buddism to Japan, but to find the aspects that would make Buddhism more thoroughly "of" Japan.

What Kukai came back with was the beginnings of Ryobu Shinto. This was the basis for Buddhism and Shinto to enjoy in Japan a near symbiotic relationship for nearly five hundred years. Ryobu Shinto was a true syncretisim. It permitted Buddhism to be comprehended in Shinto terms and Shinto to be understood in Buddhist terms without doing injury to either, and to the profit of both. Kami could be understood as various manifestations of the threefold (trikaya) Buddha nature. Buddhas and bodhisattvas could be placed in a proper functional role in the ranks of the eight myriads of kami.

True syncretisms have happened elsewhere and even in relation ot the concepts described here.

The Greek pagan metaphysical trinity, had earlier become associated into related concepts in the Buddhism of Hellenic Afghan Ghandara and the Christianity of the Hellenic Near East. This activity on the West end of the Silk Road has often been pointed to as the likely source of or instigation for the development of the soteric (savior) forms of Buddism seen in Jodo and other Maitreyan (Miroku) schools. The same kind of cross over influences are seen in Persian religion before Mohammed with the rise of Mithraic and other savior cults, as well as the Manicheans.

Belief in Maitreya, Buddha of the West, and his saving power to bring his people to his Pure Land, one step away from nirvana, itself is a neat inverse of the orthodox and Catholic teachings on Purgatory. The difference is really more of perspective, as they perform the same essential function in the economy of salvation. Buddism posited the original nature of Man as good, and which must be purified of acquired impurity to reach perfection. Christanity posited the nature of man as fallen and which must stripped of sin and made holy to be worthy of God's presence. Both the Pure Land and Purgatory are envisioned as places of temporary purification on the path toward the ultimate destiny.

The trikaya doctrine in Japan thus began to be interpreted in Shinto terms in association with the Kami of divine creation. The Dharmakaya, the Ultimate and Ineffable Reality, became associated with Ame no minakanushi no kami. = SU [kotodama] seed sound of creation= "Lord Deity of Heaven's Center." (And subsidiarily, in order to magnify the Imperial cult, with Amaterasu no omikami.)
Similarly, the Nirmankaya (or rupaya), the manifesting Buddha nature making up the phenomenal or physical world, is associated with Takamimusubi no kami. And Samboghakaya, the Buddha nature of the noumenal or spiritual functions of the world became associated with Kamimusubi no kami

At this point a suggestion of the modern possibilities of this type of project is in order.
The Nicene creed tracks this same shape rather closely "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen, "
This is plainly part of a common Thread connecting to both Dharmakaya and
Amenominakanushi no kami "God Ruling the Center of Heaven."
Jesus, in the meaning of the Nicene Creed, is the manifesting of physical creation and ruler of the created order, "all that is seen" (Takamimusubi no kami, Nirmankaya)
Samboghakaya is the manifesting principle of the Spiritual realm : "all that is unseen" which in the terms of the Nicene creed is the Holy Ghost.

Aikido is a modern tool for this kind of useful syncretism, precisely because our age has tended to abandon ritual and mythical symbolisms as tools for universal comprehension and teaching. It is my snes that Onisaburo was conscious of the limitiations of symbloic comprehension in the modernizing world. We are all too self-conscious of our social pressure to be "objective" and rational for that kind of conscious and yet intuitive approach to learning and understanding. An yet we still have these unsatisifed needs, we are just actively discouraged from talking about them except in these kinds of dispassionate and distanced tones.

Aikido does not offend any doctrine because it has none to contend. At the same time and without having to say anything about it, Aikido manifests all three of the threads I have pointed out. It is physically manifest (hoo-boy!). It is spiritually manifest, in how it affects us and our practice partners. And without doubt, O-Sensei intended it to point, like a finger to the moon, to a greater and ineffable truth.

And that is just what Onisaburo told O-Sensei he ought to do in pursuing the development of his art of Aikido, as she told others to do in their own respective fields.

Erick Mead
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