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Old 07-29-2007, 08:08 PM   #51
eyrie
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Interestingly enough, the saying "when in Rome..." originated from the Roman Catholic fasting ritual as practiced in Rome on a particular day of the week...

Organized and institutionalized religion aside, I think it would be more appropriate to think of aikido practice, and all its trappings, as a structured organization of socialized rituals, such as those one might find in fraternities, sororities, or other social groups, organized around a set of established behavioral norms.

For instance, one might view the bowing in/out as a ceremonial gesture to demarcate the commencement and termination of a formal class, or as a vestige of aikido's cultural heritage.

One might perhaps view testing and ranking as a rite of passage and initiation to a higher level of understanding and social pecking order within the organization.

The practice of aikido technique itself could be viewed as performance of a ritual act or dance in which participants engage in prescribed ceremonial behaviour and reenactment.

The question as to what significance these prescribed rituals have to individuals is probably less important than what meaning it represents to the group as a whole.

For example, one could go thru the same ritual motions as others within the group, but individuals can either attach the same meaning, different meaning or no meaning to its significance.

Ignatius
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Old 07-30-2007, 04:13 AM   #52
Greg Jennings
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

My experience is that people pick up on the "vibe" pretty quick and participate in those things that they are comfortable with but that there might be some line that they will not cross. For example, at the Catholic wedding, people will stand up, sit down, mostly kneel but do not genuflect, make the sign of the cross or take communion. At the Anglican ceremony some people will respond to the invitation to communion, others will not. But mostly the other aspects do not change.

My take on this is that they are feeling out the dividing line between where they are comfortable and taking part. Isn't that pretty much like a dojo?

I'd written the original post, but it was lost when my session dropped:

You visit a dojo, the instructor tells everyone that it's a special day, they should write the name of someone special to them on a piece of paper, burn it with incense and clap twice while the smoke is rising? Do you take part or no? Why?

Best regards,

Greg Jennings
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Old 07-30-2007, 07:06 AM   #53
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Avery Jenkins wrote:
On the other hand, you could also assume that there is a certain value in learning this way, which is why it has existed for millenia. Frankly, I don't see how flapping your gums on the internet teaches much aikido. Entertaining, yes. But learning aikido is done on the mat, not on the screen.
Well, my instructor has written and verbal tests for some classes, and written and verbal tests for yudansha rankings. He is fairly well placed in the Yoshinkan, a reasonably "traditional" organization (I place that in quotes in light of Giancarlo's post above), so I will assume he has a clue. Why do you think that is, if aikido can ONLY be learned on the mat?

I should also say that I do believe that time on the mat is *extremely* important to learning aikido. But does that really obviate the need for understanding?

Quote:
Keep bowing. Eventually, the answer as to why you bow will come to you, because it is essentially an individual answer. Or, as I pointed out, you bow because you bow, and maybe there doesn't have to be a reason.
I guess there has to be a middle way for me...don't over analyse, but don't burry my head in the sand either. Check out some of the discussions in the forum for "arts other than aikido" or what ever it's called. Some would say that if your mind is not extremely active, you will miss the heart of aikido...on or off the mat.

Best,
Ron (the mind leads the qi)

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 07-30-2007 at 07:08 AM.

Ron Tisdale
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Old 07-30-2007, 09:44 AM   #54
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

This is a perspective from outside aikido, but it may be illuminating:
"Acceptance or rejection of proper reigi can be utilized to expose a student's dedication or shortcomings to a sensei. The student who constantly questions or refuses to embrace reigi is not suitable for continued training because he ultimately views his own opinions and desires as superior to the aims of the ryu."
Yukio Takamura TSYR

Unfortunately, this debate may point to a failing with in aikido. That being, if we apply shintoist cultural/spiritual ritual within our practice, then it should function in some concrete way with our aikido.

In TSYR shinto beliefs and practices are integral to the body of practice and understanding. They are not optional and they serve a function within the gestalt of the tradition.

Presumably, aikido would be similar, but is it? We still have the ritual (albeit in some places, much reduced), but is it an empty shell without functionality? That is, if pressed, the tradition or representative thereof should be able to illustrate the purpose of the practice for the tradition. In such an instance a bunch of contradictory answers is as good as no answer.

My personal suspicion is that as aikido has become an activity more focused on the individual i.e. "my personal aikido" it has lost or never incorporated this type of information.

To paraphrase from Stanley Pranin:
Osensei was both more spiritual and more martial than is generally understood.

-Doug Walker
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Old 07-30-2007, 12:15 PM   #55
Don
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

My judgement is that I'd bet in about 99% of the aikido dojo, the ritual is a shell of the original shinto meanings. My guess is that when aikido was introduced with the intention of spreading it, those who came over, IF they embraced any religious meaning (as many did not) they realized that in predominantly Christian countries, at the time, they would not be able to attract as big a following, and the religious aspects were diminished. And we return the original question of my post - do we really know why we bow? Or care?
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Old 07-30-2007, 01:38 PM   #56
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

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Don McConnell wrote: View Post
My judgement is that I'd bet in about 99% of the aikido dojo, the ritual is a shell of the original shinto meanings.
That assumes that the ritual was originally full of Shinto meaning, which is not likely the case. Shinto rituals for the laity involve clapping and hand-washing, one of which is only occasionally present in aikido dojos and the other which is completely absent. The other major Shinto ritual, done by the priests, is harai, which again is not a common feature of aikido etiquette.

There is bowing in Shinto ritual, but bowing is ubiquitous in Japanese culture. At Shinto shrine, at a Buddhist temple, at schools, at the workplace, in hospitals, at the street, in business situations, and social situations.

The dojo etiquette of aikido, in both the U.S. and Japan, is neither unique nor exclusive to aikido. It is found in judo, karate, kendo, shorinji kempo, and koryu bujutsu schools. It's even found in sports. Aside from the clapping, I can't think one aspect of etiquette and ritual in aikido that isn't simply good Japanese manners.

Quote:
And we return the original question of my post - do we really know why we bow? Or care?
Well, I know why I bow, and I have a pretty good idea why Japanese people bow, and neither has anything to do with Shinto or Buddhism.

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 07-30-2007, 05:39 PM   #57
eyrie
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I want to pick up on what Doug wrote, particularly in relation to the quote by Takamura, because it highlights an important point regarding the original purpose of bowing - which is an act of subordination, particularly in East Asian culture.

Whether there is any religious or spiritual significance attached to such gestures of subordination is neither here nor there.

The point is, by embracing or adhering to the prescribed ritual/protocol, indicates one's willingness to subordinate one's self... as a sign of respect, reverence or deference to someone or something.

Ignatius
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Old 07-30-2007, 06:53 PM   #58
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Since I have stuck my nose in I will offer some thoughts as to why the groups I am associated with bow to the kamiza and kamidana.

My aikido group does a relatively elaborate shinto bow. We gassho, bow, gassho, bow, clap 4 times and bow. For us this summons the attention of the kami (of which Osensei is a part). The kami observe and watch over our practice. At the end of practice we do the same series of bows and claps. This lets the kami know we are finished.

In my jujutsu group we gassho, bow, clap twice, bow and the sensei recites a kigan requesting the protection of the kami and we clap twice. This even more explicitly calls the kami to observe and protect us during our training. We signal the end of training with bowing and clapping.

In both cases it is pretty explicit that we are calling the kami to participate and observe our training.

Our aikido lineage derives from someone who viewed Osensei as a kami and believed (at least in part) that his own power derived from contact with him.

Our jujutsu lineage has abundant shinto aspects, worldviews and practices that are believed to be the very core of the ryuha. Additionally we are very aware of our predecessors in the art, our duty to them and their continued involvement.

On a side note, when in Japan, several Japanese were surprised I knew how to behave at various shrines when we visited. In a way, I visit a "shrine" several times each week. I had a Japanese professor ask me if I was shinto. I don't consider myself very religious, but I told her, "Shinto no toki wa shinto desu." (When it is shinto time, at least, I am shinto.) She thought that was a great answer and was very amused.

-Doug Walker
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Old 07-30-2007, 07:27 PM   #59
Greg Jennings
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

So, a couple of different thoughts. In both, the idea is that you have the option of defining proper etiquette.

Case 1:
You are a yudansha starting your own dojo. The pastor of one of the students offers space for free in his apostolic Christian church. Would you alter your opening ritual in any way? Why?

Case 2:
You are a yudansha starting a dojo in your large walk-out basement. You've spent enough time around Shinto and Omotokyo to know when a component is drawn from it. Do you keep the tradition even though you do not believe in Shinto or Omotokyo? Do you feel less genuine or real because of it or no? Why?

I'll ventually put down my cards, but not yet.

Regards,

Greg Jennings
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Old 07-30-2007, 07:34 PM   #60
Greg Jennings
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

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Don McConnell wrote: View Post
And we return the original question of my post - do we really know why we bow? Or care?
Since I'm posing questions, I guess that it's fair that I answer one once in awhile.

I've got a pretty good idea of why I bow and have felt very comfortable requiring students to bow versus say, shaking hands, in class.

And, yes, I care in a big way. To the point that if I didn't know why I bow, it would really bother me. I'd lot rather someone's waza suck than them be less than thoughtful about their practice.

Regards,

Greg Jennings
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:02 PM   #61
Avery Jenkins
 
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Freaky! Pearls before swine, I'm afraid...

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Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
I disagree... learning (MA) isn't a solely tactile experience. Logical analysis of theoretical foundations, discussions, research etc. also form the basis of inquiry.

It is one thing to discuss and exchange thoughts and ideas regarding rituals, customs and tradition. It is quite another to simply follow blindly in the hope that "one day" you'll figure it out.

Language, customs, ritual and social etiquette serve to create shared identity, and establish group norms. The original poster is right to question the meaning and purpose of such ritualistic behaviours. It is part of the process of learning and inquiry and hopefully serves to better one's understanding of the practice and reasons for its practice.

Not all learning takes place on the mat - a balance between theory, practice and analysis is, I think, mandatory. Just as not all learning takes place in places designated as schools or institutions of learning.
This is indeed, the answer I would expect from a martial arts student lacking a dojo affiliation...in your case yes, apparently much or all of your training occurs off the mat, which explains why you have so much difficulty with my answer.

Words, rationalizations, verbose analysis...they are of limited use when learning many art forms, aikido among them. As I said before, the apprentice system (not aikido itself) of learning is ancient, and there is sound didactical reasoning for that. But this is another thread.

Let me try this one more time, in a manner that is perhaps more acceptable to you. The answer to the question of why you bow is an individual one. You, and you alone, give the act meaning. As other posters have appropriately noted, similar rituals are conducted in a variety of contexts, all with such a vast array of answers to the question of why as to render the question nonsensical.

Knowing why one bows at certain times has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on your martial arts ability. Why, I would be willing to bet that there are phenomenal martial artists who never bow to a kamiza at all!

Yeesh.

Avery Jenkins
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Old 07-30-2007, 08:45 PM   #62
eyrie
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Why thanks for the broadside and put down Dr Jenkins... rather than make assumptions about me, my dojo affiliation, or my intellectual abilities, perhaps you could try to observe the forum rules and adhere to netiquette. You don't have to like me, nor do I have to like you. But at least try to show some self-dignity and decorum.

I understood what you said... perfectly... I just happen to disagree with what you said.

Ignatius
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:10 AM   #63
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Ignatius Teo wrote: View Post
Why thanks for the broadside and put down Dr Jenkins... rather than make assumptions about me, my dojo affiliation, or my intellectual abilities, perhaps you could try to observe the forum rules and adhere to netiquette. You don't have to like me, nor do I have to like you. But at least try to show some self-dignity and decorum.

I understood what you said... perfectly... I just happen to disagree with what you said.
My apologies, I came across stronger than I intended.

I re-read the rules, and apparently disagreeing with me is permitted on this forum. I'll try to get that oversight fixed.

Avery Jenkins
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:51 AM   #64
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
I re-read the rules, and apparently disagreeing with me is permitted on this forum. I'll try to get that oversight fixed
I'm confused...
a) your oversight of the fact that people are allowed to disagree?

b) Or the oversight of the creator of the rules for this site?

If a, no need to reply, it's all good.

If b...

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 07-31-2007, 12:32 PM   #65
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Re: Pearls before swine, I'm afraid...

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Avery Jenkins wrote: View Post
....The answer to the question of why you bow is an individual one. You, and you alone, give the act meaning. ... Knowing why one bows at certain times has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on your martial arts ability.
I beg to differ. "Begin in etiquette and end in etiquette." Conflict is not an individualist enterprise -- it takes two or more people -- for those who are not pathologically disturbed. Many headless samurai would have attested (were their condition otherwise) that the failure to know why and how to bow appropriately may have significant martial consequences. Knowing why, when and to whom to bow -- literally, in the case of historic Japan -- and figuratively in terms of adjusting to the culturally preferred gestures of assertion or deference in a given situation (and a bow or failure to bow may be either or both) -- has EVERYTHING to do with one's martial ability ...

He who starts or continues a war unkowing, is no warrior, be it by failure to assert himself plainly, or by failure to defer appropriately -- and naturally. That is to say, with ease and grace in either case. Unnatural artifice or duplicity in either role can just as easily create offense and conflict as honest error.

Knowing why and doing so naturally is ki-musubi. For those that don't yet know what to do or why to do it, the rule of thumb for gracious conduct in almost any situation is easy -- pick out your equals in the room; do as they do. If wrong, you will be wrong about your choice of equals and a judgment of one's character will be made by that choice -- but this judgment of choices is unavoidable in any case -- whether you bow, or not, and whether you know why, or not.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 07-31-2007, 05:38 PM   #66
eyrie
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

No harm done, Avery... I'm afraid I just don't make a very good patient. I like to do my own medical research and would prefer a 2nd and 3rd opinion.

BTW, thanks to Doug for sharing. Whilst I'm not one to "stand on ceremony", I think ritual is an important reminder of the intent and essence of the practice. So, it is refreshing to see that ritual and tradition is still alive and well.

Ignatius
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Old 07-31-2007, 09:42 PM   #67
Keith Larman
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

I just recently saw the movie "Once". Great flick. Lots of people there and most of them started doing this really weird thing at the end. Many started slapping their hands together making this sound. "Clapping" is what I believe they called it. Apparently this is some reptilian brain throwback to some old tradition of showing appreciation for something by making this sound with your hands. It was really odd because no one from the movie was there -- good lord, it was just projected images on a screen. So how would they know there was some sort of appreciation? It made no sense at all.

"Clapping." What strange behavior...

And just think... Come Christmas most of us will be putting dead trees in our living rooms... Now what exactly does that have to do with Christian doctrine?

Me... I just watch sensei, do what he does, and hope to learn what he knows someday. Yeah, I do ask about why there's a whole lot of stuff you don't have to buy into in order to still train sincerely. I've been to dojo with a huge amount of traditional behaviors. And others that are extremely laid back. I worry more about the quality of the instruction personally...

When in Rome...

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Old 08-01-2007, 08:37 AM   #68
Fred Little
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Reading through the above exchanges, it comes to mind that the word "dojo" has a very specific history, which is summarized in the following excerpt from a talk by Robert Aitken.

Quote:
Now I want to say a few words about the dojo. Dojo is a term that you are familiar with because it is used by people in akido, karate, judo and so on. It's even in the English dictionary. It is a sino-Japanese term made up of two ideographs. "Do" is the Japanese pronunciation of Tao, as in Tao-te-ching or Taoism. And Jo simply means place. The place of the Tao. Tao means "way". Arthur Whaley translates the Tao-te-Ching as the way and its power. But Tao does not mean only a way to - it does not simply mean a means. The opening words in the Tao-te-Ching are, "The way that can be followed is not the true way." So we should understand what Tao means.

When Kumara-jiva and other great translators set about rendering Buddhist Sanskrit into Chinese they had to find Chinese words that were equivalent to particular Sanskrit expressions. They used the word Tao to mean not only path but also realisation. They used Tao to translate Bodhi. So Tao is not only the path to realisation, it is realisation itself. Actually Dojo is a translation of the Sanskrit word Bodhi Manda. Bodhi is enlightenment, Manda is spot or place, the place or spot of enlightenment and it refers to the spot under the Bodhi tree where the Buddha sat when he saw the morning star and had his great realisation.

So, your meditation hall, your dojo, is your sacred place. Your cushions are your own personal dojo, your own personal Bodhi Manda, your own personal spot of realisation. Thus it is very important to keep the dojo as a sacred place of realisation. It must be spotlessly clean, it must be in regular order with a figure as the focal point of devotion - a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. Before the Buddha or Bodhisattva, you should have incense, flowers and a candle. The candle represents enlightenment, the flowers represent compassion, the two sides of any genuine religious experience. The incense is an offering to the Buddha, as of course candle and flowers are as well.
While it is certainly common in the martial arts world to refer to a martial arts training hall as a dojo, the usage isn't universal. A number of such schools, in both Japan and the West, use the word juku, which can be translated as "private school" in their formal names, as distinct from the word dojo.

All of this raises a question that is related to that of the relationship between Buddhist practice, Shinto practice and martial arts practice, particularly in the West. I would also note that, Josh Reyer's largely accurate and informative parsing of some of the differences between Shinto and Buddhist practice, most contemporary scholars of Japanese religious practice have discarded the sectarian narrative that draws sharp distinctions between those practices and now take a much more nuanced view that frankly asserts that much of what is regarded as "pure Shinto" is in fact refigured and nativized Buddhist practice.

That said, here is my question: Is it appropriate for martial arts schools that are operated with no interest in or an active disinterest in those spiritual traditions to use the word "dojo" as part of their names? Would it not be more accurate for them to refer to themselves as "clubs" or "schools" "academiesm" or some similar name which does convey the notion of education and training, but does not carry the implication of a linkage with East Asian religious practice?

What do folks think?

Best,

Fred Little
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Old 08-01-2007, 08:59 AM   #69
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

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Fred Little wrote: View Post
That said, here is my question: Is it appropriate for martial arts schools that are operated with no interest in or an active disinterest in those spiritual traditions to use the word "dojo" as part of their names? Would it not be more accurate for them to refer to themselves as "clubs" or "schools" "academiesm" or some similar name which does convey the notion of education and training, but does not carry the implication of a linkage with East Asian religious practice?

What do folks think?

Best,

Fred Little
Would it be more accurate? Yes, I think so.

But I also think that the "Americanism" of the word "dojo" has been too deeply entrenched to ever change it to have its original meaning. We joke about "McDojos", but the serious side is that it is based upon an all too truthful meaning. In America, it isn't necessarily about tradition and true meaning, but more about the "Americanized" version.

For those who follow a more "traditional" approach, they will have studied the meaning and will act appropriately. For those who don't, they use the "Americanized" words because they are words and/or phrases that are common and well-known. And for the majority, they are caught somewhere in between, meandering until some experience shows them otherwise.

Thanks,
Mark
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Old 08-01-2007, 12:31 PM   #70
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
While it is certainly common in the martial arts world to refer to a martial arts training hall as a dojo, the usage isn't universal. A number of such schools, in both Japan and the West, use the word juku, which can be translated as "private school" in their formal names, as distinct from the word dojo.

All of this raises a question that is related to that of the relationship between Buddhist practice, Shinto practice and martial arts practice, particularly in the West. I would also note that, Josh Reyer's largely accurate and informative parsing of some of the differences between Shinto and Buddhist practice, most contemporary scholars of Japanese religious practice have discarded the sectarian narrative that draws sharp distinctions between those practices and now take a much more nuanced view that frankly asserts that much of what is regarded as "pure Shinto" is in fact refigured and nativized Buddhist practice.
Actually, a great deal of Neo-Confucianism in native dress underlies Shinto stemming from Norinaga's exposition of Kojiki (and despite his efforts at being explicitly "sectarian") and its interpretation, generally, and Ueshiba's interpretation of Shinto, specifically. "Nuanced" is an understatement of massive proportions when it comes to teasing out intellectual heritage in a country such as Japan. But leave that aside for the moment ...

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
That said, here is my question: Is it appropriate for martial arts schools that are operated with no interest in or an active disinterest in those spiritual traditions to use the word "dojo" as part of their names? Would it not be more accurate for them to refer to themselves as "clubs" or "schools" "academiesm" or some similar name which does convey the notion of education and training, but does not carry the implication of a linkage with East Asian religious practice?
I don't know, I think it's a false distinction, personally. Neither the Founder nor second Doshu made much of the linguistic distinction in their works. In The Spirit of Aikido Taitetsu Unno actually translates Doshu as relating that his father first started "Ueshiba Juku" and refers to it in two paragraphs interchangeably as "Ueshiba juku and "the dojo."

More critically, I think the concept is unnecessary. The practice imparts its spiritual dimensions without the need for any intent beyond doing what the art requires to perform its practice. I have seen too many who are different from when they started not to know that this is true -- and those that do not, or are not likely to change in that way, do not stay.

FWIW.

Cordially,

Erick Mead
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Old 08-01-2007, 01:48 PM   #71
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

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Fred Little wrote: View Post
All of this raises a question that is related to that of the relationship between Buddhist practice, Shinto practice and martial arts practice, particularly in the West. I would also note that, Josh Reyer's largely accurate and informative parsing of some of the differences between Shinto and Buddhist practice, most contemporary scholars of Japanese religious practice have discarded the sectarian narrative that draws sharp distinctions between those practices and now take a much more nuanced view that frankly asserts that much of what is regarded as "pure Shinto" is in fact refigured and nativized Buddhist practice.
That's may be true, but I think that matters to the Japanese laity about as much as Christianity's links to the antecedents of Judaism matter to modern Christians. While a modern Japanese person finds no contradiction in following both Shinto and Buddhist rituals, nonetheless the distinction between the two is kept, and in current practice the two are quite distinct, wouldn't you agree?

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That said, here is my question: Is it appropriate for martial arts schools that are operated with no interest in or an active disinterest in those spiritual traditions to use the word "dojo" as part of their names? Would it not be more accurate for them to refer to themselves as "clubs" or "schools" "academiesm" or some similar name which does convey the notion of education and training, but does not carry the implication of a linkage with East Asian religious practice?

What do folks think?
Again, I follow an idiomatic perspective. Despite Mr. Aitken's learned explanation, in everyday Japanese life a dojo has no religious connotation in and of itself, and this is reflected in Japanese dictionaries, which list the definition as "a place to train and practice martial arts" separately from the definition as a place of Buddhist enlightenment. Professional wrestling gyms are often called "dojo". The current soke of Ono-ha Itto-ryu kenjutsu is a Christian minister who practices in a church. The name of his practice hall? Reigakudo Dojo.

So I see nothing wrong with a group with absolutely no interest in East Asian religion whatsoever calling their practice space a dojo, so long as they were practicing a Japanese martial art.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 08-01-2007, 02:41 PM   #72
Kim S.
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Think of the word, church. Church originally met a place of public worship for the local community and it still holds that definition. Normally, the word is associated with Christianity, but there are other religions that call their place of worship, a church. Now the word is becoming secularized by Hollywood and postmodern groups. It is very common for a non-religious couple (aka I don't attendant my own religion's religious services very often).

The same can be said for dojo and bowing. Maybe in the beginning dojo and bowing contain more religious significance, but as time went on people's attitudes and opinions changed. Language is constantly changing whether verbal or physical.
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Old 08-01-2007, 05:55 PM   #73
eyrie
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

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Fred Little wrote: View Post
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So, your meditation hall, your dojo, is your sacred place. Your cushions are your own personal dojo, your own personal Bodhi Manda, your own personal spot of realisation. Thus it is very important to keep the dojo as a sacred place of realisation. It must be spotlessly clean, it must be in regular order with a figure as the focal point of devotion - a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. Before the Buddha or Bodhisattva, you should have incense, flowers and a candle. The candle represents enlightenment, the flowers represent compassion, the two sides of any genuine religious experience. The incense is an offering to the Buddha, as of course candle and flowers are as well.
I wonder if the Buddha would turn in his grave if he knew that his image has been turned into an object of deification and religious devotion....

Whilst I concur with the need to keep one's sacred place clean (the idea that environmental clutter reflects a cluttered mind and vice versa), I think symbolic representation can also be carried too far.

One of my primary school teachers once said to me, "You don't have to go to Church to pray. You can pray anywhere, at any time". It struck me at the time that it was a rather enlightened perspective of the Christian faith, given that God is supposedly omnipresent.

Whilst I am also aware of the spiritual/philosophical underpinnings of many East Asian TMAs, its full extent is a foreign concept to my Western upbringing, and I suspect, many in the West.

However, since the Tao beget the 10,000 things, I don't see why it could not be referred to as a dojo, so long as it remains a place where the Way can be perceived and practiced. That is, irrespective of whether one is consciously aware of the fact, or an unwitting participant.

That said, a dojo also need not necessarily be bound by 4 walls and a mat.... nor does the presence or absence of symbolic artifacts define or detract from it.

Ignatius
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Old 08-01-2007, 06:34 PM   #74
eyrie
 
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Edit time ran out... IIRC, the Bodhi Manda was simply the spot under the Bodhi tree where Buddha attained enlightenment and where he subsequently held "court".

Ignatius
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Old 08-05-2007, 10:26 PM   #75
Shannon Frye
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Re: Bowing to Kamidana/Kamiza

Some interesting info, and some great responses above.
To put my own 2 cents in, I think that "doing" without "questioning" is not a very American cultural trait. I remember being on a yahoo group of a certain instructor in CA, who complained endlessly about how Americans did things that were true to their culture, and not the "good old ways".
As others have stated, I have no issue bowing to those who have gone before. Or, as in Japanese culture, to anything that reminds me to remain "little" and a part of something greater than myself. But the problem is linked to a strength of aikido - that each person is there for different reasons. The bow can be interpreted so many different ways (showing respect, because it's cultural, peer pressure, humbling oneself, religious reasons, etc) that it's hard to nail down one answer to "why?".

My best advice is to think it through, find an acceptable reason that sits well with you, and go from there. Make the reason for the bow your own.
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