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Old 08-15-2005, 10:51 AM   #1
Jenn
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Religion and Aikido

I'd be curious to hear any insights from any of you that are religious. Do you feel Aikido has a spiritual component that enhances your religious life, or do you consider Aikido to be an entirely seccular activity?

I am religious (Baha'i) and while I didn't sign up for Aikido for spiritual reasons, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much Aikido complements my religious faith. The teachings the Baha'i Faith focuses on unity and peace, and is also a religion with firm laws and obligations.

As someone who originally came from a completely non-religious background, I embraced my religion on something of an intellectual and emotional level - the meditative and "formal" qualities of my religion have been somewhat awkward for me to embrace. In the six short weeks I have taken Aikido I have felt enhanced in my religious life.

My dojo actually offers seminars on things like non-violent communication with Aikido principles. My schedule doesn't permit me to attend them but, interesting! My religion has teachings on the same topic, as most religions do I imagine.
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Old 08-15-2005, 11:18 AM   #2
James Davis
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

I'm catholic, and I find that aikido coincides with my religious beliefs quite nicely. Going about my business not being paranoid, but more aware of my environment, allows me to function at a more relaxed level. This allows me to be nicer to people. Aikido also puts into perspective what things are worth fighting for. I let a lot more things slide now, but I'm more assertive with the things that matter. When people know what you're about it makes it easier for them to function too.
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Old 08-15-2005, 03:07 PM   #3
aikigirl10
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
James Davis, Jr. wrote:
I'm catholic, and I find that aikido coincides with my religious beliefs quite nicely. Going about my business not being paranoid, but more aware of my environment, allows me to function at a more relaxed level. This allows me to be nicer to people. Aikido also puts into perspective what things are worth fighting for. I let a lot more things slide now, but I'm more assertive with the things that matter. When people know what you're about it makes it easier for them to function too.
Same here. I'm Catholic too and i couldnt have said it better my self.


Jennifer,

What is Baha'i? I dont think i've even heard of it. I'm just curious, could you tell me more about it and what it is based on? Thanks.

-Paige
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Old 08-16-2005, 01:45 AM   #4
Dirk Hanss
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
Paige Frazier wrote:
What is Baha'i? I dont think i've even heard of it. I'm just curious, could you tell me more about it and what it is based on? Thanks.

-Paige
Well, I do not think, we should present here all kinds of religion. You can find a lot under www.bahai.org or www.bahai.com.

As I understood Baha'i was founded in the second half of the 19th century in Persia (IRAN). The idea of equality of all people, global peace, and love to all mankind seems to be quite similar to Omoto-Kyo. So it is not surprising that aikido fits well into Baha'i.

Jennifer, if you found your way, it is fine. And yes, I guess aikido is one of the martial arts that fits well to the ideas of Baha'i. Maybe both can help improving the other. So be welcome.


Peaceful greetings Dirk
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Old 08-16-2005, 08:25 AM   #5
Mark Uttech
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Re: Religion and Aikido

catholic aikido is similiar to catholic gardening. you still have to do the work.
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Old 08-16-2005, 12:41 PM   #6
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Greetings all,

Many who practice Aikido shy away from this subject because they sense conflict. Some fly at it like moths to the flame, heedless of the burning. But neither is true Aikido. We must address the sources of conflict on their own terms, not try to deny them, and certainly not try to foment them. We must also not try to destroy the expression of the conflict, or worse, pretend that conflict does not exist or that the causes are somehow not significant or capable of merely being ignored.

As Catholic and a lawyer I like to define terms, and sometimes I get a better understanding that way. (Sometimes I understand better by shutting my mouth, but this is not one of them -- I hope-- or if so, I am sure I will discover that too, in due course.)

I always make distinction (as does my Church) between things that are of the Spirit and those that are of Religion.

The difference is the distinction between faith and religion: one is a state of mind, the other is an outward, usually communal, expression.

Religion is a Latin word coming from religere -- to bind, or fasten together. It is therefore the exception to the rule of the practice in most religious traditions to do so without some reference to other persons (even when they are not actually present) to whom we are bound in fellowship.

Spirit is also Latin, coming from spiritus -- breath, breathing

Spirit both directly denotes and connotes the same meaning as Kokyu.

A technique applied limply, without projection of one's center (esse -- being), lacks kokyu, it is an action without spirit.

Kokyu is the expression of ki, which also means breath in another sense.

Aikido, as practiced, is therefore inherently spiritual.

In a practical sense, religion is the outward expression of inwardly perceived truth in forms that are commonly understood by the adherents (-- "those who stick to") a particular religious system.

Religious acts are communal and expressive acts. Acts of faith are solitary and ineffable (-- "not expressible"). And yet faith cries out for expression in external forms, some of which engage our conscious minds and some of which do not.

Most religious acts occur in a system of doctrine, which is necessary to give expressive actions a material foundation that can be commonly understood.

Some religious acts are not doctrinal and therefore are not outwardly indicative of nor dependent upon a particular system of religious doctrine.

A good example is contemplative meditation. The act is essentially the same across religious traditions, including the several variation of methods used to focus awareness. The physical disciplines to achieve appropriate mental awakening and alteration of perceptive faculties are well-understood, empirically proven on a neurological basis, and materially effective in practice, both objectively and subjectively. It is a practice directed at the conscious mind, but to calm, rather than to excite, the desire for expression. When given a particular form of expression and focus, such meditation is by all means religious, but it is not doctrinal.

Doctrine is an unavoidable cause for religious conflict. The various cords that people have throughout history chosen, in their respective times and respective places, to bind them together in a common expression of sipiritual feeling, vary as widely as historical experiences among human beings. To reach common understanding it is necessary to have common references, and to a great extent the selection of these references simply happens. The depth and richness of religious imagery, paradoxically, depends upon its more particular cultural circumstance, rather than upon its more universal charatereistics.

Doctrine is both indispensable and yet also incomplete by reason of the historical accidents that give rise to particular accretions of religious concepts. Doctrine is necessary to enlighten and to exercise the conscious minds, to aid understanding, and to put into application respective attitudes of faith. Doctrine is therefore an indispensable element of all religions, and yet is also, for the same
reason, an unavoidable cause of conflict among them.

Religious actions that do not depend upon doctrine, such as meditation, are an opportunity to join together (religere) beyond the bounds of our particular religious community, in a common action with religious significance but not bound by doctrinal teaching of a particular religious tradition.

Aikido is religious in this latter sense. It lacks any doctrine. It is an outward expression of an attitude of faith that is experienced communally according to forms of action that are empirically valid, and both objectively and subjectively effective. It is directed at and engages the conscious mind through the instrument of the body. Practice of aikido quells desire for self-directed focus and the desire for predetermined action or result. Practice does not destroy aggression, which is a fundamental and indispensable human trait, but transforms it into something nobler, greater and worthy of our time and attention.

Speaking to Christians now (especially Catholics), Aikido is an opportunity to become both a witness and participant, directly, in certain material aspects of the transformative mystery of the Incarnation.

I cannot speak to Protestants as they are all apostate heretics and doomed to . . . .(Oh wait a moment, I've got this silly doctrine thing in reverse.... ;-} )

Speaking to Taoists, Aikido is just walking -- you know, with strong feeling about it.

Speaking to Buddhists, Aikido is a means to show the causes and a means to aid cessation of suffering for all sentient beings.

Speaking to Jews, Aikido is an expression of the Law of God to train in righteousness and to spread righteousness among the nations.

Speaking to Muslims, Aikido is a means to do the will of the merciful and compassionate God in a mutual struggle (jihad) to find true freedom (ijtihad).

Speaking to Shinto-jin, Aikido is kannagara, the path of kami, to seek harmony with the opening and eternal chord of creation.

Aikido is all this, ... and less, ... and more ...

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 08-16-2005, 02:22 PM   #7
Jenn
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Paige - indeed the www.bahai.org web site Dirk sited covers all the basic information about the faith and is the same one I was going to cite.

It is interesting that so many of you are Catholic.. my husband is a man of Catholic upbringing (he is non-practicing right now, but has a positive association with the Church) and intends to start the next Aikido class begining in September. I will be interested if it at all raises some spiritual awareness in him.. part of the non-practicing part stems from his disassociation from spiritual matters. I think Aikido will be quite good for him both physically and spiritually.

Very thoughtful post, Erick. I can tell you are a lawyer. Of course, everything is a cause for conflict - not just religious doctrine. Marriage, work, parenting - and even the "solitary" acts of faith can be a source of conflict, as any introspective religious person knows. It's like the pigeonholed conflicts of storytelling - Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Nature (or Supernature/God), etc. Conflict is not an unhealthy thing - on the contrary it is quite healthy and often necessary. It is a matter of handling conflict harmonsiously in a way that fosters growth. Conflict does not contradict peace - it is often the path to peace - the trick is to follow a path to peace that going to involve some conflict without devolving into chaos (mental, spiritual, or physical.) That is what seems to me to be the philosophy of Aikido.

I guess really it *is* the internal religious conflict that makes me find Aikido resonate with me spiritually. Most of the time I feel like I am a flailing and failing believer of religious teachings I'm not entirely equipped to live up to. Without getting too much into my personal diologue with God, somehow the physical act of Aikido seems to give that diologue, that conflict - a less chaotic tone.
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Old 08-16-2005, 04:21 PM   #8
aikigirl10
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Thank u Dirk and Jennifer.
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Old 08-16-2005, 04:23 PM   #9
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

I highly recommend for your husband, if he is at all so inclined, Dom Aelred Graham's "Zen Catholicism." My wife decribed me as a Zen Catholic before she or I knew the book existed.

It is a rigorously orthodox examination with a delightfully welcoming approach to the intersection of the two disciplines. Fr. Robert Kennedy, S.J. (Jesuit, and a Catholic priest for the non-canonical among you) and also a holder of the Dharma as Roshi has also written two well-reputed books on the same topic, one titled "Zen Gifts for Christians" I think, which I, sadly, have not yet read. He has a zendo in (of course) California. Morningstar, it's called.

I love the quote of Fr. Kennedy's teacher on his website.

"I am not trying to make you a buddhist. I am trying to empty you in imitation of your Lord, Jesus Christ."

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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Old 08-17-2005, 12:25 AM   #10
xuzen
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
Erick Mead wrote:
Greetings all... <snip>...

Speaking to Taoists, Aikido is just walking -- you know, with strong feeling about it...<snip>..

Aikido is all this, ... and less, ... and more ...

Cordially,
Erick Mead
Amen Erick,

That, I can relate to. Yes, it is just walking . I like that definition. Aikido can be as spiritual or secular as one makes it. It is all in one's mind.

Boon.

SHOMEN-ATE (TM), the solution to 90% of aikido and life's problems.
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Old 09-05-2005, 09:06 AM   #11
Satyre
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Re: Religion and Aikido

I am an atheist.

Most of the time.

Occassionally I quietly tend towards being an agnostic. That which moves me most, which was my first love, best friend and confidante for many years and remains the wellspring of my inspiration is the ocean.

I've practiced meditation since I was about 11 or 12, believe deeply in love and the rightness of harmony.

Aikido has enhanced that, funnily enough the physical component above all. "I" as person has been extended (no Cartesian puns intended) by "I" as a body. Aikido gives me a physical means of expression.

Practicing Aikido, both the technical and ritual aspects, brings me joy, the dojo brings me peace and I am looking forward to one day discovering the movement and flow of ki...


In all this I feel no conflict between atheism and spirituality.

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Old 09-05-2005, 10:02 AM   #12
SeiserL
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

IMHO, while Aikido comes with an Omoto/Shinto religious source, it is spiritual enough the include and embrace all religious faiths.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 09-05-2005, 12:14 PM   #13
Mark Uttech
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Re: Religion and Aikido

For what it's worth, I heard that an atheist is someone that G-d does not believe in, not the other way around.
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Old 09-05-2005, 04:42 PM   #14
Satyre
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Mark:

I have also heard that Elvis is alive.

Your comment got me to thinking: Off topic reply here:
Paradox: God & Belief
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Old 09-06-2005, 03:11 AM   #15
Chuck.Gordon
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
For what it's worth, I heard that an atheist is someone that G-d does not believe in, not the other way around.
"To YOU I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition."
-- Woody Allen

If a non-existent god can choose not to believe in me, more power to him/her/it. We are then in agreement.
cg

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Old 09-06-2005, 03:31 PM   #16
Satyre
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Any chance of us getting back in topic?

This has been an interesting thread so far.

One thing that I have noticed at the club that I belong to is the way-above-average number of really good people there. Nice people. Interesting people. With an astounding lack of ego.
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Old 10-02-2005, 02:02 AM   #17
Pierre Rood
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Re: Religion and Aikido

I started Aikido because of a long time interest in the mysterious movements and the scent of tradition in the wearing of the hakama. Also the interest in Japanese culture played a role.

But soon the mystical and psychological aspects grew more important, and these are now the main motivation to do Aikido. The idea of soluting conflict by ways of not getting harmed while not harming the other is fascinating, because it stands alone in a world where destroying the other, mental and physical, is prominent.

For me the fighting aspect of Aikido and the 'Art of Peace' aspect are validating eachother. They make eachother real in a sometimes bad, sometimes good world. Aikido kan hold itself against anything because of those two, both concrete, dimensions.

Now for me Aikido is a great way of implementing the Christian principle of loving your neighbour, but also of loving your ennemy. And I feel a lot of ennemies may turn into neighbours along the way.
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Old 10-02-2005, 10:21 PM   #18
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
Pierre Rood wrote:
Now for me Aikido is a great way of implementing the Christian principle of loving your neighbour, but also of loving your ennemy. And I feel a lot of ennemies may turn into neighbours along the way.
I rather liked that! Thank you.
Take care,
Matt

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 10-04-2005, 05:35 PM   #19
Trish Greene
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
Pierre Rood wrote:
But soon the mystical and psychological aspects grew more important, and these are now the main motivation to do Aikido. The idea of soluting conflict by ways of not getting harmed while not harming the other is fascinating, because it stands alone in a world where destroying the other, mental and physical, is prominent.

For me the fighting aspect of Aikido and the 'Art of Peace' aspect are validating eachother. They make eachother real in a sometimes bad, sometimes good world. Aikido kan hold itself against anything because of those two, both concrete, dimensions.

Now for me Aikido is a great way of implementing the Christian principle of loving your neighbour, but also of loving your ennemy. And I feel a lot of ennemies may turn into neighbours along the way.
Pierre,
This is exactly what I have been feeling about Aikido. I just started learning last month but I am finding the philosophy behind the training just as intriguing as the learning the movements!
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Old 10-12-2005, 09:15 PM   #20
tderham
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Hi,

I was just wondering if anyone knew of any good Aikido-related Zen texts (or Zen-related Aikido texts).

Regards,

Tristan Derham
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Old 10-29-2005, 04:05 AM   #21
phangoh
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Hello,

I am Buddhist and an atheist as well since Buddhism has no concept of God. What I find interesting about the spiritual aspect of aikido is just as its name described--the path to harmonize ki or energy. In practicing aikido, we engage on the path to harmonize energy with our ukes or opponents and extend that connection with the energy of the universe. Because of its "art of peace" philosophy, aikido techniques can teach us how to harmonize negative energy coming our way, but to extend that connection with the energy of the universe, that requires certain level of meditation practice.

The object of zen meditation is to "illuminate the mind and see our true nature" and to see our true nature is to know ourselves absent of delusion. In achieving this, we can cultivate the four sublime states through meditation and they are lovingkindness (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). In brief, lovingkindness is extending our love toward all beings; compassion is having empathy for all beings that are suffering; sympathetic joy is rejoicing in others' success, welfare and happiness; and equanimity is seeing and treating all beings equally.

So how do these four sublime states related to the spiritual aspect of aikido? In simple terms, if we learn to cultivate these four sublime states, we will learn to see things as they truly are not how we perceive them to be. With our visual eyes, we can see the ukes, see the techniques that are coming, but in order for us to feel the energy, often we have to join the uke's attack. But as one practice meditation regularly just as O Sensei practice meditation on a daily basis, one can develop a high level of concentration such as one-pointed focusness and develop what we called the "third eye". So when an uke moves toward us with an attack, we can sense the motion of energy before the attack, connect with the uke's energy, and execute the technique by extending the energy with our surrounding. Energy is gathered through our toes and extended upward toward our "dantien" (two inches below our naval) and from there, channels throughout our body and extends toward our fingers and out, connecting with the uke, and dissipates in a radius that depends on our level of meditation training. We know we are extending the energy with the surrounding if in a randori practice situation, we are executing the technique on one attacking uke, yet, all ukes that are within the circumference of our energy field can feel our energy and are affected by it. O Sensei developed the third eye because not only can he sense the opponent's approaching energy, but he can also see the energy motion as a streak of white light and see the movements of the uke in slow motion so that by the time the uke executes his technique, O Sensei has already completed his defensive technique and the uke is down on the ground and can not see what technique O Sensei just executed.

So through meditation (develop Concentration), we can cultivate our mind to see our true nature and once we see our true nature, we can see the true nature of everything else that are around us (develop Wisdom) and be able to connect with them in a cosmic sense. Then, we can truly achieve the spiritual level of aikido or any other peaceful martial arts such as tai chi.
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Old 10-29-2005, 09:07 AM   #22
Mark Uttech
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Re: Religion and Aikido

I don't mean to argue, but I think O'Sensei just kept his two eyes.
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Old 10-30-2005, 01:58 AM   #23
phangoh
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Hahaha...indeed

No argument at all, just sharing of thoughts and personal experience here and that is always welcome
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Old 11-21-2005, 12:44 AM   #24
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Great post Michael. Many people feel this way! Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old 11-21-2005, 08:32 AM   #25
Erick Mead
 
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Re: Religion and Aikido

Quote:
Michael Buchok wrote:
I believe religion is what you make of your own spirit. I like to believe there's a God or someone/something watching over me. ..... This is why I stray from a religious group and believe what I want to believe, and feel what I want to feel. ... In aikido, all your confrontations will be different, and to feel out what someone else is feeling, is to me, a great key in understanding how to control the situation without having to cause any serious harm.
Dear Michael:
I am not a doctrinaire sort of person, but It is in my estimation, dangerous to dispense with doctrine. Doctrine, and I speak of any humane tradition, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Shinto, Islam or others, is the compilation of witnesses to aspects of truth. We cannot hope in one span of life to encompasss what they have learned, however imperfectly, and tried to pass on (however imperfectly, for the good of their posterity.

That does not mean that doctrine must not from time to time be quesitoned, examined and renewed in its applicability, and interpreted for one's own situation. Imperfections do exist in the accumulation of wisdom. It is our role to find and purify them, rather than to dispense with the whole enterprise.

Such a man was O-Sensei, although his art was about as non-doctrinal as one can hope to see. In grappling with doctrine, we are doing the same as grappling with an opponent in aikido. Uke is not our enemy, he is our teacher, and most especially so, when he opposes our will or desired outcome.

So with doctrine. As we must confront uke/nage in training, we must confront the truth of ages, as appropriate to our own upbringing and traditions, to make it real in our own lives. I, for one, am too feeble of mind to outmatch the mountain of wisdom that has been piled up for me to climb. Newton lauded the giants whose shoulders he stood on to see farther. The mountain is both an obstacle and ladder.

Your tradition, whatever it may be, is your lifeline, your ground and firm foundation. Improve it, build upon it, find links to bring other tradition closer together to build with broader foundations. Do not abandon a treasure given you for free.

Cordially,
Erick Mead
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