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Soulend
13th October 2003, 19:24
I have been thinking about this a little over the past few years - elementary thoughts I guess, but something which has puzzled me.

What is it about the Japanese arts, be they the budo, kado, chado, shodo, Noh or ikebana which make them so valuable for improving the self - more so than an activity like vegetable gardening, Greco-Roman wrestling, woodcarving, or seagrass basket-weaving?

Is it the underlying philosophy, or such concepts as wabi, sabi, and shibui that make the Japanese arts a means of deep personal improvement but something like bodybuilding or fly fishing nothing more than an activity, sport, or hobby?

Would it not be possible to apply the same level of seriousness, dedication, and philosophical depth to nearly any activity and reap the same 'whole person' and moral, menatl, and physical benefits, and if no, why not?

What elements separate an "actvity" from the pursuit of a better self?

Soulend
13th October 2003, 23:47
I typo'ed the hell outta that post..lol

Brian Owens
14th October 2003, 00:40
Originally posted by Soulend
What is it about the Japanese arts, be they the budo, kado, chado, shodo, Noh or ikebana which make them so valuable for improving the self - more so than an activity like vegetable gardening, Greco-Roman wrestling, woodcarving, or seagrass basket-weaving?

I think any activity could be an act of self-perfection if it were practiced with the same total commitment and concentration often seen in martial arts practice.

In The Empty Mirror, the author (I don't recall his name) describes one episode at his Zen monastary were he was chastized for daydreaming while working in the vegetable garden--knocked right off his stool by his sempei, if I recall.

I think the problem is that most activities don't have a history of practice as a "Do" form, as do Budo, Chado, etc., so there is not the awareness and group experience in their use as such.

I think that is the key element: Intent.

Rogier
14th October 2003, 06:40
same total commitment and concentration

You've hit the right spot with that comment. Are the arts really improving people's personality or only improving their skill. I think it is really up to the person, depending on their commitment and openess.

Most people will only learn a skill, some will also gain in terms of character and personality.

A lot of this is also up to the teacher, a teacher can try to steer. Especially at a young age the teacher can have a profound influence. Does he still have that influence if students come to him at a later age (say after 21/22)? I'm not sure, I think that adults are a lot less open to change and influence. The teacher can be a role model/idol to children, thus have a big influence.

Mike Williams
14th October 2003, 09:39
Originally posted by Yagyu Kenshi
I think any activity could be an act of self-perfection if it were practiced with the same total commitment and concentration often seen in martial arts practice.

I was going to post that the activity should also be a physical one, i.e. the character building comes from pushing your own physical limits, but then I remembered music (my other great passion), which requires a self-discipline and perserverence very similar to MA practice, and which is only marginally physical...

I do believe very strongly that "budo" has no monopoly on this stuff -it just has it expressed as an explicit goal, that's all.

Cheers,

Mike

allan
14th October 2003, 16:51
All of these Japanese arts are deeply imbibed with Buddhism. I know that some might not like to think about this. Buddhism provides a logico-philosophical basis for all the arts which David named. Not to mention an aesthetics. Thus, chado can be a way of life which can "improve the self"; it has an allied richness that is, I think, more readily experienced than are the 'spiritual' possibilities of, say, hockey. (Not to deny that western arts or sports can polish the character).

I think that this rests in the ways in which these arts are organized and the ideas in which they are embedded.

Regards,

Soulend
15th October 2003, 00:28
So Mr. Heinneman, if I understand you correctly the spiritual and moral value in the Japanese arts rests in their Buddhist underpinnings. So is a budoka of another faith, or no faith at all not getting the full benefit? Or does the benefit simply lie in the Buddhist (be it Mikkyo, Zen, what have you) flavor of the arts?

Would we not be better able to realize the value of these arts by becoming Buddhist, or by extension, would a Buddhist man studying Western Impressionist painting not be able to extract the same value from his art as his Japanese calligraphy brushing kinsman?

Theoretically, aren't all activities capable of having budo-like philosphy and depth injected into them, even hockey?

Soulend
15th October 2003, 01:04
I recall reading somewhere that in addition to all the various flavors of budo, kado, poetry, chado, etc., throughout the Tokugawa era and well into the Meiji period there were do or 'ways' of nearly everything - each a means of attaining satori. The 'way' of Go, the 'way' of sewing - everything, even the most mundane (to a Westerner) of tasks were pursued as an art form.

The teacher is important...but many pursuits have influential teachers. Physical? No, not really..after all many Japanese arts and ways which purport to offer the same spiritual and moral benefits as budo aren't particularly physical.

So maybe it is all about philosophy and intent. I wonder if the activity is really even neccesary if one approached the whole of one's life with a 'budo' outlook?

allan
15th October 2003, 16:24
Hello,

I wasn't at all saying that one must be a Buddhist to appreciate or practice these arts, only that Buddhism provides a pattern of organization, a rationale, a philosophy which forms a platform upon which these ostensibly banal activities become vehicles for polishing the self. The Buddhist 'kabbala' of these arts tends to focus one in a different way than an intense focus on hockey would. As an athlete myself I have certainly met any number of runners, triathletes, etc, who are remarkable people and I do not doubt that athletics played some role in their character development.

Buddhism, as such, does not necessarily depend upon 'belief' in something; one could regard it, if one wished to, as a set of practices and philosophies which could function in a totally secular or atheistic way. Hence, we have Christians who take upon certain Buddhist techniques to further their Christian practice.

Regards,

Matt Wolfson
15th October 2003, 18:32
Zen has been mentioned at least once. And I feel this is key to understanding why flower arranging can be an spiritual art and hockey is not. And it has to do with intent and philosphy. "It is not how the parts come together to form the whole, it is how the whole goes into each and every part" and that is the goal of zen to streghten, understand, and refine the self. The actual disapline is secondary in importance. each time an activity is undertaken it is dealt with in the same fashion as serious training in martial arts. there is no distinction between fighting for ones life and pouring ones soul into a flower arrangement. This is an ideal and rarely attended.

BULLDOG
18th October 2003, 11:32
Hello,

This is an excellent question.

I wish I could be as well verse as the previous contributors.

My only contribution to this post can be a personal reflection of what I have experienced.

I have been involved in the martial arts for the past 31 years. I have tried about almost every type of art that there is. Presently, I am involved in an American Art because in Sarasota, Florida there is no Traditional Japanese Martial Art Instructors.

I truly long for what the Traditional Japanese Martial Arts {TJMA} can offer: clarity, simplicity and peace of mind. The beauty of TJMA is timeless. It is clean and pure. It is like a mirror that reflects what you cast upon it. It does not lie; it only speaks truth, if you are willing to listen. Simplicity is its complexity. Single-minded focus for that moment of time is such a pleasant diversion oasis from this world. What it gives is universal to all but still an individual experience. A continuous growth experience if one remains humble. It kills the ego. It enlightens.

I apologize if the above description makes no sense. I blame my lack ability on describing something that is truly very dear to my heart.

If it was not for the martial arts I would not be hear today it is a gift and I have been very blessed.

Thank you!

BULLDOG
Ed Barton

Shimura
18th October 2003, 14:01
I think what it all comes down to is the perspective in which our Occidental culture and Japanese culture looks at the world. Where in the west we view things on the idea of physical gratification and progress in a material sense, the Japanese tended to look at things in a more spiritual dimension, and imbued this into everything they did, wether it be farming or making tea. I think they looked at the world through an artistic/spiritual lens.

Joseph Svinth
19th October 2003, 01:51
There is a tendency to view the Other as exotic. By reading about something rather than living it, one tends to get an idealized perception of the society or culture. This, I think, is where many people are at in their understanding of the martial arts. For visual confirmation of this theory, look at 19th century European art, particularly with Oriental (e.g., Middle Eastern) themes -- we call it Romantic for a reason.

But probably anything can have its Way. Since David asked the question, a reply couched in terms he will understand: Think of the USMC. Most folks don't last 4 years, let alone 20. Nonetheless, there is, IMO, something to the theory that once a Marine, always a Marine. If I could describe this Marine-ness better, then I'd have a surefire article for the November issue of Gazette. Unfortunately, I do not. Nonetheless, there is no doubt in my mind that it involves a learned way of seeing the world, and then reacting to it.

In my mind, budo is similar.

Meanwhile, Buddhist or not, we all follow the Path that leads to the grave.

Shikata-ga-ni.

Shimura
19th October 2003, 13:13
Granted we as Westerners have always tended to look at Asia in the light of some exotic Shambala, and I think many of the people in this forum have felt that at one time or another. How else can we justify our passion for something that is rather esoteric, such as tradtional budo. Now for those of us who have lived in Asia, or Japan in particular, we have realized from exposure that it's not the mystic place we may have thought of as children, but definitely a place of different values and perceptions from our own. Different climate, different geography, etc. therefore making it it a different culture. And in terms of Japan, due to it's history, it has a rather unique and in some ways introverted culture, wholly distinct from any other culture of the world. Look at the language. Aside from borrowing character writing from the Chinese, it's a distinct tounge, unrelated to any other language in that area or the world. A good analogy would certain tribes in the Amazon basin, living seperate from the mainstream.

The overall point I'm trying to make is though is that cultures are different, and therefore perceptions of the world in those cultures will be different. Perry read every published book on Japan available to him prior to his famed journey there, and yet on his arrival was still amazed, and in some ways at odds, with the culture he encountered.

leoboiko
27th October 2003, 14:24
Maybe anything could be "michi", but maybe some "michi" are more direct than others. Japanese arts seems to stress concepts that tend to change your view on life; I really have trouble imagining how much dedication to football I would need to attain the kind of feeling toward others that I developed with chado.

I'd guess it's more a question of how the arts are teached and practiced than what the arts are.

kage110
27th October 2003, 15:19
Most of the points I would make have already been touched on but I did think of two things to add:


So maybe it is all about philosophy and intent. I wonder if the activity is really even neccesary if one approached the whole of one's life with a 'budo' outlook?

I think that this is one of the keys. The practice of budo, chado, music, art, whatever, with the appropriate state of mind is supposed to make that state of mind an everyday occurance so that soon you live your life in that state of mind and achieve sattori. The art, whatever it is, is just a vehicle for your mind/spirit to reach the destination, the vehicle itself is not important.


The Buddhist 'kabbala' of these arts tends to focus one in a different way than an intense focus on hockey would. As an athlete myself I have certainly met any number of runners, triathletes, etc, who are remarkable people and I do not doubt that athletics played some role in their character development.

Not being particularly well informed about Buddhist teachings I could be wrong here but the one crucial difference I see between practicing a sport and a 'do' is that in a sport there is always a desire to win. In a 'do' there should be an absense of desire, especially of the desire to 'win'. Sport may produce people of great character but they are unlikely to achieve sattori until long after they have stopped winning medals.

[Disclaimer: Inaccurate use of Japanese coming up, but I do not know how else to describe what I am thinking and I think a lot of people will use the same definitions themselves, so please excuse me.] Budo is the process of refining the spirit through the study of martial arts and whether you win or lose a battle is immaterial. Studying anything elses with the same focus and dedication could achieve the same result (sattori). Bujutsu is the process of developing your fighting ability through the study of martial arts with the express goal of winning the battle. Obviously studying music, art or sport won't help you much here! (Though they may make you a 'better' person.)