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Thread: Bushido and Christianity

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    Default Bushido and Christianity

    I was just made aware of this new book by The Reverend Takemi Sasamori.
    https://www.amazon.com/Bushido-Chris...anity+sasamori

    I will probably read it in the near future as it sounds pretty interesting.
    I just wonder if there might be a few students of Ono-ha Itto-ryu who may think it a bit problematic to have Christianity so heavily in the forefront in this Ryuha. Especially in light of the fact that Sasamori-sensei don't want to uphold the Soke-system in his school.
    I was already thinking about that after seeing the latest DVD by The Reverend Takemi Sasamori. Of course it was about the Ono-ha Itto-ryu but still a lot what Sensei was talking about was his (christian) faith. I found it quite a bit disturbing when he tried to explain certain waza with stories from the Bible.

    What is your take on this? Do you think this helps to get more western students?
    Frédéric Serra

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    There are seem to be some assumptions behind your questions and I'd like to ask you about them a little bit here to maybe get this conversation off the ground.

    What do you find problematic and disturbing about this subject?

    If the legitimate leader of a ryuha has some other passion in his or her life outside of martial arts, when is it acceptable for him or her to talk about what its like to be a person who is into both of these things?

    What in particular does "the fact that Sasamori-sensei don't want to uphold the Soke-system in his school" have to do with how you feel about his faith?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frédéric View Post
    ...I found it quite a bit disturbing when he tried to explain certain waza with stories from the Bible.
    I'm curious if you would find it disturbing if a bugeisha explained waza with stories from Buddhist or Shinto lore. If not, why would Christianity be different?
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Default My Take...

    Hi everyone,

    I'm new here and wanted to thank everyone in advance for the thoughtfulness of the thread and the equanimity that is being displayed here. I have an educational background in a Christian denomination and done a lot of interfaith dialogue work. I've also been in the martial arts for over 25 years. I just wanted to share some perspective.

    From my understanding, the philosophical underpinnings of Japanese martial arts was an appropriation of other beliefs in Japan at the time. The warrior class and "budo" in its original form was created to get the job of war done. Only later were various romantic and religious( I use the term loosely here. Buddhism is technically a philosophy, not a religion) were grated onto budo, portraying it with various ideals and values that were not a reality when the warrior class was fighting it out. This is actually the very same that happened in Europe with the idea of chivalry and romantic love being grafted onto that warrior class when the realities were actually very brutal.

    As budo crosses cultures and then, cultures and religion also cross into various places, there are bound to be various combinations religion, culture and practice all rolling into something unique, like a Methodist minister teaching the arts. I would say, from my travels, while most teachers I have known had an ethos that was informed by the pseudo philosophical underpinnings of budo, the only one I knew who was genuinely religious was a sensei who upheld the most nuanced of martial etiquette and was Muslim.

    Much as Americans feel they "own" rock and roll and jazz, both our cultures contributions, I would say there is a certain ownership of the martial arts ascribed to Asian cultures, resulting in some head scratching when someone like a Methodist minister writes and teaches about budo. Certainly, at the base of budo, there should be nothing wrong with it, because its really just a philosophical underpinning to military arts.

    As far as the Reverend's conclusions, I can only say from my studies, which have included some very disciplined analysis and critique of scripture with respected academics, that a Christian perspective, particularly deriving from a denomination that is very reliant upon scriptural literalism, must conclude that the only moral action when being attacked by a person in one on one combat, is pacifism. Pacifism is at the very root of the moral life of the Gospels and anything involving physically harming the attacker is against the moral vision of the Gospels as a moral code( as opposed to the religious beliefs, which I would not want to begin to debate here).

    Military actions, that is, countries going to war, are not directly commented upon in the moral vision of the Gospels. Still, I think its a pretty dicey endeavor to conclude anything less than pacifism from the Gospel vision. From what I've read, the Reverend makes some ideological leaps on the budo end, saying that budo is really about peace, etc, etc so that may "smooth out" his thesis.

    I think anyone taking the arts could do worse than understand a belief system that does espouse total pacifism, as the Gospels do. Many schools claim to have a "spirituality" or to follow a "way" but few have a grounded spiritual life. The so called spirituality I have often seen is a generalized ethos that claims to confront the ego and attachments, but does so in a way that does not actually challenge the students as people. They are more slogans and sayings that do not really mobilize the persons way of life. So, any real way of engaging any robust and complete ethical view, be it Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, real Taoism( as opposed to pretend kind I see often), Judaism, etc, could potentially inform a person's life view and practice.
    Last edited by Allen2Saint; 8th November 2016 at 01:37.

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    First, let me say welcome to E-Budo, Stephen.

    Next, a question: how do you relate Jesus' throwing the money changers out of the temple with "total pacifism"?

    Thanks in advance.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Gospel pacifism is not the same as being totally walked on. In terms of interpersonal conflicts, when being struck or harmed, interpersonal forgiveness and compassion is seen as being more important than even going to temple. There is no equivocating about that in the Gospels. We turn the other cheek and we forgive. We extend compassion to all, even our enemies.

    Jesus throwing out the money changers is an act done to rectify the way people were using the temple, specifically to remove materialism from the equation. It is often used by people as a rationale to act angrily, but its really the changing of the institution. Jesus does not strike people down or harm them. He cleanses the temple from a structural negativity that places materialism over the Father. He definitely turns stuff over and angrily drives people out, but that is not on the same level as an interpersonal exchange or conflict from the scholarship I have come to understand.

    When looking at the Gospels you have to see the major thrusts and the themes( in the view I have come to understand). This is the moral vision of the Gospels altogether. If you go line by line, as some do, you can find some things that are random, off kilter things that don't necessarily add up because they are from an oral tradition and separate cultural understandings( Jesus cursing the tree, Jesus writing in the sand when no one knows what he is writing, sending the demon into the swine who then drown themselves), but to form a moral vision, you need to read it all and put together the major themes. In my view and the view of the people I respect, the total vision is pacifism on an interpersonal level. Institutional change is allowed,in fact it is a theme of the Gospel, but never at the expense of harming a person.

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    Thanks for the welcome, Brian. I've been lurking around a bit and I am very happy to be connected to this community.

    I did not mean to go on and on, but contemporary ethics is a thing I focused on a lot in my grad school work and, being a martial artist, the pacifism aspect was a big struggle for me. But from the scholarship I read and the professors I had, who are all well recognized non ordained ethics folks, I had to face my martial arts pursuits in light of a total pacifism paradigm. I think total pacifism is tough to do and I cant claim to do it, but its a pursuit I choose that informs my art, especially my intent when I practice and hopefully, when faced with actual conflict.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen2Saint View Post
    ...I think total pacifism is tough to do and I cant claim to do it, but its a pursuit I choose that informs my art, especially my intent when I practice and hopefully, when faced with actual conflict.
    I follow the personal maxim "Verbal Judo before Kodokan Judo." But I also carry a gun, and won't hesitate to use it if it seems the best way to protect my life or the life of an innocent third party; I also follow the mixim "Sometimes you must cut off a finger to save a hand."
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Your prerogative of course, Brian. Its very rare that someone with my skill set and education can meaningfully contribute to a martial arts forum so I jumped in when I could.

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    And it's much appreciated.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Another relatively new book, which tackles the subject in a different manner to that of Mr Sasamori, is Inventing the Way of the Samurai, by Oleg Benesch. It was published in 2014, by Oxford University Press, in their Past & Present series. Since I have lived in Hiroshima for almost exactly half of my life, I am well acquainted with the arguments for and against 'total pacifism.'

    Best wishes,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen2Saint View Post
    Gospel pacifism is not the same as being totally walked on. In terms of interpersonal conflicts, when being struck or harmed, interpersonal forgiveness and compassion is seen as being more important than even going to temple. There is no equivocating about that in the Gospels. We turn the other cheek and we forgive. We extend compassion to all, even our enemies.

    Jesus throwing out the money changers is an act done to rectify the way people were using the temple, specifically to remove materialism from the equation. It is often used by people as a rationale to act angrily, but its really the changing of the institution. Jesus does not strike people down or harm them. He cleanses the temple from a structural negativity that places materialism over the Father. He definitely turns stuff over and angrily drives people out, but that is not on the same level as an interpersonal exchange or conflict from the scholarship I have come to understand.

    When looking at the Gospels you have to see the major thrusts and the themes( in the view I have come to understand). This is the moral vision of the Gospels altogether. If you go line by line, as some do, you can find some things that are random, off kilter things that don't necessarily add up because they are from an oral tradition and separate cultural understandings( Jesus cursing the tree, Jesus writing in the sand when no one knows what he is writing, sending the demon into the swine who then drown themselves), but to form a moral vision, you need to read it all and put together the major themes. In my view and the view of the people I respect, the total vision is pacifism on an interpersonal level. Institutional change is allowed,in fact it is a theme of the Gospel, but never at the expense of harming a person.
    It isn't so much the actions of the merchants and moneychangers. The moneychangers and merchants served a very necessary role at the time. People traveled a great distances to give sacrifice and money at the temple.

    1) Money needed to be changed because it was unlawful to present money in the temple that bore images of pagan gods which Roman money did. Roman currency had to be exchanged for Jewish currency.

    2) It wasn't that feasible to transport and care for animal sacrifices on the journey to Jerusalem. They needed to purchase on site.

    Jerusalem is built into the structure of 3 deep ravines. David chose Jerusalem as his capital because it could only be attacked from the north. As a result Jerusalem was really cramped for space during holy holidays as a result the merchants and moneychanger settled into the outer court. The reason Christ had such a huge issue with this is because many people worshipped the one true God, not just Jews. The outer court was called The Court of the Gentiles and this was the only place non-Jews could worship the one true God. The 3rd Court was the Court of the Jewish women, the 2nd court was the Court of Israel and the 1st most inner Court was the Court of the priest. He cast out the merchant and moneychangers because it prevented those who were about to inherit his legacy from worshipping God.

    I kind of feel bad for Western Christianity because there is such a disconnect with their understanding of history and tradition. Especially the Protestants who adopted a sola scriptura based belief that scripture alone is the sole authority. Orthodox bishops didn't establish the New Testament scriptures until the 4th century. By breaking with traditions they threw out the baby with the bath water. There is a whole lot not in the scriptures.
    Last edited by CEB; 10th November 2016 at 17:56.
    Ed Boyd

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    I wish that was in English or Greek. I'm Eastern Orthodox and pretty well versed on histories and historic traditions according to the Church. That would have been interesting to read.

    But when coming back to the Church I was very close to walking away from Budo due to Chan/Zen content but decided it was OK to maintain my practice. As a general rule the Church believes East mediations are in principle contrary to the notion of Christian prayer. In meditation it is thought the practice is most centered on emptying oneself which is considered opposite of Christian prayer which is not to empty oneself but to fill oneself.

    But in the end the little bit of zazen we do before class is just to leave your non practice related distractions outside the dojo and take a minute to get focused on practicing correctly and safely hope no one gets their nose broke tonight. My Sensei is a Buddhist and was married in a Shinto temple because his parents were and their parents before him. He was born in Kyoto. Here at our dojo most of us come from Christian or agnostic or atheistic backgrounds. At the end of the day we just like to stand in line and punch.
    Last edited by CEB; 11th November 2016 at 21:34.
    Ed Boyd

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    Ed, if you're not already familiar with it, I recommend Zen Meditation for Christians (1974), by Father Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle Roshi. Fr. Enomiya-Lassalle was a Jesuit priest and was the vicar of Hiroshima. He survived the bomb, but returned to his native Germany to recover. Later, and with the blessing of Pope Pius XII, he returned to Hiroshima and was instrumental in the building of the Memorial Cathedral of World Peace. While back in Japan, he took up the practice of Zen, eventually becoming a roshi and founding a Zen center open to non-Buddhists.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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