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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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Ercan,

Hm, I'm probably one of the more biased people to ask that question, as I have Buddhist leanings and occasionally do retreats with shugendo practioners...Maybe ask a Japanese person who has roots in the culture. I'm still in the honeymoon stage with these ideas, and probably impart more meaning into these observances because of my relationship with these ideas and practices.

Posted on: 2008/10/10 23:54
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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I am a new poster here, and It has been years since I trained with John Poliquin, Eric Belkey, Hanna Patterson, and Brett Varnum in Presque Isle, ME. However, I am a religious studies minor at the University of Tennessee, as well a a fundamentalist Christian, so I guess I will have a go...

The greatest religious influences in the Bujinkan system as well as the rest of the Ninjitsu world generally come from the Mikkyo tradition of Zen, or Chan Buddhism. I found personally that most of the ritual used had long ago been disconnected from any religious meaning, though the underlying meaning was still there. For example, clapping the hands at bow-in may have it's roots in calling on the spirits or ancestors present, but it also has the meaning of showing respect for the teachings of the past and concentrating the mind on the practice that you are about to participate in. Sensei Poliquin was always very understanding in allowing Christians who did not feel comfortable to bow out of certain practices, such as meditation/visualization exercises, but the explanation of those types of tecniques was always secular/physical, not spiritual/religious in nature. Some research I have done lately suggests that this is common among Kashima-Shin Ryu and Iga Ryu schools, where meditators are often encouraged to meditate on "the deity of your choice" or simply on clearing the mind, rather than on any specific deity or spiritual figure.

It is very hard to find any martial arts school or tradition where there has been no religious influence. I would argue that perhaps those schools which try to eliminate these influences entirely often struggle somewhat in the application of these arts. I find personally that there is much to be learned that has roots in spiritual disciplines but can be translated in terms of the martial arts without referencing a specific religion. For example, I don't have to be a Chan practitioner gazing at a Mandala and chanting a specific Mantra to understand the benefits of visualizing and stating (internally or audibly) my intent before putting it into action.

Specific movements in actual tecniques, ways of bowing, mudras and mantras, and breathing/meditation tecniques all have their roots in religious traditions. However, I believe that most can be practiced without specifically challenging individual religious beliefs, and if not, don't be afraid to discuss it with your instructor. You may find that he/she can explain something in such a way that it does not interfere with your belief system, or you may find that he/she has no problem with you sitting out during a particular exercise. Most likely, though, your instructor will have come up on this question before, and can help you with it.

Cheers!

JS

Posted on: 2008/10/11 5:30
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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I would think that all people have some sort of religious influence in their lives, even if it is to deny all religions. It would then become almost impossible for anything developed by humans to be totally void of their practices and beliefs. That said, their religion does not have to impact the value of what they have created, ie, in this case a martial art. IMO all religions have the purpose of allowing people to live together in close proximity and cooperate rather then killing each other. They are systems of accepted conduct that permit that cooperation. Our art does not require ANY certain religious belief, it does require a moral code. That moral code is a respect for life, all life and all people no matter what their religious "belief" happens to be. The skills that are taught within the Bujinkan enable the practicioner to have the power to resist what they do not agree with, that which violates THEIR moral code. I consider that a very good thing and something that needs to be spread around the world and made available to all those who are supressed by "more powerful" dictators, bullies, leaders, you fill in who. Power over one's choices needs to rest with that individual person as does the responsibility for those choices.

Posted on: 2008/10/11 22:30
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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These are all good posts. But, in my opinion, the easiest answer is this: Christianity is man-made. Jesus never taught so-called Christianity. He taught values and morals which are meant to help lead one to righteousness. The same as our philosophy in training... a heart bright like a beacon. Most of what we call Christianity does stem from Paul who in turn was telling everyone else what they were doing was wrong. But that doesn't matter here. The big picture is this; maybe one's art does conflict with their religion. But like I said, that is a thing made of man. God is more interested in you having a Relationship with Him. When training there is a point where you need to grow up and find your own taijutsu and not try to duplicate what you were taught down to a T. The same applies here. Religion can be a good guide if applied correctly but eventually we need to grow up and move into the relationship stage. Think of this as the Go-dan test. Because that's exactly what it is.

Posted on: 2008/10/12 1:55
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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Anyone who sees a disconnect with Bujinkan practices and the practices of Christianity don't know enough about either. There is a different between spirituality and religion and one is infinitely bigger than the other, it's just a pity that so many warmongers are indoctrinated against or choose not to see this.

WMShennen

Posted on: 2008/10/12 21:33
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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Quote:
I recently pondered over the similarities between the spread of Bujinkan over the world and the development of the early Roman church. In my opinion, we must be like the gnostics of old christianity (those later called heretics, btw). We must strive not to fall into the "blind faith" group...

Best regards / Skuggvarg


Hi mate. I'm interested in your conclusions (assuming that they are ongoing) in that you mention the Christian Gnostics. Some questions if you don't mind...

Who do you see spreading the Bujinkan word today as 'fact' the way that literalists approach their religion?

Do you think that this reconciles with what it is you hear when you are training in Japan?

Which would best describe your approach, literalist or gnostic, in trying to understand the esoteric aspects of this martial art? (if of course you believe there are esoteric aspects...)

Cheers,

WMShennen

Posted on: 2008/10/12 21:45
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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Newblack, I'm mostly always willing to learn. :)

To say that someone who sees a disconnect is uninformed suggests your willingness to inform. Erizabesu suggests there are Shinto and other influences in the opening bow ceremony, I certainly remember the shrine at the school I trained in. Papa-san states, correctly I believe, that it's near impossible to build something as significant as the Bujinkan system without infusing some of your own beliefs into it.

We probably agree that a higher than normal moral code is relevant to both Christianity and BJK, and that there is at least some awareness of a spiritual "self" for each of us. Many people have a strong drive to know there is something greater than this life. Certainly the infusion of a vaulue system into what we train for helps keep us going sometimes, when the body starts to tire.

Perhaps I don't know enough about either; that wouldn't surprise me. I do recall discussions of specific spiritual practices at the higher level Dan ranks when I attended a Hayes seminar in 1995. At that time SKH was still affiliated with BJK, if I understand correctly.

A few days ago I called a former instructor and had a marvelous conversation. We didn't touch on religion but you can bet my heart was made glad in reconnecting to a good man and friend. If BJK has no more positive effect than bringing people closer together then it's a large step ahead of many organizations. However, my friend leads me to believe that I can connect with others in BJK with as much joy, if not as much history. That fascinates me; the ability to travel places for one thing and meet friends I've never known.

Leam

Posted on: 2008/10/12 22:10
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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Leam, that is one of the great joys in the life I live today. I get to meet so many really wonderful people in those that train in the Bujinkan. There will always be a few of the others, but the vast majority are the people you LIKE to be around and whose company you ENJOY. Now that really is special.

Posted on: 2008/10/13 8:34
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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OK, so I know I'm a little late jumping into this conversation. I consider myself an Educated Christian (believer in Christ's teachings, not the teachings of man) with Taoistic Philosophies. The only interference between bujinkan and Christianity is the interference that the person makes themself. I've been lucky to have a Biblical Scholar as a mother (rest her soul) who taught me to think for myself and question everything, and a college professor who was a huge role model in religion. I don't believe that anything we do in the Bujinkan interferes with Christ's teachings.

There is mysticism in both, and if someone tells you otherwise, they are wrong. Jesus was mystical, period. I believe that God has given all of us innate abilities that people can develop. Take for instance, the sakki test. Mysticism to some, but to me it's developing an ability that God has given me. I've heard soke speak to all religions. As far as the bowing in, i think it's more or a tradition/respect thing more than a religious thing (even tho it stems from a lot of religious backing). However, to respect another culture is not denouncing your own religion. Didn't Jesus teach respect?

It's also good to have balance. In my training group (before we all started going our different paths because of life), I would say that there were 5 original core members. Myself, a Jew whose a professional musician, a more right winged Christian who teaches at his church, an agnostic (or buddhist, can't remember) who is going for his doctorate in Bible/Religion (oxymoron?), and a guy who believes in God but claims no religion. My taijutsu improved by working with those guys, and all of us learning from each other. If I would have played the religion card and have been biased, I wouldn't be where I am today. Hope that makes sense, i just got finished typing a Psych paper, so my mind is all befuddled.

Posted on: 2008/10/15 11:37
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Re: Christianity and Bujinkan?
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Dc_ecc,

I am pretty sure that Paul's take on the Christian Church did center more on the consolidation of an organization, yes.

I think you and I are using different definitions of mysticism. Paul began, and others continued, the lifting of professed faith above the doing of works and the loving of fellow man.

Mystical faith is not necessarily the same as mystical relation to God through works.

IMO, based on the historical development of modern Christianity, the religion of Christ has more to do with the teachings of Paul and his followers than the teachings of Christ.

Taking his writings as a hole, we see the Christian movement towards misogyny, contradicting the very acts of Jesus in his life, and those of his true apostles. We see a more formal move towards a solidified interpretation of the life and death of Jesus, which unfortunately centers more on his death. This leads to a reinterpretation of the entire Hebrew faith (the basis of the faith of Jesus) and the invention of doctrines not based on anything but the faith and ideas of Paul and his followers. Those being predicated upon a mystical vision of Jesus that the true apostles did not accept as being valid.

I have done some research on the Valentinians, since you brought them up. It appears that their founder was taught by a follower of Paul, but that the more Orthodox church (founded out of Paul and his direct followers) hunted them down and killed them off as a cult. So, I am not sure they are a good example to use for Pauline mysticism, as his more Orthodox Church hunted them to extinction over the following century and a half of their founding.

Again, I will admit I am not a professional religious scholar. These are my opinions, reached from my readings of Paul's works and the works of others who do consider him to be problematic in the history of the teachings of Jesus.

I think anyone who starts with the claim that they are something that they are not (and apostle of Jesus Christ) should be looked upon with suspicion, and I am hardly alone in that opinion.

Posted on: 2008/12/15 5:58
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