Religion in the MA's

bydand

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A different thread started me thinking of religion in the arts. While each region has their own religious thoughts, do they by necessity follow the arts from that region? What I am trying to ask is: If you practice a Japanese/Korean/Chinese art and want to progress further than the inital beginning ranks of BB, do you have to "follow" whatever religion is "associated" with your art?

I will give my thoughts, but really want to know others thoughts as well.

I do not think you need to follow whatever religion is associated with your art. I fully belive that I can look at something in a "Buddist","Tao", "Hindu" or whatever way while still following my "regular" (whatever one is raised in, or follow) religion.

I think the MA's as a whole are missing out on a large part of their training by leaving out the aspects of the art that might fall into the "Religious" catagory, for fear of losing students and being labeled. I think every art has these points and we should be more open to them without trying to pidgeon-hole them into various religions from around the world. Look at meditation for example, whoaaaaaa Scotty you are getting into that "Eastern" mumbo-jumbo. I have actually heard that when I started into Ninjutsu and we did a class on meditation from someone who NEVER stepped foot inside the door of the dojo. Plus the fact he was proud that he never would step foot inside the dojo, because he thought "dojo" was eastern for "church". (Even showing him the definition in Websters wouldn't change his closed mind on the meaning.) I wish I had the answer on how to "package" the whole Arts so all aspects would be accepted and we could all finally benefit from what we train in.




Your thoughts??
 

Kacey

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I think this comes up repeatedly both because of non-MA'er's preconceptions of what an MA is, because some (not all) MA's teach the moral precepts of their MA (mine does), and because in some cases, there is a pocket of ideas that mixes badly with a pracitioner's religion (often through misunderstanding).

For example:

- as you said, people who don't know much about MAs assume (from having watched David Carradine in Kung Fu, maybe?) that all MAs come from a religious background and are only taught by priests, to people who have to adopt that religion.

- many MAs teach the physical skills of the MA and ignore any moral precepts that may have originally come with them... or add their own, which was discussed extensively on several other threads (also here and here, among others). Many classes deliberately avoid teaching the moral precepts that were part of the original MA, for reasons ranging from feeling they are unimportant to fear of driving off students who may not agree with them. In contrast, I was hired to teach at the YMCA where I've been for 8 years because the moral precepts taught in ITF TKD so closely matched the values of the YMCA.

- there are lots of examples of MAs mixing badly with religion - but these are often (not always) based on a misunderstanding. The one that comes up in my class periodically involves the use of the word 'master' for a master instructor. Various students of mine (past and present) who regard Jesus Christ as their 'master' have expressed concern over calling a person 'master', and it often takes a rather long and detailed discussion before they are convinced that 'master' in the MA sense refers to master instructor (at least, in ITF TKD, it's supposed to) and not 'master' in the religious sense... and even then, I have one student who has real trouble calling using 'master' as an honorific, although he has no trouble with sa-hyum, which means the same thing, but in Korean.

Even with all those considerations (or perhaps because of them), it is my opinion that, for myself, the moral component TKD (which many consider religious, even though it's not) provided a set of guiding principles that were lacking in my life before I started TKD - and that is the perspective from which I pass on that information.
 

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bydand said:
A different thread started me thinking of religion in the arts. While each region has their own religious thoughts, do they by necessity follow the arts from that region? What I am trying to ask is: If you practice a Japanese/Korean/Chinese art and want to progress further than the inital beginning ranks of BB, do you have to "follow" whatever religion is "associated" with your art?

I will give my thoughts, but really want to know others thoughts as well.

I do not think you need to follow whatever religion is associated with your art. I fully belive that I can look at something in a "Buddist","Tao", "Hindu" or whatever way while still following my "regular" (whatever one is raised in, or follow) religion.

I think the MA's as a whole are missing out on a large part of their training by leaving out the aspects of the art that might fall into the "Religious" catagory, for fear of losing students and being labeled. I think every art has these points and we should be more open to them without trying to pidgeon-hole them into various religions from around the world. Look at meditation for example, whoaaaaaa Scotty you are getting into that "Eastern" mumbo-jumbo. I have actually heard that when I started into Ninjutsu and we did a class on meditation from someone who NEVER stepped foot inside the door of the dojo. Plus the fact he was proud that he never would step foot inside the dojo, because he thought "dojo" was eastern for "church". (Even showing him the definition in Websters wouldn't change his closed mind on the meaning.) I wish I had the answer on how to "package" the whole Arts so all aspects would be accepted and we could all finally benefit from what we train in.

Your thoughts??

Keep in mind that religion in Asia does not mean the same thing as it does here.

In the US, religion refers to faith.

In Asia, religion refers to faith, culture, and often times ethnicity.

As such, some things that are legacy to Asia may be referred to as "Buddhist", but may not necessarily a Buddhst religious practice, it may be a cultural practice.

There are many reasons for this. In a country like ours with our history, we have come to subdivide people in to rough racial groups: white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. Asian countries are made up of...Asians. I'm not saying that to be flip...just illustrating a different model. Subdivisions are often made on religious bounds.

Western practices (Judeo-Christian) are largely rules-based. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Thow shalt not kill. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Eastern practices are more contemplative in nature.

I do not think it is necessary to practice an Eastern faith to progress through higher dans. However...I do think it can help to understand the history behind what has been done and how it came about...especially if one is teaching students.
 

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I do not think that religion has a place in the martial arts. I have been seeing many advertizements for christian arts i dont think that is right. I am a christian, but martial arts is not the place to study that, church is. I do though believe that religious principles from a an ancient art like shaolin may help in martial arts training and in life. For example, shaolin was based off buddist principles such as the 8 fold path. Those kind of things should be trained and studied, but putting faith in something just cause of martial arts is not right.
 

Flatlander

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It seems to me, thus far along my trail, that the eastern philosophical precepts of flowing, and cylical, and empty/fullness, hardness/softness, all things being a result of causes and conditions, the unspeakable nature of the tao - they all tend to relate in some way to movement, and feeling, IMO. In that way, I see a relevance for the philosophical aspect of those things, which Western thought hadn't really broached to that point.
 

OnlyAnEgg

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I certainly feel that spirituality has it's place in every aspect of my life; not just church. In order to be holistically integrated, may ma skills should touch my spirituality and vice versa (as well as many other combinations to lengthy to enumerate).

While I agree that advertising an MA studio as Christian seems a bit exclusionary, it's been noted that some Christians are, at best, apprehensive about the "evils" of Eastern philosophies. Stating a studio is Christian may introduce some to MA that might not otherwise explore.

For myself, and I've said this elsewhere, as well, I have no difficulty, whatsoever, reconciling Taoist thought with Christianity. The fundamentals are nearly identical and the philosophies are close enough. It is true to say that MA, as many of us study them, are rooted in ancient practices from the East, there will, undoubtably, be some philosophical influence within them. The trick is to pay attention.
 

fightingfat

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I think that at a certain level there is something intrinsically spiritual about the martial arts. In martial arts, we work to confront ourselves without ego and this internalisation has to have spiritual repercussions. I do not think that one has to follow the religious aspects akin to the demography of the art one follows, but some form of self reflection is inevitable (and a good thing IMO).
 

bushidomartialarts

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it seems to me (and i'm a novice in such things) that when we speak of eastern 'religion', we're being a little inaccurate.

generally, buddhism and taoism (the major eastern 'religions' associated with martial arts training) are more accurately called philosophies. they espouse an approach to life and thought rather than a cosmology and relationship with god.

neither is contradictory to christian faith (or any other) any more the teachings of aristotle, plato or machiavelli (one could argue significantly less contradictory than machiavelli).

i don't believe you need to follow eastern philosophy to reach high grade in martial arts. i'm a casual student, and believe i at least understand their context and basic precepts. honestly, i find wisdom their but consider them a little passive for my own life.

i do think that a basic understanding is important, especially for teachers.
 

MartialIntent

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I'd say there's no need to follow associated religions that are either central to the art or to those who formulated the art. I don't think there's any attempt to indoctrinate students of TMAs and I think the reason we have this attachment and focus on religion in the martial arts is that we've lost our own sense of spirituality.

For me, personal spirituality [non-religious] is more important than formal religion. I think religion is a personal issue and has no more place in the martial arts than it does in politics though many are trying to make it fit.

Personal spirituality is different and one's personal standing and the spiritual or philosophical tenets of one's art can have considerable overlap and bearing on each other. Our art can shape our desire for enlightenment just as we can be positive reflections of the teachings of our art.

Long answer but I hope it makes sense.

Respects!
 
OP
bydand

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I agree wholly with the general view presented by everybody as well. I guess what made me think of this was the general publics view of how MA are tied to a religion. Granted, everyone who practices, knows better, but the perception is still there after all these years (in this area at least, then again Deliverence looks downright urban in comparison). That coupled with a few of my old instructors "changing" to follow the eastern philosphies made me wonder a bit. I am firm in what I belive is right and have zero problem intergrating some of the views of the orient into that belief system.
 

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bydand said:
I agree wholly with the general view presented by everybody as well. I guess what made me think of this was the general publics view of how MA are tied to a religion. Granted, everyone who practices, knows better, but the perception is still there after all these years (in this area at least, then again Deliverence looks downright urban in comparison). That coupled with a few of my old instructors "changing" to follow the eastern philosphies made me wonder a bit. I am firm in what I belive is right and have zero problem intergrating some of the views of the orient into that belief system.

The general public is not very well educated in matters of Eastern culture period. MA is just a tiny subset of what is not understood very well.

Sometimes when learning about something new, one chooses to dig a little bit deeper in to it. Personally, I started learning some Japanese after making friends with a bunch of Japanese people. I didn't need to learn the language. My friends didn't ask me to learn the language. I just found that I liked it.

Same with religion...Eastern religions aren't well-understood here. MA can be a jumping off point to learning more about a religion, and some fimd they like what they learn. Others don't. To each their own :)
 

heretic888

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bushidomartialarts said:
it seems to me (and i'm a novice in such things) that when we speak of eastern 'religion', we're being a little inaccurate.

generally, buddhism and taoism (the major eastern 'religions' associated with martial arts training) are more accurately called philosophies. they espouse an approach to life and thought rather than a cosmology and relationship with god.

This is a common belief among Westeners, but it's still wrong.

You should actually read up on some of the major literature in the aforementioned traditions (say, Chuang-Tzu for Taoism and Nagarjuna for Buddhism). Things like cosmology, ontology, epistemology, deities, first causes, and so on are often discussed.

The notion that these religions are just a "way of thinking" or a "philosophy" are simply wrong. They have their own rites and rituals, clerics and priests, prayers and meditations. It isn't just intellectual ideas about the world.

Laterz.
 

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heretic888 said:
This is a common belief among Westeners, but it's still wrong.

You should actually read up on some of the major literature in the aforementioned traditions (say, Chuang-Tzu for Taoism and Nagarjuna for Buddhism). Things like cosmology, ontology, epistemology, deities, first causes, and so on are often discussed.

The notion that these religions are just a "way of thinking" or a "philosophy" are simply wrong. They have their own rites and rituals, clerics and priests, prayers and meditations. It isn't just intellectual ideas about the world.

Laterz.

Agreed, but Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, although currently religions, started as Philosophies. They became religions after their founders or alleged founders died.

And as these religions apply to the associated martial arts, it is the philosophical side that is mainly part of the martial art, not the ritualistic or religious side.

Also it should be taken into consideration that Eastern religions unlike western religions are inclusive. It is when these religions came to the West that Westerns began to view them from the Western perspective and look at them as exclusive and separate entities from all other things eastern.
 

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in my style you MUST follow the religion of the style
it's a PRAYING MANTIS so you MUST start praying to get good.
okay, stupid joke is over

no, i do not think it has anything to do with religion. However i think the MA itself and its culture are very much affected by religion.
 

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mantis said:
in my style you MUST follow the religion of the style
it's a PRAYING MANTIS so you MUST start praying to get good.
okay, stupid joke is over

no, i do not think it has anything to do with religion. However i think the MA itself and its culture are very much affected by religion.

But do you prey to the North in Mandarin or the South in Cantonese?
Northern Preying Mantis
Southern Preying Mantis

:)
 

mantis

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Xue Sheng said:
But do you prey to the North in Mandarin or the South in Cantonese?
Northern Preying Mantis
Southern Preying Mantis

:)
if you say it's preying then you ruin it. you have to say 'praying' as in the original mantis name "mantide religiosa"

I pray just like a mantis.. in northern mantises :)
 

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mantis said:
if you say it's preying then you ruin it. you have to say 'praying' as in the original mantis name "mantide religiosa"

I pray just like a mantis.. in northern mantises :)

Please forgive my transgression, but Northern means Mandarin so maybe I could at least understand a little of it.... Hey!!! wait a minute "mantide religiosa"... That's not Mandarin :)
 

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Xue Sheng said:
Please forgive my transgression, but Northern means Mandarin so maybe I could at least understand a little of it.... Hey!!! wait a minute "mantide religiosa"... That's not Mandarin :)

Basically it is mandarin before you put mantis on top of pizza...
i think that's italian or something
Somehow i have the idea that the naming of 'praying' mantis came from that originally.. maybe i read it, or not, cannot remember...
 

heretic888

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Xue Sheng said:
Agreed, but Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, although currently religions, started as Philosophies. They became religions after their founders or alleged founders died.

Yeah, people sure do have a penchant for "intelligent design", don't they? ;)

There seems to be this intrinsic need (perhaps as part of our pattern recognition "software") in human beings to see these teleological "inventions" or "foundings" in history. The truth is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of religions and philosophies were not "founded", they evolved gradually over several generations of transmitted material. No need to invoke an intelligent designer here.

It is highly unlikely that the wisdom imparted in the "Tao Te Ching" or the Pali Buddhist canon just popped out of nothing, singularly generated by a clever individual. This story is just as fictional as the Jewish and Christian versions of their own "intelligent designs" (i.e., a super-duper, magical founder that inspired thousands within a span of less than five years). In all cases, a lot of this stuff is derived from the religious wisdom and folklore that had been passed down in their respective cultures for millenia. The "original philosophy" is a historical revisionism based on this "intelligent design", nothing more.

Plus, "Buddha Gautama" and "Lao Tzu" in all likelihood didn't even exist in the first place. You might have a point on Confucius, though, but even his philosophy was based on ongoing social mores and values in feudal China.

Xue Sheng said:
Also it should be taken into consideration that Eastern religions unlike western religions are inclusive.

Eh, it depends on who you look to. You're more likely to find inclusivistic sympathies from guys like Origen or Thomas Merton than from Justin Martyr and Jerry Falwell.

That being said, there are exclusivistic elements in some Eastern religions, as well. One need not look further than "Pure Land" Buddhism in Japan for proof of this.

Laterz.
 

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heretic888 said:
Plus, "Buddha Gautama" and "Lao Tzu" in all likelihood didn't even exist in the first place. You might have a point on Confucius, though, but even his philosophy was based on ongoing social mores and values in feudal China.

Agreed, that is why I said alleged founders.



heretic888 said:
Eh, it depends on who you look to. You're more likely to find inclusivistic sympathies from guys like Origen or Thomas Merton than from Justin Martyr and Jerry Falwell.

That being said, there are exclusivistic elements in some Eastern religions, as well. One need not look further than "Pure Land" Buddhism in Japan for proof of this.

Laterz.

Ah yes that does point out a massive flaw in my statement I didn’t realize I was making. I should have been more precise, I am referring to the Chinese views of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. I am reading way too much of that lately and I apparently let those views taint my perception of all previous Eastern Religions I have studied.

Thanks
 

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