Response to Podcast 016 - "Kendo, Death, and Hope"
After listening to Episode 016 “Kendo, Death, and Hope”, I couldn’t help but think that this is continuing the conversation that was begun in my post “Response to Podcast 170”.
I had mentioned in that post that the modern Japanese have dispensed with all but the outer forms of religions and, therefore, really do not understand the spiritual underpinnings of Kendo anymore deeply than a Westerner could. Your comments about Nishimura Sensei seems to support that idea that it is possible to do kendo (and be really good at it!) without truly absorbing the philosophy upon which it is based. Doing kendo does not automatically provide any spiritual depth or understanding and most kendoka I have talked to cannot even describe the spiritual aims of kendo (though we all accept that they are there).
Think of kendo as the crystal through which one can focus one’s spiritual beliefs. Without any spiritual beliefs to focus, kendo is just ‘exercise’. The samurai (through the combination of their spiritual beliefs) believed that they should live as if they were already dead, and that the very ideas of right and wrong, life and death would be decided for them by their master. Throwing their lives away in the service of their master was their reasonable service. (The Hagakure says all this) Their training with their katanas gave these beliefs focus, but it did not create these beliefs. Their apparent fearlessness of death was because of their religious convictions regarding their perspectives about life, not because of swordsmanship.
I am a Bible believing Christian and have long appreciated the intersection of ideas between bushido and the Christian life. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection provides eternal life for me and death is nothing to fear, but my life is now His and not my own. I live for His will, glory, and purposes. The disciplines and principles of kendo give me a great place to meditate upon and focus these beliefs.
Kendo has no ability to take away fear of death, but it is a beautiful crystal to help one focus on the only Master Who can truly make us alive!