The Sacred Gate
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” -Joseph Campbell
Recently, one of our Sempai's was asked by her teacher what the gate-and-sun image on her tee shirt meant. This excellent young Black Belt wasn't satisfied with simply telling her that it was her Dojo's logo; she rightly suspected there was some deeper meaning to it, and took the question to Tashi Caroline. The answer bears some thinking about.
The sun represents everything we want from our training, and ourselves. It represents warmth and energy, growth and knowledge. The gate, then, represents where we have to go to bask in everything the sun has to offer us.
The torii, as it's known-- long before it's use by martial arts schools--was traditionally the gate of a shinto shrine. As dojo's began to adopt its use, there was (and still us) some debate about the use of religious imagery in a secular pursuit. I myself, a deeply religious (although non-denominational) person, have a hard time thinking of a better symbol for a martial arts school than a gateway to a sacred space.
While I think the definition above is a perfect description of a Sacred Space, it's worthwhile to hear Joseph Campbell go into a bit more detail. The professor of literature and comparative religion described it as this:
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.... "Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You have to try to find it."
That's what our Dojo was always meant to be, back even when it was just a handful of students and two fledgling teachers: a Sacred Space. A place where common ground was found and differences appreciated. Where kids and adults alike could take risks in the pursuit of worthy goals and never have to worry about being judged when they stumbled on their way to achievement. A place with psychic sound-proofing--where the noise of this crazy, overstimulated age of ours is kept outside the walls and we can all focus purely on our Selves, each other and everything that connects us. But as much as I want our Dojo to be that place for all of us, I don't want it to be the only place. It's so important that we build our own sound-proofing, wherever our day-to-day lives find us. It's vital that we take the lessons that we learn from our risks, failures and achievements to the outside world. I love the imagery of our Dojo gate. But that's all that it is: an image. Our ultimate goal needs to be not a sacred place that we can enter, but a sacred place we take with us everywhere we go.