This is Part V in a series about two very important texts in the kyudo world: the “Raiki-Shagi” and the “Shaho-Kun.” This series is based on information gleaned from the book “Michi no Yumi” (“道の弓”) written by Iwao Matsui Sensei.
It’s been a while since the last post in this series, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of the magnitude of this idea I want to talk about here now, “Jin” 仁.
Jin 仁 is found in the Raiki Shagi when it is written:
“Sha wa jin no michi nari.”
“Kyudo is the way of perfect virtue.”*
*(Taken from the translation in the English version of the Kyudo Manual Volume 1.)
Here Jin is translated as “perfect virtue.” The translation isn’t incorrect, but it doesn’t fully explain the concept either. I don’t mean to bash the translation, or the English language, though as we will find out, the Chinese characters used in Japanese have a way of painting a myriad of meanings with a limited amount of brush strokes in a single character, a quality that isn’t often found in phonetic languages.
While we may be robbed of the deeper meanings of Jin by translating it into English, it doesn’t mean because you understand Japanese that you have a deep understanding of the word either.
“Ah yes, Jin. Jin is like virtue. It’s well … it’s Jin!”
After talking with lots of other Japanese kyudoka, it seems a lot of people understand that Jin is a mysterious kind of word aligned with virtue and dignity, but anything beyond that is left for scholars.
It’s just a single word, a single character for that matter, but it has a deep enough of a meaning to take books to explain. With my meager understanding of the concept, helped immensely by reading “Michi no Yumi” by Iwao Matsui Sensei, I’d like to take some examples from the book and briefly explain them here in order to illuminate some of the mystery surrounding this single character.
This is a bit of a long one, so I recommend getting your favorite blog-reading beverage and taking your eyes off of the clock.
First of all, let’s see what context Jin is usually found in. Jin is most often considered one of five different concepts that make up what is sometimes called, “the 5 Constants” in Confucian philosophy:
仁 (Jin: virtue/humaneness)
義 (Gi: righteousness/justice)
礼 (Rei: proper etiquette)
知 (Chi: knowledge)
信 (Shin: faith/integrity)
I talked about “Rei” 礼 in some of the last posts, a concept so important to kyudo and Japanese culture as a whole, but one that seems so foreign, or even contrary at times to the ideals of other cultures (American in my case). Very very simply, “Rei” can be translated as “proper etiquette”, or rather all of the specific rules we have in society. In kyudo, we are specifically talking about those rules that are found in Japanese society which are originally based on Confucian ideals.
The concept of Rei is inseparable from kyudo, yet without a deeper understanding of Rei, the movements in kyudo become empty and meaningless, and thus prevent us from making progress in the art. Or worse, perpetuating habits that aren’t actually kyudo at all.
The connecting tissue …
the missing key …
and perhaps the ultimate meaning of kyudo, or budo as whole is …
“So, can we finally start talking about Jin now?!”
Let’s take a look at the character for Jin:
What do you see?
It’s actually a really simple character.
Anything special? Anything indicative of virtue?
For those familiar with Chinese characters you’ll notice that Jin is composed of two separate characters:
人 (human/people) and 二 (2)
人 + 二 = 仁
The answer is as simple as the question.
Jin mirrors the idea of 2 people, or more accurately, the condition of two or more people being together.
What’s so special about that?
Well, according to Confucianism, you could say this is a human’s ideal state.
Matsui Sensei in his book, “Michi no Yumi”, writes:
(I give the original Japanese version here for those who want to figure this out for themselves. My translations are good for me, but perhaps leave out a lot of nuances that may be interpreted differently by other people. I’d love to share more of the original content from the book, “Michi no Yumi”, but unfortunately it’s all the time I have to just explain it in my own words and language.)
What Matsui Sensei is saying is that, “Jin” is a human’s ideal state, or perhaps humans at their best. The character of Jin, 仁, is made up of the two characters of 人 (human/people) and 二 (2). What this infers is “things we need do when with two or more people,” or rather “omoiyari” (思い遣り) (From here on out we can basically use “omoiyari” to mean “Jin”), “consideration for others.” It is with the feeling of “omoiyari” (“consideration for others”) that we can make a successful society with others, and live happily. “Omoiyari” is different from “kizukai” (can also be translated as “consideration for others” but as is explained in the following sentences, is quite different.) “Kizukai” refers to the superficial happenings and customs of considering others in particular spaces and occasions. For example, saying “thank you” when you get a gift because it’s the custom and you’re expected to say “thank you” no matter what. But “omoiyari” on the other hand refers to the feelings of considering others that lay inside of us, beneath our outer social masks. In this, receiving a gift incites feelings of gratefulness and so by saying “thank you” we are expressing our appreciation for this gift or gesture that was given to us. Or how about bowing before we shoot. Are we bowing just because our teacher tells us we have to, or are we bowing in thanks and appreciation to the target and space for presenting this opportunity to cultivate ourselves? “Omoiyari” is about not just the surface, but what hides underneath, and includes potential situations that haven’t even happened yet. All of these outer actions are determined by the inner thought and feeling. With a merciful, charitable, and humane heart, we “consider others” deep inside of ourselves and far into the future.
This is about as simply as you can explain Jin. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a really good start.
Have you figured out the secrets to life and kyudo yet?
Well, keep reading!
This particular section on Jin was taken from the “summer” section of Matsui Sensei’s book. As mentioned in earlier posts, Matsui Sensei’s book, “Michi no Yumi” is separated into three sections, spring, summer, and fall, each indicating varying levels of depth, with spring being the most simple and fall being the most advanced. In the spring section Matsui Sensei basically states that Jin is one of the 5 Constants and refers to virtue. The summer section goes on to explain Jin as I have shown above. Then in the fall section, things get really tricky as Matsui Sensei starts quoting a lot of different texts from Confucian sources that I honestly don’t understand very well. It’s kind of like trying to read Latin or Shakespearean English. What I was able to understand though, were some of the explanations Matsui Sensei offers about these texts. So let’s take a look at some of those for some more examples of what Jin means.
Matsui Sensei starts off writing about Jin in the “fall” section of his book by revealing the critical relationship between “Jin” (consideration for others on a deep level inside of us) and “Rei” (proper etiquette).
Again, I’d love to write all of the Japanese sections I’m referencing, but doing so goes past the boundaries of time available to me at the moment. Hopefully in the future I can do so, but until then you’ll just have to take my word for it, or find a version of the book, “Michi no Yumi”. Below are my attempt at explanations of parts of the book, followed by my own ideas.
Below are not official translations. They are basic renderings into my English of what was written in various parts of the sections on Jin. My understanding is limited and I have left out a lot of information. Unfortunately this is all I could take from it, but perhaps it’s enough to propel our discussion of Jin.
“Rei” is the physical form “Jin”.
By pulling back ourselves (or perhaps our desires), we follow the rules of society created by our forbears (perhaps “Rei”), and this is Jin. If young people were able to do this faithfully for just a single day, the effects would impact all around them and help return the world to true virtue. If one can use this newfound concept of self realized by Jin, it can overcome the egotistical self, and one can bring the meaning of Rei (rules of society/etiquette) to life. This is made possible only with the power of the self, and is not something dependent upon others. If we can use our hearts to help others with sincerity, then we can realize Jin. People must unite their view, speech, ears, and movements with Rei. In this way, Rei can bring peace to mankind, and the efforts of the sages and our forbears will not be wasted. What Confucianism encourages us to do is apply our thoughts and actions wholeheartedly to others, in the form of Rei (the rules decided by society), so that we can realize our greatest selves.
Jin (virtue) is about overcoming the egotistical self by following Rei (form of society). The effects will be positive and help society (everybody involved). Perhaps these ideas can be perceived as negative, damaging, or unnecessarily rigid. However, by overcoming our individual desires for the sake of others we can elevate ourselves to a higher level. What Confucius tries to say is that Jin is the nature of our heart, and by realizing Jin we can return to our natural heart. This is realized inside of our individual selves, by our own heart, and others cannot do this for us. We are just one part of the universe. If society, as a constructed entity, is another part of the universe, then by realizing ourselves within society we can realize ourselves within the universe. Confucius believed that by realizing ourselves within society, we can bring life to a new “us.” Individual metamorphosis via society.
Originally, Rei (rules of society) were meant to connect people to the gods, and bring order between people. On the outside this is seen as Rei, and on the inside of the hearts of all individuals, Jin. So, Jin is not something brought about by others, but realized from within. By realizing our inner Jin, we can finally understand the outer Rei. By overcoming our inner subjective egos, we can realize the true worth of people. Transforming the subjective self, to the objective society (Rei), is a very important part of Confucianism.
So, what do you think?
Is the Confucian ideal of Jin the key to the evolution of the self and mankind as a whole, or is it a trick to subdue the masses into following arbitrary rules set out by the societal elite?
I believe the answer lies within yourself.
And that is why I believe in the power of Jin.
It seems what all of this is trying to say is that Jin is something realized by ourselves inside of ourselves, to awaken ourselves in the outer world. When awakened, we can see that the ideal nature of the world is peace, and so our every action and feeling becomes natural, reflecting the nature of peace. This is achieved by suppressing the ego with discipline, in order to become one with the outer objective world.
Perhaps this is where we can find the deeper meanings of kyudo. It’s not just about hitting the target, but awakening ourselves and making a better world. Hitting the target is a result of inner correctness. At the same time we hit the target, we can effect the world for the better. But if we’re not thinking about improvement of ourselves, and those around us (Jin and Rei), then hitting the target becomes nothing more than hitting paper with an arrow.
Rei are the outer objective rules that promote peace, and Jin is the internal will to bring it all into reality.
These complex ideas of peace, consideration of others, overcoming the self to evolve to higher planes, and realizing the objective nature of the world, are what make up the single word of,
All of this from one simple character:
The condition of 2 or more people together. It is realized by the self, but made possible by the others.
… I’ve sought for so long to find truth alone, always pushing others away, and yet it is those “others” where I find Truth.
Maybe there is no self. Maybe there are no others.
Maybe we really are just one.
A giant mash of cycling human.
After reading this book and thinking about these ideas of Jin, I happened to watch the live action remake of “Ghost in the Shell.”
The movie, for all its faults and strengths, finished with a line that seemed to bring all of this together:
“Humanity is our virtue.”
Virtue, a concept that has seemed so difficult to explain, through the cultural and philosophical concepts of Jin, is now made so simple, and so clear. Virtue is humanity.
Humanity is our virtue.
I have three secret fears in my life, and they are that (1) the cultural traditions of the past that have taken centuries to develop will fade into extinction in favor or comfort and screens, (2) robots will take over the earth, and (3) the natural world will be destroyed by human progress.
If we can recognize the importance of Humanity, maybe these will never come to pass.
We must take care of ourselves, and each other.
That includes the environment.
And doesn’t need screens and gadgets at every second and in every corner of our life.
What do you think of Jin?!
In the last couple posts in this series I received some incredibly helpful personal messages and comments. Please don’t hesitate to open up this world a little more by letting your voice be heard here.
Thank you for reading.