The 8 Tenets of the Aikido Student – Compassion (Jin)

This article is part of a  8-part series  on the Samurai Code for Modern Times.

“Through intense training the Samurai becomes quick and strong.  He is not as other men.  He developes a power that must be used for the good of all.  He has compassion.  He helps his fellow man at every opportunity.  If an opportunity does not arise, he goes out of his way to find one.”

A vital requirement of the Aikido student is the developement of compassion, and one of the most difficult.  How can that be, you ask?  Most of us believe ourselves to be compassionate people.  After all, we love our wives and husbands, we love our children, and we care for our friends and colleagues. We are nice to people in general, but what about the people we don’t like? If we are honest with ourselves,  deep down there are always people we don’t like, for a thousand good reasons. Being compassionate to these people is the real test.

Here is my definition of compassion; the understanding that each and every person is doing the best that they can, given their temperament, environment, and experiences.

For example, many of us have turned up our nose at the rude, smelly, dirty, homeless alcoholic lying in the street and asking us for money.  Would it have made a difference how you felt, if you knew that his person grew up with alcoholic parents, was beaten and abused in childhood, and had never even seen a lifestyle that did not include alcohol?  For better or worse, people accept and live in the reality in which they are presented. If you or I had those parents, and grew up in that environment, would we be any different? Probably not.

There, but for the grace of God, go I . . .

So, finding compassion for our enemies as well as our friends allows us to live a life without hatred.  I’m sure you will agree that hatred has produced more undesirable consequences for society than compassion.  And because you are compassionate doesn’t mean we have to embrace our enemies, nor protect ourselves, we only need to understand that even our enemies are doing the best they can, given their temperament, and experiences.

In their studies of combat, the Samurai never took life indiscriminately; they valued life.  In studying killing, life became more precious, and all life had value; even your enemies.  This is compassion.

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