One of the fundamental concepts in the teachings of the East is that which is called “Tzi” in China, “Chi” in Vietnam, “Ki” in Japan (depending on pronunciation). What is meant by this word?
“Ki is the world-forming energy which also lies at the core of each human being, waiting to be realized and actualized... The original idea of ki developed as a metaphysical principle in a number of Chinese schools of thought. Ki was, for example, the essential principle of harmony, and it was the source of creativity expressed in the form of yin and yang (Lao-tzu), the vital fullness of life (Huai-nan-tzu), the courage arising from moral rectitude (Mencius), the divine force that penetrates all things (Kuan-tzu). As a term, it was never clearly defined. Sometimes it was equated to empty space (the void) or nothingness (Lao-tzu), at other times to the formative energy emerging out of chaos (Chuang-tzu). It was regarded by some philosophers as a dualistic principle that structures the universe.” (Kisshōmaru Ueshiba, the book “The Spirit of Aikido”).
However, representatives of eastern teachings cannot answer the question about the origin of the “Ki” doctrine. Kisshōmaru Ueshiba expresses the generally accepted opinion that, “When ancient people used their intellectual and imaginative powers to discern the workings of the universe, the source of all life, they came up with the concept of ki.” And we have found no more details about those “ancient people.”
In recent years, many people say that all teachings come from the one Divine Source.
For Jews, the Divine Truth manifests itself in the form of the Torah. And the thing, called “Ki” at the East, is called by the word “Ruah” in the Torah.
The word “Ruah” has the following meanings in the Tanakh (taken from the Tanakh Concordance edited by A. Even-Shoshan):
a) air movement;
b) the soul of all living things, the soul;
c) feeling, inspiration;
d) vanity, emptiness, nothing;
The word “Ki,” that widened the vocabulary of a civilized human, is multi-aspect too: “Since we lack a precise equivalent, the translation will depend on the emphasis we place on the diverse dimensions of Ki. That is, we can stress the spiritual aspect (spirit, soul, ethos), the affective aspect (sense, intuition, feeling), or the psycho-physiological aspect (breathing, breath).” (Kisshōmaru Ueshiba, “The Spirit of Aikido”).
It is also interesting to note that both “Ruah” and “Ki” have no personality nature, in contrast to the Christian understanding of the word “Spirit.”
What role is given to a person in all this teaching?
The Japanese see two aspects here:
1) Achieving personal harmony with the world via “Ki.”
Thus, the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, speaks about this in the following verse.
Standing amidst heaven and earth
Connected to all things with ki,
My mind is set
On the path of echoing all things.
2) Transmission of “Ki” through yourself further, with the purpose to harmonize another person or situation (Reiki).
This issue is elucidated in Judaism in the following way. HaRan (Rabbi Nissim ben Reuven), while analyzing a verse of the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:18), writes, “‘But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.’ It is not said, ‘But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee wealth.’ And if so, the power given to man is the cause and means to achieve wealth, but it is not so. Therefore it is said, “Thou have gotten this might with thine forces, remember the Giver of the force. Blessed be He.’” [This could be incorrect: I didn't find HaRan's texts in English! — Daniel Alievsky] (It is clear that the word “wealth” should be understood in a wide sense.)
You see that the Jewish approach differs from the eastern one, according to which the source of power is not personified. As Zen monk Takuan writes (1573–1645), “Penetrating to a place where heaven and earth have not yet divided, where Yin and Yang have not yet arrived, I quickly and necessarily gain effect.” I.e. the only personality in this process is a man. But Judaism insists that there is another person “in this game” — God! And it means that He gives “power” to man, but does not serve him as only “raw materials base.”
In addition, if we are dealing with a Person and if we are depending on Him, then we are interested in a dialogue with Him. And the only form of dialogue with God is the observance of His commands (commandments).
It is also necessary to note that God is not only the source of “Ruah–Ki,” but also the source of information about “Ruah–Ki” (exactly God, not people, as stated in one of the quotes above). We do not know for sure when God gave people this knowledge and how it was spread on Earth, but maybe the following will help us to settle this matter.
It is said in the Torah that the forefather Avraham, before his death, sent all his children except Yitzchak (Ishmael is not mentioned in this passage) to the East with the gifts. The Midrash says that the gifts in question are the teachings of the East. Perhaps here is a connection to the theme, touched on above.