The picture above is of a common sight in Japan. It is a stick of bamboo placed low on the ground to mark an off-limits area. But if you do not respect it, there is no way it can keep you out!
The humble bamboo stick is called a kekkai, which means “barrier”.
Barrier is a strong word.
Look it up is the dictionary. Various definitions include words such as “obstacle” and “hurdle”. Webster also defines it as “something that makes it difficult for people to understand each other”.
The Japanese word for barrier (結界, kekkai) is comprised of two kanji characters. The left side (結) means “to connect”. The right side (界) is the character for “the world”. It implies that a barrier is something which connects, rather than separates.
Respect, an Essential Element
When Japanese want to declare something off limits, they typically place a small, personal object in front of it.
The “barrier” is simply meant to declare to the other children where their space begins. It teaches them how they can be together, while still respecting each others’ boundaries.
The picture below is from a tea ceremony class. The sensei (to the right) has placed a kekkai fan in front of her.
The implications of seeing a boundary as a connecting and not a dividing line can be significant.
If there is mutual respect, we do not have to erect impenetrable barriers to protect our personal space, whether physical or mental—a gentle reminder will do.