The Reiki Principles

The Reiki Principles

Today only
Do not worry
Do not anger

With thankfulness
Work diligently

Be kind to others

The text above is a translation made by a student of mine, a Japanese professional working at the United Nations. That translation is true to the Reiki Principles as they were originally written in Japanese. The Reiki Principles, also referred to as the Reiki Precepts, are carved on the memorial stone for Reiki founder, Mikao Usui, which was erected by his students on the grounds of Saihoji temple in Tokyo. Usui Sensei encouraged his students to recite the Reiki Principles as part of their Reiki practice.

The above translation is different than the version of the Reiki Principles Hawayo Takata gave her students. Perhaps Takata thought her version would be more relevant to her (mostly American) students’ needs and cultural understanding (or lack of understanding). It differs so much from the Japanese that it seems more accurate to refer to it as a rendering rather than a translation.

5 Reiki Principles
(as shared by Hawayo Takata)

Just for today, do not worry.
Just for today, do not anger.
Honor your parents, teachers, and elders.
Earn your living honestly.
Show gratitude to every living thing.

Although the Reiki Principles are often referred to as the 5 Reiki Principles, it’s clear the number 5 appeared as a result of translation from the original Japanese into English. The number 5 is not seen the same way in the original Japanese Reiki Precepts.

A word about translation

No language exists in a vacuum. All languages are embedded in specific cultures, and serve those cultures. Literal translation from one language to another is impossible because languages developed words according to what was valued in that culture. For example, tribal cultures in remote areas of the Amazon jungle have no need for words to describe motor vehicles, but languages spoken in countries criss-crossed by highways have many words to describe cars, trucks and motocycles.

The presence or absence of motor vehicles is easy to notice. The differences in concepts and values among cultures, however, are much more subtle. And there are concepts that are left deliberately vague because they defy definition. The Japanese kanji Reiki might be one of them.

English, like other Romance languages, is written in words made up of letters. The words are organized carefully to follow the rules of grammar.

Japanese language is quite different. It doesn’t have the precision that words bring. It is written in pictograms that rely on suggestion and nuance rather than the precise definitions of English.

The Reiki Principles in Japanese are contemplative by virtue of the language itself. The 5 Reiki principles translated into English can seem more directive.

Hawayo Takata was devoted to Reiki practice and to the teachings of Mikao Usui as shared with her by his direct student, Chujiro Hayashi. Takata’s contribution to Reiki practice cannot be overestimated. Without her dedicated efforts during more than 4 decades of practice and teaching, Reiki practice would not be available to us today. Our debt to her is unfathomable.

That said, despite Takata’s dedication and discipline, the Americanization of Reiki practice began when she started translating the practice into English. The English language doesn’t have words for the transcendent concepts expressed in Reiki practice.

Given that no culture can know what it doesn’t have, as you practice this deceptively simple Japanese spiritual practice, you’ll get the most benefit by remembering that it takes us beyond words. When speaking of Reiki practice to others, choose your words carefully so you communicate the benefits of Reiki practice in language that is meaningful to others.

But when it comes to your own intimate, subjective, transcendent experience, don’t be limited by definitions.

Follow your Reiki preference

Rather than judging which translation is best, I encourage you to stay with the version of the Reiki Precepts you were taught, unless of course that no longer speaks to you. What’s most important is to engage in practicing the Reiki Principles rather than getting stuck in questions of authenticity.

Whichever version speaks to you, the Reiki Precepts are an unfailing and underused element of Reiki practice.

Today only, why not memorize them or at least post them where you’ll see them throughout your day?

The articles below will help you dig into the richness of support available to you in the Principles. Why not start a journal where you can record the insights you gain as you contemplate them?
The Oh-So-Portable Reiki Precepts
Reiki Passion, Reiki Precepts
Today Only
When Reiki Diversity Becomes Reiki Adversity

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