What’s the point of the Reiki Precepts?

When you first learn Reiki, you will be given a wealth of information.  You will be taught about the history, how to offer it to yourself and others and, of course, you will be attuned to it.

You will also be taught about the Reiki Precepts.

What exactly is a ‘precept’?  A dictionary definition reads “A general rule regulating behaviour or thought’, from the Latin ‘to instruct”.

Sometimes they may be called ‘Reiki Principles’ or ‘Ideals’ and both are useful words.  A principle is defined as “A fundamental truth or proposition serving as the foundation for belief or action” and an ideal as “A thing regarded as perfect, a standard to be aimed at”.

Whatever we call them, the Precepts are the foundation of Reiki practice, a set of simple ideas taught by Mikao Usui.  Usui, being a Buddhist, wrote down his ideas about how to live a good life in the form with which he was familiar from that tradition, as a set of ideals to work towards, recommendations about thought and behaviour to be followed as closely as possible.

So far, so good.  But there are more than a dozen books about Reiki on my shelves – and every single one of them has a different version of the Precepts…

Reiki Precepts | "The Gainen" written in Japanese

This is a copy of the original version, known as The Gainen (‘Gai’ rhymes with ‘eye’).

It is laid out in a traditional form which provides a focus for meditation, both on the meaning and the structure itself.

One translation, provided by Sensei Dave King, Traditional Japanese Reiki Master, reads:

The secret method of inviting blessings

The miraculous medicine of many illnesses

Just for today,

Anger not

Worry not

Do your work with appreciation

Be kind to all living things

In every morning and evening join your hands in prayer,

pray these words to your heart and chant these words with your mouth

“Usui Reiki Treatment (for) improvement of body and mind”

The Founder, Usui Mikao    

It is notoriously difficult to translate from Japanese, which is a language of subtlety and nuance.  Then there is the difficulty of pinning down a meaning in any language.  If you’ve ever sent a text or email that’s landed in an unintended way, you will know the truth of this!

Mikao Usui taught his students in a manner that “met them where they were” and there were no books or manuals in the early days.  There was just the Gainen (above) and his students’ memories, each according to their own understanding.   We know that many of Hawayo Takata’s stories about Mikao Usui’s work and education were adjusted to appeal to a Western (and probably Christian) mindset.  All her original students may have received a variation of the Precepts which they, in turn, filtered.

However, there is common ground and, whichever version resonates for you, these are the ideas which form the foundation of Reiki practice. 

Let’s look at the translation above:

The secret method of inviting blessings; The miraculous medicine of many illnesses   This opening makes it clear that we are to be shown something special and amazing, so listen up!

Just for today   This is one of the most important phrases.  It encourages us to be mindful, to be fully present in this moment.  And this one, and this…  Each passing moment holds the promise of renewal.  It’s a realistic “ask” of us all – just do this today; there’s no need to be overwhelmed by what happened yesterday or what may happen tomorrow.  Just today.

Anger not; Worry not   Sensei Dave King explains these as being closely linked and says they are not simply instructions telling us to live in the moment or to put things in their proper perspective.  True, we should not dwell on the past and beat ourselves up for things that have happened which we cannot change.  Nor should we focus on the future and worry about things that may never happen.  We can put down our ‘baggage’.  However, the ‘Anger free, Worry free’ state is something that happens before we formulate thought.  The minute we have had a thought, we have something to worry over or feel angry about.  So, the ‘Anger not, Worry not’ injunction speaks of a space before thought or reaction – a space to simply be.

Do your work with appreciation   This further reflects the concept of ‘mindfulness’.  That is, a full awareness of the present moment and the action being taken.  There is a second layer of meaning that invites gratitude, asking you to bring a kindly attention to your work.  Whether your work of the moment is offering Reiki or doing the washing up, it can be done with full appreciation and both you and the work will be the better for that focus!

Be kind to all living things   Following on from the kindly attention to our work, are we able to bring that same kindly attention to human frailties and foolishness?  Can we offer acceptance and forgiveness to others – and to ourselves?  Yes, this means you, too!  It also asks us to live lightly in this world, reminding us that we are all one and that the future of humanity is inextricably linked with the future of our Earth and all that grows and lives there.

In every morning and evening join your hands in prayer, pray these words to your heart and chant these words with your mouth, “Usui Reiki Treatment (for) improvement of body and mind”.   This reminds us of the importance Mikao Usui placed on regular practice and focus on these ideals.

There are many ways to use the Precepts.  You may choose to recite them each morning and evening, as written in the Gainen.  You could meditate on one or another aspect during your daily self-Reiki practice.  You might choose one of the phrases, write it on a sticky note and place it somewhere prominent, where you’ll notice it during your busy day.  Similarly, you could create a screen saver for your computer, tablet or phone, taking a moment to reflect each time you notice it.

Connecting with Reiki is a great blessing, and living with Reiki transforms lives.  The Precepts are the distilled wisdom of the man at the heart of Reiki, Mikao Usui, and so they are fundamental to any Reiki practice.  But we don’t have to be perfect.  We can take life one moment at a time.

Therefore, whatever helps you to keep the Reiki Precepts in mind is just right – and just for today.

Photo of the Gainen: Copyright Usui-Do Eidan   

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