The Reiki Precepts

A Course in Miracles reminds us that there is no such thing as an isolated thought.  Think about it: you’re sitting in a café or a waiting room and someone who’s in a bad mood comes in – immediately, the atmosphere changes.  Often, spiritual practices are pitched at helping you and only you.  While it is true that a spiritual practice does help you, it also helps everyone else.  For an illustration let’s have a look at the basis of the system of Reiki: the precepts.

The Reiki precepts are five (or six, depending on how you count) teachings of Mikao Usui, the founder of the system.  They are inscribed on his memorial stone and are the only written teachings we have.  In their full form, they are:

The Secret of Inviting Happiness through Many Blessings
The Spiritual Medicine for All Illness
Just for today:
Do not be angry
Do not worry
Be grateful and humble
Work hard on becoming your true self
Be kind and compassionate to all beings
Do gasshô every Morning and Evening
Keep in your Mind and Recite
Usui Reiki Ryôhô Improve your Mind and Body
The Founder
Usui Mikao

As a whole, the precepts guide us on a path of self-liberation; indeed, Frans Stiene writes that the precepts are a simplified version of the Six Paramitas of Buddhism and I tend to agree with him.  A simple comparison shows many parallels.  The precepts themselves also build on each other in each direction.  There are many translations of them, each of which may draw out some different aspect, but they are all fingers pointing to the moon.

Just for today
This is perhaps the most encouraging of the precepts.  We are not taking an eternal vow when we begin to practice Reiki – it is just for today.  I make a point of reciting the precepts when I get up and when I do my longer practice session in the early evening.  Sometimes, I use them as a lullaby in my head when I’m going to sleep.  It is the ‘just for today’ aspect that I sometimes repeat over and over again in order to remind myself that it’s not a burden to do these things.  If I’m having a bad day, I have occasionally shortened it to ‘just for the next five minutes’ but I try not to do that often.

Do not be angry
Anger is a terrible thing.  It festers inside of us like a disease.  You will note that the precepts do not say not to get angry but not to be angry.  There’s a difference.  I can get angry at a situation and feel the anger rise in me.  I don’t have to act on it though and I don’t have to hold on to it: both of those would be taking me to a state of anger rather than it being a transient emotion.  It is a long-term state of anger against which we are warned.

Do not worry
This is a hard one for me.  I am a worrier.  But worry about the past or events to come doesn’t change them.  Newt Scamander (in JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) reminds us that when we worry, we suffer twice.  Both anger and worry also remove us from the present moment; they are portals of negativity and imprisonment.

Be grateful and humble
Being grateful and humble reminds us of our interconnectedness. We should try to be grateful in every moment: waking up, going about our daily routines, receiving love and friendship from others. In all of these things, we give in return. We depend on others as much as others depend on us, and here we are reminded that we aren’t better than anyone else. To believe we are is to inflate the small self, the egotistic I, and to ignore the Inner Self/I that is deeply connected to the Ground of Being.

Be honest in your work
This precept comes in myriad versions. I often use the shorthand ‘work hard’. I should do my job well, look after my clients and those who work with me. I should also be judicious in how I develop my business and the ways I promote it. At a more personal level, I take this to mean that I should work hard on becoming my true self, on staying in touch with the deepest I, on being honest with myself about my practice.

Be kind and compassionate to all beings
This includes yourself.  Self-compassion is a difficult thing; often, we are our own worst enemies and we berate ourselves over the slightest thing.  If you cannot be compassionate to yourself, then how can you be compassionate to another being?  And if you cannot be compassionate to another being, how can you be compassionate to yourself?  In the Gospels, Jesus says that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves.  Not ‘as much as’, implying some sort of comparison but to value other beings because we are each other.

It is to this final precept that the others build.  Without anger, without worry, with graciousness and humility, and with honesty we can be kind and compassionate.  When anger and worry are present – or the other qualities are absent – we are taken away from compassion because we are thrown into a place where we can no longer identify with our integral connectedness and we try to be separate.  In those moments, we speak of the I, the small self with no connection to the Ground of Being.  It may be in this way that Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, in the great myths: he dared say ‘I’ (meaning his separate small self) in the presence of the Divine, thus comparing himself to the incomparable.

silhouette photography of boat on water during sunset
Photo by Johannes Plenio on

And in reverse, we see the precepts work too.  From a place of compassion, it is easy to be honest in work, to be grateful and humble, not to worry or be angry because one is rooted in the present and aware of the flow of events.  From a place of compassion, we do not try to control or manipulate situations or other people – or ourselves.  We are able to be our true selves, to achieve a sense of naturalness that is so often hidden by the layers of masks and costumes and other accoutrements we throw around the I so we don’t have to look at it.  It’s far too frightening to know that we are not this and not that, that we are instead an arising and a falling away, that we are dead as soon as we live.  An army of fears charges in when we confront that idea but we need not be afraid: each of us is in the same boat, that rises and falls with the sea.  Sometimes we are overwhelmed with water and start to sink or are buffeted in the winds; other times we float easily on the breeze or along the current.  A spiritual practice in which you have deep roots can give you the strength to weather the storms and not cling to the fair sailing.  When the winds pick up, you can stand firm in your boat and rebuke the storms of your mind and they will obey you.

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