[Copyright © 2013 James Deacon ]
"Just for today do not anger, do not worry..."
people appear to have concerns about the use of the phrase "do not" in the
wording of the first two Principles.
concerns are primarily, it seems, due to the perception that the
Principles comprise a set of 'affirmations' - and as such, are
something which, to bring optimum effect, should be phrased in
'positive' terms. (Modernday pop psychology, expounds the
belief that the subconscious mind supposedly does not
recognise negative suggestions / instructions / commands. Thus, the
associated reasoning is that when we say, for example:
"Don't get angry", the subconscious only 'hears' the "get
angry" part and accepts this as the affirmed intent.)
So some prefer to avoid the
However, the Principles are not exactly affirmations per se - at least not in the modern understanding of the term.
The Japanese term for the Five Principles is: gokai.1 It is a descriptive term borrowed from Buddhism.2
The 'go' part of the term translates as: five; and the 'kai' translates as: admonition, or commandment. There is also an implied sense of moral injunction.
So, on one level at least, the 'tone' of the Five Principles is a firm, authoritative one.
We are being earnestly urged to follow the advice / instructions given.
And, while subtle nuances may well get lost in translation, the particle "-na" on the end of the common Japanese version of the first two principles: "okoru-na, shinpai su-na", is clearly indicating the 'prohibitive'
i.e. "Don't ..."
This 'prohibitive' phrasing style is a traditional format, also borrowed from Buddhism.
It is interesting that
in Japanese culture (perhaps more so in Usui-sensei's time than
presently), great importance has been placed on choosing one's words
with care, on using appropriate expressions, and as far as possible,
avoiding speaking' negatively' about things.
So it would certainly
seem that, from Usui-sensei's own perspective, his choice of the
prohibition "do not" is completely free from any
[Personally, I've always has issues with the whole pop psychology idea that the
subconscious - which apparently processes all and every piece of
information and sensory stimulus (and for that matter extra-sensory
stimulus) we receive/experience - can't (i.e can not) handle negative concepts.]
Perhaps the reality is that the use of "do
not" in the original phrasing of the Five Principles only
carries "psychologically-negative" influences if we allow
it to (- if we expect it to).
* * * * *
seeking new ways to re-phrase the Principles, we can perhaps allow
ourselves to tap into our own subconscious insights and wisdoms, and
discover our own personal connection with, and understanding of, the
essence of the Principles.
I personally find
the process of creating new wordings to be a beneficial meditative
practice for opening up new perspectives.
However, I do
appreciate that, in attempting to create what we (Westerners) may
consider more 'positive' wordings, sometimes, some of the original
meaning may get lost.
Let us look at the first Principle, for example. If we compare the quite popular
phrasing "Let go of anger" and the familiar "Do not
anger", there is a subtle difference of inference to be taken
from the two.
Of course it is good - therapeutically and
otherwise - to let go of anger.
However the statement "Do not
anger" perhaps calls us to a far more profound endeavour: the
reorganising of our very thought patterns and emotions so as to avoid
the creating of 'anger' in the first place.
thoughts we shape our reality"
perhaps the simplest level, we can begin by exercising more
mindfulness - more awareness - in our daily lives, catching ourselves
'in the moment': when we feel the first inklings of the onset of
anger in any given situation; making the decision to step back, count
to five (or whatever), BREATHE, and let the fledgling sense of anger
In this way we can begin to make positive change in our
And of course we can
also approach “Let go of anger” from a different (perhaps deeper)
If the old saying: “Like attracts Like” is
true, then perhaps one of the secrets to not becoming angry is to
first empty ourselves of all the old 'angers' we still cling to from
[Much the same can be said in relation to the second Principle.]
This is the term used on the Usui Memorial, erected in 1927
2 Which, incidentally, has its own, unrelated, set of 'Five Admonitions'