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The gokai (五 戒) - the Five Reiki Principles/Precepts1 - are, as we all know, at the very core of the Usui Reiki system.

There are many English renditions of the gokai, eg:

Even if only for today:
I will let go of anger
I will not become anxious
I will be grateful and give thanks for my blessings
I will give due consideration to my work
And be kind to every living thing

Some renditions – like the one above are an attempt to convey the sentiment behind the words – the “essential spirit” of the gokai.

While others – such as the one below - are simply attempts at literal translation of the Japanese words themselves:

  Just for today
 (1)  Don't get angry
 (2)  Don't worry
 (3)  Be grateful
 (4)  Work hard
 (5)  Be kind to people
In Japanese:  
  Kyō dake wa
 (1)  I
karu2 na
 (2)  Shimpai su na
 (3)  Kansha shi-te
 (4)  Gy
ō wo hageme
 (5)  Hito ni shinsetsu ni

Yet however they are phrased, we can still recognise the statements as the Five Principles.

And while possibly the majority of Reiki Practitioners can not actually read the Five Principles as written in Japanese characters, most have at least seen various depictions of them.

For example: 



[ The Japanese words above are written using a combination of kanji (Chinese-derived characters, representing ideas) and hiragana (phonetic characters, representing sounds). ]

Traditionally, Japanese is written in vertical columns, from right to left, so the Japanese text above might also appear in this format:


Probably the most common depictions of the Principles in Japanese tend to use layouts similar to the one shown here:


The highlighted wording in the two columns at the far right is commonly translated along the lines of:
"The secret method of inviting blessings, the spiritual medicine of many illnesses”

The three columns of wording in black are the Principles themselves.

And the wording in the five highlighted columns to the left reads:
“Mornings and evenings sit in the gassho position and repeat these words out loud and in your heart. For the improvement of mind and body.
Usui Spiritual
3Healing Method. The founder, Mikao Usui.”

This format (with the principles and the accompanying text) is said to be close to the original format of the gokai as composed by Usui-sensei. 

The first (verified) appearance of the following hand-written version of the Principles was in a Reiki article in a Japanese magazine: "The Twilight Zone", and various people have suggested that this might possibly be the original, written by Usui-sensei himself.  The article was first published in 1986.


A  somewhat similar version of the gokai appeared in the Japanese-language Reiki book: Iyashi no Te (Healing Hands) by Toshitaka Mochizuki, in 1995.

For this version, Mochizuki apparently did the hand-written calligraphy himself - as a 'reconstruction' or 'artists impression' of the original. 

Though it appears that when westerners first discovered the book there may have been some confusion. It seems several people were under the impression that this depiction of the gokai in Mochizuki's book was a facsimile copy of the original; that it was in fact Usui-sensei's own handwriting.4  

[However, not long after this misunderstanding had been cleared up, other, western, sources claimed (some might say, all too conveniently)
to have been granted the opportunity to view the original gokai - not just a copy, but the actual original document - in Usui-sensei's own handwriting...]

Around about the same time, another, typeset version made its way into the public arena. This version, below, comes from the Reiki Ryoho Hikkei (Reiki Treatment Companion). We are told that the 'Hikkei' was originally compiled (from previously separate sources) in the 1970's by Kimiko Koyama, sixth kaicho (president / chairman) of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai.5



In this version, the words: “For the improvement of mind and body. Usui Spiritual Healing Method.” (which appear in the third column from the left in fig.3) have been placed at the beginning (right hand side) of the text6; and the words “The founder, Mikao Usui.” (first two columns in fig.3) do not appear at all.

Yet, while between fig.3 and fig.5, there may be differences in the format used, and in the ordering of the surrounding text; in both of these versions, the actual wording of the central principles themselves (i.e. the specific kanji and hiragana characters used) is the same, and is believed to be exactly as originally composed by Usui-sensei.

There has been some discussion as to whether the first line (Just for today) is really something separate, or whether it actually forms part of the first Principle, i.e:

Just for today, don't worry”:


Yet, whether it is part of the first Principle or not, we still have the gokai: Five Principles.

However, one Reiki practitioner (Dave King) claims he was taught that the number is not five, but three.

And that they should be referred to as gainen (概念) i.e. 'concepts', not gokai.

It is claimed that we should read “Just for today, don't get angry, don't worry” as a single statement.
Likewise, that the principles commonly translated as “Be grateful” and “Work hard” should be read together as something along the lines of: “Do your work with appreciation”; while ”Be kind to people” remains unchanged:


Most people would probably agree that merging the first two principles in the way suggested here does not really impact on the essential message of the gokai

However,  I am sure I am not alone in believing that the merging of the “Be grateful” and “Work hard” principles into "Do your work with appreciation" or some similar phrasing, does result in quite a significant change to essential message of the gokai.  [A topic to pursue further at another time, I think.]

Unfortunately, due to the almost total lack of verifiable documentary evidence pertaining to the origins and early years of Reiki, claims such as these concerning the original naming (gokai or gainen) and number of the ”statements” ( 5 or 3)7 are always problematic. 

However, we do have concrete proof that in 1927, the term gokai (五戒 ) was was well-known to Usui-sensei's students, and that the gokai were indeed considered to be five in number. 

Well, I say 'concrete' proof - I should perhaps rephrase that to: 'stone' proof.

The Usui Memorial, erected in February 1927 at the site of the Usui family tomb in the graveyard at the Saihoji Temple, Tokyo, uses the term gokai and clearly identifies five of them.

So far in this article, all the depictions of the gokai we have looked at have been written using a combination of kanji (Chinese-derived characters, representing ideas) and hiragana (phonetic characters, representing sounds). 

This is how the gokai are commonly written. This is how you will see them depicted in books, magazines, on the internet, etc., etc. 

However, just to complicate matters slightly, as well as hiragana the Japanese language also makes use of a
second system of phonetic characters known as katakana.

While there are certain rules concerning when and where to use hiragana rather than katakana (and vice versa), at a basic level, the only real difference between the two phonetic systems is the shape of the characters used. Each system has different-characters representing the same sounds.

You need to know this simply because, the image below (fig.8) shows the Five Principles as depicted on the Memorial Monument. They are written using kanji and katakana.

[on the actual monument stone itself, the gokai are written in one continuous line spread over two long columns, however, in this image they have been split into five short columns, purely due to considerations of space]


The highlighted words at the top of each column:


do not actually constitute a part of the gokai, they are simply a way of separating and introducing each principle.

Reading from the right, the words at the top of the first column may be translated as “Firstly we say”. The words at the top of the second column - “Secondly we say”. The words at the top of the third column - “Thirdly we say” - the fourth column, "Fourthly we say" - the fifth column "Fifthly we say".

So clearly, the authors of the inscription understood the gokai – as this name implies – to be five in number.

Now, let us return for a moment to one of the formats of the gokai we have already looked at:.


and let us compare it to the gokai as depicted on the memorial stone.

However, as already stated, 
all the depictions of the gokai we have looked at have been written using a combination of kanji and hiragana 8.

gokai as depicted on the memorial stone has been written using a combination of kanji and katakana. therefore, to make the comparison a little easier, here is an alternative version of fig.6. In this version, the hiragana have been replaced with their katakana counterparts:


So, the gokai  in fig.6a are written with kanji and katakana,  and the gokai  in fig.10 are written with kanji and katakana.  So they should be the same, right?


Well, even allowing for the less-than-perfect quality of fig.10, you do not need to be able to read and understand Japanese to see that there are clearly differences between the two. 

Here is the Memorial-stone version of the gokai in a clearer format: 



So, instead of the more commonly known wording of the gokai:

 Kyō dake wa ikaru2 na
Shimpai su na  
Kansha shi te
Gyō wo hage me
Hito ni shinsetsu ni 


In the 1927 version from the Memorial we seem to have:

Kyō ikaru2 nakare
 9 furu nakare
Kansha seyo
ō wo hage me 10
Hito ni shinsetsu nareto

The Memorial tells us that the inscription was composed by Masayuki Okada (a Doctor of Literature) and that the actual calligraphy [from which the unnamed stonemason/engraver worked?] was by Juzaburo Ushida (who was President /Chairman of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai at the time )

Now it seems there has been some speculation as to whether or not Masayuki Okada was actually a member of the Gakkai (or even involved with Reiki at all) - it has been suggested that he was simply a scholar with a flair for memorial work, who been commissioned to compose the inscription.

So, could Okada have possibly made a major error in his composition? Could he somehow have misworded the gokai?

This seems most unlikely, as Ushida was responsible for the actual calligraphy (and, as Gakkai President, would have had the final say on important details such as the correct wording of the gokai). 

In fact, for both of these men, it would have been a matter of honour to get the details right.

Therefore it is perhaps somewhat significant that the wording of what is arguably the core element of Usui-sensei's teachings, as presented in this inscription from 1927, actually differs from the version we have far more latterly become accustomed to: the version we have commonly come to believe to be Usui-sensei's own words – albeit a version which the Reiki Community in general only really became aware some time after its appearance in a magazine article in the mid 1980's?

Interestingly, the memorial inscription mentions how Usui-sensei had created a method for the "improvement of mind and body". How he had named his teachings: "Shôfuku no hihô, Manbyo no rei yaku" - "The secret method of inviting blessings, the spiritual medicine of many illnesses".

It also talks about sitting with hands in the gassho position and chanting the gokai "mornings and evenings

Yet, when it comes to the precise words to chant...

Now admittedly, while there are indeed differences when it comes to the Japanese characters (and therefore, the words) used, in terms of the essential meaning, there is no significant difference between the version of the gokai as depicted on the memorial stone, and the more commonly-depicted version.


It is believed by many Reiki practitioners that Usui-sensei worded the gokai in a very specific way, in keeping with the principles of the spiritual discipline of kotodama11 (a spiritual science of the power inherent in words ) and that the specific wording of the gokai (both as written, and spoken) actually holds a particular "spiritual resonance".

Alter some of the words (whether the vocalised sounds, or the specific characters used to write the words), and the specific "spiritual resonance" of the whole is also altered...

Many of us are acutely aware that so much about Reiki - so many elements and aspects of the teachings, and practice - have changed over the years . We only have to look at the different styles of Reiki (both Western and Japanese) to see how it has evolved, been reworked, taking on many new and diverse forms and expressions.

So perhaps we must ask the question:

The version written on paper, or the version written in stone - which (if either) is actually the 'true' version of the gokai: the verbatim wording as penned by Usui-sensei himself ?

[And thus, by extension - if we adhere to the kotodama-related belief mentioned above – which version actually holds the true 'spiritual resonance' as intended by Usui-sensei?.]

Dare we consider the possibility that the more familiar version of the gokai is not actually the 'true' one, but rather, a product of the same spirit of change and evolution that has affected so many areas of Reiki?12

We know with certainty that the version of the gokai written in stone on the memorial was in existence a year after Usui-sensei's passing - we cannot say the same for the other version which, as mentioned really only came to public awareness in the mid 1980's.

Though let's be clear, I'm not attempting to suggest that the more familiar version of the gokai is some sort of  modern-day 'reconstruction' – as, for example, some have made attempts at creating "authentic reconstructions" of the “original teachings” of Mikao Usui.

Although it is something that has generally been taken for granted, due to the lack of documentary evidence concerning the early days of Reiki, we have no clear supporting evidence that the wording of the gokai - as written on paper (and circulated in books, magazines,and on the internet), rather than the wording of the gokai - as written in stone, is actually the 'true' version.

Yes we have had claims by some Reiki practitioners that they have been granted access to the “genuine original principles in Usui-sensei's own handwriting”, hidden away in some secret shrine; and we have also had second-hand tales concerning people supposedly witnessing Usui-sensei actually write the principles down for the very first time...

And while some might cite
as evidence the picture shown below – in which an image of the more familiar version has been superimposed on a photo (which may or may not actually be) of Usui-sensei, we really have no way of knowing precisely when the gokai image and the original photo were first combined13.

Of course there is the possibility that they were combined during Usui-sensei's lifetime; on the other hand, they could have been combined many years later, we just cannot say for sure.


Now changing track somewhat from this "either or" approach:

Can we perhaps consider the possibility that both versions were actually worded
by Usui-sensei?

And that it be that the familiar wording was perhaps the original version after all?  

"Original", that is, in the sense of being a first draft  - for what would eventually become the  final version, "written in stone for all time", on the memorial?

Are we to automatically assume that Usui-sensei simply sat down one day and, at the very first attempt, composed the Five Principles - the essential distillation of his teachings - in their 'never-to-be-refined-or improved-on' final form?

Perhaps he did. Though, it as has been suggested by various sources that Usui-sensei's teachings did not remain  'static', but rather - as a living, breathing, vital expression of his own understanding of the phenomenon
that is Reiki -  evolved through several developmental 'stages'. If this is correct, then we must consider the possibility that as part of this development, the gokai themselves may have undergone some degree of transformation, (no matter how subtle) to reflect this evolution.

Also, it has been pointed out by several people that, in developing the gokai - his Five Principles - Usui-sensei may have been quite strongly
inspired and influenced by the thoughts and writings of a man named Bizan Suzuki.

In 1914, Dr. Suzuki had published a book: kenzen no genri [健全の原理] i.e. "Principles of Health".

On one page of that book there appeared a short passage (or poem, if you prefer) 

"The Path to Health" 

"The Path to Health" from: kenzen no genri

Bizan Suzuki's words read:

 Kyō dake wa ikara-zu,
 Shōjiki ni,
 Shokumu wo hage mi,
 Hito ni shinsetsu

An English translation might be:

Today only do not anger14
Do not be afraid
Be honest
Be diligent in your (professional) duties
Be kind to people

Now, going back to the belief (as mentioned above,) that Usui-sensei applied kotodama principles to his wording of the gokai.  

Can we perhaps - by also applying some of the principles of the 'science of kotodama' [kotodama gaku] -  arrive at an understanding why
, having been at least partly inspired by Dr Suzuki's:

 Kyō dake wa ikara-zu,
 Shōjiki ni,
 Shokumu wo hage mi,
 Hito ni shinsetsu

to compose this first version of the gokai

 Kyō dake wa ikaru na
Shimpai su na  
Kansha shi te
Gyō wo hage me
Hito ni shinsetsu ni

Usui-sensei might have decided to modify and evolve the initial wording (perhaps through several drafts?), finally arriving at the version written in stone on the memorial monument:

Kyō ikaru nakare
  furu nakare
Kansha seyo
ō wo hage me 
Hito ni shinsetsu nareto

[To be continued...]


1. Although we speak of the Reiki 'principles', or 'precepts', or even sometimes 'ideals', the Japanese character (kai) commonly refers to an admonition, commandment, or remonstrance.

2. Some people say 'okoru' - some people say 'ikaru '.  
Both are technically correct as the Japanese character: 怒  can be read as either  'ika' or 'oko'. However, it  been  suggested that 'ikaru' may have been the more usual pronunciation during Usui-sensei's lifetime.

3. While at a very basic level, the Japanese word 'Reiki' can be understood to refer to 'energy', it can also mean: 'aura', 'spiritual essence', 'spiritual influence', 'spiritual feeling', and, as an adjective, can simply translate as: 'Spiritual'

4. There is perhaps a certain irony to this.
While the word
gokai (五戒 ) refers to the Five Reiki Precepts (and also to the Five Buddhist Precepts), there is another Japanese word pronounced: gokai ( 誤解 ) which means: misunderstanding !

5. Some have claimed that the Usui Reiki Ryoho Hikkei is a facsimile of an original given by Usui-sensei to his students. This, we can be certain, is not the case. Why? Because the Usui Reiki Ryoho Hikkei is written using the modern simplified form of Japanese, which came into about 20 years after Usui-sensei's passing.
(After WWII, there was a reform of the Japanese writing system and many of the kanji characters were simplified).

6. And two additional kanji (教義) meaning:  [moral] 'Doctrine' have been added below them

7. Or, for that matter, just what Usui-sensei's handwriting actually looked like!

8And though the layouts may differ slightly, in each case the wording of the actual principles themselves is precisely the same.

9. Or perhaps:   Ure furu nakare 

.  In this particular instance, the kanji character: used in the memorial version of the gokai has the same pronunciation [hage] as the two hiragana characters:  は [ha] げ [ge]  used in the more common version.

11.  Many Reiki practitioners incorrectly use the term 'kotodama' to indicate either the jumon (mantras) associated with the Reiki Symbols, or
alternatively, to indicate certain simplified forms of these jumon.  However, the term 'kotodamadoes not refer to specific words or vocalised sounds, but rather, to the 'spiritual effect' resulting from particular application of words - in both their verbalised and written forms. 

12. And yes, it is equally possible that it could be the memorial stone version that is the product (albeit a very early one) of the spirit of change and evolution.

13. The practice of combining images in this way has of course been popular since the early days of photography - long before the invention of Digital Editing  Software!

14.  some say: "do not anger others''

15.  or: 'with integrity'


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