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Origins of the Reiki gokai (Five Principles / Precepts)
Copyright ę 2002/5 James Deacon
[Last update: Jan.21, 2006]

The Gokai

"The secret method of inviting blessings, the spiritual medicine of many illnesses (Sh˘fuku no hih˘, Manbyo no rei yaku)

Just for today (Kyo dake wa):

Don't get angry
(Okoru na

Don't worry
(Shinpai su na)

Be grateful
(Kansha shite)

Work diligently
(Gyo wo hage me)

Be kind to others
(Hito ni shinsetsu ni)

Mornings and evenings sit in the gassho position and repeat these
words out loud and in your heart (Asa you gassho shite kokoro ni nenji kuchi ni tonaeyo)

For the improvement of mind and body (Shin shin kaizen)

Usui Spiritual Healing Method (Usui Reiki Ryoho)
The founder, Mikao Usui (Choss˘, Usui Mikao)

* * * * *

Emperor Meiji and the Reiki Principles?

It is commonly claimed that the Five Principles are (or are directly derived from) the words of the Emperor Meiji. However there is no clear evidence to support this claim.

It is possible that this belief that the principles came from the Emperor may have something to do with the following sentence which appears on the Usui Memorial stone in the Saihoji Temple graveyard in Tokyo:

"So, when it comes to teaching, first let the student understand the Emperor Meiji's admonitions; and let them chant the gokai mornings and evenings, and keep them in mind."

Due to the particular wording used in some translations of the original Japanese, a number of people have been led to believe that the gokai are the Emperor's admonitions - when in fact this sentence speaks of the Emperors admonitions and also of the Reiki Principles - there is distinction between the two.

And similarly, in the Q&A section of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Hikkei, where Usui-sensei is quoted as saying:

"Gratefully we have received the Emperor Meiji's precepts.
That humanity may discover its proper path, we must live according to these precepts…."

This has also apparently added weight to the erroneous belief that the Reiki Precepts and the Emperor's Precepts were one and the same.

The Emperor Meiji's 'admonitions' ?

So just what are the Emperor Meiji's 'admonitions' or 'precepts' mentioned here?

We know the Emperor wrote a large number of poems intended to be of moral guidance for his people, however, it seems, what is being referred to here is most likely something called the ky˘iku [ni kansuru] chokugo.

The ky˘iku chokugo or Imperial Rescript on Education (1890) is generally acknowledged as being the most important Imperial pronouncement on moral education (shushin) to be made throughout the entire period from the start of the Meiji era to the end of WWII.

It sets out the Moral Principles/Precepts that all Imperial subjects should follow:

"Know ye, Our subjects:
Our lmperial Ancestors have founded Our Empire on a basis broad and everlasting and have deeply and firmly implanted virtue; Our subjects ever united in loyalty and filial piety have from generation to generation illustrated the beauty thereof.
This is the glory of the fundamental character of Our Empire, and herein also lies the source of Our education.

Ye, Our Subjects, be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters; as husbands and wives be harmonious, as friends true; bear yourselves in modesty and moderation; extend your benevolence to all; pursue learning and cultivate arts, and thereby develop intellectual faculties and perfect moral powers; furthermore advance public good and promote common interests; always respect the Constitution and observe the laws; should emergency arise, offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth.

So shall ye not only be Our good and faithful subjects, but render illustrious the best traditions of your forefathers.
The Way here set forth is indeed the teaching bequeathed by Our Imperial Ancestors, to be observed. alike by Their Descendants and the subjects, infallible for all ages and true in all places.
lt is Our wish to lay it to heart in all reverence, in common with you, Our Subjects, that we may
all thus attain to the same virtue.

The 30th day of the 10th month of the 23rd year of Meiji.
(Imperial Signature + Seal.)"

[English version from the "Junior High School Morals & Manners Textbook Vol.V Revised Edition", 1914.]

So, why might Usui-sensei make reference to the Emperor Meiji's 'admonitions' in his teachings?
Some people feel that this suggests that Usui-sensei held the Emperor Meiji in great esteem, and this may indeed have been the case.
However, there is another possibility. Even though Meiji had died in 1912 and a new Emperor ruled Japan during the time Usui-sensei was expounding his Reiki Ryoho, it would have - in the political climate of the time - been considered prudent for anyone publicly proposing their own set of guiding principles to make due reference to this particular Imperial decree - in a sense acknowledging that their own principles were meant as an adjunct to rather than a substitute for the Imperial ones, which were still viewed as the core moral guidelines for the nation.

[It is important to note that, although an Imperial proclamation, and as such treated with great reverence, the Imperial Rescript on Education was not composed by the Meiji Emperor himself.
The initial draft of the document was written by Education Minister Inoue Kowashi (1843-1895) and this was revised with recommendations made by Confucian scholar Motoda Nagazane (1818-1891)]

The Reiki Gokai and Buddhist Precepts?

Some Reiki masters have claimed that the Reiki Gokai or Precepts are simply a rewording of the Buddhist Precepts (or Admonitions) known as the Juuzen Kai - however these paticular Precepts are ten in number, not five.

The Ten Precepts or Juuzen Kai admonish the individual to refrain from:

Killing / Harming
Sexual Misconduct
Exaggeration / Boasting / Flattery / Irresponsible speech
Slander / Faultfinding / Defamation
Hypocracy / Duplicity / Equivocacy
Greed / Miserliness
Anger / Hatred
Holding erroneous views / Losing sight of the truth

[Now, admittedly the first Reiki Principle and the ninth of the Juuzen Kai are indeed the same - the admonition to refrain from anger. But here the similarity ends.]

Other Reiki Masters, on learning that in Buddhism there is also a set of five Precepts/Principles (and that in Japan, these are actually referred to as the gokai ), have claimed that the Reiki Gokai are actually based on these.

However, the Buddhist gokai are specifically admonitions against:

Sexual Misconduct


A direct source for the Reiki Gokai?

So just where might Usui-sensei have gotten the inspiration for the Reiki Gokai from?

A book entitled Kenzen no Genri (Principles of Health), written by a Dr. Bizan (or: Miyama?) Suzuki, contains the following short passage (or poem, if you prefer):

kenzen no genri

This, rather than the words of the Emperor (or his Ministers), or the various sets of Buddhist Precepts, is almost certainly the direct source of Usui Sensei's Five Reiki Principles.


* The Japanese characters pronounced as okoru can also be pronounced as ikaru 
- so we can say 'okoru na' or  alternatively 'ikaru na'

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