SECRETS OF THE USUI 'MOON-STAR' CREST
Copyright © 2012 James Deacon
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this article HERE]
Usui family tomb is erected on a small plot in the Saiho-ji (Buddhist
graveyard in Tokyo.
In front of the tombstone itself is a low
plinth on which sits a carved stone bearing a small
emblem - a
moon with a 'star':
symbol is commonly understood to be the Usui family mon
– the family emblem or crest.
on the famous memorial stone which stands to one side of the Usui
tomb, it states that Usui-sensei's ancestors were from the noble
samurai clan: the Chiba's.
'moon-star' symbol is
well-known in Japan as being one of the emblems associated
with Chiba clan, and, it seems, for the majority
of non-Japanese Reiki folk who have heard this piece of
information, the presence of the 'moon-star' at the Usui
grave-site is normally understood to be simply a reference to the
family's Chiba ancestry.
And thus, most Reiki folk place no further significance
However, the 'moon-star' is not just
a family / clan crest.
an important symbol of power and protection. It is,
in fact, the spiritual emblem of the
than that, it can be
considered to be a spiritual conduit for the power
was sometime during the
Heian period (8th-12th
Century A.D.) that the Chiba's
adopted the 'moon-star' emblem as a potent statement of the
/ devotion to this Buddhist deity.
'moon-star' emblem together with the main Chiba clan emblem: the kyuo(-boshi) mon,
the Hall of Worship for Myōken
at the Chiba Shrine, Chiba City
perhaps (at least for most Westerners,) one of the lesser-known
Japanese Buddhist deities.
While commonly considered a bosatsu
Myōken is technically a Heavenly Being or “ten”
- essentially, a deity of non-Buddhist
(sometimes referred to as Myōken Dai-Bosatsu
bodhisattva' ) is a
multifaceted being, with many different
The deity can appear in several different forms – sometimes male,
sometimes female; sometimes wrathful in nature,
sometimes compassionate; sometimes two-armed, sometimes four-armed.
Sometimes Myōken is depicted standing on the back of a
dragon; other manifestations see the deity standing on the back of a
composite mythical creature with a horses tail, a horses or dragons
head, and the body of a turtle.
Alternatively, the deity may be
depicted seated on a cloud.
history, Myōken has been worshipped across the various strata of
Envisaged as an armour-clad warrior wielding
a sword, the deity has been venerated by various samurai clans
(including the Chiba, and the No-se) as a powerful protector – of both
Myōken is strongly associated with Polaris - the North
Star, and the 'Big Dipper'/'Great Bear' constellation, both of which
(star and constellation) have been essential for ships navigators.
For this reason, Myōken has been worshipped by sailors,
merchants and others who rely on the sea for their livelihood - as
of safe voyage, offering the promise of protection from shipwreck and
And as "ruler of the Venerable Star" (ie. the North
Star), Myōken was venerated in the Imperial court
as a protector of the Emperor, and the Nation.
others, Myōken has been envisaged in feminine form - sometimes
venerated as a deity of the home and domestic harmony
sometimes as a deity of beauty, fertility, fortune and
yet another manifestation, Myōken is considered to be a healing
deity - often sharing many of the attributes of Yakushi Nyorai: the
primary Buddha of Healing.
The name Myōken can translate as
"keen-sighted" or "wondrous seeing" and the deity
is specifically associated with the prevention/healing of diseases of
Myōken is also said to have the power to increase
ones lifespan, to afford protection from fires, ward off disasters,
and generally combat evil.
deity has long been associated with the traditions of Shugendo
(a blend of Buddhist and Shinto mysticism) and Onmyōdō
Japanese form of Taoist magical and divinatory practice), and in many
images, such as the one shown above, Myōken is depicted with right
leg raised behind the left, performing a form of ritual 'stepping
with these traditions.
further reference to Shugendo
and its blending of Buddhist and Shinto
traditions, Myōken forms
Buddhist mudras with each hand holding a staff, while
on the deity's other two upraised palms, rest two orbs - the
'sun orb' (in the right hand), the 'moon orb' (in the left).
the sun orb is the image of a three-legged crow – a symbol of the
Shinto sun-goddess Amaterasu,
while within the moon orb is an image of a
hare (pounding rice or grain in a mortar) – a symbol of the Shinto
An antlered deer's head adorns Myōken's
headdress, This is a reference to the shamanic elements of Shugendo
tradition. (It is said that Myōken can assume the form of a
above Myōken is the deity's
spiritual emblem - the
Crescent Moon and the North Star., and within
the disc of the 'North Star,' is the bosatsu's “seed syllable” (a
character from the siddham form
of the Sanskrit alphabet,) considered to hold the very essence of the
deity's inner nature.
This particular symbol (sho
in sanskrit) is
SECRETS OF THE 'MOON-STAR' EMBLEM
referred to as tsuki
terms simply slightly different ways of saying 'moon-star'), the
emblem is also known as the sankō
latter term translates as 'three lights' and refers to the
understanding that the symbol is not just comprised of the moon and
actually has three
elements: the sun
and moon and star:
perception of the 'hidden sun' within the symbol reveals a greater
to the symbol and, on a one level, connects with the art of kotodama gaku
mystical discipline concerned with the hidden power and
meanings of words).
When the kanji character for sun: is written next to
the character for moon: , a new kanji
character is formed:
This new kanji is called:
[This is not the kanji myō
which forms part of the name Myōken,
but rather is the myō
familiar to Reiki practitioners as being the final character of the
Reiki 'Master Symbol' - ]
And when we combine this with the kanji for 'star': we
get: Myōjō as yet
another alternative name for the symbol.
Myōjō translates as:
'Bright Star' - a synonym for
the the planet Venus, and also a reference to pre-eminence -
indicating a person of (merit-based) importance, or superior status.
the symbol can be understood to indicate a pre-eminent person, but
also, more importantly, in terms of the mystical beliefs of the
and Shugendo, the symbol can be viewed as
having actual 'talismanic' properties - holding the power to enable one
to rise to
pre-eminence in their chosen field.
Also within the symbol, there is yet a further hidden significance.
If we focus solely on the combined 'Sun and Moon' element:
This forms a version of a very important symbol in Japanese mystical
belief - the in-yō.
in-yō, more commonly
depicted in its 'upright' form:
is the Japanese
equivalent of the Chinese yin-yang symbol.
= yang ]
And just as with its
Chinese counterpart, so, the in-yo represents
& Moon, Heaven & Earth, the Cosmos & Nature,
Masculinity & Femininity - the in-yo
essentially expresses the dynamic
interplay of all existence - the interplay between heat and cold, hard
tension and relaxation, inhaling and exhaling, activity and rest,
waking and sleeping...
a state of 'creative
harmony' - the 'dynamic balance' (- as opposed to balance in a static
'levelling-out' sense) of complementary opposing forces - the
power of life itself.
very important mystical symbol hidden within the 'moon-star' brings yet
another level of connection with the disciplines of Onmyōdō .
In fact, the 'On'
and 'myō' are
actually alternative readings of the kanji characters
used to write in and yō:
examples given here show just a few of the hidden
meaning and power to be discovered within the 'moon-star' emblem.
is significantly more to be discussed
- for example in relation to the
"North Star" element of the symbol; however this might deserve an
article all of its own.
course, having become aware of the existence of these layers of hidden
meaning and power, we cannot help but ask the question:
Did Usui-sensei view the moon-star
emblem simply as 'just' a family crest?
(He would certainly have
understood its deeper, esoteric, significance).
a Usui to have adopted the Bodhisattva's spiritual emblem as their
family crest, was to have brought the protective power of Myōken into
the family lineage in a very big way.
[If we think about it,
while the Chiba's have,
more than a thousand years, been the most ardent devotees of the
Bodhisattva Myōken, not even they adopted emblem as their primary
further, we can wonder, what influence - if any – might the
ancestral association with Myōken have had on the development of
Usui Reiki Ryoho?
Could thoughts of the
veneration of the 'great
have perhaps been in the back of Usui-sensei's mind when
aspects of Usui Reiki Ryoho...