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Hit the road. May 7, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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“As the Buddha was fond of saying, the spiritual teacher only points the way; we must do our own travelling.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

This is such a valuable lesson. Spiritual teachers, including Reiki teachers, can set our feet upon the path, but it’s up to us to find our own Reiki Way rather than clinging to our teacher(s) for continual guidance. Usui Founder, himself a Buddhist, was very aware of this, and he sent the students he felt were ready, such as Chujiro Hayashi Sensei, out into the world to find their own Way and transmit it to others, as he himself had done after his momentous satori (enlightenment) experience on Mount Kurama.

There is a beautiful story in the movie “Zen” about how Dogen Zenji, the 13th-century founder of the foremost Zen school, Soto Zen, is asked to come to the rescue of the leader of Japan, who’s suffering from a nervous breakdown because of all the horrible deaths he’s inflicted on his enemies. Dogen agrees, because he, like the lord who asked him, is convinced that all Japan will disintegrate into chaos if this ruler can’t keep his grip on the reigns of rule.

After arriving, Dogen asks the ruler if he can cut up the reflection of the moon in the water outside his castle. Well of course I can, the ruler replies, grabbing his sword and hacking into the water. The image of the moon splits in half. But, even as the ruler is smirking in triumph, the ripples his sword made in the water calm, and the image of the moon reforms, whole and pristine as ever.

The ruler realizes that Dogen is pointing the way, and begs him to stay and continue to teach him. But Dogen knows his work lies back at his modest monastery far away, so he resists all the ruler’s promises of vast wealth and influence and a huge monastery and goes his way. As he departs, the ruler recites one of Dogen’s own poems, proving that he, too, is ready to do his own travelling.

Did the ruler stay in touch with Dogen? The film doesn’t say, though it shows all of his closest disciples finding their own and varied Ways after his death. Should we stay in touch with our Reiki teachers? Absolutely. Should we find our own Way? Absolutely. Are these things incompatible? Absolutely not. The spiritual teacher sets our feet on the path, but we are the ones who have to walk it.

Just for today, keep walking.

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Of Samurai and Reiki. September 5, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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As I assume most people reading this blog know, Usui Founder came from the Samurai class in Japan, the warrior class. His family was related to the powerful Chiba clan of Samurai warlords, whose symbol was the new moon and the morning star. (The Usuis tilted the symbol to make it their own, but kept the symbolism of the new moon and the morning star.) I’ve always felt that the emblem of the morning star was the inspiration for Usui Founder’s description of Reiki as “a torch in daylight.” After all, the morning star burns in daylight, so you must look closely to see it, and yet it still burns.

At any rate, I had a revelation about Usui Founder after attending a Komyo Reiki retreat with Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, the founder of Komyo, at the end of August. Sensei’s family is also Samurai, and they’re well aware of the bloody heritage of the Samurai throughout the thousands of years of the Shogunate in Japan. (I assume the former Samurai warrior families were also the ones called to the Japanese army, navy and airforce after the Meiji Restoration, so Chujiro Hayashi Sensei, a captain in the Royal Navy, was almost certainly Samurai as well. But I digress.)

Returning to Sensei’s point, he said that because of the bloody history of the Samurai, in every generation one family member was chosen to make reparation as a priest, monk or nun. This is why he chose to become a Pure Land monk and follow the Reiki Way. Perhaps this is also what set Usui Founder’s feet on the path that would ultimately lead him to discover Reiki, and Hayashi Sensei’s feet on the path that would lead him first to Usui Founder, and then to take Reiki to the West. Yes or no, it’s certainly an intriguing thought!

Spoon, spoon, spoon. November 19, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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On a recent trip to Nashville, I managed to find time to finish Tadao Yamaguchi’s Light on the Origins of Reiki (Lotus Press/Shangri-La, 2007). I’d put Mr. Yamaguchi’s book on the short list of books every Reiki person should read.

Like Hawayo Takata-sensei, Mr. Yamaguchi’s mother, Chiyoko Yamaguchi-sensei, studied Reiki directly with Chujiro Hayashi-sensei. Since the Yamaguchis continued to practice Reiki in Japan, they didn’t need to “Westernize” their teachings, and have continued to teach Reiki as it was practiced by Hayashi-sensei in their Jikiden (“original teaching”) Reiki workshops. (For more about Jikiden Reiki, visit their website, http://www.jikiden-reiki.com/.)

One of the stories Mr. Yamaguchi tells really highlighted the difference between East and West for me. He was discussing the Reiki symbols, and the difference between the way they (and especially the first, the power symbol) are used in “Western” Reiki and in Japanese Reiki. To illustrate this, he discussed the time that the renowned German Reiki Master Frank Arjava Petter was taking Jikiden Reiki with him and his mother.

Arjava asked Chiyoko-sensei why she didn’t repeat the name of each symbol when she taught the symbol. Mr. Yamaguchi recreates the scene: “My mother broke into a mischievous smile when he asked this question. Picking up a spoon from the saucer she asked, ‘You use a spoon to stir your coffee. When you use a spoon, you don’t say spoon, spoon, spoon, do you? Spoon is just a name. You don’t need to call out its name to stir your coffee. It is the same thing with the symbols.'” 

I love this story; it captures Chiyoko-sensei’s playful nature and deep wisdom perfectly. But I also think it shows the divide between Eastern and Western cultures. In the East, one-pointedness, the ability to concentrate on a single thing, is not just considered desirable, it’s also the foundational teaching behind the great Eastern religions, the ultimate goal of every practice, from meditation and yoga to qi gong, flower arranging, calligraphy, and swordsmanship. (In A Book of Five Rings, the greatest samurai of them all, Myamoto Musashi, advised budding swordsmen not to worry about their stance, their strokes, their style, their opponents’ moves, or anything else. His advice: “Think only of cutting the enemy.”) 

This is summed up by the saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” One-pointedness has also been practiced in the West, but typically only within a monastic setting. Brother Lawrence, who remarked that he could possess God in as great tranquillity amid the chaos of his kitchen as before the altar, exemplified the Western attainment of one-pointedness.

Unfortunately, now even more than in Hawayo Takata-sensei’s day, a scattershot approach to life is regarded as a virtue in the West. We call it “multi-tasking.” It can take so many forms: eating fast food while watching the evening news and texting your friends; sitting in an airport drinking a Starbuck’s latte while texting with one hand and scrolling down your iPad with the other; driving while texting, talking on your cellphone, eating supper, and listening to music; working on 20 high-priority projects at work while your health and life fall apart.  The more you can juggle at a time, the more you’re rewarded and revered. The less effective you are at anything, the more schizophrenic your life.

I think Takata-sensei saw this clearly, even before the computer age, before the corporate domination of society and societal values, before Steve Jobs. And I think she also saw that Usui Founder had laid the foundation for one-pointed focus in Reiki practice. Usui Founder asked all of us who followed him to recite the five Reiki principles (aka precepts, ideals) aloud, hands in gassho (prayer position), each morning and evening. He gave us the symbols and showed us how to draw them.

Why bother to recite the Principles aloud when you could simply read them silently? Why draw the symbols on paper, in the air, or over a body or surrogate, when you could simply picture them in your mind?

Why? Because your goal is to focus intent. Of course adepts can discard the symbols as “training wheels” and just put their hands down, or set their minds to the task at hand. But the symbols each have distinctive energy, and we can draw on that by focusing on them, drawing them carefully, chanting their names. Saying “spoon, spoon, spoon” may not have any impact on your coffee, but it has an impact on you: It focuses all your thought, all your mind, all your power on a single thing. And, if we’re speaking of the Reiki symbols, that brings great benefits to you, to your client, and to the world.

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