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Kanji for the word kokoro, which can be translated as heart, mind, or spirit.
Kanji for the word kokoro, which can be translated as heart, mind, or spirit.

The following is excerpted from the student manual for the Daiseishi Bosatsu Reiki class that I teach.

One of the goals of traditional Japanese Reiki is to approach Reiki from a culturally Japanese perspective. What does that mean? It means that we take the time to learn about the history, philosophy and cultural practices of Japan and to the best of our ability put ourselves in the place of someone from the time and place of Usui-sensei to understand Reiki from this viewpoint. This can assist us to refrain from clouding the practice of Reiki with our own societal or personal biases. One of my favorite ways of getting in touch with the Japanese philosophy is to contemplate the Japanese poetry known as waka.

The contemplation of the traditional Japanese poetic form waka is one method of Reiki meditation. The waka is a short form consisting of 31 syllables, often divided 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. Recitation of poetry was a samurai tradition going back for hundreds of years. The Meiji Emperor wrote waka, called gyosei (waka created by the Emperor), the recitation of which expressed a nationalistic respect. Also, contemplation of the nature-oriented and spiritual aspects of the poetry is considered to help students increase their inner spiritual connection. Usui-sensei included 125 gyosei in the Usui Reiki Ryôhô Gakkai Hikkei, the handbook he provided to members of his society.

My favorite waka from the hikkei is called “Sky.”

“As a great sky in clear light green/ I wish my heart would be as vast (Sky)

This poem is translated by one of my teachers, Hyakuten Inamoto. The word he translates here as heart is “kokoro.” Kokoro translates as heart, mind, or spirit. It can also be “the heart of the matter” or the true essence of something.

An alternate translation of this poem is titled “The Heaven.” This version is found online at The Reiki Threshold by Richard Rivard.

The Heaven (Sky)
I wish my heart could be as clear and broad as the great sky and the spring green field.

The third translation I would like to share with you is from the archives of Andrew Bowling’s Reiki History, also found online at Rick Rivard’s The Reiki Threshold.

The Heaven (Sky)
I stand at the spring green field, looking up at the clear blue sky, and I wish I could get the broad sky in my mind.

The author who brought this idea of kokoro to my attention was Frank Arjava Petter in his book, Reiki: the Legacy of Dr. Usui. He translates fourteen of the gyosei from the URR hikkei. The version of this poem that he did with his wife Chetna translates kokoro as spirit:

The Sky
Light-green and cloudless
The big sky
I too would like to have
Such a spirit (kokoro)

Four translations, and three variations on kokoro: heart, mind, and spirit. When I first started researching this, I found a blog in which a Japanese American mother described a time her son came home from school asking her what kokoro was—was it here? He asked, indicating his head. No, she said, kokoro is here, touching her chest. Recently, I asked Inamoto-sensei a similar question and he also placed his hand on his heart, indicating the location of kokoro.

In English, we tend to think of the mind and the heart as very separate and distinct. We tell people to get out of their minds, to stop thinking, to get into their heart. What if you could conceive of the mind and heart as the same thing? How would that affect your approach to life?

This might seem rather abstract and philosophic, but it becomes more important when we look at what Usui-sensei has told us. In the Questions and Answers section of the hikkei, Usui says, “[F]irst the mind should be healed and secondly the physical body be made healthy so as to walk on the right path of humanity. If the mind is healthy, conforming to the path of integrity, then the body becomes sturdy of its own accord” (trans. Hyakuten Inamoto). The  word used here for mind is kokoro. From our modern American perspective, we can certainly understand this: that all things arise from the mind, that our thoughts create our reality, that if we can release the thinking part of our brain that holds us back and limits us then we can become healthy in our physical body. But if we were to substitute “heart” or “spirit” for “mind” in that quote (as some translations do), we, as Westerners, would have a very different understanding. What does it mean to you to make these substitutions?

Inamoto-sensei takes a very simple approach to this—he says that because we are told to heal the mind first, we start our Reiki sessions at the head. Very literal and very practical. And certainly this is good advice—in modern society our minds are so overstimulated from our ubiquitous communication and technological devices that it usually does take quite some time to quiet the thinking mind enough to allow us access to the deeper layers—those of heart and spirit.

Next, let’s look at the precepts that Usui-sensei taught us (as found on the International House of Reiki website).

The Secret of Inviting Happiness through Many Blessings (Shoufuku no hihoo)
The Spiritual Medicine for All Illness (Manbyo no ley-yaku)

For Today Only: (Kyo dake wa)
Do not Anger (Okolu-na)
Do not worry (Shinpai suna)
Be Humble (Kansha shite)
Be Honest in your Work (Goo hage me)
Be Compassionate to Yourself and Others (Hito ni shinsetsu ni)

Do gasshô every Morning and Evening, Keep in your Mind and Recite (Asa yuu gassho shite kokoro ni neji kuchi ni tonaeyo)
Usui Reiki Ryôhô Improve your Mind and Body (Shin shin kaizen, Usui Reiki Ryôhô)

The Founder (Chosso)
Usui Mikao

Sensei tells us to keep the precepts in our kokoro—our heart, mind, spirit—as well as saying them out loud each day.

To me, understanding the word kokoro is one of the first steps to achieving oneness, the experience of being connected to all things, which is one of the highest goals of Reiki. In the place of oneness we no longer experience separation, but become unified within ourself, become one with our teacher, our fellow students, our clients. We become one with the Universe, the Source of Life, Divine Truth. When we see heart and mind, emotion and thought, as being the same thing, as both arising from the same source, we approach an understanding of oneness.

Ultimately, the practice of meditating with waka is about experiencing oneness. One poem asks us to become one with the field worker from a place of compassion: “Thinking of lowly people standing in a boiling hot paddy field, I hesitate to utter, ‘It’s hot.’” Many of the poems invite us to compare ourselves to nature, in which the Divine is immanent. If we were practitioners of the Japanese religion Shinto, we would see the sky as having a divine spirit, or kami. When we contemplate the idea that our heart or mind is as vast as the sky, we become one not only with the sky, but with the Divine.

Consider the following quotes to deepen our exploration of kokoro and of oneness.

Mikao Usui said, “Usui Reiki Ryoho does not only heal illness. Mental illness such as agony, weakness, timidity, irresolution, nervousness and other bad habit can be corrected. Then you are able to lead happy life and heal others with mind (kokoro) of God or Buddha. That becomes principle object.”

The Meiji Emperor said, “Human, that is manifestation of a God, should always have hope, bright and broad-minded heart (kokoro) as God has, whatever may happen.”

When we practice Reiki from a traditional Japanese perspective, we rise above duality and become one with the Divine. This is the heart of healing.

*****

If you liked this, you might also like The Bamboo Reed where I share a poem I wrote following the waka form, and Waka and Oneness, about the cycles of nature and finding stillness in the flux.

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Joy Vernon specializes in Traditional Japanese Reiki and is a certified Komyo Reiki Shihan (Teacher). She studied with Komyo Reiki Kai Founder Hyakuten Inamoto in 2011 and 2013. She is also a Reiki Practitioner and Teacher in the Usui Reiki Ryôhô lineage through IHR. Joy was first trained in Usui Shiki Ryôhô/Usui Tibetan Reiki in 2003 and started teaching Western Reiki in 2007, but has been teaching the more spiritually focused traditional Japanese Reiki since 2008. She is the Organizer of the Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup and is a member of Shibumi International Reiki Association and the Healing Touch Professional Association. Learn more at JoyVernon.com.

© 2014 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
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The Heart of Healing