Even if you’re not a Reiki practitioner, the following precepts and commentary on them can help you because they are universal.

For today only:
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be humble
Be honest in your work
Be compassionate to yourself and others

When we look at the Reiki precepts Usui Sensei included in the heart of his teachings, we usually focus on the keywords of “anger,” “worry,” “humility,” etc. These are huge of course and deserve contemplation and deep engagement (read Usui’s Precepts: The living tissue of Reiki). For the purpose of greater understanding, let’s go ahead and breakdown some other parts of the precepts.

This set of guidelines is really divided into two sections: The “Do not,” and the “Be.” Although we know them as the Gokai or five principles, “For today only” is powerful enough to stand on its own, and we’ll break that down too.

© Pamir Kiciman 2010

On one level, these are classic ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ found in all teachings. If you strip all the words and ideas attached to “Do not,” and “Be,” however, a new understanding is born. This bare, minimalist consideration brings a simple clarity.

“Do not” that’s not followed by another idea points to the action state of ‘doing’ and tells us to drop it. This is perfectly natural, as Reiki is a practice in nondoing. It’s a teaching that draws the practitioner into an original silence within. In an actionless state we can truly heal and be healed; we can truly propel evolution and rest in the spiritual. Action is changeable, it’s in flux. Spiritual qualities like wisdom and compassion are only available when outer action is stilled. Thus, Usui tells us: “Not do!”

Then he reinforces it with, “Be.” If we are, no guidelines are needed because we directly embody humility, honesty and compassion. These qualities are natural to us. They exist in the same silence we originate from and are born into the world with us. Isn’t that wonderful? From this beginning we enter a living and expressing process of obscuring and complicating this utterly simple setup!

And there’s what could possibly be considered a sixth precept: “For today only.” This is also about being.

“Today” means ‘now.’ It’s not about sunrise to sunset. It’s about the light of awareness in each moment. In each moment we have a task at hand, are involved in an activity, or interacting with someone. In each case, if we can truly be in the moment, anger and worry simply don’t arise. Anger and worry are machinations of the egoic mind. Awareness helps us dip into the silence which keeps us in balance and harmony even in the midst of intense activity.

Words are part of the world which is of form and activity. Ideas and words have to be used to describe truths which are formless. It’s a tricky proposition. The formless can ultimately only be experienced. In getting to truth through a teacher’s words, it’s helpful to consider them with freshness and notice the subtlety. Many teachings are condensed, nuggets really and in bringing out their inner meaning we have to sense outside the parameters of language and syntax.

Please share in comments what the precepts mean to you and how have they enriched your life.

The secret of beginning a life of deep awareness and sensitivity lies in our willingness to pay attention. Our growth as conscious, awake human beings is marked not so much by grand gestures and visible renunciations as by extending loving attention to the minutest particulars of our lives. Every relationship, every thought, every gesture is blessed with meaning through the wholehearted attention we bring to it. In the complexities of our minds and lives we easily forget the power of attention, yet without attention we live only on the surface of existence. It is just simple attention that allows us truly to listen to the song of a bird, to see deeply the glory of an autumn leaf, to touch the heart of another and be touched. We need to be fully present in order to love a single thing wholeheartedly. We need to be fully awake in this moment if we are to receive and respond to the learning inherent in it.


—Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield

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The Balance of Doing and Being