Mikao Usui (Usui Sensei)In Usui’s Japanese Reiki, the three-stage teachings are named: Shoden for the first one, Okuden for the second one, and Shinpiden for the third.

Taking into account that translations from the Japanese are inexact, these are the most common meanings given to these names:

Shoden: Beginning teachings
Okuden: Innermost teachings
Shinpiden: Mystery teachings

Japanese written characters are known as kanji. The nature of kanji is symbolic, and each one can have multiple meanings or interpretations. It’s almost like each kanji is a puzzle layered with meanings.

The other day I came across the following revelations, which have strong parallels to Reiki.

Harada Sekkei Roshi Harada Sekkei Roshi is a teacher in the Soto Zen tradition and abbot of Hosshinji monastery, in Fukui Prefecture, Japan.

The founder of Soto Zen is Eihei Dogen (1200-1253). He wrote a book called Shobogenzo (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye).

Here’s Harada Sekkei Roshi:

I will explain the book title word by word. Sho (true) means something that eternally doesn’t change. Ho (law of the dharma) is everything that appears before our eyes, that reaches our ears, and that is touched by our hands.

He then goes onto explaining the rest of Dogen’s title.

Reiki kanji

Before getting into the new perspective on “Sho” and “Ho,” take a look at this image with the kanji for Reiki on it. It gives a good sense of how kanji is quite varied in its meanings.

There’s a little more meaning found in the names for the stages of Reiki. As seen above, the first two end with den which means, ‘to transmit, to relay, to pass on, to perpetuate.’ The second stage starts with Oku which in addition to ‘innermost’ also means, ‘heart, deepest, hidden.’ The third stage starts with Shinpi which in addition to ‘mystery’ also means, ‘Wondrous, miraculous, marvelous.’

Reiki Parallels

According to Harada Sekkei’s knowledge of Japanese, Shoden could also mean, “true teachings,” since he says that Sho means “true.”

In every Reiki class, I always tell my students that Usui Sensei based his Reiki teachings on universal principles. In other words, Reiki is a teaching that “eternally doesn’t change.” That’s the nature of universal principles. And teachings that source from such principles hold true across time, culture and application.

In Usui’s Japanese Reiki most of the practice methods end with ‘ho‘ and this is routinely interpreted as ‘method’ or ‘technique.’

Apparently it can also mean “the law of dharma.” Dharma is one of my favorite words. There isn’t a one word translation for it in western languages. In Buddhism, the Dharma spelled with a capital ‘D’ can refer to the teachings of the Buddha (The Dharma of the Buddha).

As used by Harada Sekkei above, it refers to a phenomenon, or understanding the nature of things. This is the cultivation and attainment of wisdom, which can’t happen unless the nature of things is understood.

My one-sentence description for Reiki for those unfamiliar with it, and a central understanding I want to impart to my students in Reiki classes is that Reiki is a way of living with wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom and compassion are always paired. One is incomplete without the other. One balances the other. When wisdom arises, compassion comes along with it. When compassion arises, wisdom comes along with it.

Interestingly for Reiki practitioners, the root of dharma is dhri which means ‘to support, hold, or bear.’ That makes sense when ‘ho’ is used to mean ‘method’ in naming the various Reiki practices. Practices are there to support the practitioner. They ‘hold’ us ‘true’ to the teachings and our path.

Reiki is a dharmic path. It helps us see everything truly as it is. With Reiki we’re able to keep the company of wisdom and compassion “that eternally doesn’t change.” These are spiritual resources that inform our life and understanding. Our path is to unravel greater levels of truth, while traveling with the truth all along the way.

Because Reiki is far more a meditative path than a teaching on energy or hands-on healing (in which it also excels), it’s involved with our consciousness in a direct way. Meditation shifts and transforms consciousness. It raises and expands it, bringing it closer to truth. A spiritualized consciousness understands the nature of reality.

This makes us better able to heal ourselves and others, better at life, better human beings and better leaders.


Reiki Classes

Reiki Primer

Wisdom and Compassion as the Path in Reiki

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Reiki Insights from Japanese Kanji