The Hidden Meaning of the First Symbol

Recently, as part of my 3 week training in Japan, I spent 5 days on Mt Omine, which has been a training ground for Shugendo for 1300 years. 

The main temple, Ominesanji, is at the top of the mountain, 1720 meters high. As I stood in front of the temple, I noticed a pillar with a kanji on it and thought, "It looks very similar to the first symbol taught within the system of Reiki." I was intrigued.

I went inside the temple and asked the head priest, Kyosei Yamauchi Sensei, if I could ask him some questions. I drew the first symbol on a piece of paper and as soon as I had finished he said, "This means; go to kami - go to your essence." 

"Go to your essence." This of course means, "Remember your true self."

He explained further that this is an old way of pointing out the metamorphosis, in our current body/form, from being a confused human being to realizing that we are "kami."

Realizing that we are kami is about rediscovering our true self.

He explained that what I had drawn is based on the sosho (cursive) and gyosho (semi cursive) way of writing the kanji kami 神.

This of course makes perfect sense, as the associated mantra for this symbol is choku rei 直霊, which literally means direct spirit which in turn is nothing other than our divine spirit, our true self. Both the mantra and the symbol are pointing out the same thing: the metamorphosis to our true self, kami, in this current body.

In the modern system of Reiki, the symbol is often called choku rei, but from a traditional Japanese viewpoint this is not the case. This is why in the teachings of The International House of Reiki, we simply call it Symbol 1. Choku rei is the mantra and the symbol is the visual aspect: two different tools which help us to do the same thing.

But now we come to the important part of this symbol. In modern teachings, this symbol is used externally during a hands-on healing session or during a reiju/attunement/initiation for our client or student. However, we can draw and wave the symbol over a person, thinking, "Go to kami, go to your true self," but that doesn't really work! If it were that easy, we could stand on the corner of the street and wave the symbol over everybody and presto! Everybody would morph into their true self, would have no more anger and worry, and would be compassionate. Lovely to think about, but we all know that this doesn't really happen!

It would be like saying to a person, "Go and eat." We can't make them eat; they can only do this themselves. It's like the saying, "You can take a horse to the water but you can't make her drink."

So how was the symbol used within Mikao Usui's time? It was used internally, as a tool on which to focus our mind. It was drawn again and again and again in a meditation session. In doing this, we would not so easily get distracted by the past, present, and future, so that we could morph into kami, our true self. 

This is the real power behind the symbol: our metamorphosis into kami, into our true self. And it is only from this stage on that our hands-on healing session and reiju/attunement/initiation will take a much deeper form. Because how can I help others to morph into kami, into their true self, if I haven't been there myself?

Thus we can see that Mikao Usui's traditional teachings are to be used internally, to help us so that we can morph into a living kami, the embodiment of our true self. Because it is only at that time that we can let go of our anger and worry, that we can be grateful, true to our way and our true self and can live a compassionate life.

Also read

Deeper Insights into Choku Rei

Exploring the Mantra Choku Rei



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  1. by Gilles Caron on June 03, 2016 at 03:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It is one of the things that I kept asking myself.

  2. by Men Thomson on June 04, 2016 at 08:56 am

    This really resonates with me, thanks so much for sharing Frans. The trip to Japan sounds like you had a wonderful experience.

  3. by Ken Thomson on June 04, 2016 at 09:50 am

    This really resonates with me, thanks for sharing your experiences and teachings Frans.

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