The Word “Not” Within the Precepts

The precepts are foundational within the system of Reiki:

Do not anger
Do not worry
Be grateful
Be true to your way and your being
Show compassion to yourself and others

Often people don't like the word "not" within the precepts and start to change the first two precepts to what they want to say, to words that may feel more positive. But "not" is very important to Mikao Usui's teachings.

The word "not" is also a very common teaching within Japanese spiritual practices. The wonderful quote below points this out:

"In Buddhism we use the words no or not to show that nothing has its own separate existence, everything is interconnected and produced by interdependent co-origination." - Dainin Katagiri, Each Moment is the Universe

The word "not" points out that everything is interconnected. This might not seem easy to see at first, but think about it: when we get angry, this will have an effect on everything else and the same is true with worry. Anger or worry will affect how we see events, people, our world, and ourselves, and also will affect how we present ourselves to others – that is, how they will see us – and will affect our actions as well.

It is also true that it is through the interconnectedness that we get angry and worried in the first place! Anger and worry don’t exist in a vacuum and don’t suddenly just appear; they appear due to other interconnected elements. Or in other words, what is taking place right now happens because of what has taken place in the past, and is also part of what will take place in the future.

Therefore the word "not" helps us to realize that everything is interconnected and that anger and worry are not stand alone issues.

In Buddhism this is beautifully expressed by this stanza: 

When this is, that is.
This arising, that arises.
When this is not, that is not.
This ceasing, that ceases.

This is a very important teaching within the precepts which also is interlinked with the mantras and the symbols within the system of Reiki.

On the deepest level "not" will therefore help us to see that the small self – our "I" – also is here due to this interconnectedness. This in turn will help us to lay bare our True Self. When we let go of the small self – our "I" – then there is no "I" who gets angry and worried.

Thus by taking out the word "not" we start to take out a very important teaching and tool which Mikao Usui placed in his system to help us to remember our True Self.

Some people come with the argument that when you say; do not think about the pink elephant, you will start to think about it because of the word "not". But that is exactly it!

When we say the word "not" we start to focus on our anger and worry, which means we can do something about it. If we don't even know that we are angry or worried, then we can't do anything about it. Thus the word "not" helps you to become aware of your anger and worry so that you can do something about it. If we put a little band aid on our anger and worry because we do not investigate it – often because we would rather “shrug off” or not “dwell on” these unpleasant feelings – we will keep getting angry and worried for the rest of our life.

We also have to understand that the precepts are not affirmations. Precepts are instructions; they instruct us how to live our life and therefore they instruct us to investigate our anger and worry so that we can cut them at the root.

Another interesting point is that by using the word "not" in his precepts, Mikao Usui pointed out that he based his precepts on Buddhist teachings.

As mentioned before, the word "not" in Japanese spiritual teachings points to interdependent co-origination. Thich Nhat Hanh points out in his book "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching - The Two Truths" that, “All teachings of Buddhism are based on Interdependent Co-arising [interdependent co-origination].” Thus if we really want to understand Mikao Usui's teachings, then it is better not to change the precepts at all. Rather, dig deeper into the teachings, explore through daily meditation on the precepts so that over time with continued practice, we can lay bare our True Self.


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  1. by Andy Quan on August 23, 2017 at 03:54 pm

    Great! I’ve been in groups where this has been discussed. As I think you’ve described elsewhere, the precepts aren’t “affirmations”. You’ve also reminded me in classes that what is is… we could judge that we are having a good day or a bad day but that is a judgement. I think if we try so hard to avoid negative thoughts or the use of the words “not” or “no” that we in fact enforce the duality, we create the negative space whether we want to or not!

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