Reiki Poetry - Waka and Haiku

It may not be commonly discussed but poetry was also a part of the system of Reiki’s original Japanese teachings.

This lack of acknowledgement is largely due to the reading of poetry being a culturally specific practice in Japan. Most Westerners have no, or little, understanding of this practice in its Japanese form.

Another reason for its lack of use in the West within Reiki is because it was not taught by Hawayo Takata who first brought Reiki to the West. It is unknown if her Japanese teacher, a student of the founder of Reiki called Hayashi Chujiro, used it. It is possible that he may not have taught the poetry as he appeared to be largely focussed on treating others rather than the self and the use of poetry is a form of self-healing. Hayashi Chujiro was a doctor and apparently the first person in Japan to open a professional Reiki clinic. There may have been no place for the practice of poetry reading in this specific approach to the system of Reiki.

The West finally learnt of the Reiki poetry in the 1990s when a manual from a Japanese Reiki society was made public.

In Japan, poetry has been used as a means of communication, creative expression and spiritual inspiration. In modern Japan the reciting of poetry is not as popular as it once was. Modern Japanese Reiki teachers may also not teach the Reiki poetry. 

The Reiki poetry that we know to have been used by Usui Mikao was written by the Meiji Emperor (1852 – 1912). This was called waka.

The bold text below is an excerpt from the introduction on the 2001 Waka for Japan 2001 website by Dr. Thomas McAuley from Sheffield University.

Poetry has its seed in the human heart and blossoms forth in innumerable leaves of words ... it is poetry which, with only a part of its power, moves heaven and earth, pacifies unseen gods and demons, reconciles men and women and calms the hearts of savage warriors.

Ki no Tsurayuki, Preface to the Kokinshû, Ninth Century

Tsurayuki's words, written over a thousand years ago, are the first description by a Japanese of waka. The word is made up of two parts: wa meaning 'Japanese' and ka meaning 'poem' or 'song'. It was probably coined at about the time Tsurayuki was writing as a way to distinguish the poetry written by the Japanese in their own language from that they read and wrote in Chinese - the source of much of Japan's poetic inspiration.

Today, the type of waka best known outside of Japan is probably the haiku, a sequence of three 'lines' of five, seven and five syllables and describing an aspect of nature. Haiku are now written in many languages other than Japanese, and widely in Japan itself. They are, however, a relatively late form of waka, beginning to be written in the seventeenth century, by which time the Japanese had already been writing poetry for a thousand years.

Waka were first composed, before the advent of writing in Japan, to celebrate victories in battle and love, or for religious reasons, and this tradition of poetry for public occasions carried through to the first great age of written waka in the seventh and eighth centuries, with highly wrought nagauta 'long poems', consisting of alternating 'lines' of five and seven syllables, being composed for performance on public occasions at the imperial court.

Here is an example of the Meiji Emperor's waka used by Usui Mikao.

Asamidori sumiwataritaru ohzorano
hiroki onoga kokoro to mogana
As a great sky in clear light green
I wish my heart would be as vast.

(waka translation is copyright Hyakuten Inamoto)

 

  • Click here to listen to this waka in Japanese
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Some students of the International House of Reiki created their own Reiki waka and haiku on the International House of Reiki student website. We decided to share some of these works of creativity with you (with their permission of course).

We hope reading this waka and haiku inspires you to look deeper into the waka taught by Usui Mikao and that it might even inspire you to write your own Reiki waka and haiku.

Traditionally in Japan waka is a five line poem.

The first line has 5 syllables. The second line has 7 syllables. The third line has 5 syllables. The fourth line has 7 syllables. The fifth line has 7 syllables. The waka is formed with the first 3 lines belonging to the upper verse, or introduction, and the last 2 lines belonging to the lower verse, serving as the conclusion.

Reiki

Reiki energy:
Atmosphere of the Divine.
How I wish I could
Experience its Great Light
In all aspects of my life.

Rain

I see the rain fall,
The wind is blowing outside.
It distracts the rain
As it falls down to the earth.
Do not be distracted so.

Life

I often wonder
Why we are here in this life.
Is it really real?
Are we just here to find out
What we are really here for?

Breath

As I’m breathing in
God is breathing out to me
As I’m breathing out
God is breathing me to him
In this way we become one.

Healing

Healing with the Rei
Brings your consciousness to One
Healing with the Ki
Causes of the symptoms gone!
Reiki heals: pure and simple.

Precepts

For today only
Let go anger and worry.
Filled with gratitude,
Do your best in all you do
And be kind to ev’ryone.
Colin

Sitting and watching

My mind floating pure and free
Like clear, calm water.
Everything and nothing
Form the same vast emptiness.

Liberation calls

and I answer with my need
held out before me.
Silence, light and calm stillness
Melt me into awareness.
Rebecca

Modern Japanese poetry called Haiku is a 3 line poem. The first line has 5 syllables. The second line has 7 syllables. The third line has 5 syllables. There is a dash after either line 1 or 2 which splits the poem into 2 halves. Each half helps us understand the other.

In the mist there lies
a world beyond my senses -
I hope to see it.

Mist; uncatchable,
dispersed and out of reach -
I learn to be it.
Bronwen

Black bird in white sky -
Cool air rushes through your wings
How I want to fly

Oh, such simple depth -
Reiki and Haiku meet to
Form sweet knowingness
Rebecca

Dawn streaked sky overhead -
soft sounds beating on my heart
Geese fly west calling
Rita

the old man
my father carved
when I was small

waves crash
against the fortifications
dead of night
Michael


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Comments
  1. by Seema on July 14, 2013 at 01:20 pm

    Hi Frans,
    I agree poetry is very healing so is dancing and any art form for that matter. In my opinion when you write a poem out of love, faith, devotion etc. it’s a back and forth 2 way process. Emotions and thought forms comes outwardly from inside and one pen them down and as one writes it , it goes inwards again intensifying ones thought forms and bringing them outwardly again and it continues on , ultimately providing a profound healing to the one who is creating it. It actually doesn’t stop there , once its written who ever recites that poetry with same or similar devotion and thought forms can bring the same healing for themselves. It’s like giving life and soul to words who in turn rejuvenates the one who listen or recite them. I think poetry is not different than any other meditation form and again like any other practice one does with an open intend that’s the same way if one writes, read or recite it can bring the same profound deep healing. So many hidden / not that aspects that we still don’t know or practice, amazing gift is Reiki.

  2. by Frans Stiene on July 14, 2013 at 02:33 pm

    Hi Seema,
    Traditionally Waka were seen as Dharani.
    Dharani are longer than mantras and each syllable is soaked with the essence of the universe, our true self, therefore when spoken it can help us to attain spiritual fulfilment.

  3. by Seema on July 14, 2013 at 02:41 pm

    Hi Frans,
    I don’t knew that about Waka. Was trying to think how in olden times lot of great poets who would only write and recite spiritual and devotional poems and it still brings so much peace to mind and body. Its amazing there is so much hidden in the system of Reiki and so much more that we still do not know , power of sounds is great as it comes from inwards outwards . thank you for sharing this , its just amazing.

  4. by Sonia on March 07, 2014 at 02:00 am

    Frans,

    When you say Waka was seen as Dharani, is another interpretation for this Mantra? Or am I misunderstanding the definition of Dharani from a Japanese prospective?

  5. by Frans Stiene on March 07, 2014 at 07:10 am

    Hi Sonia,

    That means that waka was also seen as mantra or spells to do specific things, like making it rain for example.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhāraṇī

    Hope this helps

  6. by Marie Simons on July 31, 2015 at 09:35 am

    Waka and Haiku as part of reiki was unknown to me until the retreat with Frans in March. I wasn’t sure what I thought about it at first. I think I felt disconnected to the Japanese, wanting to understand. I grew to think of it more as music than thoughts.  That has put the Japanese mantras and wake in my reach. I find them accessible and I enjoy working with them.
    After this article and seeing the wonderful poems written by students here, I feel I can connect further and look forward to exploring my own thoughts and unborn poems.

  7. by Frans Stiene on July 31, 2015 at 09:38 am

    Hi Marie,
    I love the waka and it can be a great expression of our True Self.
    Enjoy

  8. by Paul Edward Czapla on June 16, 2016 at 02:34 pm

    dawn lit summit snows

    melt stream flows through Spring forest-

    bright mountain reborn

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