Within Okuden level II you will study something that many know as the “distance healing” symbol. This is a modern, rather than Japanese, interpretation of a practise which we shall call HSZSN. But how was HSZSN used in Mikao Usui’s time, and where did this symbol come from?
First of all we need to be clear that this symbol is actually not a symbol at all but a combination of different kanji. What is interesting to note is that these 5 different kanji which make up the “symbol” have been compressed. Consequently it can be difficult to read as a “normal” kanji. Compressing kanji was a common practice within the old esoteric traditions of Japan.
The kanji which make up this supposed “symbol” can be read as hon sha ze sho nen (hence our HSZSN acronym). These sounds are also the mantra (in Japanese this is called jumon). Therefore the kanji “symbol” is the actual mantra (unlike the first 2 symbols taught at this level).
What does this kanji mean and does its meaning correlate with the modern Reiki system concept of it being a “distance healing” symbol?
Below are two Japanese understandings of the HSZSN mantra:
My original nature is a correct thought and I am correct consciousness.
The use of the terms correct thought and consciousness indicate that by working with this mantra there is some state of mind to be realized. Neither of these understandings appear to connect with the concept of HSZSN relating to “distance healing”.
To flesh this out even further we must ask the question, what is this correct thought or consciousness and how do we achieve it? The translation of my original nature is a correct thought indicates already what this correct thought is. It is our original nature.
In Japanese, one’s original nature is known as honshin, which also stands for our Buddha nature.
When we tap into our original nature we discover that there is no separation, everything is interconnected, or, at an even deeper level, Oneness. This, of course, cannot be understood in a one-day course or even within a month or a year. And to properly understand this you would need to have a direct experience of this interconnectedness or Oneness.
Phew! So, this would mean in turn that the system of Reiki, in Mikao Usui’s time, was about spiritual development; the understanding of our own true nature.
But How Does that Work?
This is how it worked… To assist you in uncovering your own true nature, you would practise for a long time, perhaps years, with the first mantra and symbol taught in Okuden. This mantra and symbol would help you to understand the concept of earth energy (Jp: chi).
After you had understood this then you would move on to the second mantra and symbol, which, in turn, would help you to understand the concept of heavenly energy (Jp: ten).
And only then would you be allowed to work with the HSZSN. Why wait so long? Because it would be almost impossible to understand this interconnectedness/Oneness without first understanding the concept of the dual forces of earth and heaven.
At this point there is still no mention of “distance healing”. In fact, you could almost say that the opposite is the case, as the concept of “distance” immediately brings to mind being taken away rather than being interconnected or One.
Origins of HSZSN
Now lets take a look at where HSZSN comes from. Many people say that Mikao Usui had a mystical experience on Mt Kurama in 1922 and that during this experience he was “given” the symbols. However, it is also said that Mikao Usui was already teaching long before 1922. It is also common knowledge that the mantras and symbols that he taught within the system can be traced back to other spiritual practices and were used in these practices long before Mikao Usui began teaching. Therefore, the story of them being “given” out of the blue is more than unlikely. They were already in use!
The compressed HSZSN kanji (utilised in the system of Reiki) can be found in a 17th century booklet called shoninki, which is considered a classic on ninjutsu. Shoninki consists of three volumes and HSZSN is printed in its second volume (chukan).
The image is of a page from the shoninki (chukan) depicting HSZSN.
This image from the shoninki is of a charm which is utilized to either break or forge connections, depending upon how the charm was folded. To work the charm you would write your name and the name of the other person into it. If you folded the paper in such a way that the names where turned away from each other then you would break the connection between the two of you. However, if you folded it in such a way that the names would overlap one another then a connection was forged.
These charms were not only employed in ninjutsu, but also in Mikkyo and other Japanese esoteric teachings like Shingon, Tendai and Shugendo. Nonetheless, it was both a Tendai priest and a Shugendo priest that made us aware that this particular charm (and many others) had its roots in Onmyodo (the way of yin and yang).
Onmyodo teaches elements such as inyo (this is yin and yang, which incorporates the concept of earth & heaven), gogyo (5 elements) and dokyo (Daoism) theory. Onmyodo was introduced into Japan in the 7th century. Onmyodo practises were also absorbed into Tendai, Shingon and Shugendo practices.
Roots of the System of Reiki
It has been said that Mikao Usui was a Shugendo practitioner. On his memorial stone it states that he practiced kushu shinren, which is a form of shugyo or “severe training”. It also states on his memorial stone that he practised divination. Both of these practises were a part of both Onmyodo and Shugendo.
Did Mikao Usui then utilise Shugendo and Onmyodo philosophies and methods to create the system of Reiki? Unfortunately, we’ll probably never be 100% certain, but by looking at the system’s elements we can definitely see that he worked with certain ideas from these practises.
For example, it is interesting to see the inyo (yin yang) philosophy of Onmyodo mirrored in the first two mantras and symbols taught in Okuden Level II. These two mantras and symbols represent earth (in) and heaven (yo). And now, through research, it is also possible to trace the roots of the third mantra and symbol, HSZSN, back to the 7th century practice of Onmyodo.
What is the point of research?
Researching the background of the system of Reiki gives us some very interesting pointers into our own practise of the system of Reiki. The particular research mentioned in this article enables us to see that the system was developed as a spiritual practise (rather than solely as a hands on healing practise as it is often practised in modern times). Secondly, that Mikao Usui’s understanding of these ancient practises (from which he borrowed many elements for the system of Reiki) grew from his personal practise of teachings such as Shugendo and Onmyodo.
In our research books, The A-Z of Reiki Pocketbook, The Japanese Art of Reiki and The Reiki Sourcebook, detailed information about the mantras and symbols and their Japanese origins is available.
Article on Shinto and Onmyodo
Description of an Onmyodo Symposium in New York 2009
The Way of Yin and Yang – A Tradition Revived, and Adopted by Lee A. Butler
Shugendo: Essays on the Structure of Japanese Folk Religion by Hitoshi Miyake
Invisible Armor: An Introduction to the Esoteric Dimension of Japan’s Classical Warrior Arts by Serge Mol
Bronwen and Frans Stiene are the co-founders of the International House of Reiki and co-authors of The Reiki Sourcebook, The Japanese Art of Reiki, Your Reiki Treatment, The A-Z of Reiki Pocketbook and the Reiki Techniques Card Deck. Bronwen and Frans teach in the USA, Europe and Australia. Visit the Courses page to find a course near you.