Exploring the Mantra Choku Rei

Frans StieneArticles, English 8 Comments

Cho Ku Rei

Within Okuden Reiki level II we use a mantra called Choku Rei 直霊, and in this article I’d like to explore where this mantra came from and what it means.


Because Japanese kanji (characters) are derived from the Chinese language, there are two ways to pronounce a kanji. Onyomi is the pronunciation that is closer to the Chinese form, typically used for nouns. Kunyomi is the traditional Japanese pronunciation, most frequently used when kanji appear in adjectives or verbs. Choku Rei 直霊 is the onyomi
pronunciation, while the kunyomi pronunciation of these characters is Naohi (sometimes written as Naobi).

While Choku Rei is more commonly known, both are correct; they are just different ways of pronouncing the same kanji.

 There is only one Japanese Reiki school which uses the pronunciation Naohi and this comes from Mrs Yamaguchi; she used it in her attunements/initiation/reiju. All other Japanese Reiki lineages use the onyobi pronunciation, Choku Rei.

The Meaning of the Mantra

Choku Rei/Naohi/Naobi 直霊 means literally straight, direct, or correct spirit. 

Some modern Reiki teachers teach that the meaning of Choku Rei is to put the energy straight or directly here or there; in other words when our hands touch a person during hands on healing, we might focus on the mantra to “put” the energy where our hands touch, making it stronger or more focused in that particular place on the body. This is a very external interpretation and does not reflect the inner spiritual teaching.

From a traditional Japanese perspective, direct or correct spirit describes our True Self; in other words, it describes a way of being where we are able to access our spirit (our innermost essence) directly. Although in modern Reiki practice Choku Rei might be seen as something we “give” to a person or place, traditionally this was not so; it was an inner, spiritual practice. We can see this more traditional viewpoint about Choku Rei 直霊 in Shintoism and also in traditional Aikido teachings.

Within Shinto being straight/direct is also very important element as it points towards honesty. We can also see this within the Reiki precept “be honest” or “be true to your way and your being.” In fact, all the tools within the system of Reiki are just sign posts pointing us in the direction of being straight/direct so that we can rediscover our True Self.

The Inner Teachings of Choku Rei

William Gleason is an international Aikido teacher who trained and lived in Japan for many years,  and he illuminates a more traditional way of looking at Choku Rei/Naohi/Naobi:

The central function of naobi is self-reflection: as an intuitive practice, aikido requires constant awareness and assessment of our feelings and intentions. Naobi is the source of both body and mind. It creates the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch and, therefore, individual existence. As life begins with breath, the ki of naobi manifests in the lungs and the skin.

We can see in the above quote that traditionally the practice of Choku Rei was done to illuminate one’s True Self/Reiki and was not an external practice. Thus, it is a wonderful practice to use the mantra for remembering our True Self.

We cannot connect others to their True Self, they can only do that themselves. If we could really do this we would have a very different world. This is why using the mantra on others is a very modern interpretation. However when we remember our own True Self we start to shine our bright light out into the world; in this way we are like a mirror helping others to see their own True Self. This is why Usui-san put Choku Rei in his teachings: to help us to remember our own True Self, because this is when real change and real healing can begin.

When Naobi, the direct spirit, comes into activity, various high-frequency light wave vibrations are emanated. ~ Masahisa Goi

When I was in Japan in 2012 my teacher, Takeda Ajari, explained that he did the worship of 直日霊 Naohi in the formal service of Shinto during the morning ritual. He would stand and recite mantras in front of a simple wooden shrine that also had a small mirror on it. In one way we might interpret this externally and think this practice is about worshiping at a shrine and focusing on something outside oneself. However if we look more deeply we can see that the mirror reflects the person who is performing the ritual; so in reality he was performing the ritual for himself, to cultivate a direct/straight spirit so that he might rediscover his own True Self. He explained to me that in Shinto teachings, Naohi is our True Self, our direct correct spirit.

Seeing Things As They Are

The introspection of naobi is not an abstract process of reflecting on the past. It is to stand in the present and see things exactly as they are. Naobi is the virtue of makoto—sincerity and gratitude for the gift of life. ~ William Gleason

Because practicing with Choku Rei/Naohi/Naobi 直霊 cultivates our True Self, this means that when we work with this tool within the system of Reiki it will help us to see things as they are. What does this mean? Seeing things as they are is about transcending duality; it’s about not labeling things that may come up as a result of a Reiki treatment or practice as good or bad, positive or negative, etc. It’s about letting go of the idea of a “giver” and “receiver” of  Reiki. Seeing things as they are is about seeing from your True self to the True Self of the other person, animal, tree, or object; the more that we cultivate this direct/straight spirit the more we can connect to all things in life, heart to heart, without any labeling whatsoever. In this way we realize that we are all One.

In your big mind, everything has the same value…In your practice you should accept everything as it is, giving to each thing the same respect given to a Buddha. ~ Shunryu Suzuki

As we can see, Mikao Usui, the founder of the System of Reiki, borrowed Japanese spiritual teachings to be placed in his spiritual teachings. So next time when you use the mantra Choku Rei/Naohi 直霊 remember its deeper meaning because when you remember what it really is about then you will gain so much more out of your practice.

Relevant Links:

Choku Rei

Choku Rei


Divine Signpost

Shinto and Naohi

William Gleason

Book list:

Aikido and Words of Power: The Sacred Sounds of Kototamair?t=internatihous 20&l=as2&o=1&a=1594772452

Divine Signpost by Deguchi Onisaburo

God and Manir?t=internatihous 20&l=as2&o=1&a=489214147X

Secrets of Aikidoir?t=internatihous 20&l=as2&o=1&a=1570622353

The Spiritual Foundations of Aikidoir?t=internatihous 20&l=as2&o=1&a=0892815086

The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heartir?t=internatihous 20&l=as2&o=1&a=1568364377

Historical Dictionary of Shinto (Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements Series)ir?t=internatihous 20&l=as2&o=1&a=0810871726

Comments 8

  1. Avatar of Nathan

    What got my attention in this article is this:

    “It creates the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch and, therefore, individual existence.”

    That would explain why so far, my practice of the CKR has actually focused on earth-stuff like food, diet or physical experiences of contacting the nature. It would explain the way this symbol is perfect for “grounding”. Yet, I can see from this article that I still have a lot more to learn 🙂

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  3. Avatar of Nathan
  4. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  5. Avatar of Joseph

    Well done Frans

    But again looks a little understanding about Japanese spiritual practices. Only an Western could make so big deal from two different pronunciation of the same thing. Because CKR means “direct spirit” in both written forms. James Deacon already showed since 2005 the possible reading form for the first symbol in his article http://www.aetw.org/reiki_symbolsP_naohi.htm. I am sure that you are aware about this one.

    Is exactly like you say the word “mother” into different languages (for example In English, French, Japanese etc). While the letters and sounds are completely different the meaning is always the same.

    It is interesting how people adopting different philosophy, inner teaching and opinions of the specialist from other sources (martial arts, Shinto priests,Buddhist Lamas) just to be “right”.

    You said ” We cannot connect others to their True Self, they can only do that themselves”. As you probably knew,  Reiki system have one very important teaching :” between us (you and me, you and a murder or you and Buddha) is no separation” . This teaching bright his light from the first level to the last one. It starts with Reiki kanji and continue with all four symbols which follows. And that means that we can not see see any separation between us, we can see others True Self . And this is called a Buddha’s way.

    Best regards,

  6. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Joseph,

    Yes I know that article from James his website, nice article.

    Not sure what you are trying to say?

    We can not make someone else see their True Self, if we could do that then everybody would be enlightened already. We can only do this ourselves, we can point the way but that is about it. Traditionally the mantras were for our own personal spiritual development however over time the mantras have become more and more externalised.

    But as the system of Reiki is a spiritual practice it is about remembering our True Self, this is also why level II is called Okuden. Okuden means inner or hidden teachings, it is about what is hidden within ourselves, our own True Self. Therefore we also need to utalize the mantras internally.

    Hope that makes sense.

  7. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Love this quote:

    “The square. The square represents bringing together all of the basic (a priori) kototama of amatsu iwasaka. This is the completion of the human spirit, naobi.”
    – William Gleason.

    The square in traditional Japanese spiritual practices is connected to the earth energy. Thus again we can see that this is all about being in our body and being grounded.

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,
    Here is a little bit about Choku Rei from my teacher in Japan who is a Shingon Ajari/Priest.

    “直霊 direct spirit is what we call the True Self in Buddhist religion, and also refers to our Buddha nature. Direct spirit clearly reveals to us that at the core of our heart, there is the True Self, in fact that our true nature is a quiet mind, that one can observe ones connection with Buddha nature. It points to the fact that we can all return to our origin.” – Takeda Hakusai


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