I am Right Mindfulness - Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

Bronwen and Frans StieneArticles, English 18 Comments


If we translate HSZSN, 本者是正念, one of the tools within Okuden Reiki Level II, it means: I am right mindfulness.

Right mindfulness is about making sure our mind doesn’t get carried away by labeling things. We normally label what we see, feel, hear, touch, or smell either good or bad and then deal with it accordingly. However, when we have a direct experience of right mindfulness, we begin to stop labeling things, we just see them as they are, and we don’t get carried away by our dualistic thinking.

When we have an understanding of Right Mindfulness we are not distracted by all the confused dualistic thoughts which come up. This is often called “munen”, no thought.

This poem reflects Right Thought:

In spring the flowers,
In autumn the moon,
In summer the breeze,
In winter the snow,
If in the serenity of the heart,
there is no attachment,
all seasons are well. – Hui-K’ai

In the traditional Japanese spiritual teachings there are 4 different kinds of mindfulness to understand:

1. Mindfulness of the body
2. Mindfulness of feelings (repulsive, attractive, or neutral)
3. Mindfulness of the mind
4. Mindfulness of the phenomena

They are there to help us remain mindful that we are all interconnected, of the same essence, or One.

It is the first step to experiencing non-duality.

If we look at the system of Reiki, the more practitioners gain a deeper direct understanding of right mindfulness by internalizing the symbols, the more they start to see that there is no distance, no past/present/future, just Oneness.

Usui-san put gems into his teachings to hint at what he was really trying to teach. We can only help others to find their non-dual nature if we have re-discoverd it for ourselves. This is also why level II is called Okuden, inner or hidden teachings, they help us to re-discover what is hidden within us. If we use the tools taught in Okuden Level II externally, we will begin to have difficulty in getting the direct experience, but when we internalize them we can begin to gain a much deeper experience.

Shonen 正念 is part of the Buddhas teachings of the Eightfold Noble Path.

As Usui-san was a Buddhist practitioner we should not be surprised to see traces of his own personal Buddhist journey in the System of Reiki.


Comments 18

  1. Avatar of Elly

    Cultivating “the serenity of the heart” is certainly the key! It is for this that Usui Founder gave us the Precepts. With a serene heart and untroubledl mind, we can see the All in us and us in the All, and what more can we ask but this? What a great gift!

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Elly,

    What a great sentence: With a serene heart and untroubled mind, we can see the All in us and us in the All, and what more can we ask but this?

    Yes what else do we want.

    This is the core of the teachings, bringing our mind home to an untroubled state.

  3. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Elly and Frans, what a delightful back and forth in the comments. Resting in the great bright light. That’s it. Aaaahhhhh.

    This article is wonderful and such a nice sister to the hibiki article you posted today. Thank you.

    Even though I have read in my Reiki II manual many times that Okuden was traditionally taught in two parts, it’s not until recently that it dawned on me what that meant. Doh!

    This practice of deepening into right mindfulness, using HSZSN, and going into a state of no distance and no time, didn’t happen until the student had already embodied earth and heavenly energies. Not until the student had become CKR and SHK. And therefore must have already begun to experience right mindfulness without naming it as such.

    That takes years! If not really a lifetime.

    Why are we in such a rush? Pretending our understanding is more than it really is doesn’t actually change anything, it just distracts us from our continuing patient and enriching practice, not to mention our now as it is.

    Now this part of the article caught my eye: “When we have an understanding of Right Mindfulness we are not distracted by all the confused dualistic thoughts which come up. This is often called “munen”, no thought.”

    The misunderstanding of no thought (I like now having a name for it! Munen!) is such a barrier. Thinking of it as having no distraction and confusion rather than literally no thoughts (not possible or even desirable, I think) is so helpful.

    Dumb question on Japanese: Does Shonen mean Mindfulness then?

    Thanks so much!


  4. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,

    From: A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms:

    Shonen 正念 I. ‘Right recollection’ ; mindfulness; one of the items of practice in the eightfold path. II. Thinking of Amida Buddha with clear consciousness. III Concentration on nembutsu.

    Munen ‘Without thought’; absence of discriminative thought,

    So we can see that this points all to concentration, not getting distracted by the past, present, future, by what we feel, see, hear, touch, and smell.

    Munen is called No Thought but it doesn’t mean having no thoughts, it means not being distracted by our thoughts, by labeling them good or bad etc…

    Yes why the rush, if we rush we only work at the surface level and never discover the inner levels of what Usui-san was trying to teach us.

    This is exactly why it was taught in two parts, you first gain a deep realisation about heaven and earth, which form the foundation of having Right Mindfulness, it already start to happen when we bring these two together. Now we can use the mantra/symbol to bring this state of mind to fruition.

    Great discussion.

  5. Avatar of Elly
  6. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans, Alice and Elly,
    I missed this great discussion . I remember several months ago Frans when you were doing the tele classes on symbols and mantras I had asked you after CHR if you think it will be helpful for me to take the rest of tele classes , even though I was working on only earth energy. At that time you had said yes , it will give me a intellectual understanding of it and in turn will help me to understand the tools in system of Reiki and how they are integrated. You had also said that if we jump too quick in the symbols without becoming earth , heaven then we really don’t get deeper in to it.I personally had utilized HSZSN purely externally before that for healing only . I am thinking about it now at that time in my mind I was thinking what exactly deeper means ? what will you find by going step by step. Now , its becoming sense to me just now why it is necessary to be earth , heaven first before ” right mindfulness , simply because I think it would be very hard to be in “right state of mind” if we are not grounded , centered , full of worries etc. in mind and if we are don’t have the firm and flexible balance in ourselves . How can we have right mindfulness without all that ?
    yes indeed it goes great with hibiki article , they both go together. When we are not holding on to “echos /hibiki of our own filters ( worry , fear , happiness etc.) we can be in that calm and right mindfulness state of mind but it can take years and years , yes we are in a hurry 🙂 . I don’t know why I am in a hurry , I am asking myself this today :).
    Thank you Frans great article , great lesson , great discussion. So many things just cleared today for me !

  7. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans ,
    was thinking about 8 fold paths . The basic purpose of spiritual cultivation/ freedom is to aid humans on the three levels of body, mind and spirit. All need to be in balance to have the” right mindfulness” , right thought , right action, right speech , etc.  if you don’t have them then its I think impossible to achieve them ?

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema,

    Have a look at the precepts and see how they relate to the eightfold path 😉
    Usui-san was a clever man.

    (They are called Hasshodo in Japanese.)

    Shoken – Right views

    Shoshiyui – Right thoughts

    Sho go – Right speech

    Shogo – Right acts

    Shomyo – Right living

    Shosho-jin – Right effort

    Shonen – Right mindfulness

    Sho jo – Right meditation

  9. Avatar of seema

    Show compassion to yourself and others?
    We cannot be compassionate to others and self if we don’t have all the “rights” 🙂

    I am thinking about the tele class right now—I think I need to go back and listen to it again!
    Just thinking about everything…

    I am thinking way back how I started to learn—from an intellectual aspect. I think intellectual knowledge is kind of based on concepts etc. but then in really intellectual knowledge is a bit inferior then the “understanding” of it. I think when we are only thinking from a purely a intellect aspect then we tend to “label” things like kind of categories so like in this case I was thinking ok I have CHR , then SHK then HSZSN/oneness/ right mindfulness etc. I was putting that intellect mind in it but then later when you truly start to understand then only the wisdom comes that you were talking about , and only then direct insights comes and then see things as they are without interpreting them ? It kind of goes with the “hibiki” for me, to see them as they are nothing more, is that the right view?

    I was also thinking right speech is like – be true to your way and your being/ being honest?  I think in reality so many times we don’t always reveal our truth in our speech. We end up making stories, excuses etc. just to “prove” our points and in process loose insight of that “truth”. We become so fearful of letting that truth out and loose what I think is really our “authentic speech”. I personally have seen just recently that after I did revealed my own innocent truth I suddenly became kind of fearful and worried. I think it was me and me alone who was making myself worried etc. by my own “triggers” I think these triggers come from our own past experiences etc. and we just get worked up and start to act all irrational and sway away from our own inner truth and ultimately that will decide what our actions are going to be, how we will live our lives. Coming to right living, this also kind of bringing a layer for me. Sometimes I think we start to think oh if I really will get this great job or something like that I can really make my life so much better etc. but we really tend to loose what exactly we are trying to achieve by “getting that particular job”. In my case this has been really illuminating I always and want to learn more traditional system of Reiki but why? What I am trying to achieve by that? No magic pills really, there are none! My right living and growth really is where ever I can find support for my growth and not running after that it will become a hindrance to my growth!!!

    That brings me to right effort – well the one who takes the longest stride don’t walk fastest? slow and steady works the best that’s what I had read as a child , still works , so hard to integrate that in life some times , as we get carried away by what people say , we get affected by their remarks – “good or bad” , off course if we are away from labels then that won’t be the issue ? But really if we hurry in our practice, we will stumble and fall and will keep pushing us back and perhaps burn out eventually. You had mentioned the other day the Japanese proverb- fall 7 times and get up 8 times ,  I think if we are going with a steady pace even then falls will come then in reality these falls actually teach us something they are meant to really give us a kick in the butt so to speak push us to the wall and make us see things as they are think right effort does not mean being “perfect” , it is so hard for me to accept that but I am seeing it from a different way now .

    Then the big one – “right mindfulness”—If all the above are not in “order” we start to spice them with our imagination , start to season and garnish them with our “excessive desires “ , make that a lovely sweet and spicy dish and start to crave for it !! The dish that we just have to have it NOW!!!
    (Maybe I should go for something like that :) ). I think we tend to see things based on our fears or desires and not how they are in reality and if we start to accept and see where we are in our lives then we can see things as they are and not run after them. So hard!!. I see now acceptance as a layer of the precept – Frans you have told me so many times it is connected with worry and anger in precept. I see it now how it is related to that! Yes, that’s where I think “brutally honest” to self comes – self-examination. What we think, feel etc. really comes out that way. I think it’s like instead of moving away from fears and aversions we really need to face them and “accept them as they are” without really adding those spices in them.

    And only then you can practice your “right meditation” which is our lives ultimately. All the above requires so much discipline and as you Frans it requires—patience, perseverance and persistence.
    All I can say is I need to go back and practice, practice and practice and integrate the Reiki precepts!
    I see now how if we “just” integrate the Reiki precepts then everything else falls in place , seems Reiki precepts point to our “true self” and “great bright light” in a poetic form which we all need to interpretate and find the inner wisdom inside them and merge in our lives. All other symbols / tools are an extension to “interpretate them like keys to the lock? We find a key unlock it, enter the door and find another key and so forth and keep going …

    Frans, Don’t know if I understand them properly or not but it just rushed out today, thank you so much for the Reiju session on 23rd, after that I listened to nentatsu_ho meditation which I have listened to it only twice, I had sent an email to Bronwen after that, I think for the first time I had felt precepts so deeply inside me as I was relating to them in myself while meditating on them. The next day these two wonderful teachings that you posted initially brought stuff to surface then I needed to plunge them out. So many wonderful layers to Reiki precepts , we have them right there in front of us and we need to do them step by step we really cannot skip and jump any step and for that we need a guide , a teacher who has gone through all those steps, it is not only hard but impossible to do these steps on your own because of our confused mind , we start to “think and imagine” things and can get side track , like you have mentioned in the article we start to think in dualistic thoughts , get distracted by them and when we are not distracted then we are in state of “ munen or no thought” which in reality doesn’t mean that we are not thinking anything but all the above “ rights” , just as they are .

  10. Avatar of seema

    On a side note, you have briefly mentioned here about oneness, something just popped in my mind – Oneness I think really means one with “good and bad” as we label it. For me I started to see that in my interaction with, my clients and patients at hospitals, mainly in hand healing session, when I started to get rid of protection etc. I remember the first time when one of my patient who had a terminal and really infectious illness I was doing a hands on healing session and all of a sudden she said to me to take it with me whatever she doesn’t need it and I told her yes sure give it to me, I felt so strange after that and told you about that, you had said compassion is protection you don’t need anything else. But that is really a first layer isn’t it, oneness by compassion with everyone – with students, your own family members (you know when they drive us crazy), every being and everything around us and then nothing. It might take a life time to be there as I see it , but it’s funny how I hear people using this word so loosely without understanding it. They said they are and were one but they in reality only are trying to embrace “good “. It actually reminds of about 2 years ago when I was just started to learn system of Reiki from traditional perspective and I went to a crystal healing class where there were several Reiki practitioners as well one of them was quite senior to me who did shamanism as well , which I personally don’t have knowledge but anyways we were talking and I said that how I don’t use any protection and just be there with my clients and see so much freedom and deeper healing , she started to become mad and said there is no way I am going to be one with some people !!. I was kind of new to everything and it was not really my class so I just smiled and the instructor who was a friend to both of us said “oh Seema you and her are talking about two different modalities” I didn’t said anything and started to think really is it that different? Oneness is oneness, all leads to same thing different paths same destination, what is she talking about? We really don’t know until we have all the above rights only then we can understand what oneness is – it really is embracing both “good and bad” as that’s what universe is. It is a very “scary” concept to most because we all feel a need to protect ourselves from negative etc. our thinking is so narrow and boxed up this way and this really keeps us away from being compassionate not only to others but ourselves as well. Because we label ourselves as “good and bad” label our emotions, fears, low self-esteem etc. and become hard on ourselves. I am only just trying to understand this and this understanding of not using protection to start embracing everything not just in others but self has been such an eye opener for me, all just coming together. Yes all tools are interconnected we just cannot pull them apart we have to put these puzzle pieces so to speak together to get deeper into all.

  11. Avatar of seema

    Just read this quote—
    “Those who consider their path superior are condescending.
    A parrot who speaks of the totality of the self is absurd. Many paths lead to the summit,
    But it takes a whole body to get there.”
    Deng Ming-Dao

  12. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  13. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Thanks for your answers to my questions and thoughts on my comments, Frans. Very helpful.

    For me, it has been gradual delving into some of the Buddhist aspects that are part of the underlying roots of our Reiki practices. So the terms are not second nature to me. But that is so wonderful, as they inspire me to look at everything a bit sideways, with great freshness, as I discover my interest in them and pay attention to these details, then apply them back to the simplicity of my own practice and my direct experiences so far. Even when I think I know something, my growing experience just changes the meaning anyway. Never boring!

    Much appreciation for all the rich discussion here.


  14. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  15. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Two quotes about Right Mind from a wonderful Zen teacher.

    “The Right Mind is the mind that does not remain in one place. It is the mind that stretches throughout the entire body and self.
    The Confused Mind is the mind that, thinking something over, congeals in one place.”
    Takuan Sōhō

    “The No-Mind is the same as the Right Mind. It neither congeals nor fixes itself in one place. It is called No-Mind when the mind has neither discrimination nor thought but wanders about the entire body and extends throughout the entire self.”
    Takuan Sōhō


  16. Avatar of Elly

    Great quotes, Frans! Thanks so much for sharing them! Thinking of the “congealed mind” brings to mind images of pickled pigs’ brains in aspic. Eeeewwww!!!

  17. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,
    Below is a wonderful quote about what the word “Right”, means from a Japanese perspective.

    From: You Have to Say Something: Manifesting Zen Insight by Dainin Katagiri

    “In Sanskrit, the word for “right” is samma. It means “to go along with,” “to go together,” “to turn together.” It originally comes from a term that means “to unite.” So “right” is a state of being in which everything can live together, or turn together, united. Right is a state of human life in which we live in peace and harmony with all other beings. It is right, beyond our ideas of right or wrong, good or bad.”


  18. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Here is another wonderful quote from a traditional Japanese teacher about I am Right Mind, shonen.

    “So ‘sho nen’ also means right thought – ku [emptiness] attention to ku thought [emptiness], absolute thought beyond concepts, categories, and preconceptions.”
    Taisen Deshimaru

    Thus again we can see that HSZSN points towards a state of mind beyond concepts of good or bad, hot or cold, here or there. Usui-san put this in his system because he was teaching a spiritual system, he wanted his students to attain this state of mind.

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