Symbols and Mantras the Japanese Way

Frans StieneArticles, English 1 Comment


Many symbols and mantras are used within traditional Japanese spiritual teachings. By looking at these traditional Japanese spiritual practices, we can start to see how Mikao Usui used the symbols and mantras in his teachings.

Within the teachings, the symbols are focus tools; they help us to stay mindful. Now we can ask ourselves, “Mindful of what?” Mindful of not being distracted by the past, present, and future. Because if our mind is distracted by the past, present, and future, our energy also is distracted. And therefore, as energy follows the mind, our hands-on healing sessions also will be distracted.

The symbols, in a way, do not have a power of their own. They are like a sword. A sword doesn’t have power on its own either. Sit in a chair and lay a sword in front of you; does it have power? Is it going to rise by itself and slash about? Of course not. What makes the sword powerful? The sword becomes powerful only when we pick it up and handle it. But we have to know how to handle it or else we might cut ourselves. Hence the power really comes from the mind of the person who is handling the sword. This is the same as with the symbols within the system of Reiki. We have to understand in our mind how to handle the symbols and what their real meaning is; that is what will create the power.

The symbols are tools to help us to rediscover our own hidden inner light, our Reiki, our True Self. This is why these symbols are taught in Okuden level II. Okuden means hidden or inner teachings; the symbols and mantras are tools to help us find what is hidden deep inside of us, our True Self. To remember what is hidden inside of us, we have to use the symbols and mantras over and over again – on a daily basis and not just once in a while. By meditating on the symbols again and again and again, we start to slowly peel away our layers of ignorance, our anger and worry; this in turn will lay bare our hidden inner great bright light. If we only use the symbols sparingly, then we will never be able to let go of ignorance that is ingrained in our mind, body, and energy, ignorance that covers up our light. This is also why the symbols and mantras were tools for meditation, meant to help us go within. However, over time they have become very externalized and now often are used only during hands-on healing sessions. By externalizing them, we will find it much harder to see what is hidden inside of our self. Thus, traditionally the symbols are visualized within the mind. Beginning students might draw them with their hands, still seeing them as external tools. But over time, students need to internalize them, to embody the symbols within their own minds. 

The symbols also have mantras associated with them. These were not the name of the symbol; the symbol and mantra are two separate elements. One, the symbol, is a visual aid, and the other, the mantra, is an auditory aid for remembering our True Self. We visualize the symbol and repeat the mantra again and again and again. This is a common custom in traditional Japanese spiritual teachings.

If you look at the attached picture with this blog, you will see the practice of Ajikan, a traditional Japanese spiritual practice. When practicing this, you sit in front of a scroll which has the Sanskrit symbol A (अ) on it. On a historical note, the second symbol within Okuden Reiki II is also derived from a Sanskrit symbol, the kiriku – hrih. During the practice, you rest your mind on this A symbol and start to internalize it so that you become the symbol. At the same time you recite the A sound again and again and again; you do this for up to 45 minutes per session. Mikao Usui intended the symbols and mantras to be used in his teachings in the same way, especially as he was teaching a spiritual practice. We can not realize our great bright light if we only use the symbols and mantras once in a while in an external way. We have to internalize them, and we can only do this by meditating on them for a prolonged period of time.

When we practice Mikao Usui’s teachings as a spiritual path, as the precepts point out, we need to learn how to meditate upon the symbols and mantras just like the traditional Japanese teachings point out. The more we do this, the more we can let go of our anger and worry, the more grateful and true to our way and our True Self we will be, and the more compassionate we will be to ourselves and others.

By embodying the symbols and mantras we are embodying the precepts. This in turn will free up stuck energy within our body, so that it will start to flow more and more freely, which in turn will make us a clearer vehicle for helping other people. Hence, because our energy is flowing freely, our hands-on healing sessions will happen in a much deeper state, a state of clarity, consciousness, and compassion.

Comments 1

  1. Avatar of JJ

    Why would it be necessary or recommended to use symbols and mantras in the original language?  They are just sounds without meaning if all we know is English.  This brings to mind Latin and Martin Luther in the Christian tradition, translating the Bible into native languages.  Yes, something can be lost in the translation, but it may be made up for in understanding.

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