Reiki: The Five Precepts (Gokai – 五 戒) – 2nd Precept: Faith

Just for today:
Don’t hold on to anger
Don’t focus on worry
Honor all those who came before
Work hard on self-improvement
Be kind to all living things
– Reiki Center App, Windows Phone

– My shortened mantra of the precepts


At the end of my last post, I spoke of hope and fear as opposites rather than love and fear. This will open the door for the discussion of this precept and my interpretation of it as faith.

The more traditional translations of this precept are “Don’t focus on worry”, or more simply: “Don’t worry.” Worry and fear are closely related–anxiety and terror. Let’s use a couple sentences to see just how close these are in our conceptual/semantic/experiential space:

  1. I’m worried that I may have left the burner on at home.
  2. I’m afraid that I may have left the burner on at home.
  3. I worry that I might never find the love of my life.
  4. I fear that I might never find the love of my life.
  5. I’m worried about the spider across the room.
  6. I’m afraid of the spider across the room.
  7. I worry about my sister.
  8. I fear my sister.

The last few sentences were chosen to show where the similarities in our usage/semantics/experience diverge. #5 is ambiguous: am I afraid that the spider will come to get me, or am I concerned about its well-being (perhaps my roommate will notice it and smash it to bits, and I won’t be able to save it from such a squishy demise)? The last pair take this further to show that “worry about” can have the connotation of “concern” and “fear” does not make sense as a replacement. What do we see here? Being afraid of something is fear of it– an object is seen as a threat as in #6 (and #8???) or there is fear that the threat of an unwanted situation will arise: a “could” or “what if” type of hypothetical extension. In a sense, they are the same thing: an object as a threat is the potential “could” of that object harming us. That spider might come over and bite me! Being worried is similar in terms of the hypothetical extension. We worry about things that could go wrong (or could be going wrong/have gone wrong, depending on the situation). Again, there is an aversion to an unwanted situation. Even worry as concern holds this: we are worried about somebody because we think something bad may happen to them, may currently be happening to them, or may have happened to them. To summarize: this is all about aversion. Worry and fear are about experiencing things that we want to avoid. On a simple level, there is an aversion to being harmed or dying, and such fear can be helpful or good in the right circumstances, but there is a lot of aversion that pulls our monkey minds hither and thither, drawing us to continually react to the world as we think it is.

Now, let us compare hope. Again, let’s take up a few example sentences:

  1. I hope that he’ll show up on time!
  2. She held the hope of seeing her son again until the end of her days.
  3. He hopes that with practice he will improve.
  4. We’re hopeful that she’ll pull through.

I won’t compare these with the much more complicated and nebulous/term/concept/experience “love”, but both have to do with desire (as I mentioned at the end of my last post). Notice how clearly hope stands in contrast to fear/worry: I hope for a desired situation to come to be. Again, in a “could”/”what if” hypothetical extension, I look toward what could be this time with desire instead of aversion. These are things that I want to happen rather than don’t want to happen.

Pointing out these general motivations of desire and aversion is intentional. From the Buddhist analysis (remember here that Usui-sama was a Tendai Buddhist priest), the three roots of suffering (“dukkha“: suffering is the standard translation, but it does not capture the full range of meaning in the original word) are desire, aversion, and ignorance. You could say that desire and aversion spring from ignorance. This ignorance is not ignorance in the sense of being unaware of another’s virtues, equalities, etc. or being unaware of an idea, i.e. uneducated or closed-minded. This ignorance, in contrast, is a basic confusion about existence. It is the groundwork of delusion–the opposite of enlightenment. The push and pull of our desire and aversion, two mundane aspects of our existence that send our monkey mind running back and forth are rooted in an underlying misunderstanding of the way things are. For further description, see Chögyam Trungpa’s The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation

With these considerations of Buddhist analysis in mind, we return to the precept; “Don’t worry” gets us beyond the ego-laden motivations of desire and aversion. “Don’t worry” also implies “Don’t hope”. In hoping for an outcome, there is always the attached possibility that it won’t turn out to be. Worry carries the same hope that the bad thing won’t happen, albeit a small shadow under the impending doom. “Don’t worry” tells us not to reach out with energy about how things could happen, one way or the other. Rather, we should be right here in now: seeing and accepting all just as it is and trusting the process of unfolding.

Thus, I changed the precept into “faith” as a shortened version. Having faith in this sense is not about believing in salvation through a higher power. Rather, faith is a fundamental trust in and acceptance of the world just as it is. Here, faith is an affirmation of the world in its glory and mystery, its agony and ecstasy, its banality and wonder. Faith is both the way of the bodhisattva who seeks enlightenment for all and the stillness of the Sage who cultivates Te in accordance with Tao.

The simple injunction of “Don’t Worry,” calls us to be present to the world and to pursue it as practitioners with acceptance of our place in it, with faith; getting past hope and fear–the ego’s pulls of desire and aversion. Let your desire be to practice well–cultivating true happiness and spiritual health–and to help all sentient beings achieve peace and enlightenment. Let your aversion be the various traps and pitfalls of ego’s constant attempts to turn even the noblest of intentions into self-aggrandizement and the stagnant cocoon of I, me, and mine.

May this inspire your own faith.

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