Mikao Usui in the Meiji-Era (1868-1912)

The following article describes the historical context of Mikao Usui (1865-1927) life and the Meiji period (1868-1912).

The Meiji period is a period in Japanese history, which includes much of the life of Mikao Usui. It begins with the enthronement of Emperor Mutsuhito (1852-1912) in 1868. At that time Mutsuhito was just 16 years old. Therefore, he had political and military advisors since the beginning of the government. Although it is said that after a thousand years of rule by the Samurai Shogun 将軍 he had attained the full power of the Tenno again, but he was so young and hardly able to lead a country.

Usui is said to have been very well disposed towards the Meiji Tenno. It is said that he even adored him. There are also references to the memorial stone of Mikao Usui in his grave at the temple Saihoji in Tokyo. The inscription reads in part of the Usui-life rules that you should first follow the instructions of the late Meiji Tenno. This was the foundation of contemplative meditation with the rules of life.

Assuming that Mikao Usui was a native Samurai from the family of Chiba clan and the samurai saw themselves as protectors of the Tenno, the worship of Tenno is hardly surprising.

While Japan was transformed in the Meiji period, Usui tried various fields of activity. That was normal for that time, because the original activities as a samurai could not be carried out except that martial arts and spirituality still belonged to the cultural life. As a former Samurai and as a monk of the Tendai school of Tantric Buddhism, Usui apparently trained his life of martial arts and for his contemporaries worked as a spiritual teacher and healer. Usui should even have learned the rules of life since the year 1917. That is about four years before Mikao Usui climbed the Kurama Mountain and during his vision (some call it enlightenment) was initiated in Reiki.

What Usui’s livelihood was concerned, for a while he was possibly secretary of the politician Shinpei Goto 後 藤 新 平 (1857-1929) and tried several times to start his own business. That seemed to have been not always successful, as it was not uncommon for that time where many former samurai tried to gain a foothold here and there. In addition, it appears that he would not be discouraged from his spiritual path, because he also refused to take over the Sage brewery of his family.

The opening of Japan to the West and wanting to learn from the West in the Meiji period it was even possible for Usui to travel to the West, which is not exactly sure where. On the memorial stone puts it, that he traveled to the West. The term obéi 欧米 used there is meant as West Europe and America.

The Era-Name Meiji

Kaiser Mutsuhito chose for the lifelong reign starting at enthronement, the term Meiji 明治 as era name. To enthronement each emperor selects (jap. Tenno) his own years Currency (nengo年号). This then starts counting the number of years instead of the Gregorian calendar. Meiji 1 corresponds to 1868. The last year of the Meiji period is the year of death of the Tenno. After his death the Emperor Mutsuhito gets the posthumous name Meiji Tenno. We then speak about the Meiji period as Meiji-Tenno but no longer from Emperor Mutsuhito.

Mikao Usui was born three years before the beginning of the Meiji period. Much of his life relates to the Meiji period. This is followed by the Taisho period (1912-1926), which exactly covers the last 14 years of his life. The memorial stone was built in 1927 in the first year of the Showa period (1927-1989) at his grave by Samurai.

Usui and the Meiji Tenno

On the memorial stone of Mikao Usui in Tokyo at the temple Saihoji is mentioned that it is the Usui-life rules should be the teaching of Mikao Usui. Fundamentally at the same time it says that the „instructions of the late Meiji Tenno“ should be followed. Hence it was probably at one time the idea in the West that the Usui-life rules used were also written by the Meiji Tenno. However some historical facts speak against this.

The Japanese religious scholars and Reiki Master Tokida explains the following: Most Japanese today can barely read such complex texts in the classical Japanese written language, let alone understand it. In Japanese, following the Meiji Tenno was preceded by performing the meditation with the rules of life. This means that from this point of view at the time of the Meiji Tenno was above the teachings of Usui. From that time until the end of World War II the assumption was that the Tenno was of divine origin.

Some Reiki masters in the West are of the view that employment and recitation of poems of the Meiji Tenno are equally important in the context of Reiki and the rules of life and that they have been used even for special applications in connection with Reiki, such as the mental healing. This should neither be contradicted nor even shown in this article. However Tokida replies that the poems are a personal expression of emotion from his life only. Consequently, they shall have neither something to do with Reiki nor with the following of the imperial instructions.

The imperial instructions refer to an imperial decree (chokugo勅語) or even imperial decree called chokurei 勅令 during a speech of Meiji Tenno to the people of 30 October 1890. In it are 12 points of higher virtuous behavior, but not containing the five precepts of Mikao Usui, as they are told on the memorial stone and calligraphy. The Japanese term for the imperial decree chokurei 勅令 is also reminiscent of the debate on the icon for boosting the second degree Usui Reiki.

The contents of the decree point to phrases that recall some old translations of the Usui-life rules. At times it was suspected that those versions of the rules of life originated from Mrs. Takata. For the time being that seems to be refuted. In any case, this content must have been known to someone in the history of Reiki, because it could hardly have found its way into the text of the rules of life as a translation.

From the perspective of Mark Hosak the origin of life rules is initially formed from resources that Usui learned as a monk, because there is a sutra of Tantric Buddhism, which shows 108 behaviors, the summary of which represent the five major themes of the Usui-life rules.

The meaning of the Era-name Meiji

The name of the era is what Tenno Mutsuhito chose himself for the Meiji period. Meanings of kanji (Chinese character) of Meiji:

Mei明 – light, brightness, clear and bright, wisdom, mantra (chant)

Ji治 – peace, healing, healthy, calm and reign

Together there are several translation options:

peace filled with light
healing with light
wisely governing
Mantra (chant) of peace

However this translation is Historically known:

Enlightened Ruler

The disposition of Meiji Tenno

The Meiji Tenno was a passionate poet and calligrapher. He used both to express his feelings, as he was involved in numerous themed areas of domestic policy, foreign policy, culturally and militarily by the events of the changing era.

Now it is said from Meiji Tenno, that him guiding the wars against China and Russia adversely affected his health and significantly aged him and that he otherwise could have been much older.

Therefore, the translations of his period of years Meiji 明治 be classified accordingly. The translation „enlightened ruler“ seems more likely to show a political influence, with Meiji Tenno shown as the ruler who led Japan to a great power . Whether the Meiji Tenno presented himself so at the age of 16 to his reign, while you can translate the annual motto with „luminous peace“ or „mantra of light“, may each reader decide for themselves.

The Meiji Restoration

Prehistory 1: policy of isolation

About 250 years under the rule of Shogun, Japan has led a policy of isolation sakoku 鎖国 from the outside world. Japanese were not allowed to leave the country and foreigners were not allowed to enter the Japanese island kingdom. The only exception was the small artificial island of Dejima 出島 before Nagasaki. There was a lively trade with the non-Christian Dutch, who showed no missionary ambitions.

Background 2: How Japan opened up to the West

Due to the isolation of Japan no ships could land to replenish supplies after they crossed the Pacific. That was an eyesore for the Americans. So it happened in 1853 to the opening of the ports, as Commodore Perry with his black ships (kurofune黒船) opened fire with his cannons.

The military inferiority of the Japanese could have lead to them being colonized along with the other neighboring countries. To counteract this, Japan began a period of adaptation to Europe in economic, cultural, political and military terms.

The abolition of the Samurai

Until the beginning of the Meiji period in 1868 and beyond, there was a number of restructurings in Japan. Also the introduction of the military draft, meant that the status of Samurai was useless. Although the Samurai tried to oppose, but failed in the uprisings, until in 1867 the last Shogun finally abdicated.

Then in 1876 the Samurai status was abolished. At the time Usui was just 21 years old. Usui was born a Samurai three years before the Meiji era and consequently raised as a Samurai. Thus he had noticed the change times to its full extent.

Until 1877, changes in the Meiji period caused several rebellions. The Samurai thought they could show the Tenno their loyalty and devotion in this way. However, the consultants who were close to the Tenno, considered the Samurai as opponents of Tenno. Thus, the Tenno was rather torn between the parties.

The abolition of the Samurai with all its consequences, and the enthronement of Meiji Tenno is the basis for all further developments in Japan. This is called the Meiji Restoration