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"DO NOT..."
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"Just for today do not anger, do not worry..."

Many people appear to have concerns about the use of the phrase "do not" in the wording of the first two Principles.

These concerns are primarily, it seems, due to the perception that the Principles comprise a set of 'affirmations' - and as such, are something which, to bring optimum effect, should be phrased in 'positive' terms.  (Modernday pop psychology,  expounds the belief that the subconscious mind supposedly does not recognise negative suggestions / instructions / commands. Thus, the associated reasoning is that when we say, for example:  "Don't get angry", the subconscious only 'hears' the "get angry" part and accepts this as the affirmed intent.)

So some prefer to avoid the use of 'negative language' - choosing instead to re-phrase the first two Principles - for example, saying: "let go of anger", "let go of worry".

However, the Principles are not exactly affirmations per se - at least not in the modern understanding of the term.

The Japanese term for the Five Principles is: gokai.1 It is a descriptive term borrowed from Buddhism.2   The  'go' part of the term translates as: five; and the 'kai' translates as: admonition, or commandment. There is also an implied sense of moral injunction.
So, on one level at least, the 'tone' of the Five Principles is a firm, authoritative one.
We are being earnestly urged to follow the advice / instructions given.  

And, while subtle nuances may well get lost in translation, the particle "-na" on the end of the common Japanese version of the first two principles: "okoru-na, shinpai su-na", is clearly indicating the 'prohibitive'

i.e. "Don't ..."

This 'prohibitive' phrasing style is a traditional format, also borrowed from Buddhism.

It is interesting that in Japanese culture (perhaps more so in Usui-sensei's time than presently), great importance has been placed on choosing one's words with care, on using appropriate expressions, and as far as possible, avoiding speaking' negatively' about things.

So it would certainly seem that, from Usui-sensei's own perspective, his choice of the prohibition "do not" is completely free from any psychologically-negative associations. 

And, if it was good enough for him...


[Personally, I've always has issues with the whole pop psychology idea that the subconscious - which apparently processes all and every piece of information and sensory stimulus (and for that matter extra-sensory stimulus) we receive/experience - can't (i.e can not) handle negative concepts.]

Perhaps the reality is that the use of "do not" in the original phrasing of the Five Principles only carries "psychologically-negative" influences if we allow it to (- if we expect it to).


*   *   *   *   *

Of course, we are always free to develop alternative wordings for the Principles, if we so choose.
 
In seeking new ways to re-phrase the Principles, we can perhaps allow ourselves to tap into our own subconscious insights and wisdoms, and discover our own personal connection with, and understanding of, the essence of the Principles.

I personally find the process of creating new wordings to be a beneficial meditative practice for opening up new perspectives.

However, I do appreciate that, in attempting to create what we (Westerners) may consider more 'positive' wordings, sometimes, some of the original meaning may get lost.
.

Let us look at the first Principle, for example. If we compare the quite popular phrasing "Let go of anger" and the familiar "Do not anger", there is a subtle difference of inference to be taken from the two.

Of course it is good - therapeutically and otherwise - to let go of anger.

However the statement "Do not anger" perhaps calls us to a far more profound endeavour: the reorganising of our very thought patterns and emotions so as to avoid the creating of 'anger' in the first place.

"With our thoughts we shape our reality"
.
On perhaps the simplest level, we can begin by exercising more mindfulness - more awareness - in our daily lives, catching ourselves 'in the moment': when we feel the first inklings of the onset of anger in any given situation; making the decision to step back, count to five (or whatever), BREATHE, and let the fledgling sense of anger go.

In this way we can begin to make positive change in our lives.

And of course we can also approach “Let go of anger” from a different (perhaps deeper) perspective.

If the old saying: “Like attracts Like” is true, then perhaps one of the secrets to not becoming angry is to first empty ourselves of all the old 'angers' we still cling to from our past.

.

[Much the same can be said in relation to the second Principle.]

______
1  This is the term used on the Usui Memorial, erected in 1927

2 Which, incidentally, has its own, unrelated, set of 'Five Admonitions'



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