Respect Your Elders: How the Japanese Belief in Respecting Your Elders Influences Reiki

Respect your elders is taught to everyone in Japan from a young age. Usui Mikao grew up in Japan and his culture influenced how he taught Reiki. 

“Coming from an Asian culture, I was always taught to respect my elders, to be a better listener than a talker.” Lisa Ling

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly…” Leviticus 19:32, Respect Your Elders scripture.

Why is Respecting Your Elders So Important in Japan

From the time they are young it is engrained into Japanese children to value family. They are also taught to respect your elders and strangers. 

children in school

When they are in their teens they learn a style of speech known as Keigo. It transforms the way they speak to a much more formal and respectful way. They use this form of speech when they address teachers, professors and elderly people. 

By the time Japanese children become teens they have learned to honer the elderly. They view them as wise and experienced. 

On busses in Japan they have special seats for the elderly. If a youth is sitting in one of these seats when an older person boards the bus they are expected to get up and give the person the seat. They don’t do this begrudgingly. They do it with great respect for the elderly person. 

One of the main reasons everyone in Japan shows so much respect to each other is the Shinto religion. Only about 70 percent of Japanese people practice Shintoism, but the majority of them adhere to its customs. These customs teach them that they are are too honor family. They also teach them to respect the environment and the spirits that exist in it.

Shintoism also teaches that everyone fundamentally is good. That when people do bad things it’s because of the influence of evil spirits. 

When you believe that people you come into contact with are good being respectful of them is easier. 

man bowing with respect

Most everyone who visits Japan will tell you that the people there are incredibly kind to each other. This kindness is a direct result of their deep respect for each other.

Japan has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. Many believe this is because they place such value on their elderly.

The 5 Reiki Principles

We now have a bit of insight into the culture that the founder of Reiki, Usui Mikao, grew up in. 

This helps us understand the origins of the 5 Reiki Principles better.   

 Just for today,

  1. I will not be angry
  2. I will not worry
  3. I will be grateful
  4. I will do my work honestly
  5. I will be kind to all living things

The principle “I will be kind to all living things” is sometimes replaced with “I will honor my parents, teachers and elders”.  This variation depends on the Reiki lineage a practitioner was instructed in.

Reiki practitioners give homage to their teachers and masters of the practice. They do so out of gratitude for the wisdom and guidance that has been passed down to them. Depending on their spiritual beliefs they may also reach out to them while they pray

Sometimes Respect Your Elders is Not Possible

The Reiki principles can be challenging. They are intended to help us grow.

It is understandable that at times there are going to be people in our lives who have grievously harmed us. People we should of been able to trust and they violated that trust. 

These people may of been elder family members. They may of been in places of leadership at a religious institution or work place.

The idea of respecting or honoring these individuals can be inconceivable. 

If you are someone who has been grievously harmed by another person and is struggling with the ramifications of it, I implore you to seek council with a qualified professional.

Benefits of Expressing Respect 

The majority of people genuinely want to have a positive influence on others. 

Showing respect helps you as an individual feel better about yourself. More than that the recipients of your respect most times will appreciate the gesture. 

When someone smiles and thanks you for your kindness it feels gratifying. We want to feel like we are good people and being respectful of others is one way we can do that.

The Golden Rule

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule

Teachings like this are a part of many of the world’s religions and spiritual practices.

  1. Judaism: That which is hateful to you do not do to another. 
  2. Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  3. Islam: None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.
  4. Hinduism: One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. 
  5. Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
  6. Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbors loss as your own loss.
  7. Confucianism: That which you do not desire, do not do to others.

The idea of not hurting other people but uplifting them clearly is a universal teaching. 

Treating others the way you want to be treated is a wonderful way to be respectful of other people. 

Ways to Show Respect to Elders, Parents, Teachers, and Everyone

hand shake

Showing respect to people isn’t hard to do. That being said it does at times take some conscious effort. 

Here are some ways you can show people respect and let them know that they are appreciated.

  1. The way you greet them. Different cultures have varying ways you do this. A firm handshake, a kiss on the cheek, a hug, or bowing. If it’s a parent that you care deeply for a hug shows them you love them.
  2. Pick up the phone and give them a call. Elderly people usually prefer to hear your voice over receiving a text.
  3. Show genuine interest in their views and opinions. 
  4. Ask them for advice. This helps people feel valued and appreciated.
  5. Parents love to know what is going on in their children’s lives. Touch base with them from time to time and keep them up to date. 
  6. Hold the door for them.
  7. Visit with them. If they are advanced in years cherish every moment you have with them. 
  8. Be respectful in the way you speak with them. 
  9. Use titles such as Mom, Dad, Aunt, or Grandpa.
  10. Invite them to meals. This can be at your home or at a restaurant. Pick up the tab if you can afford to do so.
  11. Help them carry their groceries.  
  12. Tell them you appreciate them, and give them examples why. 
being kind

Final Thoughts

While not every society takes being respectful quite as serious as the Japanese do, we can learn some things from them. We have discussed why is it important to respect your elders.

Be kind. Be appreciative. Be thoughtful. Treat others the same way you want to be treated.

“Those who respect the elderly pave their own road toward success” African Proverb

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