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Naikan ( Japanese 内 観 ) is a Japanese path that is supposed to lead to self-knowledge . The word meaning results from nai - interior and kan - consider. The basis is a quiet and intensive consideration of one's own life story.


Naikan is a Japanese method of looking inside . It combines meditative elements with three simple questions in order to check the participant's previous self-view in the memory of the participant and to help expand or change it through insight and reorientation. The method is independent of culture and is used in numerous countries around the world.

Mode of action and evidence of action

Naikan has a therapeutic , psychological and spiritual effect , which is proven by a large number of experience reports (e.g. in the books "The essence of Naikan" and "Immersion in BEING"). Participants report a spontaneous and lasting resolution of psychosomatic and neurotic disorders.

Further results are mentioned: reconciliation with one's own life story, a deep gratitude towards life, connection with everything that is, a sense of responsibility for the world in its appearances and the desire to give back because one has received. It is important that these changes are not Naikan's teaching content, but arise spontaneously from the inner ethical attitude of the participants.

In addition, various scientific studies prove the effectiveness of Naikan in different areas of application.

  • A study from the 1960s in Japan shows that Naikan the recidivism rate of relapse become offenders by more than half lower (Bindzus, Dieter / Akira Ishii: prison in Japan).
  • In 1995 and 1996, 2 Naikan weeks with 6 voluntary participants each were completed in the Gerasdorf / Lower Austria prison
  • In Lower Saxony, where the method has been offered nationwide in prisons since 2003, the University of Hanover is carrying out an accompanying investigation, of which partial results have already been published (see W. Reiss: “Self-examination behind bars”).
  • A German empirical study in the penitentiary sector (J. Beck, 2012) reports increased self-confidence, more friendliness and open-mindedness of the Naikan graduates. Naikan also increases the responsiveness of detainees to further measures, so "that those who have participated (in Naikan) are better able to get through addiction therapy , for example ".
  • From 2002 to 2006 a Naikan program for schoolchildren took place in a school center in Bremen (see "Naikan in school"). The project was accompanied scientifically.

Basics of Naikan

The Naikan method is very easy to use.

it consists of

  • a conscious, time-limited withdrawal from everyday life (or a conscious break from everyday life) with the goal of a concentrated self-reflection in connection with the 3 Naikan questions,
  • a structured consideration of memories of important caregivers (or important life issues),
  • a neutral , respectful and non-judgmental accompaniment by the Naikan leader.

Naikan questions

The three Naikan questions related to people are:

  1. What has the person I am looking at done for me over a period of time?
  2. What did I do for the person during this period?
  3. What difficulties did I cause the person during this period?

The third question is particularly suitable for recognizing recurring behavior patterns and dissolving them through repeated awareness. All other questions, especially those about the difficulties that a person has caused the participant, are hidden for the time of the Naikan. This ensures that there is a high concentration on the relationship issues of give and take and one's own contributions to difficulties and dilemmas and any attitude of victim or reproach towards others is avoided. The question can equally be applied to topics (e.g. education, occupation, hobbies, etc.), living beings or things.

Meditative contemplation

The retreat creates a basic meditative mood in the participant, which enables him to leave everyday consciousness behind and perceive burgeoning memories with increasing intensity.

Content of consideration

People or topics are viewed in chronological order from the beginning of the relationship to the present day or until the end of the relationship. When a person or a topic has been considered to the end, the participant chooses a further one (s). The choice is free, it is only recommended to look at the basic relationships (mother, father, siblings, grandparents) in the beginning and only move on to today's relationships or topics later. Naikan is very flexible to use.

Exercise duration, location and structure

The classic exercise takes 7 days. However, shorter or longer forms as well as individual days are also offered. For Naikan, the participant goes to a protected and undisturbed place, preferably in a Naikan center or other suitable seminar houses. It is recommended to examine the relationships (or the topic) in sections of three to six years using the three Naikan questions. The observation interval in which the practitioner works alone is between 1 and 2 hours in the classic Naikan.

More Naikan forms

In addition to the already mentioned 7-day Naikan, there are various Naikan exercises to use the method in other situations or to maintain Naikan after visiting a retreat week.

Daily Naikan

The founder of Naikan, Ishin Yoshimoto (1916–1988), emphasizes the value of daily Naikan. Naikan is practiced with a person or a topic every day. The results are recorded in a book, recorded on tape or sent by email to a supervising Naikan leader. In another variant, the three Naikan questions are asked in the following form in the evening compared to the previous day:

  1. Who did something for me today?
  2. Who did I do something for today?
  3. Who did I cause trouble today?

Day Naikan

Many Naikan centers offer Naikan practice for a day. This can either replace the weekly Naikan if it is consistently repeated over a longer period of time at regular intervals. Or it serves to deepen a Naikan experience or to work on topics that were not included during the Naikan week. It can also be used as a reflection opportunity in difficult life situations.

Further developed Naikan forms

Shorter Naikan retreats for 3 or 5 days are also available. One variant is the interval Naikan with splitting of the 7 days into two units with 3 or 4 days and the continuation of the Naikan between the two appointments with an email-supported process. Another special form of the weekly naikan is the so-called jujukinkai ("10 rules"), in which the 5 Buddhist rules (avoidance 1. of killing and violence, 2. taking of what is not given, 3. abuse of the senses, 4. from lies and 5. from the consumption of intoxicating substances) with the help of the three Naikan questions. Kodo-Naikan is an annual program developed for business that contains Naikan and coaching elements.


Ishin Yoshimoto (1916–1988), Japanese businessman and lay preacher, created the Naikan method between 1940 and 1965. On the basis of a deep spiritual experience which he had in 1937, he decided to develop a simple and profound exercise that makes the same knowledge possible for everyone. In order to give everyone access to Naikan, he avoided religious or psychological elements. He founded the first Naikan center in Nara and ran it together with his wife Kinuko until his death in 1988. In 1953, Ishin Yoshimoto offered Naikan for the first time with great success in a Japanese prison in Nara. Since then, Naikan has been used in prisons in Japan, Austria, Germany, South Africa and China. In 1974 the second Naikan center was founded in Gasshoen. There are now about 40 independent Naikan centers in Japan.

In Europe, the pastor Lothar Finkbeiner offered Naikan exercises in the Vechta prison (Lower Saxony, Germany) since the late 1970s. Franz Ritter met Naikan in Japan in 1978 and organized the first public Naikan in Europe. It took place in 1980 at the Buddhist Center in Scheibbs , Lower Austria under the direction of Akira Ishii. The writer and psychologist David Reynolds first ran a Naikan in the United States in 1981. In 1983 the Bonn psychologist Karl-Peter Breuer organized the first weekly Naikan in Germany under the direction of Akira Ishii. In 1985 the first Naikan took place in South Tyrol, 1989 in England, 1992 in Switzerland and 1996 in Spain.

In Asia, apart from Japan, Naikan weeks take place in the Philippines, Taiwan, Nepal, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea. Further Naikan weeks were held in Canada, Australia and Brazil.

In 1986 the first Naikan center outside of Japan was founded with the New World Institute in Lower Austria. In 1988 the first German Naikan center was founded. As a result, Naikan centers are established in Europe and the USA. Naikan centers have also opened in China in the past 10 years.

In Austria Naikan was offered from 1995 to 2011 in the prison for young people in Gerasdorf . Naikan has been offered in all prisons in the state of Lower Saxony since 2003. Other German federal states are also showing interest and have partly held Naikan weeks in prisons. The German pastor Lothar Finkbeiner introduced Naikan to the South African penal system in 2006. Since then, it has been one of the 10 rehabilitation methods that are used in the implementation of the RSA. Naikan also found widespread use in addiction therapy, in Japan, where addiction clinics are increasingly using the method, and since 1986 also in Europe (Erlenhof, Upper Austria and Hof Fleckenbühl , Germany).

International Naikan Association

The International Naikan Association has held an International Naikan Congress every three years since 1991, at which the development of Naikan, new research results and new Naikan suppliers are presented. But the main thing is to experience the wonderful Naikan atmosphere again and again that people spread who have had this unique experience. The fact that these people from all over the world come together peacefully and full of joy shows that Naikan is not a culturally conditioned exercise, but a human heritage that belongs to all of us.

President of the International Naikan Association: Franz Ritter, General Secretary: Akira Ishii

  • The INA was founded in 1991 on the occasion of the first International Naikan Congress in Tokyo.
  • In 1994 the first congress in Europe followed, in Vienna.
  • In 1997 the Rainbow association organized the 3rd INA Congress in Brixen, Italy
  • In 2000 the congress was again hosted in Tokyo.
  • In 2003 he came to Germany, organized by the Naikan Center Tarmstedt.
  • In 2006 the international meeting took place again in Austria, organized by the Neue Welt Institute in southern Lower Austria.
  • In 2009, the ISIS house in Dresden invited to an extraordinary Naikan Congress due to its 20th anniversary.
  • In 2010 the congress took place for the first time on Chinese soil, in Shanghai.
  • In 2013, Dresden was again the venue for the congress.
  • In 2016 the Naikan Center Bavarian Forest organized the congress in his home town.
  • In 2019 the congress took place in Shanghai from September 15 to 16.

German-language Naikan literature

  • David K. Reynolds: The Silent Therapies 1994 Synthesis
  • Franz Ritter: Naikan - The Inner Path Brochure 1997 New World Institute
  • Josef Hartl u. Johanna Schuh: The Naikan method 1998 Ki-Verlag Vienna
  • Akira Ishii, Josef Hartl: The essence of Naikan 2000 Ki Verlag Vienna
  • Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Gerald Steinke: Naikan - reconciliation with oneself 2003 J. Kamphausen
  • Gregg Krech: The power of gratitude: The spiritual practice of Naikan in everyday life 2003 Theseus and 2007 Droemer-Knaur
  • Detlev Bölter: Three questions that change the world 2004 J. Kamphausen
  • Josef Hartl, Helga Hartl, Georg Hartl and Christl Eberle: Cooking in the Naikan 2004 Naikido Center Vienna
  • Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Gerald Steinke: Naikan-Praxisbuch 1 2004 J. Kamphausen
  • Wilhelm Dittschar, Akira Ishii: Naikan in the school 2008 J. Kamphausen
  • Naikan leader network (Ed. Johanna Schuh): Naikan annual companion Peace and strength for every day 2010, 2011, 2012 Books on Demand, Norderstedt
  • Johanna Schuh: Naikan in everyday life: Peace and strength for every day 2012 Books on Demand, Norderstedt
  • Sabine Kaspari: Naikan - The Power of Reconciliation 2012 Gräfe & Unzer Verlag, Munich
  • Johanna Schuh: Naikan - The world of the inside look. Find inner peace and discover yourself 2014
  • Gerburgis A. Niehaus: Three questions & the cappuccino view 2015 Ökotopia-Verlag, Münster
  • Sabine Kaspari, Margit Lendawitsch, Franz Ritter (eds.): Naikan - Immersion in Being. 50 years Naikan method 2015 Books on Demand, Norderstedt
  • Wolfram Reiss (ed.): Self-reflection behind bars, Naikan in prison in Germany and Austria 2016 Tectum Verlag, Marburg
  • Gerald Steinke / Claudia Müller-Ebeling: Naikan - reconciliation with oneself. Kamphausen-Verlag, 2003
  • Gerald Steinke / Claudia Müller-Ebeling: Naikan Practice Book I - Job, School, Family, Pastoral Care, Addiction Help, Prison. Kamphausen Publishing House, 2004
  • Jörg Röttger: Naikan - a way to reconciliation with oneself. Film / DVD. Kamphausen Publishing House, 2005
  • Sabine Kaspari: Naikan in the Art of Peace - Hardcover or paperback 2018

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. David K ​​Reynolds: The Silent Therapies: Japanese Paths to Personal Growth . 1st edition. Synthesis, 1993, ISBN 3-922026-63-X , pp. 67 .
  2. Gregg Krech: The Power of Gratitude: The Spiritual Practice of Naikan in Everyday Life . 1st edition. Theseus, 2003, ISBN 3-89620-212-X , p. 79 .
  3. Sabine Kaspari: Naikan - The Power of Reconciliation: With the Buddhist 3-question method to inner peace . GRÄFE UND UNZER Verlag GmbH, 2012, ISBN 3-8338-2131-0 , p. 18 .
  4. Dieter Bindzus / Akira Ishii: Prison in Japan . Carl Heymanns, 1977, ISBN 3-452-18248-7 .
  5. Josef Hartl, Johanna shoe: The Naikan method . 1st edition. Naikido Center Vienna, 2005, ISBN 978-3-9500885-3-3 , p. 158 .
  6. Wolfram Reiss: Self-Contemplation Behind Bars: Naikan in Prison in Germany and Austria . 1st edition. Tectum Wissenschaftsverlag, 2016, ISBN 978-3-8288-3688-4 .
  7. Wolfram Reiss: Self-Contemplation Behind Bars: Naikan in Prison in Germany and Austria . 1st edition. Tectum Wissenschaftsverlag, 2016, ISBN 978-3-8288-3688-4 , p. 141 ff .
  8. Ishii, Akira., Dittschar, Wilhelm .: Naikan in school: new ways to take responsibility - how children and young people learn to develop compassion . 1st edition ISBN 978-3-89901-143-2 .
  9. Kaspari, Lendawitsch, Ritter: Naikan - Immersion in Being: 50 Years Naikan Method. Find new ways to find yourself . Books on Demand, 2017, ISBN 3-7386-5548-4 , pp. 47 .
  10. Sabine Kaspari, Margit Lendawitsch, Franz Ritter: Naikan - dipping into being: 50 years Naikan method. Find new ways to find yourself . Books on Demand, 2017, ISBN 3-7386-5548-4 , pp. 47 .
  11. Detlev Bölter: Three questions that change the world: The Naikan method in the context of spirituality and psychotherapy . 1st edition. J. Kamphausen, March 15, 2004, p. 79 .
  12. Detailed information about studies on meditation. Retrieved August 15, 2019 .
  13. Sabine Kaspari, Margit Lendawitsch, Franz Ritter: Naikan - dipping into being: 50 years Naikan method. Find new ways to find yourself . 5th edition. Books on Demand, 2017, ISBN 3-7386-5548-4 , pp. 55 .
  14. Johanna Schuh: Naikan in everyday life: Peace and strength for every day . 2nd Edition. Books on Demand, 2016, ISBN 3-8482-0761-3 , pp. 8 .
  15. Ishin Yoshimoto and Naikan: The awakening of basic trust. Retrieved August 15, 2019 .
  16. Naikan - Inside Look. Look inside. Live outward. Retrieved on August 15, 2019 (German).