Jiyū shūkyō (自由宗教) is made up of two Japanese words, each with two Japanese characters. Each character has a distinct meaning.

Ji (自) means oneself. Yū (由) means reason, which is the free element in jiyū Shū (宗) means religion, sect, or denomination Kyō (教) means teaching or doctrine

Jiyū shūkyō was historically translated as “free religion,” which implies that what binds us is also what frees us. But Andrew James Brown’s community likes to use the translation “a free, creative spirituality.”

My own thoughts

Free religion is a dance between doubt and faith. We try to have faith, to trust, to commit, to devote, but our intention is for us to be truly free—to change, listen, and be who we really are. Because we are unique individuals with a measure of freedom bounded by our relationships with our neighbors, society, and the natural world. Our intention is to maximize the amount of freedom given to us without destroying the balance. We flow mindfully. We change mindfully. Our goal is to live in a world where everyone is free to change and listen to their truest self, which allows others to do and preserving the world where all these is possible.

How to begin studying and practicing jiyū shūkyō

There are many ways to begin a study and practice of jiyū shūkyō. There is no one correct way of doing it. However, Andrew J. Brown, who is one of its contemporary pioneers shares that what helped him begin his own journey into jiyū shūkyō is a combination of the following:

  • a practice of non-judgmental listening through seiza

    the most important thing is always to keep listening with an as open-mind and open-heart as possible, both to what’s going on all around us and also to what’s going on in our own head and heart/body. Just beginning a simple practise of Seiza (Quiet Sitting) meditation is, I’m sure, a good and gentle place to begin this kind of non-judgemental listening.

  • slow reading and reflection on Imaoka’s principles of living

    The other helpful exercise is, I think, to meditate on how in your own life you might be able to find ways to affirm Imaoka Shin’ichirō-sensei’s eight statements of faith.

  • slow reading and reflection on the “Selected Writings on Free Religion and Other Subjects”.

    All in all, I genuinely think that holding his eight points in mind, plus a practise of Quiet sitting, along (perhaps) with reading slowly and meditatively through the “Selected Writings on Free Religion and Other Subjects.”

Since jiyū shūkyō is always practiced in the context of community, it is important to be intentional and careful in one’s choice of community. Here is Andrew’s advice to me about joining a spiritual group.

Given your direct, and no doubt very painful, experience with the JWs, getting a strong sense of who you are as a free-religious person before you walk through another community’s doors is really, really important. Without a working, recalibrated compass of your own, you won’t be able truly to tell whether they are genuinely practising a free-religion or just a slightly more liberal version of conventional religion.


I’m playing around possible translation of the word into Filipino. Here are some initial ideas:

  • Malayang pag-uulit
  • Malayang pag-iingat
  • Malayang katapatan
  • Malayang pagpapahalaga
  • Malayang paggalang
  • Malayang pagsamba
  • Malayang pamimintuho


The connection between an embodied practice like walking and an abstract idea like jiyu shukyo would be varied. There is no one way to do it. Experiments are encouraged.

My center of gravity isn’t to help myself and others become better writers but to help myself and others become better people through writing and other methods.

Questions to explore here

  • Does the Philippines need jiyu shukyo?
  • How can Jiyu shukyo be used to walk a Filipino intellectual and spiritual terrain?

Jiyu shukyo and rules

The only way we can be truly free is by binding ourselves with a community. This is the essence of jiyu shukyo, which is different from the stance that the self should be protected at all cost. It is a beautiful concept but one that has to be tested constantly in real life.

I believe that a minimalist rules of conduct could be enough to bind us toward freedom. But the rules or creed is always addressed to the self rather than to the group as a whole. I wonder whether this suggests that Imaoka-sensei trusted the individual to keep this at heart and that their creed doesn’t have to be a written law used to make pronounced judgments or punishments—elaborate ones carried out by judicial committees.

Having faith to the other means trusting that if he or she constantly reads the creed, he or she should be able to internalize it and live it in a way that strengthens the group.