Reiki (Pronounced Ray-Key) is a Japanese word meaning Universal Life Energy, an energy, which is all around us.
Reiki is the Name given to a system of natural healing which evolved in Japan from the experience and dedication of Dr Mikao Usui (d. 1926). Dr Usui was inspired to develop this healing system from ancient teachings after many years of study, research and meditation. He spent the rest of his life practising and teaching Reiki.
Today Reiki continues to be taught by Reiki Masters who have trained in the tradition passed down from Master to student.
There is no belief system attached to Reiki, so anyone can receive or learn to give a Reiki Treatment, the only prerequisite, is the desire to be healed. In the west Reiki has become known as the word describing the Usui system of natural healing.
This form of energy healing is now increasingly recognised for its ability to heal on all levels (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) and promote total holistic well being.
It energises and heals the body, reduces stress and works in conjunction with other healthcare and medical treatments.
Modern day Reiki is widely believed to have been discovered, or more appropriately re-discovered, by Dr Mikao Usui in the 1920's, following many years of research learning and searching for answers to questions, about just how laying on of hands resulted in healing.
For years the only story known in the West, of Dr Usui's life, was the oral story told by Mrs Hawayo Takata to her students, which became the foundation belief of the history of Reiki in the West.
Here is a summary of some of the high points of Mrs Takata's story of Dr Usui's life: Dr Usui was the principal of the Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan and also a Christian preacher and missionary. One day one of his students asked him if he could duplicate the healing by laying on of hands which the bible describes was done by Christ.. Dr Usui replied he could not. Thereupon, resigned his position at the university to travel to the United States to receive further Christian Training at the University of Chicago in the hope of learning this healing skill described in the Bible.
After studying seven years in the U.S and discovering American Christians had no idea about Christs healing hands either, he began studying other philosophies and religions, including Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism. He read a passage in the Buddhist Texts about the Buddha healing by laying on hands and decided to return to Japan and see what the Buddhists there might know.
After a few years of studying in a Japanese Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, where he was befriended by the wise head monk who became his mentor, Dr Usui has not found his answer. He then moved on to study in china with the Chinese Buddhists but came to the same conclusion as he had in Japan, that they did not have the answers he sought either.
Realizing many original Buddhist text were written in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, he decided to learn that language so that he might study those ancient Buddhist Sanskrit writings directly, rather than using translated documents. (some stories have him in India for this). After diligent study of Sanskrit, Dr Usui found a *Sutra which explained hot to do the laying on of hands, although it did not contain instructions as to how to activate the energy
( *A citation for this inscription is never included in any version the story, by the way.)
Dr Usui was inspired to return to the Zen Temple in Kyoto and talk to his mentor, the senior Monk, about what to do about the activating the energy. Through further mediation he was guided to go to the Holy Mount Kori-yama (Kurama), which was near Kyoto, and follow the formula given in the *Sutra. This involved meditation, mantra, devotion to helping others and spiritual and physical cleansing.
And so he journeyed to the mountain where he purified his body with fasting and meditation and mantra, in an effort to follow the formula and make contact with the highest power. in the hope of being given the answer to his quest - the knowledge about how to give healing.
He placed 21 stones in front of his mediation area, one of which he would discard each morning as he awakened, before the sun rose. He discarded the last stone and a beam of light appeared from far off in the East. As it drew closer, so its brightness intensified and Dr Usui's fear increased to the point he wanted to run away. apparently, self talk said "you have searched for 21 years and meditated and fasted for 21 days. You have asked me for Enlightenment and confirmation and now you want to run away from it? No, if this light is for me, I accept the Enlightenment.
The light became very bright and appeared to have an intelligent conciousness. It struck him in the centre of the forehead, which almost took him off the floor. initiating his third eye. He then saw beautiful coloured bubbles each containing different holographic Sanskrit characters that he had uncovered in his learnings. As he thought about the bubble, so he was attuned to that Reiki symbol and received the knowledge accompanying it. This would appear to be how Dr Usui received his attunements.
He then left the mountain fully energised and excited, despite being fated for 21 days, wanting to return to the Zen Monk, to share what has happened to him. As he left the mountain, he experienced three miracles.
- He stubbed his toe walking, sat down and instinctively put his hands to his injured toe. His hands heated up and his toe healed.
- At the bottom of the mountain he had a full hot meal in a house where pilgrims were served - he had no discomfort, even though he had just fasted for 21 days.
- The woman serving his food had toothache - he placed his hands on the side of her face and her toothache disappeared.
His fourth miracle took place at the monastery where he found the head Monk to be in bed with an arthritic attack - until Dr Usui healed him. Dr Usui named this healing energy Reiki and spent a few years in the slums of Kyoto working with the beggars of the city. He gave them free healing and sent them to the monastery for work as a gesture of gratitude for their healing. He became disillusioned when he realised that although healed, many of them returned to the slums because it was easier for them to live as beggars, than it was to work. Their life as beggars meant that they did not have to take responsibility for anything or anyone, including themselves. He was again greeted in Spirit by those who had met him on Mount Kori-yama and gave him the gift of healing the Spirit and of the realisation that the person receiving healing has a responsibility in the healing process. Dr Usui had done the opposite to the Buddhists and had focused his attention on healing the body and not the spirit. He was given the Five Spiritual Principles of Reiki, which created significant changes in Dr Usui's work:
- He had been giving healing away without the recipient being required to take any responsibility.
- There had been no energy exchange for his services.
- The new teachings focused on the integration of spiritual and physical aspects of Reiki energy.
Following this , Dr Usui went around Japan and gave healing to those who wanted it. he started the Reiki lineage by initiating about 2000 students including, to the best of our knowledge, 16 whom he attuned as Masters. One of these was Dr Churjiro Hayashi.
Parts of this story surely are myth. Significant efforts by Western Reiki Masters in the 1990's were made to verify Dr Usui's Christian connection.
No verification of his Christian teaching position in Japan or his theological studies in Chicago in the United States has been unearthed.
However membership in a Kyoto Zen temple has been verified, and the photograph above, apparently shows him wearing either a Zen or Taoist robe. Whether he was a full-time or part-time monk is still debated amongst Western researchers. It is known he was involved in a family business of some sort, but the exact nature is, as yet unknown.
A memorial stone next to his grave in Tokyo has recently been discovered by Westerners although it has been known to Japanese Reiki People for some time. Miraculously, the graveyard survived the bombings of Tokyo in World War II. The inscription on the memorial stone is now known to have been written by a close friend of Dr Usui's shortly after Dr Usui's passing in 1926. The memorial stone makes no reference to Dr Usui's Christian connection, but does speak of his scholarly abilities. Enigmatically the stone states " he travelled to several Western countries and china to study." The inscription mentions the 21 day mountain top fast and the epiphany experience without going into detail.
The stone notes, Dr Usui opened a Reiki Clinic in Tokyo in 1922 and performed fine healing works the following year, when many people were injured in a serious earthquake. By 1925, the stone's inscription tells us , the clinic was so busy it was expanded to a new location on the outskirts of Tokyo. The next year Dr Usui died of a stroke at age 62. He was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
He is said to have trained approximately 2000 people in Reiki, and left behind a group of Reiki Instructors (Masters).
A non-profit making organization he founded to promote Reiki in Japan is still active to this day, although so far the organization has shown little interest in having close contact with Reiki people outside of Japan.
Mrs Hawayo Takata
Mrs Hawayo Takata’s Reiki style is perhaps the most well-known and wide spread system of Reiki in the world today. Being a student of Hayashi, Mrs. Takata brought her adapted system of Reiki to America in the beginning of the 1970’s and during a 10 year period, taught 22 western students to the teacher level of her system.
The 22 teachers taught by Takata include: Dorothy Baba, Ursula Baylow, Rick Bockner, Patricia Bowling Ewing, Barbara Brown, Fran Brown, Phyllis Furumoto, Beth Gray, John Gray, Iris Ishikuro, Harry Kuboi, Ethel Lombardi, Barbara McCullough, Mary McFadyen, Paul Mitchell, Shinobu Saito, Bethel Phaigh, Virginia Samdahl, Wanja Twan, Barbara Weber Ray, Kay Yamashita, and George Araki.
Many of these students went on to prolifically teach Reiki, notably, Phyllis Furumoto (The Reiki Alliance), Barbara Weber Ray (The Radiance Technique) as well as many others. As a result of these teachers and the others that followed, Reiki spread globally within a few short years. Today there are literally millions of Reiki practitioners world-wide and their teachings are largely based on what was passed on from Mrs. Takata.
The following is a brief account of the life of Mrs. Takata.
Hawayo Kawamura* (*her maiden name), was born on December 25th 1900 in Hanamaula, Kauai, Hawaii. In 1917 she married her husband, Saichi Takata. They had two daughters, one named Alice Takata-Furumoto, who later had a daughter named Phyllis Furumoto.
Following the death of her husband in 1930 and then her sister in 1935, Hawayo Takata decided to go to Japan to visit her parents. During these years she worked many long hours to cover her grief and to provide for her family and as a result, her health began to suffer.
Whilst in Japan she began treatment for her health problems and it was subsequently determined that she would require an operation. Just before her operation she heard the voice of her dead husband, saying that the operation was not necessary and that there was another way. This prompted her to speak with her doctor of alternative treatments and he referred her on to Hayashi’s Reiki Clinic. Hawayo Takata received daily treatments at this clinic for a period of four months and during this time her symptoms completely abated.
Hawayo Takata then took Reiki training (Shoden) with Hayashi on December 10th, 1935. She trained with Hayashi for a little over one year. In 1937, Mrs Takata received the second level in Hayashi’s system (Okuden). Shortly after this, she returned to Hawaii. A few weeks later, Hayashi visited Mrs. Takata with his daughter and stayed until February 1938. During this time Hayashi Sensei officially made Mrs. Takata a Reiki teacher and bestowed the Shinpiden level upon her.
One should note, that the title ‘Reiki Master’ was not issued by Hayashi or by Dr. Usui. Nor was Mrs. Takata announced as Hayashi’s only successor. On May 1940, Chujiro Hayashi died. Mrs. Takata was Hayashi’s 13th attuned teacher of Reiki and it is understood that Hayashi taught over 14 students to the teacher level. It is important to note that both Dr. Usui and Dr. Hayashi both issued Reiki manuals and allowed their students to take notes to record their classes for prosperity's sake. This differs from the modern view held by many teachers of the Takata tradition that Reiki was an oral tradition.
Between 1940 and 1970, Mrs. Takata ran several Reiki clinics and taught many classes in Hawaii. She later retired from teaching until the early 1970’s where she began teaching Reiki in the United States. In 1976 she trained her first four students as Reiki teachers, these were: Virginia Samdahl, John Gray, Ethel Lombardi, and Barbara McCullough.
In December of 1979, Mrs. Takata made her transition. She had trained 22 teachers in what she termed as the Usui System of Natural Healing or Usui Shiki Ryoho. At this time Takata’s teachers were of the understanding that Mrs. Takata was the only living successor of the Reiki tradition and that all of Usui’s and Hayashi’s students and teachers had either died prior to or during the Second World War.
It was also understood by these teachers, that what Mrs. Takata had taught them was exactly the same in practice as Hayashi and Usui’s Reiki. This was also regarded as being the same in practice as her style. Based on this understanding, the belief in this would strongly influence the way Reiki was taught in America between the late 70’s until approximately 1993. Until this time, knowledge of a Japanese style or other separate lineages of Reiki was largely unknown to Western Reiki practitioners.
Although Mrs. Takata’s system of Reiki has since been discovered to be significantly different to her predecessors, much gratitude and acknowledgement is recognized. For the merit shared as a result of Takata’s actions, has had far reaching benefits to humanity and perhaps without her intervention, the system of Reiki may have to this day remained unknown, bar a select few in Japan’s sacred Islands.
Dr Chujiro Hayashi
Dr Hayashi has played 2 important parts in Western Reiki. Number one, is that he is probably the originator of the hand position system used here in the West. Number two, is that he initiated Mrs Takata to Reiki Master, which brought Reiki to the West.
An ex-navel Officer in the Japanese Navy and a Naval Doctor who graduated Navy School in December 1902. He started his Reiki training with Usui Sensei in 1925, 47 years of age. It is believed that he was one of the last Reiki Masters trained by Dr Usui.
Following his first training he left the Usui School and started a small clinic in Tokyo named " Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu-kai", which had 8 beds and 16 healers. Practitioners worked in pairs of two to a bed giving treatments to patients.
Hayashi originally had seven to eight hand positions that covered the upper body only. These positions are based on the Eastern traditional healing methods (such as Chinese Medicine) that the "body" is the head and torso, the limbs are considered "external" . When treating these positions, which cover the major energy centre's (acupressure points), the energy with flow, not only through the body but also to the arms and legs (using meridians). Therefore it is only necessary to treat the head and torso, in order to treat the entire body and mind.
Usui Sensei used head positions only, then treated any problem area on the body. He also gave additional positions for treating specific conditions.
It seems that Hayashi may have adopted further hand positions used in the Western world. These hand positions cover the whole body, giving a better overall flow of energy around and through the body.
Dr Hayashi compiled his own 40 page manual on how to use the hand positions for certain ailments. This manual may have been given to his students. During his work with Reiki he initiated about 17 Reiki Masters including Mrs Takata.