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The History of Reiki

Since I’ve seen a lot of misinformation and also talked to a lot more level 1 and 2 Reiki practitioners about their education and attunements recently; I’ve noticed that there isn’t enough out there about Reiki that is actually talking about the history and what Reiki is and how it came into being. So I’m going to just dump a ton of information on you about what Reiki is and basically give you a mini lecture on the histroy that I would my students. 

settle in kiddies

Reiki in the West vs Reiki in the East is vastly different even though they are similar and the energy comes from the same source. Reiki in the West is a bit insane. There are so many “variations” of reiki and to be completely honest I find it offensive to just warp a tradition of energy work that is closed until you get attuned into whatever you want. I am a bit of a traditionalist in this sense and was trained in the Usui Shiki Ryoho system, my lineage is through the system Takata brought from the East to the West (though she bastardized reiki a bit as well, we will get into that more later). So while I think all Reiki is valid, I have a hard time getting behind practitioners of “variation” Reiki who know nothing about the history of Reiki or energy work. You don’t have to know energy work to do Reiki but if you don’t all you are doing is becoming a channel and your healing sessions will not go as far; you need an energy worker basis and general knowledge of how to manipulate and read energy to get the best results in your Reiki sessions. 

The History of Reiki:

The Japanese word Reiki (pronounced, “Ray-Kee”) is often translated as “universal life-force energy”, but a more accurate translation is “Spiritual energy”. Rei is translated as “sacred”, “soul” or “spirit”, the “wisdom and knowledge of all the Universe” or “atmosphere of the Divine.” It means the Higher Intelligence that guides the creation and functioning of the universe, the wisdom that comes from God, the Source, or the Universe. It is highly intuitive, “all-knowing” and as such understands the need for, and the cause of all, problems and difficulties, and how to heal them. Ki  is the life-fource energy which flows through every living thing–plants, animals, humans–and which is present in some form in everything around us, even in rocks and inanimate objects. So Reiki is essentially intuitive/knowledgeable soul or source energy. 

In Japan, the word Reiki can be used to describe any form of healing using spiritual energy, but in the West when we talk about it we are usually referring to the form of healing practice developed by Japanese Buddhist priest, Dr. Mikao Usui (1865-1926).  Dr. Usui spent the last years of his life healing people in Japan before passing his knowledge and teaching on to his students, including Dr. Chujiro Hayashi (1879-1940). After Usui’s death, Hayashi was said to have opened a Reiki clinic called, the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu Kai (Hayashi Spiritual Energy Society).  There is another Organization that exists, that is dedicated to preserving the original teachings of Dr. Mikao Usui called, the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai.(*this information came to light in the late 1990s, as it was previously thought all the Reiki Masters had died in  Japan during WWII)

In 1935 a young woman of Hawaiian/Japanese decent came to the Reiki Clinic from Hawaii, she was supposed to have a major surgery but opted to try Reiki first when relatives urged her to try it. She was Hawayo Takata (1900-1980), she was so impressed with the healing that took place in her that she fully recovered and did not need surgery at all.  She begged to be able to learn Reiki and Hayashi eventually agreed to teach her. She worked in the clinic and lived with his family while undergoing the first 2 levels of training. She returned to Hawaii in 1937 and opened the first Reiki Clinic in the West. Hayashi and his family visited her and before leaving to return to Japan passed her final attunement so she would be able to teach and pass this healing art on to others (in 1938). By the time of her death, after traveling extensively through the US and Canada, and starting to attune level 3/Master level students in the 1970s, she had trained 22 Masters. These 22 Masters are who spread Reiki through out the Western World. After Takata’s death a group of her Master students met in Hawaii in 1982 to discuss how Reiki should progress. Takata’s granddaughter Phyllis Lei Furumoto  was agreed on by most to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and become the next “Grand Master”. Soon after this Dr. Barbara Weber Ray (one of Takata’s Master students) broke away to found her own system of Reiki called, The Radiance Technique, which she later renamed “Real Reiki”. But during the coming together of the Masters, they also compiled their knowledge and devised a more standardized system of teaching; because up till this point all teaching had been Oral for the most part. Students were sometimes allowed to take notes but they were not supposed to write out the symbols and most of what was taught varied. This meeting created the, Western tradition of Usui Reiki, and standardized the way the 4 symbols were taught (though there is still some variations depending on your Master and how they were taught). In 1983 the Reiki Alliance was formed in British Colombia. This organization recognized Phyllis Lei Furumoto as the “Grand Master,” and whose purpose is to support each member as teachers of the Usui System of Reiki. Before 1988, Physllis Furumoto as “Grand Master” was the only Master allowed to train other Masters (before her only, her grandmother, Takata was allowed to train Masters), but at a gathering that year in Fredricksburg she announced that any suitably experienced Master could teach other Masters; leading to an explosion of Reiki Practitioners continuing into today. 

How Reiki Was Discovered; Takata’s Version:

This is the story I was taught (though even then I was like, Yea right! This can’t be right) and the story that Takata told to make Reiki more welcoming to the West and Christians. This is the story that is told in most Western Reiki classes, even to this day:

Dr. Mikao Usui was a learned scholar and Christian Priest who taught at a Seminary (oh but wait…wasn’t Christianity banned in Japan at this time? Yes it was, which is why I call this “history” a story). One day he was asked by a student how Jesus healed with his hands. It is said that this inspired him the rest of his life to find out how Jesus and Buddha had been able to heal with touch.  He was said to have traveled widely and learned other languages in order to research both Christian Scriptures and Buddhist teachings, including Japanese and Sanskrit Sutras. He finally ended up at a Zen Buddhist Monastery where the Abbot there advised him to mediate and fast at the top of a special mountain to find the answer he sought. 

He went to the top of a mountain and meditated and fasted, everyday he would stack a rock to mark the time he had been there, at the end of 21 days he had no answers and was frustrated. As he made his way down the mountain he was struck, in the 3rd eye area, with bubbles of light which had the sacred symbols in them, and he reached enlightenment in that moment. When it was over, despite his weakness after fasting for so long, he rushed down the mountain in his excitement. In doing so he  tripped and injured his foot. When he bent down to hold his toe he found that the bleeding had stopped and the pain went away and he was healed. (this is the first “miracle” of Reiki) He made his way down the mountain and made it to an inn where he asked to be served a lot of food. Reluctantly the inn owner gave him the food, which he ate all of and did not get sick. (the second “miracle”) He then healed the tooth pain of the daughter of the innkeeper by placing his hands on her head. (this is the third and final miracle that proved Reiki’s healing powers) {There are variations on this story/the 3 miracles of Reiki depending on your teacher but the general story is the same} The story goes on that he spent time healing those for free on the streets, but after getting frustrated at seeing the same people over and over who were not trying to help themselves but only seeking a quick fix; he opened a clinic and started to charge for his services to place a worth on the healing he did. 

How Reiki was Discovered; information out of the East:

Some of Usui’s original students (who were well over 100 years old at the time) did survive WWII and have been interviewed but most were unwilling to talk to outsiders/Westerners as the prevailing culture in Japan is to keep sacred information away from outside/Western eyes. We do now know that Usui was born into a Samurai family in Taniai-mura (now Miyama-cho) in Japan on August 15, 1865 and that he began to study Buddhism at the age of 4, when he was sent to the local monastery school run by Tendai Buddhist monks. He studied martial arts from the age of 12–including Aiki Jutsu and Yagyu Ryu, an ancient healing technique that is a combination of mindful targeted breathing, simple flowing movements and restful poses (it is similar to the Chinese martial art and balancing system, Qigong). He also learned meditation and healing there.

He held many jobs in his adult life including; a position as a government officer, a business man, journalist, and for a time he was secretary to the Mayor of Tokyo, and he also did charitable work in prisons. Although he is referred to as a Buddhist priest, in effect he was a lay Tendai priest called a Zaike, so he did lead a normal life with a wife and children. He is said to have studied other forms of Buddhism, including Shingon, Mahayana (Mikkyo) and Zen, as well as Shinto. 

As part of his lifelong study of Buddhism, he would have been working towards Spiritual Enlightenment, and in his memorial confirms that he had an experience of mystical enlightenment on Mount Kurmara near Kyoto. The date is uncertain, as some sources suggest 1922, although 1914 is quoted in some Japanese books seems to be quite possible, as he appears to have begun teaching some aspects of his healing system in 1915 and to have become a widely known as a healing perhaps as early as 1917. (so Reiki has been around roughly 100 years) 

What we do know is that after advice from one of his Buddhist teachers, he decided to undergo shyu gyo, a strict spiritual discipline involving meditation and fasting for 21 days, until he either died or became enlightened. On the last morning of his his fast he experienced, “a great Reiki over his head” (a direct quote from Usui’s memorial), which enabled him to become enlightened, and to acquire the ability to access healing energy (Reiki) and to pass this ability on to others. Usui then spent a few years before his death on March 9, 1926, practicing and teaching his healing system–Usui Reiki Ryoho or Usui Spiritual Energy Healing Method. 

His memorial states, “If Reiki can be spread throughout the world it will touch the human heart and the morals of society. It will be helpful for many people, not only dealing disease, but the Earth as a whole.”


Levels of Reiki:

In the West– there are traditionally 3 levels, though I have talked to others (specifically trained in the UK) that underwent 12 levels of Reiki training, sometimes condensed into 6. 

Level 1: you will learn the history of Reiki, what it is, how to use it, and be attuned to use it. {attunement essentially means having your energy channel connected to the Source of Reiki energy so you can channel it with ease}

Level 2: you should review everything again and you will  learn 3 of the 4 Reiki symbols. You will also receive your second attunement.

Level 3 aka Master level: you will receive your final attunement and the master symbol, and you will learn how to teach and pass attunements yourself. 

Recently there has been an upsurgence of workshops that teach all three levels in one weekend course. This is too much energy too quickly in my opinion and you really don’t learn everything. You should be allowing at least 21 days between level 1 and level 2 attunements; 3 days for the energy to clear out and integrate each of the 7 major energy centers. From level 2 to level 3 you should allow at least 6 months for the energy to clear out and integrate with your systems. And after your Master or level 3 attunement this will be a constant process for the rest of your life. 

In the East–in the Usui tradition reiki is taught based off the 3 Pillars of Reiki, Gassho, Reiji-Ho, and Chiryo. And does include 3 main levels of learning; these are Shoden, Okuden, and Shinpiden. But there is a lot more hands on learning and you are expected to apprentice and come to small reiki meetings where students would receive Reiju (empowerments, basically mini attunements).

Shoden: The purpose of this level is to learn to sense Ki, cultivate Ki, and use this knowledge to ground and heal the self. When proficient in all the aspects of this level they would be invited to progress to Okuden.

Okuden: is divided into 2 parts. Okuden-Zenki and Okuden-Koki, the student only progresses to the second level when the teacher felt they were ready. This level is about strengthening students’ ability to channel. Okuden-Zenki focuses on a combination of meditation and cleansing techniques. Okuden-Koki focuses on a method of releasing toxins and teaches ways of Reiki through breathing and sending it with the eyes. 

Shinpiden: the purpose of this level is to focus on furthering personal spiritual development and learning how to pass on the system of reiki to others. Though very few students are committed to this or make it to this point as the above can take years/a life time and only the most committed  and experienced students are asked if they want to progress this far.

There is mention of a further commitment that can be made after this level called, Shihan, which means teacher, and they would be expected to make a life long commitment to the the Reiki Journey. 

Since the late 1990s we’ve slowly been getting more information out of the East on the Reiki tradition there and I hope one day to visit a clinic and study there. The Reiki traditions in the east are more focused and require one to place a greater commitment to Reiki in their life than the Western tradition does. It also requires apprenticeship and longer periods of time between degrees (levels). The main difference besides teaching methods is the focus on spiritual growth and meditations as well as it being an apprentice based learning system, where you might have that some in the West it is not the norm any more. 

{sources, x, x}

So this is the basic history of Reiki which is roughly 100 years old! I hope you enjoyed this information dump. Feel free to comment or contact me for more information or if you have questions (ps: this is not all the info but this is a good basis for those who are interested in Reiki and it’s history)

I will be making another post on, what you can do with Reiki/how to use it.

PNWS Character Queer Headcanons

I don’t make the rules, these just are canon.

Alex Reagan: Pan as they come. She’s got ex girlfriends and boyfriends.

Richard Strand: Repressed bisexual who’s struggling with his attractions to Alex and Nic.

Amalia Chenkova: Pansexual and polyamorous. Basically everyone who meets her falls in love with how cool she is.

Simon Reese: Everyone’s favorite morally ambiguous ace cinnamon roll.

Coralee Strand: Demisexual biromantic who happened to fall in love with the man she was ordered to marry.

Charlie Strand: Badass lesbian who isn’t taking any of your shit.

Nic Silver: Repressed bisexual who is still coming to terms with the fact that he’s in love with Geoff van Sant.

MK: Asexual panromantic polyamorous badass bitch at your service.

Geoff van Sant: Flagrant bisexual who at this point is becoming Nicsexual.

Cameron Ellis: Polyamrous gay and lusting after Nic Silver hard.

Carly Parker: Trans lesbian who’s been in love with her best friend Yumiko for years.

Yumiko Takata: Aromatic pansexual brilliant woman who gets what she want.

Jones: Aroace hacker BAMF.

“Different Angles”
Encaustic objects, Takata Takeya
Ceramics, Ishihara Yoshimitsu
「異なる角度」
絵画オブジェ、高田竹弥
陶芸、石原祥充