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A Rainbow of Spirituality

Reiki - Detailed History

What is the History of Reiki?

Dr. Usui started a Reiki organization in Japan soon after rediscovering Reiki. He was the first president. After he died, he was followed by a succession of presidents: Mr. Ushida, Mr. Iichi Taketome, Mr. Yoshiharu Watanabe, Mr. Toyoichi Wanami, Ms. Kimiko Koyama and the current successor to Dr. Usui as of 1998 is Mr. Kondo. Contrary to what has been said by some in the west, there is no "lineage bearer" or "Grandmaster" in the system of healing started by Dr. Usui, only the succession of presidents listed above. While Dr. Hayashi was a respected Reiki master, he was never in charge of the Usui system of Reiki. Reiki is a generic word in Japan, and is used to describe many types of healing and spiritual work. It is not exclusive to the system of healing based on Dr. Usui's method. The system of healing that evolved from Dr. Usui's method is called the Usui System of Natural Healing or Usui Shiki Ryoho.

Reiki in the West

After coming to the west, the Usui System of Natural Healing has evolved over time. In its current state, it is much more organized and structured than the simple, flexible, intuitive method practiced by Dr. Usui. The following is a description of the evolution of the Usui System of Reiki.

During his mystical experience on Mt. Kurama, Dr. Usui received the ability to do Reiki treatments, the Reiki symbols and the ability to pass Reiki on to others. Later he added the Reiki Ideals and the idea that one needs to receive compensation for a treatment. Dr. Hayashi added the standard hand positions, the three degrees and t heir attunement processes. Mrs. Takata added the fee structure previously mentioned. The required waiting periods between classes were added by several of Mrs. Takata's Masters after she passed on.

After Mrs. Takata's transition, a few teachers began making changes in the way they taught Reiki. Most of the changes were beneficial, and included the addition of knowledge and healing skills the teachers had learned from other systems or had acquired from inner guidance. However, some changes were restrictive, making it more difficult for students to progress. Some took the Third Degree and divided it into several small parts, calling each new part a new Degree and charging additional money. Often, the fact that they had modified the Usui system was not mentioned and when their students became teachers, they began teaching what they thought was pure Usui Reiki when in fact it was not. In this way, many varieties of Reiki have developed with some thinking they have the only authentic version of Reiki when actually what they are teaching is a modified form.

The editors of this FAQ and The International Center for Reiki Training which provided much of the source material for this FAQ support all Reiki schools which adhere to the original spirit of Reiki. See our Purpose and Philosophy and The Reiki Ideals - The Ethical Principles of Reiki.

Ancient Origins

Speculation based on knowledge of other ancient healing systems has led to a plausible hypothesis that may shed some light on the pre-Usui origins of Reiki. There is a Tibetan Buddhist healing technique called the Medicine Buddha. It involves the laying-on of hands similar to Reiki. The ability to do Medicine Buddha healing is transmitted to the student through an empowerment given by the teacher similar to a Reiki attunement. There are other spiritual lineage's in Tibetan Buddhism involving the transmission of ability or value through empowerments. Since Tibetan Buddhism is the only form of Buddhism that uses empowerments, it is likely that the Reiki Dr. Usui rediscovered was formerly a Tibetan technique that had been lost. It is known that a spiritual lineage of this type may stop due to the failure of the teacher to pass it on. The lineage may then resume hundreds or thousands of years later when a monk or spiritual seeker receives instruction and empowerment during a mystical experience. Perhaps this is what happened to Dr. Usui. Perhaps he had been a Reiki Master in a past life and this gave him the determination to seek the healing power again. Perhaps the lineage had come to an end only to be started again when Dr. Usui's eiki was reactivated during his mystical experience.

The Development of Usui Reiki

The following three passages trace the story of Reiki as researched by William Lee Rand. A more detailed explanation can be found in his book, Reiki, The Healing Touch.

Dr. Mikao Usui

Dr. Mikao Usui, or Usui Sensei as he is called by his students in Japan, is the founder of the Usui System of Reiki. He was born August 15, 1865 in the village of Yago in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture, Japan. It is thought that he entered a Tendai Buddhist school on or near Mt. Kurama ("horse saddle mountain") at age four. He also studied kiko, the Japanese version of qigong, which is a health and healing discipline based on the development and use of life energy. The young Usui found that these healing methods required the practitioner to build up and then deplete his own life energy when giving treatments. He wondered if it were possible to do healing work without depleting one's own energy. He went on to study in Japan, China and Europe and ended up spontaneously receiving Reiki during a meditation practice on Mt. Kurama.

Usui Sensei had an avid interest in learning and worked hard at his studies. He traveled to Europe and China to further his education. His curriculum included medicine, psychology, and religion as well as fortune telling, which Asians have long considered to be a worthy skill. It is thought that he was from a wealthy family, as in Japan only the wealthy could afford to send their children to school. Eventually he became the secretary to Pei Gotoushin, head of the department of health and welfare who later became the Mayor of Tokyo. The connections Usui Sensei made at this job helped him to become a successful businessman. Usui Sensei was also a member of the Rei Jyutu Ka, a metaphysical group dedicated to developing psychic abilities.

In 1914 Usui's personal and business life was failing. As a sensitive spiritualist, Usui Sensei had spent much time meditating at power spots on Mt. Kurama where he had received his early Buddhist training. So he decided to travel to this holy mountain, where he enrolled in Isyu Guo, a twenty-one-day training course sponsored by the Tendai Buddhist Temple located there. We do not know for certain what he was required to do during this training, but it is likely that fasting, meditation, chanting and prayers were part of the practice. In addition, we know there is a small waterfall on Mt. Kurama where even today people go to meditate. This meditation involves standing under the waterfall and allowing the waters to strike and flow over the top of the head, a practice which is said to activate the crown chakra. Japanese Reiki Masters think that Usui Sensei may have used this meditation as part of his practice. In any case, it was during the Isyu Guo training that the great Reiki energy entered his crown chakra. This greatly enhanced his healing abilities and he realized he had received a wonderful new gift - the ability to give healing to others without depleting his own energy!

Please refer to Reiki, The Healing Touch, by William Lee Rand for a detailed description of Reiki and how Dr. Usui rediscovered it.

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi

Dr. Hayashi was a retired naval officer. He received the Reiki Master initiation from Dr. Usui about 1925 at the age of 47.

Up to this point, the Usui system of healing consisted of the energy itself, the symbols, the attunement process and the Reiki ideals. This was what Dr. Usui had received during his mystical experience on Mt. Kurama. Dr. Hayashi went on to develop the Usui system of healing. He opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo and kept detailed records of the treatments given. He used this information to create the standard hand positions, the system of three degrees and their initiation procedures.

Hawayo Takata
Reiki comes to the West.

Hawayo Takata was born at dawn on December 24th, 1900, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Her parents were Japanese immigrants and her father worked in the sugar cane fields. She worked very hard as she was growing up. She eventually married the bookkeeper of the plantation where she was employed. His name was Saichi Takata and they had two daughters. In October of 1930, Saichi died at the age of thirty-four leaving Mrs. Takata to raise their two children. In order to provide for her family, she had to work very hard with little rest. After five years she developed severe abdominal pain, a lung condition and had a nervous breakdown.

Soon after this, one of her sisters died and it was the responsibility of Hawayo to travel to Japan where her parents had moved to deliver the news. She also felt she could receive help for her health in Japan. She took a steamship and was accompanied by her sister-in-law. After informing her parents of the death of her sister, she entered a hospital. It was found that she had a tumor, gallstones and appendicitis. After resting several weeks, she was ready for the needed operation.

On the operating table, just before the surgery was to begin, Hawayo heard a voice. The voice said, "The operation is not necessary. The operation is not necessary." She had never heard a voice speak to her like this before. She wondered what it meant. The voice repeated the message a third time even louder. She knew she was wide awake and had not imagined the voice. It was so unusual, yet so compelling that she decided to ask the doctor. She got off the operating table, wrapped a sheet around herself and asked to speak to the doctor.

When the doctor finally came, she asked if he knew of any other way that her problems could be helped. he doctor knew of Dr. Hayashi's Reiki clinic and told Hawayo about it. This was something she wanted to try.

At the Reiki clinic, she began receiving treatments. She had never heard of Reiki before and did not know what it was. Using their Reiki hands the practitioners could sense what was wrong with Mrs. Takata. Their diagnosis very closely matched the doctor's at the hospital. This impressed her and gave her confidence in what they were doing.

Two Reiki practitioners would treat her each day. The heat from their hands was so strong that she thought they were using some kind of equipment. She looked around, but saw none. Seeing the large sleeves of the Japanese kimono one of the practitioners was wearing, she thought she had found the location of the equipment. She grabbed the sleeves, but found nothing. The startled practitioner wanted to know what she was doing and when she explained, he began to laugh. Then he told her about Reiki and how it worked.

Mrs. Takata received daily treatments and got progressively better. In four months, she was completely healed. Impressed with the results, she wanted to learn Reiki. However, it was explained that Reiki was Japanese and that it was intended to stay in Japan. It could not be taught to an outsider.

Mrs. Takata talked to the surgeon at the hospital and convinced him to ask Dr. Hayashi to allow her to learn Reiki. Since Dr. Hayashi wanted to teach Reiki to another woman besides his wife, and since Mrs. Takata was so persistent, he decided that she should be the one. In the Spring of 1936, Mrs. Takata received First Degree Reiki. She worked with Dr. Hayashi for one year and then received Second Degree Reiki.

Mrs. Takata returned to Hawaii in 1937. She was soon followed by Dr. Hayashi and his daughter who came to help establish Reiki in Hawaii. In the Winter of 1938, Dr. Hayashi initiated Hawayo Takata as a Reiki Master. She was the thirteenth and last Reiki Master Dr. Hayashi initiated.

Between 1970 and her transition on December 11, 1980, Mrs. Takata initiated twenty-two Reiki Masters. Below is a list of the Reiki Masters she initiated. This is the list she gave to her sister before she passed through transition.

    * George Araki
    * Barbara McCullough
    * Beth Grey
    * Ursula Baylow
    * Paul Mitchell
    * Iris Ishikura (deceased)
    * Fran Brown
    * Barbara Weber Ray
    * Ethel Lombardi
    * Wanja Twan
    * Virginia Samdahl
    * Phyllis Lei Furumoto
    * Dorothy Baba (deceased)
    * Mary McFaden
    * John Gray
    * Rick Bockner
    * Bethel Phaigh (deceased)
    * Harry Kuboi
    * Patricia Ewing
    * Shinobu Saito
    * Kay Yamashita (Takata's Sister)
    * Barbara Brown 

The original twenty-two teachers have taught others. In the decade since Mrs. Takata experienced transition, Reiki has spread rapidly in the West. It is now practiced throughout North and South America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world. There are now an estimated 50,000 Reiki Masters with as many as 1,000,000 people practicing Reiki throughout the world. 

Reiki symbols

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