Traditional Usui Reiki
Much of the early history of Reiki (pronounced Ray-Kee) is not documented. Reiki was originally taught as an oral tradition with very few written documents. Over the course of many years, teachers embellished or added details to their version of the history of Reiki. However, through many combined efforts from various authors and Reiki groups, some of the histories have been recovered.
Before I begin a brief summary of Reiki’s history, I highly suggest reading ICRT’s website at www.reiki.org and reading ‘Reiki For Life’ by Penelope Quest. On top of that, I would like to point out that Mrs. Quest has a U.K. edition that has 100 pages more than the U.S. edition. It can be found on Amazon UK’s website and on her website. This version of the book, in my opinion, gives the best and most detailed version of the real history of Reiki including what we know of the Japanese practice of Reiki.
The following is what I have summarized of Reiki’s history to date.
Mikao Usui (1865-1926) is the founder of the style of Reiki we see here in the United States. As a child, Usui-Sensei was brought up in a Tendai Monastery and was taught in-depth theology on Buddhism. He also taught martial arts and attained a mastership in Menkyo Kaiden and in Ki-Ko. Ki-ko is based on the Chinese form of martial arts and on the energy system known as Qi-Gong (Reiki for Life by Penelope Quest). You can see the roots of Reiki from Qi-gong when comparing the theories of life force energy. Ki (the Japanese term for Universal Energy) and Qi (The Chinese term for Universal Energy) are the same written characters. A great many similarities can also be seen between Qi-gong and Reiki in the practice of dispersing energy.
It is said in the oral traditions of Usui-Sensei’s life that he also studied in China, Europe, and America () to learn sacred texts, which also included Sanskrit Sutras, Christian scriptures, etc (Reiki for Life by Penelope Quest).
On Usui-Sensei’s monument at the Saihoji Temple in Suginami-Ku, Tokyo, it says that after a 21-day fasting meditation on Mount Kurama, he received enlightenment to the practice of Reiki.
“Suddenly on the twenty-first day from the start, he felt a great REIKI over his head, and at the same time as he was spiritually awakened he acquired the REIKI cure. When he tried it on his own body and members’ of his family also, it brought an immediate result on them.” (ICRT Full translation available at http://www.reiki.org/FAQ/HistoryOfReiki.html)
After Usui-Sensei obtained his new found healing practice of Reiki, he thought it best to share his knowledge with the world and not hide it for himself. In April 1922, Usui-Sensei decided to move to Aoyama Harajuku, Tokyo to establish his first Reiki learning center. This center was called Usui Reiki Ryoho - Spiritual Energy Healing Method (Reiki For Life by Penelope Quest).
We now know that Usui-Sensei had many pupils. Of these students, I will focus on Dr. Chujiro Hayashi because of his influence and teachings on the woman who brought Reiki to the West. Dr. Chujiro Hayashi was a naval commander who learned directly from Usui-Sensei. After his teacher’s death, Hayashi-Sensei was said to have opened his own Reiki clinic.
In 1935, Mrs. Hawayo Takata went into Hayashi-Sensei’s clinic for a session. Mrs.Takata was so impressed by the session that she asked Hayashi to teach her Reiki. Although reluctant at first, Hayashi eventually taught her the healing method. When Takata attained her level 2 Reiki training, Takata returned home to Hawaii and opened her own clinic. Hayashi-Sensei traveled to Hawaii to continue her training which allowed Mrs.Takata to attain her mastership in Reiki. By the time Mrs.Takata had passed away in December 1980, she had taught a total of 22 Masters. Thanks to these 22 Masters, Reiki spread to the rest of the world.
However, Mrs.Takata took many liberties when she started teaching Reiki in the west. She had changed many details in Usui-Sensei’s life story and altered the way Reiki was taught.
We now know that in Mrs.Takata’s oral tradition she claimed Usui-Sensei was a Christian priest (not Buddhist). We also know that she simplified the way the hand positions are taught. In the West, Reiki is taught with only 13 hand positions. When William Lee Rand received the original handbook created by Usui-Sensei, he saw that there are actually many more hand positions used for specific illnesses. There is also the major difference between placing your hands on the physical body versus placing your hands just above the body with no touching (the form that Mrs.Takata had taught).
Many people have speculated about Mrs.Takata’s reason for these changes. However, if you considered the time period when she taught, Christianity was more predominant then than it is now. Also touching at the “heart chakra” would not have been acceptable in terms of appropriate behavior. One can see why she made these changes to make Reiki more popular. She was trying to spread the joy of Reiki in the best of circumstances that she could create.
Now that we have a deeper understanding of how Reiki was and is truly taught from Usui-Sensei’s teachings, we can continue these practices with better judgment and better knowledge. Again, I highly suggested you read the books and the websites I suggest and get a fuller understanding of how Reiki came to be.
Today there are many different branches of Reiki that are accepted ways of practicing. I have personally gone through the traditional Usui Reiki training, Karuna Reiki ® training, and now Holy Fire Reiki training.
Mikao-Usui's Monument (1865-1926)
Saihoji Temple in Suginami-Ku, Tokyo
15 August 1865 – 9 March 1926
Founder of Usui Reiki in Japan
Dr. Chujiro Hayashi
15 September 1880 – 11 May 1940
Student of Mikao Usui
Mrs. Hawayo Takata
December 24, 1900 - December 11, 1980
Founder of the
Takata School of Reiki in Hawaii