What is Reiki?

Reiki can be defined as a spiritual healing system that is based on principles of Classical Chinese Medicine, Taoism, and Buddhist teachings. It is not a “medical” therapy, or a religion, although it does address our spiritual nature. The system employs a hands-on session practice based on Chi Gong, and a set of affirmations, which in their basic form  from the original translation are:

Today only, do not anger; do not worry

 

Do your work with appreciation

Be kind to people 

Reiki also employs a technique of hands-on chi energy healing known in modern times as medical chi gong, but it is generally far less structured than medical chi gong in the way that it is generally taught. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that Reiki was not meant to be a medical treatment as such, and its origins, and the way it has been passed on precludes the inclusion of a complex treatment system like medical chi gong.

Usui developed Reiki to be a simple system that could easily be taught to others, but one that had a great deal of depth if one were to practice it regularly. In this way, it would promote spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance, and thereby support good health at all levels of being. Many find this to be true today, and Reiki has grown worldwide, and it also has a great deal of variation in the way that it is taught and practiced.

Reiki’s spiritual and philosophical origins go all the way back to ancient China nearly 3000 years ago. Taoism expresses an advanced and structured observation of nature, and is actually the foundation of Classical Chinese Medicine as it exists even today. The mythical Xian in Taoist spiritual cosmology are represented as immortal beings who have evolved to a high spiritual state through union with the Tao (The Way; Source of all Life), and have “supernatural” abilities. The old Chinese character that represents the Xian could be translated in English as “human being of the mountain who can ascend into the heavens”. This would indicate that these beings were at one with spirit and the natural world, and had evolved spiritually to a very advanced state of being. It is interesting to note that the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, had a revelatory experience during which he conceived of Reiki while doing a fasting retreat on a mountain (see history later in this text).

Chinese medicine was introduced into Japan, along with Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, during the fifth and sixth centuries, A.D., where it was totally integrated into the culture. It flourished until the second half of the nineteenth century, when western medicine had taken a dominate position in Japan during a period of reformation that sought to “modernize” Japanese society. During the early twentieth century, the traditional practices, although they were never totally wiped out, began to make a comeback. It was during this period that Reiki came into being as a practice, and became respected and well-known by many in Japan.

Reiki’s History

Mikao Usui was born on August 15, 1865 in the Gifu district of Japan. In 1900 he created a system of energy healing which was rooted in traditional Oriental medicine. This hands-on healing system used a series of basic hand positions, several symbols and a group of affirmations. It was based on ancient Buddhist/Taoist healing energy practices which allowed the practitioner to draw energy and pass it on to the “patient” without being drained in the process.

Usui was sent to a Buddhist monastery while he was very young. It was at that time that he developed an interest in healing. He was never connected to any Christian school and very likely never left Japan to do his research; the libraries in Kyoto were quite extensive. It was his intent to find a way for others to connect on their own to universal healing potential without spending years doing complex exercises and training. He combined his studies in deep practice and academics as well. It is said that he underwent a twenty one day period of cleansing while meditating at Kurama temple in Kyoto at a “power spot”. On the last day of the meditation he received the information he needed to complete the system. The information on this in more detail is varied when one studies different accounts of Reiki. This is true of other aspects of Reiki history as well.

Mikao Usui opened a clinic in Tokyo in 1922. He trained many students; sixteen of them to teacher level. He did not carry the title of “doctor,” but rather “sensei” which means teacher or master. Usui was well known in his field and was considered a pioneer. Usui passed on March 9, 1926 in Fukuyama.

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, M.D., was born in 1878, and took the training from Usui in 1925. Hayashi opened a clinic in Tokyo and developed a more complex set of hand positions that were employed in a clinical setting using several practitioners who worked on one person at the same time.It was Hayashi who introduced the system of degrees which he used as a way of gradually training his students in exchange for working at his clinic for a specified period of time. It usually took about three years for the best students to reach teacher’s level. Hayashi adapted Reiki to better fit a medical model for practice.

Hayashi also trained the woman who was to bring this healing system to the west, Hawayo Takata. Mrs. Takata was cured of a severe illness at Hayashi’s clinic and later persuaded Hayashi to teach her the system. She was trained as a teacher on February 21, 1938.

Hayashi also trained a man named Tatsumi who died on October 3, 1996. Tatsumi kept notes and has allowed translations to be made of them. A small group of people have been active trying to reconstruct Usui’s exact teachings which have been blurred in the process of being passed on; or through deliberate alteration by adding elements from other techniques and systems of belief. My Reiki teacher, Dave King, was fortunate enough to be able to work with Tatsumi some years before Tatsumi passed on. This writing is based on information coming from the efforts to reconstruct the original teachings of Reiki, many of which were lost in translation, and obscured by being blended with other systems of thought, and technique.