The history of Reiki
The history of reiki differs amongst many books, as little is known about Dr. Usui and the full history of reiki. Reiki, initially an oral tradition, was passed down from teacher to student, which has led to several myths and variations in its origins. I believe it is important to look at how reiki evolved through the reiki lineage and how it was adapted to the needs of the students rather than a one-size-fits-all system.
The system of reiki contains many different aspects, which are seemingly deceptive in that they appear easy to the eye but require practice to feel the meaning of them.
By delving into the history of Reiki, we can bring more to our awareness:
- The reiki principles, the foundation of the system of Reiki, help bring reiki awareness into everyday life.
- The practice of Reju and how it came to be called ‘attunement’
- How embodying the symbols traditional meanings through our self-practice and meditation can lead us into a deeper understanding of their energy
- and, of course, the importance of our daily self-practice.
There is a beautiful depth to reiki when we allow ourselves to sit with all of the practices, noticing what they evoke within us. We can learn to cultivate a relationship with our reiki practice which allows it to evolve. A practice where reiki can keep teaching and guiding us.
Where the System of Reiki was founded
The system of Reiki is a set of Japanese practices (called the five elements) that, when practiced together, create a system that promotes spiritual growth and healing.
Reiki, the Japanese name for spiritual energy
The system of reiki was founded by Mikao Usui, who was born on August 15, 1865, into a prosperous Buddhist family in Japan. This upbringing afforded him a well-formed education. It is believed that, as a child, he trained at monasteries where he was taught martial arts, swordsmanship, and Chi Kung. Later in life, he travelled to America, China, and Europe as part of the Meiji Restoration, which marked the opening of Japan’s borders to the outside world for the first time in 200 years.
Usui is also said to be a Tendai lay minister, called a zaike. Such lay ministers were allowed to have families. Usui Mikao married Suzuki Sadako and they had two children.
Dr. Usui was deeply influenced by Shinto and Shugendo, animistic and shamanistic spiritual traditions. Shinto is the most ancient indigenous Japanese spiritual tradition.
In April 1922, after years of intense training in meditation and esoteric practices, Usui embarked on a 21-day meditation at Mount Kurama (a sacred mountain in Japan), where he meditated without food or water. It is believed that during this meditative journey, he experienced a profound awakening known as Anshin Ritsumei, or enlightenment, which granted him the capacity to heal.
After this, he set out to create a system that would empower others to heal themselves and move towards enlightenment. He took elements from traditional Japanese spiritual practices and simplified them to make them accessible. His teachings were known as ‘Usui do’ or ‘the way of Usui,’ and he tailored his instructions to each student’s unique needs, whether it involved studying and chanting symbols or contemplating Reiki principles.
Dr. Chujiro Hayashi
One of Dr. Usui’s pupils was Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, who continued in the footsteps of Dr. Usui by opening a reiki clinic that remained open until 1940. He became a student of Usui in May 1925 and is one of the twenty-one teacher students of Usui. A retired Naval officer and surgeon, he studied with Usui for 10 months before Usui died in March 1926.
Dr. Hayashi evolved the teachings and beliefs into what is known as the system of Reiki today. It has many of the original techniques but is also responsible for the formal aspects of reiki that are taught today, namely the hand positions and the science-based practices held within reiki, and instead of Usui reju, he taught an ‘attunement’.
The fame and popularity of Dr. Hayashi’s clinic spread throughout Japan, and it was quite successful at bringing healing energies to many people. It was here that the emphasis was on healing rather than personal development (Usui saw reiki as a path to your true self—a spiritual path).
Mrs. Hayayo Takata
Mrs. Hawayo Takata, a Hawaiian woman of Japanese descent born in 1900, played a significant role in introducing Reiki to the Western world. During a trip to Japan, she studied under Dr. Hayashi Chujiro from 1936 to 1938 and was the first to bring his teachings to the West.
Mrs. Takata continued offering treatments and began teaching level 1 and level 2 reiki students. Her approach simplified the teachings, setting aside some of the original Japanese meditation practices and techniques and instead focusing on the hands-on healing side of the practice. She felt many of the traditional Japanese teachings were too complicated for foreign or American culture.
As a result, the system shifted from a spiritual practice to rediscover one’s own true nature (non-duality) towards a focus on physical and mental health, as well as emotional wellbeing.
In the 1970’s, she began training other reiki masters and continued teaching until her passing in 1980. Her legacy continues through the 22 Reiki Masters she trained, who have played a pivotal role in spreading Reiki throughout the Western world.
Today, Reiki has grown into a global phenomenon, with various lineages and interpretations of the practice.
It is from these 22 teachers that reiki has mainly spread throughout the West. Many of the Western teachers created their own personal variations of the system of Reiki, and thus there are now many different Reiki “lineages”, such as Usui Reiki, Karuna Reiki, Usui/Tibetan Reiki, Seichem, and many more.
Reiki can support you in your healing, gently guiding you back to yourself bringing peace to mind, body and spirit.