History of Reiki
Date: Fri Nov 20 2015 00:00:00 GMT-0800 (PST)
By David Herron
Reiki has roots in Japan around the beginning of the 20th Century. A man, Mikaomi Usui, sought to either learn about how Jesus healed, or to revolutionize Qi Gong practice. The most commonly taught Reiki history comes to us through Mrs. Takata, that Usui wanted to learn how Jesus healed and then had a mystical experience on a mountain. Newer histories of Reiki tell another story, that Usui wanted to rethink the approach to Qi Gong.
The truth has been obscured by the method of Reiki's initial transmission into America. It seems that Hayashi and Mrs. Takata wanted to Christianize Reiki to make it more agreeable to Americans. This did occur shortly before World War II when anti-Japanese sentiment was strong. It was the Hayashi-Takata lineage from which most Reiki practitioners learned the craft.
Focusing on what Reiki teaches us
I do not pretend to be an authority on the History of Reiki. Instead of spending huge efforts debating the past, and the exact path by which Reiki came to us, I find it more fruitful to simply enjoy energy. As always, Reiki teaches us, as we use Reiki, about the larger nature of reality. While learning divine healing, are specifics about who did what and when all that important? Not to say that the history is unimportant, because of course those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. At the same time it is possible to get lost in the details of the history and lose sight of what Reiki has to teach us.
What history teaches us about Reiki
All of the histories of Reiki come from the verbal stories passed on from Mrs. Takata, with little or no hard evidence of Reiki from before World War II remains in Japan, to the knowledge of the mainstream of Reiki practitioners. This lack of documented evidence is discussed in "Essential Reiki" by Diane Stein, with another view is given in "Reiki The Healing Touch: First and Second Degree Manual" by William L. Rand of the Center for Reiki Training (http://www.reiki.org).
The lack of hard evidence gives opportunity for skepticism. For instance admission records at Loyolla University should be available for Dr. Usui if he indeed attended there, yet William Rand claims that such a request proved fruitless. Maybe, then, Reiki is a sham because of the lack of documented history? Fortunately for us, a lineage of Reiki practitioners in Japan have been discovered separate from the Hayashi-Takata lineage.
At the bottom of this page are links to books discussing the history of Reiki in Japan.
With roots in Japan prior to World War II, it is not surprising that some documentation was lost. Apparently the survivors of Dr. Hayashi lost to the war the resources allowing them to continue the clinic he founded and perhaps stopped practicing Reiki. If it were not for Mrs. Takata learning Reiki before the war and bringing it to America, this healing technique could well have been lost to the world. Such a skin of the teeth saving of Reiki perhaps lost some valuable memories, knowledge and continuity had the lineage not been squeezed through one person. We can only hope that practice, study and intuition will bring back any lost knowledge and practices.
Reiki is a Japanese word meaning "Universal Life-Force-Energy". The "Ki" part is the same word as Chi or Qi, the Chinese word for the energy which underlies everything. Reiki is a system for channeling that energy to someone for the purpose of healing. It was discovered by Dr. Usui in the late 1800's, a teacher or perhaps dean of a Christian school in Japan.
Dr. Mikao Usui: According to Mrs. Takata, Dr. Usui was a Christian minister in Japan, though Japanese. He was the head of a Christian Boys School in Japan. One day some of the students asked him if he believed in the miracles which Jesus did (healing, etc). Being a Christian minister he answered "Yes". They asked if he knew how Jesus had done this, "No" he said. [This part of Usui's story is directly contradicted by the newer evidence from Japan. Instead, Usui was a Buddhist hoping to improve Qi Gong practice.]
With this he resolved to find the way in which Jesus had healed. This immediately set him on a journey of many years. Studying first at Christian schools in the US, for where else to learn of Jesus, but with no results. In the Christian schools the method was not known. [Again, directly contradicted by the newer information from Japan. Also, the specific schools in the U.S. Usui supposedly attended have no record of his attendance.]
It was suggested he study Buddhist writings since the Buddha had also healed. This took more years studying at a monastary in the Orient. Nowhere could he find the answers. In Japan he toured many temples asking for knowledge of how the Buddha had healed. At each one the priests said they were more concerned with spiritual than physical well being. In one small monastary he found some ancient Sanskrit writings from India (or perhaps Tibet). [Diane Stein's research suggests he found the sutras to invoke the Medicine Buddha, the invoking of this Buddha is a common practice in Tibetan Buddhism] After a few more years of study, he felt he had come to an understanding and that to go further required in depth meditation. He declared to the monks of this monastery his intention to fast and meditate for 21 days at a nearby mountain and that if he did not come back they should come and get his body. [It's now known this was on Mt. Kurama. The temples there have all the Reiki symbols, and other symbols, painted on the walls.]
He went to the mountain and gathered 21 stones with which to count the days. Each day he would throw away a stone and in this way count the time. On the 20th day nothing had come as yet and he threw away the last stone saying "Well, this is it, either I get the answer tonight or I do not." In the night on the horizon he could see a ball of light coming towards him. The first instinct was to get out of the way, but he realized this might just be what he was waiting for, so allowed it to hit him right in the forehead. As it struck him he was taken on a journey and shown bubbles of all the colors of the rainbow in which were the symbols of Reiki, the very same symbols in the Tibetan writings he was studying but had been unable to understand. Now as he looked at them again, there was total understanding.
After returning from this experience he began back down the mountain and was, from this moment on, able to heal. This first day alone he healed a broken toe-nail, his own starvation, an ailing tooth and the Abbots sickness which was keeping him bedridden. These are known as the first four miracles.
He wanted to use these abilities to help others, he spent the next seven years in the beggars section of Tokyo healing the poor and sick people there, sending them to a priest to assist finding them employment, and elevating them out of poverty. After the seven years he noticed familiar faces, those of people whom he'd healed long ago who were back again. Asking them, they complained that life outside beggartown was too hard and that it was much simpler to beg for a living. They had thrown away the gift of health, as if it had no value, to return to the supposed comfort of the life they knew.
This threw Usui into a quandary and he returned to the monastery. From this he realized he hadn't taught gratitude along with the healing. That he'd focused on the physical ailments without dealing with the spiritual matters. The people did not understand the value of the gift he gave them.
Dr. Usui returned to the monastery for further reflection and planning. After some time in the monastery he developed precepts. In this new plan he traveled around the countryside from village to village. In each one he stood in a public place during the day holding aloft a lit torch. When people told him he didn't need a torch in daylight, he answered was he was looking for the few who are interested in improving themselves. In this way he traveled around teaching and healing, working both with the spiritual healing as well as physical healing.
Dr. Chujiro Hayashi: During these travels Usui met Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a Naval Commander in the Naval Reserve. Hayashi came from a well educated and well to do family. He met Dr. Usui in the marketplace holding a lit torch announcing his lecture at a nearby temple.
Dr. Hayashi was very impressed with the sincerity and conviction of Dr. Usui. When asked by Usui to accompany him in his travels, Dr. Hayashi agreed. And they traveled around teaching and healing. After Dr. Usui passed on, Dr. Hayashi became the leader of Reiki.
Dr. Hayashi opened a clinic in Tokyo near the Imperial Palace. It consisted of eight beds in a large room, two practitioners per patient. One would treat the head and the other would be on the tright treating the stomach area, then both would treat the patients back. The practitioners all worked here doing healings. They would also go to the homes of sick people for house calls.
To become a Reiki Practitioner in that time one had to be accepted by the masters in the Reiki organization, and second had to promise to use Reiki daily and volunteer some hours to practice Reiki regularly in the clinic.
My first Reiki teacher, Fran Brown (one of Takata's 22 masters) believes that Dr. Hayashi developed the practice of treatment by using specific hand placements over the body. Being of a military background, and therefore more organized, Dr. Hayashi would have preferred an organized method of treatment. In addition an organized method of hand placements allows for full coverage of the body and organs.
Dr. Hayashi passed on Tuesday, May 10, 1940. This was just prior to World War II and it was clear that Japan would enter the war. Being a Reserve Officer, Dr. Hayashi knew he would be recalled to duty and therefore become responsible for killing many people. This he did not want to do, and so determined to end his life. In addition he wished to, and did, pass leadership over to Reiki to Mrs. Takata (perhaps because she would not be in Japan and therefore relatively safe and able to continue the practice).
Mrs. Hawayo Takata: Mrs. Hawayo Takata was born in Hawaii, on Kauai, on Christmas Eve 1900 of Japanese descent. In the 1930's she went to Japan to visit her family there, and inform them of the death of her sister. While there she became very sick and was in the hospital. The doctors were going to operate, and as she was being prepared she kept hearing a voice saying "Operation not necessary". Eventually she jumped off the table asking "Is there another way?". The doctor had a sister who had been cured of dysentery at Dr. Hayashi's clinic and suggested to Mrs. Takata she talk with his sister. The sister brought Mrs. Takata to the clinic and her treatments there began.
After Mrs. Takata became well she wanted to learn this for herself. However Dr. Hayashi was not willing to teach her because she was a foreigner. Through the good graces of her doctor, Mrs. Takata was able to pursuade Dr. Hayashi to train her in Reiki. This training took a year and brought her to what we would now call Reiki Level II (she could do everything but train other practitioners).
After this year she returned to Hawaii. In Hawaii she also learned the lesson of having the recipient perceive value in receiving treatments. She treated a neighbor but did not charge, this neighbor did not value the treatments and did not become well. She treated another relative and this time charged, and this relative did stay well. Thus the tradition of charging for Reiki treatment was reinforced.
In November 1936 Dr. Hayashi came to Hawaii for a speaking tour to promote Reiki. During this time he trained Mrs. Takata to teach Reiki, thus making her what we now would call a Reiki Master. As he left Hawaii he asked her to come to see him when he summoned her.
After some more time it was nearing when World War II would start, the part in Europe already having begun. Dr. Hayashi appeared to Mrs. Takata in a dream asking her to come to Japan. She did this and found Dr. Hayashi having his Naval Uniform out of storage and fretful. With the coming war he knew it was a matter of time before the Navy would call him out of retirement and he would be asked to perform actions he was not capable of doing due to his spiritual development. At this time he passed to Mrs. Takata the leadership of Reiki. He gathered all the Reiki Masters to a gathering, announced Mrs. Takata to be the leader of Reiki, and then announced he would kill his physical body through bursting three blood vessels. And as he continued speaking and lecturing those blood vessels burst and he died.
Mrs. Takata returned to Hawaii and continued using and teaching Reiki. Eventually she moved to California, using and teaching Reiki there as well. She did not teach other masters until 1975, and before her own death in 1980 she trained 22 Reiki Masters.
Mrs. Takata's 22 Masters
Barbara Weber Ray