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Japanese Reiki Techniques

When I was first called to Reiki there was only one form of Usui Reiki available to me. This was the system which had been passed from Mikao Usui, the founder of the Japanese Spiritual Discipline that we now know as Reiki, to his student Chujiro Hayashi and on to Mrs Hawayo Takata. Mrs Takata was a Japanese/American living in Hawaii . She was the first person outside of Japan to be attuned to the system and the first non-Japanese Reiki master/teacher. On her return to North America in the late 1940s Mrs Takata had taught that Reiki had died out in Japan and that she was the only Reiki practitioner/teacher in the world. In the last few years before she died in 1980 at the age of 80 years Mrs Takata attuned 22 master/teachers who would carry on the work that she started.

This was accepted by the Reiki community until the mid 1990s when a German Reiki master/teacher named Frank Arjava Petter was living in Japan with his Japanese wife and they were both teaching English and also Reiki. Due to the nature of Japanese society, knowledge is generally kept within it's own group so, for example, the group of people working in the same factory will not talk about factory business outside that group and the family group will not talk of family business outside of the family group etc. One of Arjava's students, however, went against the norm and mentioned to Frank that there were others in Japan who also taught Reiki, but of a rather different form. Arjava investigated this and was able to make contact with a group of Japanese Reiki masters who, according to Mrs Takata, should not have been in existence. He was even able to borrow a copy of the handbook that Mikao Usui had supposedly given to his students. (Mrs Takata had taught that Reiki was a purely oral tradition and no notes should be taken during her classes). This led Arjava to investigate further and he was to discover Usui's grave and memorial stone which has a lengthy inscription detailing much of Usui's life and teachings. Arjava also was able to make contact with the Usui Gakkai which is a Japanese society dedicated to the practice and teaching of Reiki. The Gakkai had apparently been set up by Hayashi and two other naval officers the year after Usui's death although Usui is given the posthumous honour of being it's first president.

Arjava found that the Reiki practices from Japan were quite different from those taught in the West but that the Reiki energy was the same. The only difference was in the methods by which the energy was applied. The knowledge that is available from members of the Gakkai is limited. Once a member has taken the master/teacher level (Shinpiden) they are required to take a vow of silence regarding the activities of the society and only to teach Reiki to Gakkai members hence little is know of their higher level teachings.

More knowledge was, however, shortly forthcoming form a further source. An Englishman named Chris Marsh had been living in Japan for over thirty years. He is a Japanese speaker and writer who has studied martial arts and has managed to reach the very top of his chosen discipline becoming the grand master of his order. This has opened several doors for him in Japanese society. He discovered that his master in martial arts was related to a member of Usui's family. This had led to his discovering a group of very elderly monks and nuns living in a remote monastery in Japan who had been personally taught Reiki by Usui himself. These living students of Usui want to have very little to do with the world, which is quite understandable as they are all over 100 years old, but one nun is willing to talk with Chris and to pass on her knowledge. Her name is not known but she is referred to as Suzuki San.

From all the knowledge which has come from these sources we are able to put together much of the original teachings of Usui and his students. There are some major differences in the teachings now available but all are using the same Reiki energy.

Usui used to practice a form of Reiki with no symbols and originally no laying on of hands. The original Usui system was very intuitive and was based around the movements of a basic level of energy and two specific levels of energy together with the ability for the healer to invoke two specific states of mind. There was no need for the healer to touch the person receiving the treatment. The healer would connect directly to the client, invoke the appropriate energy and then open up to allow the client to take from him/her all that they required at that time. Attunements were also performed in a similar fashion. The practitioner or master would simply kneel before the client or student and the client or student would receive the energy or attunement. This is a huge contrast to the ‘ceremonies' that we perform in the west with the elaborate performances used in our attunement procedures and our concerns with hand positions etc. during a healing. Usui realised that not all his students could connect to the energies etc as easily as he could so he adapted his system to help his students to progress more quickly. The hand positions were adopted from the popular Teate (hands on healing) practices in Japan to help his students to focus on what they were doing during a healing. The symbols that we know in the west were not a part of the original Usui system. In order to assist his students to progress he first introduced a series of meditations which worked very well for his Buddhist students. His Shinto students still found this difficult so to assist them he introduced chants which are an integral part of Shinto practice. When he attracted some Christian students he found that they were having difficulties with the meditations and the chants so he introduced symbols to assist students to attain the correct states of mind and to connect to the appropriate energies. Usui was a very clever man who had one system which could be practiced by several different methods, each to suit the individual, and each to get the student to the same final path.

So how did the system change from this simple, elegant and beautiful practice to the complex western reiki system? The first key to this is that, although a Japanese native, Hayashi was a naval officer and a western trained medical doctor. Usui was a practicing Buddhist and much of the early Reiki teachings can find their roots in Tendai Buddhism. On the other hand, Hayashi was a Christian who had no great interest in the spiritual teachings surrounding Reiki. He was, however, being a medical man very drawn to the properties of Reiki that could be applied to healing. Usui saw the Reiki system primarily as a spiritual practice designed for spiritual development. The fact that you could also heal others was secondary to this. Reiki was never intended to be a therapy. With Usui's blessing, Hayashi set out to prove that Reiki could be used purely as a healing system without the need for the spiritual practices and he was, as we now know, successful. Being a western trained doctor Hayashi was used to the system of diagnose and prescribe. Hayashi produced a manual which dictates different hand positions depending on the ailments for which healing had been sought. This manual has also been attributed to Usui's practices but Usui did not diagnose. He would just work with the client's energy field and allow the client to draw from him what they needed to progress with their complaint. Hayashi was one of the founder members of the Gakkai which started to extend the use of Reiki for their own purposes. There are many healing techniques used by Gakkai members which have been taught in seminars by Arjava Petter and are also details in his books.

When Mrs Takata came into the Reiki story she was not able to diagnose, not being medically trained. She had moved from Hawaii to North America just after the second world war and, following the involvement of Japan in the war, anything Japanese was not welcome in America . It is probably for this reason that Mrs Takata changed the history of Reiki to say that Usui was a Christian theology lecturer from Kyoto University who had also taught in Chicago . This had the effect of making Reiki more acceptable to the American people. Mrs Takata devised twelve standard hand positions for use in a Reiki healing. This is probably because covering these twelve positions covers most of the body so, whatever the problem, the hands will cover it in the course of a treatment. Mrs Takata had studied Indian practices and the chakra system so the hand positions are connected with the major chakras of the body. Evidence suggests that Usui was trained to use the meridian system rather than the chakra system so the chakras are not a part of the original system.

We are now left with a Reiki system using a single energy but applied in many different methods. The original Japanese system being almost completely intuitive, the western Reiki system being completely formalised with the twelve hand positions to be held for exactly five minutes each and the system coming from the Gakkai being a mixture of the two extremes. Part of Usui's original system were two major techniques which help the Reiki student to develop intuitive working. These are Byosen and Reiji Ho. Byosen is used to scan the energy field of the client trying to sense fluctuations in the field. When a fluctuation is sensed the healer drops his/her hands onto this spot until the energy field is detected to balance and the healer then moves on looking for further fluctuations. Reiji Ho is a technique for allowing the energy to move your hands, hovering in the client's aura, to the spot where they are most needed. The healer then drops his/her hands onto the spot where the hands have settled and leave them there, again, until the energy field has balanced.

One point that needs to be emphasised is that the practice of any of these forms of Reiki entices the student to experiment and to devise their own ways of applying the energy, an element which was not permitted under Mrs Takata's system. There is no right or wrong way to work with Reiki as long as the basic intent is for the higher good of all. It is interesting to note that Hayashi did not teach any spiritual element of Reiki and this would have been passed on to Mrs Takata. In the 1990's, however, before the discoveries of Arjava Petter, many Reiki practitioners and masters were working with Reiki as a spiritual practice and not adhering strictly to Mrs Takata's system. The spiritual element of Reiki had been removed but it had re-emerged again thus demonstrating that Reiki is primarily a spiritual practice which cannot be suppressed. When Japanese Reiki was re-discovered a famous Western Reiki teacher was heard to say, “.. at last we can now carry on working and teaching as we do with no guilt..”.

Reiki has different forms and a single energy whatever your personal views on Reiki you will find that there is a form of practice which is harmonious to your own outlook. Reiki, however, is not a therapy. It is a Japanese spiritual discipline.



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