Usui Reiki is a spiritual discipline developed around 100 years ago by Mikao Usui, a Shinto lay preacher in Kyoto, Japan. There is currently some speculation that this is a very ancient system which was lost and was subsequently re-discovered by Usui but this seems to be unlikely in the light of recent research into the subject. There are three main characters in the history of Usui Reiki, each of whom have created their own branch of the discipline. All three branches use the name Usui Reiki which can cause some confusion.
Mikao Usui (born 15 August 1865 - died 9 March 1926)
Usui was fascinated by healing and devoted his life to trying to discover as much as he could about it, studying both on his own and also with many different groups. Having spent many years in research and meditation he adopted the practice of the Lotus Repentance Meditation which incorporated a 21 day fasting meditation on Mount Kurama, a nearby mountain which was used for meditative retreats. On the morning of the 21st day of one of these fasts he had a satori, or enlightening experience, in which he gained the ability to heal others and to pass this ability on to other people.
Legend attributes the following 'four miracles' to the story. On the way back down the mountain Usui stumbled and stubbed his toe causing it to bleed heavily. He instinctively grasped the painful toe in his hands and instantly felt a great heat there and when he looked, he found that his toe was healing very quickly. He continued on down the mountain and suddenly felt very hungry. He stopped at an inn and ate a full meal which is not easily done after a 21 day fast. After his meal he noted that the girl who had been serving him had a severe toothache. Usui placed his hands over the girl's jaw for a few minutes and the pain left her. When he finally arrived back at the monastery he found that the abbot was ill in bed with severe arthritis. Usui went to visit the abbot and was able to effect a cure for the arthritis by laying his hands on the abbot.
Usui started to devote his time to healing others and teaching his discoveries and this teaching became known as the Usui Shiki Ryoho or the Usui system of Natural Healing.
In 1923 there was a devastating earthquake on the island in which over 140,000 people were killed and many more were badly injured and made homeless. Usui devoted much of the rest of his life to assist in healing the victims.
Due to the large number of people who needed to be healed, Usui started to attune these clients to the Reiki energy, primarily so that they could administer themselves with the energy between his visits. He also attuned others as part of their own spiritual development. Usui always felt that Reiki was primarily for spiritual development and that the healing properties were of secondary importance. During his lifetime Usui taught over 2,000 students and 16 teachers who continued the help with the victims of the earthquake for many years.
Students who were studying Reiki as a means of spiritual development used to attend weekly meetings with Usui. At these meetings they would recite or sing Gyosei which are short poems written in a format called Waka. The sounds used in these poems contain kotodama which are ancient sounds of power. The kotodama are taught at levels II and III. Following the recitation of the poetry there would be Hatsu Rei Ho exercises to open the energy channels and to strengthen the students connection to the Reiki energy, followed by the recitation of the five principles of Reiki. There would also be a Reiju empowerment which is rather like a modern day attunement but is also a spiritual empowerment. Usui's students would receive these on a weekly basis. By following this weekly routine and by using the Reiki energy daily for self healing the students would progress towards the equivalent of our Reiki level I which could often take around a year to complete. The training on healing other people was almost completely intuitive and this was taught at the equivalent of our modern day levels I & II by the use of two main techniques, Byosen and Reiji Ho.
Recently a group of Usui's students have been discovered living in a monastery in Japan (the youngest being around 107 years old - April 2002). This group does not really want to be bothered with the outside world, which is quite understandable, but some information has been divulged which gives us a much clearer view of the way that Usui worked. The information from this source has been built into a system referred to as Original Usui Reiki and has been introduced to the West by an intermediary named Chris Marsh who wishes to stay out of the public eye. He has passed this information to several people, one of whom is named Taggart King who teaches Original Usui Reiki in the UK. This system is probably as close as we will ever get to Usui's own methods of teaching, healing and spiritual development.
Usui wanted Reiki to be freely available throughout the world and did not wish its practice to be controlled in any way. He wished Reiki to be a means by which people throughout the world could work together to create a better world.
Chujiro Hayashi (Born 15 September 1880 - died 11 August 1940)
Usui had many students, among whom was an ex navy admiral named Chujiro Hayashi. Hayashi had a very different approach to Reiki than Usui. Hayashi was a naval officer and was a fully trained medical doctor. Unlike Usui's intuitive approach, he used the Western approach whereby a disease or injury is diagnosed then a corresponding treatment was found to match the diagnosis. This very left brained approach was a complete contrast to Usui's right brained approach. As a result of this, Hayashi devised standard hand positions to use for specific complaints. As he no longer followed Usui's own teachings, Hayashi formed his own Reiki system which he called Hayashi Shiki Reiki. Unlike Usui's teaching system, Hayashi would teach the equivalent of level I in five 90 minute sessions compared with Usui's 1 year. Hayashi gave attunements (probably still Reiju) on four of these sessions and this is probably the reason that some Western schools still use four attunements at level I.
Usui and Hayashi were two extremes of the system, one intuitive and the other methodical, but both systems worked and used the same Reiki energy. The year after Usui's death in 1926, Hayashi and two other naval officers who were all students of Usui, formed a society in Usui's honour which they named the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. Usui was given the posthumous honour of being named as the first president of the society. The Gakkai continued to work extensively with Reiki. Also in 1927 there was a booklet issued to all naval officers which incorporated a selection of qi gong exercises for building and moving subtle energies within the body. This became incorporated into the Gakkai practices and can be found these days published as the "Original Usui Handbook". These are published under the belief that they are Usui's practices, but they are actually a combination of the qi gong booklet and of Hayashi's own diagnosis/treatment notes. The Gakkai is a closed society about which it is still difficult to gain any information. Once past level II, students are required to take a vow of silence and teachers are only allowed to teach Gakkai members. The total number of Gakkai members is limited to around 500 and so we currently have no information regarding the higher levels of practice in the Gakkai. A Reiki master/teacher named Hiroshi Doi is our main source of information regarding this. He is a Gakkai member who has not taken training above level II and so is free to speak. He does attune his students using Reiju but this differs from the version of Reiju taught by Usui's living students in that two steps are missing from Doi's system. Again, this does still work, apparently just as well as the full Reiju system.
After Hayashi's death his organisation was taken over by his wife who continued to run the clinic. Legend has it that Hyashi committed suicide by calling his students around him and stopping his own heart. This was because Japan was about to enter world war II and he was liable to be conscripted to fight. After working as a healer for many years he was unable to revert to his earlier lifestyle.
When reference is made in the West to Japanese Reiki this is generally taken to refer to the system as used by Hayashi and The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. Frank Arjava Petter has published much information on this system but believes it to be Usui's system, and not the Hayashi system.
Hawayo Takata (Born 24 December 1900 - died 11 December 1980)
Hayashi had set up his own clinic where several healers worked with a single patient at the same time. One day a Hawaiian lady walked into his clinic named Hawayo Takata. Hawayo Takata is one of the most important links in the history of Reiki. Born as an American citizen in Hawaii of Japanese descent, Mrs. Takata became ill with a lung condition, abdominal pains and a nervous breakdown. She visited her parents in Japan in the hope of finding a cure for her ailments. A regular hospital diagnosed that surgery was to be inevitable, but as she wished to avoid this, Mrs. Takata asked if there was any alternative treatment for her problem. She was told of a clinic run by Chujiro Hayashi which offered Reiki treatments. She visited the clinic and received treatment over several months and was completely cleared of her complaints. Mrs. Takata was fascinated by Reiki and asked to stay on at the clinic to learn Reiki for herself. Hayashi agreed and she worked in the clinic as payment for her training. Eventually, reaching the equivalent of the modern second degree, Hawayo Takata returned to Hawaii and set herself up in practice. Some years later Chujiro Hayashi visited her in Hawaii and took her to master/teacher level.
Following the second world war, Mrs. Takata moved to North America and started to teach Reiki. At this time anything of Japanese origin was very unpopular in the USA following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the resulting war between the two countries. It is probably for this reason that Mrs. Takata kept quiet about the true origins of Reiki as a Japanese spiritual discipline with its roots in Buddhism and Shinto. She, instead, promoted Mikao Usui as a Christian lay preacher who was a theological lecturer who had worked both in Kyoto and Chicago and dropped much of the Japanese methods from the teaching of Reiki. If this had not happened it is highly likely that we would not be practicing Reiki in the West today, and we have a lot of reason to be thankful to Hawayo Takata. Until very recently virtually no information regarding Reiki has come out of Japan and Mrs. Takata was the only link that we had. She introduced some of her own practices into Reiki, such as keeping Reiki a totally oral tradition and insisting on the use of the same standard hand positions during all treatments.
Mrs. Takata attuned 22 master/teachers and almost every person who uses Reiki in the West can trace their lineage back via Hawayo Takata and Chujiro Hayashi to Mikao Usui. The Reiki system which was taught by Mrs. Takata is in many ways different from the original methods taught by Usui, but it still remains a complete and valid system. It works and works very well and is ideally suited to western ways of life. The original Usui system under which it can take several years to progress form one degree to the next would not easily fit in with our lifestyle.
At The Colours of the Dawn, in the three Usui Reiki levels, we teach a combination of all three systems taught by the three Reiki master/teachers described above, covering all the major features and techniques of each system. We run two Japanese Reiki Techniques workshops (practitioner and master/teacher) for students who have completed levels II and III with other master/teachers. This will bring them up to the same level as students who have learned the entire system with us.
We feel that all three systems are completely compatible and that the best solution is a combination of methods from both systems. They all obviously work and they all stem from the original work of Mikao Usui. Remember that it was Usui's first intent that the system should be used as a means of spiritual development. The ability to heal others was secondary to this. Upon reflection though, a full healing on all levels would incorporate physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. All are necessary to become whole and to help you execute the life plan that you are here to accomplish. We grow spiritually by giving unconditionally to others. This we can do by using Reiki. It is not possible to give to someone else or to heal someone else without going some way to healing yourself at the same time. As you approach closer to your ideal self then you are at the same time progressing on all levels, so use of Reiki at any level is a step of spiritual development.