The Two Histories of Reiki

All Reiki originates from Mikao Usui, The Founder of Reiki.  One of Usui's students was Chujiro Hayashi and one of his students was Hawayo Takata.  Reiki was brought from Japan to America by Mrs Takata and this is what we now call Western Reiki.  Many changes were made to the original system, it was originally believed that this was because it was nearly 30 years before Mrs Takata taught Reiki herself and that  she made changes in order to make it more appealing to the West.  So, Reiki moved away from some of its origins and this was also when the Chakra system from India was brought into Reiki, rather then the system of 'Ki' being used.  There is perhaps evidence that it was in fact Hawayo Takata's students who changed the system after her death.  And although the system is now somewhat different, we should still be thankful and show great respect to Mrs Takata and her students, for had they not made it more palatable for a Western mind, we would not be here today reading, learning about it, perhaps practicing it and healing with it.


There are now over 70 different styles of Reiki being taught around the World, and that is fine, as long as the student fully understands that not all elements are Reiki.  And they may not be practicing Usui Reiki, but a watered down version.  We could say there are 2 original lineages, as far as I am aware.


A Western route/lineage would go something like this:


Mikao Usui, Chujiro Hayashi, Hawayo Takata and her students and their students, etc. 


A Japanese route/lineage would be something like this:

Mikao Usui, Kanichi Taketomi (3rd president of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai), Koyama Kimiko (6th president of the URRG), Doi Hiroshi, his students, and their students …. The teachings past down this line are Original/Traditional teaching of the system of Reiki, with no changes being made for the West.


There are 2 histories to Reiki and each is equally important. Before I tell you about the Western History I will explain why it is so important that although we now believe it to be a little lacking in facts about Usui's life, it should still be told.  It is with the greatest respect to Hawayo Takata that we tell her story first.  


It was not intentional that there are two histories for Reiki. All Usui Reiki originated in Japan, but as people began to travel the World, it soon spread to other countries, one of these being America.  Hawayo Takata was a student of Chiryo Hayashi, he had previously trained under Usui.  It is now believed that Usui gave Chujiro Hayashi permission to make a few change to the original system of Reiki.  Perhaps, because he was medically trained he felt he should take a more structured approach and established a hands-on healing system. He took notes for his patients and brought in the symbols, so that people could be attuned to Reiki immediately rather than the original practice of spending many, many hours meditating on the energy.


It was thirty years after Hawayo was trained in Reiki that she decided to teach it in America.  And it is now believed her students, not Takata changed the system to make it more palatable for a Western mind, so the 'Ki' system was changed to the 'Chakra' system.  The emphasis turned to hands-on healing, rather than self-healing and spiritual development. We also understand that at that time no notes were allowed to be taken and so likely some original Japanese techniques were forgotten.  So all-in-all Western Reiki and Original/Traditional Japanese Reiki are very different today. Each has their place in the World. Each can create great transformations in both your health and happiness.

The Western History (as told in many western Reiki books)

As Usui approached his late 50’s he hit a crisis point in his life, at the time he was a business man and we believe his business was failing.  Not knowing what to do and wanting to know what the purpose of his life was, he decided to meditate and fast for 21 days on a holy site at Mount Kurama, to find the answers, to seek enlightenment, and he understood that to reach this he may literally have to die.


So he laid out 21 stones and each morning just before dawn he would throw one of the stones away.  On the morning of the 21st day just before dawn, he saw a beam of light moving fast towards him, the light struck him in his central eyebrow and knocked him unconscious.  As he awoke he had visions of colours and symbols and was even given instructions on how to use these symbols

He returned down the mountain and as he did so he tore of his toe nail on a tree stump, he immediately put his hand on his toe and soon realised that he stopped the bleeding and his toe was healing.  He then went down to the village where he healed a girl with toothache.  He then realised that enlightenment does not always turn out as one would expect it.  His enlightenment was his ability to heal himself and others.  He then decided that this should be the path he follows.  (There is no factual evidence that Usui ripped off his toe nail or healed the girl with the toothache and this is how he realized he had reiki healing.  In fact, there is written evidence that long before Usui received 'Reiki' he was already capable of hands-on healing, just not 'Reiki' healing, so it likely that this part of the story, the history, is a 'fable', but also possible that he ripped his toe nail, but this was not the beginning of Reiki for him.


So Usui became a great healer and spread the word of Reiki throughout Japan.  By the time of his death just 4 years later after his enlightenment, he had trained over 2,000 students, opened 40 branches of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai and initiated 18 Reiki Masters, one of these was Dr. Hayashi.  The Founder of Reiki, Usui Mikao was buried at the Saihoji Temple in Tokyo, at the age of 62, it is said he died of a stroke.

Dr. Hayashi, was a medical doctor in the Navy.  Usui gave Hayashi the job of developing the Usui System of Natural Healing, by making use of his background in medicine.  With this in mind, Dr Hayashi opened his own clinic and kept careful records of each patient, the illnesses and conditions they had, and what hand positions and techniques worked best for them.  From this he developed the Hayashi Healing Guide.  Eventually Dr. Hayashi developed a new style of Reiki.  These new methods included a new system of attunements, a standard hand placement system, and the development of a Reiki handbook.  One lady he treated who had been very ill and healed with Reiki was Hawayo Takata.  She was fascinated by it and took her Shoden and Okuden levels with Dr. Hayashi, so that she may continue to heal herself and others, and later she took the Shinpiden degree.  Dr. Hayashi chose Hawayo Takata as the next Reiki Master.

So, in 1938, Hawayo Takata who was originally from Hawaii became the first Reiki Master of the Western World.  She travelled to the US mainland and to other parts of the World teaching Reiki classes.  It wasn’t until 1970 that she began teaching other teachers.  By 1980, she had trained 22 Reiki Masters.  Because she learned from Dr. Hayashi after he had modified the system of Reiki, what Mrs Takata taught may have been somewhat different than what Usui had originally taught, or again, it may have been her students that changed the system after her death.  And she most likely made her own additional changes.  We believe she taught a very strict system requiring that no notes be allowed by her students.  There were many other rules, including the requirement of always charging $10,000 for the Master training.  After her passing, one of her students, Iris Ishikuro, decided to follow her inner guidance and charge more reasonable rates, this enabled many more students to be attuned to Reiki and able to pass it on and spread Reiki around the World. Iris & her partner Arthur developed another alternative style of Reiki. 

Thanks to Usui’s students for the carved memorial stone of his life, placed one year after his death, and thanks to Frank Ajarva Petter, Frans and Bronwen Stiene, William Lee Rand, to name a few, all well respected Reiki Masters who have dedicated many years to learning the truth about Usui’s life and his teachings of Reiki, we now have a more accurate picture of  Mikao Usui's life.


Mikao Usui was born in 1865 in Japan, in the village of Taniai-mura (which is currently called Miyama-cho) in the Yamagata district of Gifu located near Kyoto in Japan.  At a young age, Usui entered a Tendai Buddhist school located near Kurama-Yama, a sacred mountain north of Kyoto.  Among other things he studied martial arts and also a healing technique called Kiko, which is similar to Qigong.  He is said to have come from a high level within the ranks of a Samurai family.  As a child he was born a Buddhist and studied in a Tendai Monastery.  At the age of 12 he began a practice of a martial art called Aiki Jutsu, and eventually became an instructor.  He was renowned for his expertise and highly respected by other well known martial artists of his time.  


At some point in his life he became a Tendai Budhist Monk/Priest who remained in his own home, not in the Temple. One day he climbed Mt. Kurama where he began to do penance whilst fasting.  This practice is called Kushu Shriren, it is a form of Shugendo training and Usui was a Shugendo practitioner. On the 21st day he felt a great Reiki over his head 'spiritual energy' and he was spiritually awakened, he acquired what he named Usui Reiki.  He tried it on himself and his family and immediate results were brought about.  He decided the right thing to do was to share it with the World rather than to just keep it to his family.  He opened an institute and people came from far and wide for the Reiki healing.   As his reputation grew he was offered engagements from everywhere throughout the nation.  He travelled to Kure and Hiroshima, Saga and Fukuyama and it was at a Inn here that he caught a disease abruptly, and he passed away at the age of 62.  He died of a stroke.   (It is also believed Usui was a healer long before his experience on Mount Kurama, but this was a different form of energy healing to Reiki).

A Final quote on his memorial stone states: 'Usui Sensei emphasised that "This is surely a secret process to bring a good fortune and also a miraculous medicine to remedy all kinds of diseases". by which he made his purpose of teaching clear and accurate. "Every time when you sit quietly and join your hands in pray and chant morning and evening, you can develop a pure and sound mind, and there is just an essence in making the most of that for your daily life.  This is the reason why the REIKI cure can very easily spread to everybody". 

Further Information on Usui's life is taken from ‘Reiki Fire’ by Frank A. Petter  


Usui was intelligent, hard-working, and had a wide range of interests.  Being from a well-to-do family, he was also able to travel and study.  In his travels throughout Japan, and to China, Europe, and America, he studied History, Medicine, Buddhism (which is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to insight into the true nature of reality), Taoism (which is a philosophical, ethical, and religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao and is from the school of Yin and Yang).  He also studied Christian Scriptures; Psychology (study of the human mind); Divination (from the Latin divinare "to foresee, to be inspired by a god”), Incantation (a charm or spell using words), and Physiognomy (which is the assessment of a person's character or personality from his or her outer appearance, especially the face). 


After his travels and education he became the secretary to Shinpei Goto, who was the Head of the Health and Welfare Department and who later became the Mayor of Tokyo.  Because of this position, he made many important contacts and eventually became a businessman.  One of these contacts was the Emperor of Japan, Meiji Emperor, he shared with Usui, the 5 Precepts/Principles to live by and this is when Usui adopted these into his practice and considered them just as important as self-healing.  

However, there came a time when his life did not go well and he didn’t know how to solve his problems.  At this point he remembered his early training and his experiences on Kurama-Yama.

In April 1922, he moved to Tokyo and set up an organisation to teach Reiki and give treatments.  The organisation became known as the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, which means the Usui Reiki Healing Method Organization.  It was very popular and people came from all over to receive Reiki treatments and training.

In September 1923, the great Kanto earthquake took place and caused a tsunami and a great fire.  More than 140,000 people died and over half of the houses and buildings in Tokyo collapsed.  A tremendous number of people were left homeless, were injured, and had experienced the death of their loved ones.  There was great grief and suffering and Usui was moved by compassion to help.  He worked tirelessly to use his Reiki ability to heal as many as he could.  It is said that it was at this time that he would often treat six people at once – one with each foot and hand, another with his eyes, and another with his breath.

Eventually, his school building became too small and in February 1925, he built a new school in Nakano.  This school was even more popular and he was invited to travel to other areas to teach and treat others.  It was during his travels in Fukuyama that he became ill and passed through transition on March 9th, 1926 at the age of 62.

May you rest in peace, our Great Founder Mikao Usui ... With the greatest of respect to you.

Below Mikao Usui - Emperor Meiji, the 122nd emperor of Japan - Usui's Memorial Stone - Usui and his students

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