Symbols are initially an important part of Reiki practice, and yet it’s important to understand that they aren’t needed to give a treatment. In fact, in Reiki 1, no symbols are given and a student learns to give treatments by simply laying hands on or above the body. Reiki symbols are taught at Reiki Level 2.
Reiki symbols work differently than most symbols. First, lets try to understand how symbols work in general. Symbols work on different levels of consciousness. Symbols work mostly on the mental level of the person viewing the symbol, in that they convey some sort of meaning. Symbols can express feelings and other aspects of awareness such as the image of a heart expressing love or affection, or a religious symbol evoking spiritual feelings in the heart of the followers of that religion.
Symbols can also be used as part of a technique to assist one in going into a specific state of consciousness. In metaphysical practice (the philosophical study of the nature of being or beings), it’s possible over time to develop the ability to go into higher levels of consciousness and then assign a symbol to that particular state. And through practice, one can condition one’s mind to automatically go into that state at will, simply by thinking of the symbol. It takes time and focus to develop this ability, but it can be done and is very much worth the effort. Over time, you can let go of the symbols as you become the energies, just thinking of an energy, using your intent will be enough. So the symbols are simply a tool to help us to reach a certain stage of awareness of the energies.
If in the practice of meditation, one develops the ability to go into a deep state of peace and when in this state, thinks of a pre-determined symbol and holds it in mind while in that state, and practices this technique, then after a while, all that one has to do is think of the symbol and one will go into the state of peace without having to meditate.
Reiki symbols work in a similar but more powerful way. Because of the energies involved and the ease with which the process is instilled, one could say that once activated by an attunement/empowerment/spiritual blessing, Reiki symbols are transcendental in nature (beyond our understanding of this World – Mystical).
While they do have some effect on the personal energy of the user, their main effect comes from the way they activate a response from higher levels of consciousness that are usually beyond the reach of the person using the symbol.
The ability to use the energies the symbols represent, comes to the student as an 'awakening' during the Reiki Attunement/Reiju/Empowerment or Spiritual Blessing. Prior to the Attunement/Blessing the student is shown the symbols on paper, which they then practice drawing either on paper or in the air, using their hand to draw the symbol in front of them. Then whenever the person thinks of the symbol, the energies of the symbol automatically comes down and channels through the person without them having to go into a meditative state. In other words the student spends no time at all developing the ability or conditioning the mind. The entire process takes place during the Attunement that often takes no longer than 10 minutes. This is truly a miracle and certainly another of the wonderful aspects of Reiki.
Respecting and Keeping Reiki Symbols Private
The symbols set Reiki apart from other energy techniques. They have come from the ancient histories of Japan, Tibet and India. It is said the symbols are sacred and this is why until recently they have been kept secret, but with modern technology, the internet, they are no longer secret.
Reiki Symbols are not meant to be available to the general public, only to those who have taken a Reiki course. There are several important reasons for not publicly displaying the symbols, but first some background. When Mikao Usui The Founder of Reiki taught the first 3 symbols of Reiki at level 2, we believe he asked his students to keep them private, to respect the symbols. The 4th and last symbol in the system of Reiki would be learnt at Master Practitioner and Teacher Level. This, we believe is also what Mrs Takata taught and I understand it’s also what the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai in Japan teaches to this day. Hundreds of thousands of Reiki students have been taught the symbols in this way and have promised to keep the symbols private.
The private use of the symbols was maintained for a long time, but in the mid-1990’s one author published them in a Reiki book. Since that time many others have published them, and it is now very easy for anyone to find the Reiki symbols by doing a simple search on the Internet. In addition, several of the Reiki symbols are used by other religious or spiritual groups in Japan and other Asian countries and are publicly displayed by them.
Since the symbols can be found so easily, and since they are not exclusive to Usui Reiki, some have wondered if it is still important for Reiki students to keep the symbols private. I think people should be respectful to the symbols, but also do what they feel is right!