A Brief History of Reiki

The information known about the history of Reiki is changing constantly at present, as more and more new information comes to light from Japan.  There seems to be a Western version of events and a Japanese version.  However, before we all get caught up in the right and wrong versions of its history, we must remember that this energy is all about healing and love and that to stay true to the energy, we must just remain open minded.  I’ve read books, searched the internet, listened to other Reiki Masters and have summarised below, the history that resonates with me as being the most authentic.

Dr Mikao Usui

Dr Mikao Usui

1865 – 1926

Dr Mikao Usui was born on the 18th August 1865 in Japan and was the founder of the Usui System of Reiki or Usui Shiki Ryoho.  He is also often referred to as Usui Sensei, (Sensei meaning one who teaches).

He came from a fairly wealthy Buddhist family, who encouraged him to study, both academically and physically.  Whilst finishing his studies at a traditional Japanese Tendai Buddhist Monastery, Usui also mastered Samurai swordsmanship and Kiko, the Japanese form of Chi Kung.  Usui was interested in different types of medicine, energy movement and religions, reading widely on all subjects.  Usui was looking to find a way to heal himself and others, using his hands, that didn’t deplete his own energy levels and he devoted many years searching for a system.  His open minded approach towards other belief systems and religions is why Reiki is accessible to everyone.  It has no religious attachments.

As part of his search, Usui traveled to China and the West to study their medicines and disciplines.  He undertook a great many different types of work, eventually leading him back to Buddhism.  Usui became a Tendai Buddhist monk and lived in a monastery near Mount Kurama, where he continued his studies.

It was whilst he was living at the monastery, that Usui decided to attend Isyu Guo, a 21 day training course, to seek enlightenment.  This involved living in a cave on Mount Kurama and fasting, meditating and praying for the days.  It is said that passed uneventfully.  However, on the morning of the 21st day, Usui experienced a mystical event ‘seeing’ ancient Sanskrit symbols, which he acknowledged would help him develop the healing system he was looking for.  After this event, Usui set up a clinic in Kyoto, where he began to heal and teach people.

The success of this clinic, allowed Usui to travel all over Japan, taking his Reiki with him.  As well as teaching others how to heal themselves, he also offered healing sessions at a relatively cheap price or even for free, which meant anyone could receive healing.

Usui’s main teachings were very focused on how to heal yourself, first and foremost, which continues today in the First Degree of Reiki (Reiki One).  His belief being that to be able to heal others, you first need to have healed yourself.  Please see Overview of Usui’s Teachings  By the time of his death on the 9th March 1926, Usui had trained around 16 Reiki Masters, one of whom was Dr Chujiro Hayashi.  This would guarantee that Usui’s healing system would live on.

Dr Chujiro Hayashi

Dr Chujiro Hayashi

1878 – 1940

Dr Hayashi had been a naval officer in Japan but once introduced to Reiki, set up a healing clinic in Tokyo.  He became a Reiki Master when he was 47 years old and it would seem that he began to make alterations to the original teachings, with the blessing of Usui.  Dr Hayashi developed further the Usui healing system, introducing additional hand positions to cover more of the body and altering the attunement process.  He compiled his new teachings into the Hayashi Healing Guide.

By the time of his death, Dr Hayashi had trained about 14 students to become Reiki Masters.  One of these people was Mrs Hawayo Takata, a Japanese-American woman, who originally went to Dr Hayashi for Reiki healing.  Mrs Takata was the reason that Reiki became known in the West.

 Mrs Hawayo Takata

Mrs Hawayo Takata

1900 – 1980

Mrs Takata was born on 24th December 1900 in Hawaii, to Japanese parents.  During her life in Hawaii, events occurred that resulted in Mrs Takata becoming ill.  However, at this point, she needed to travel to Japan on a family matter and decided that whilst there, she would visit a Japanese hospital for treatment.

In 1935, Mrs Takata arrived in Tokyo and was told that her condition was very serious and that an operation would be needed to heal her.  However, before the operation, Mrs Takata heard a voice inside her head telling her repeatedly that the operation wasn’t necessary and that there was another way.  She decided against the operation and asked the doctors if there was any other way to treat her condition.  The doctor told her about Dr Hayashi’s Reiki Clinic in Tokyo and so Mrs Takata arranged to go there for treatment, although she had not heard of Reiki before.

During these treatments, which were carried out daily, Mrs Takata was amazed at the warmth that flowed out of the practitioner’s hands and found the experience very relaxing.  Within months, the healing sessions cured Mrs Takata of all her ailments.  It was at this point that she approached Dr Hayashi and asked him to teach her Reiki and over the next year, he taught her the First and Second Degrees of Reiki (Reiki One and Reiki Two).

Mrs Takata now returned to Hawaii and practiced Reiki regularly over the next two years.  In 1938, Dr Hayashi visited her in Hawaii and attuned her to Reiki Master.  Not long after, he asked Mrs Takata to visit him in Japan, where he chose her to be the person to continue spreading the word of Reiki.  He imparted all his knowledge from Mikao Usui and elected her his successor before he died.   Due to World War II, it is said that Mrs Takata altered the teachings of Reiki to be more acceptable to the West.  Japan was at war with the West and all things Japanese were then seen as hostile.  This is how Reiki has survived in the West to this day.  However, more and more Reiki Masters are returning to the original Usui teachings.

By the time of Mrs Takata’s death on 11th December 1980, she had attuned 22 Reiki Masters.  These Reiki Masters have continued to teach and the Reiki Lineage grows longer every day.  Reiki is the fastest growing complementary therapy being taught in the world today and this fact speaks volumes about this fantastic healing energy system.