An Overview of Usui’s Teachings



Usui Sensei’s teachings were very much about teaching people how to heal themselves, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  His Training Centre in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo, was technically a dojo, meaning a place of learning for spiritual and physical growth.  The motto for his dojo was “Unity of self through harmony and balance”.

There were three main levels to his teachings and each level took some time to learn and integrate into the life of the student.

Shoden (Reiki One)

Shoden, means First Teachings and at this level all were welcome to learn, as Usui had no attachments to anyone’s religious background or belief system.  Once introduced to the energy, students at this level were taught and encouraged to practice, on a daily basis, the following:

Meditate, chant and live by the Reiki Precepts


Clear and purify their bodies and spirits using a Japanese practice called ‘Kenyoku’ (a simple brushing sequence used over the body)

Practice breathing techniques to cleanse their souls called ‘Joshin Kokyo ho’

Read or chant Waka poetry

Practice physical exercises and breathing techniques to develop their Tanden (the body’s energy store house)

Students were shown the concept of mindfulness

Mindfulness means ‘to be conscious’ in each and every moment of the day.

Being mindful is realising that we have to become the watcher of our own thoughts and our own actions. When we become our own watcher, we can begin to master our thoughts and actions.  That then allows us to live in ‘the moment’ instead of worrying about the past or the future.   Shoden was very much about self healing only.  Students were not encouraged at this stage to heal others and most decided to stay at this level of learning.  Those few, however, who wished to progress with their learning, were then allowed to move on to the next level.

Okuden (Reiki Two)

Within Okuden are the most important aspects of Usui’s teachings.  At this level, the teachings became more spiritual and took many years to learn.  Of all the students Usui taught, only around actually reached this level.  Okuden taught students how to improve their own self healing and spiritual development based on Buddhist and Shinto teachings.  Okuden was taught in two sections, Okuden Zenki and Okuden Kouki.

Okuden Zenki

This means First Term and was very much about the students being taught and encouraged to practice more powerful meditations, chants and energy exercises.  These practices were taught so that the student was able to work with the earth energy (on a physical level) and the heaven energy (on a mental/emotional level).  These exercises were practiced for many months until the student had a full appreciation of these energies, becoming ‘one’ with them.

Okuden Kouki

This means Latter Term and was about distance healing and becoming consciously aware of the ‘oneness’ of life.  Students were taught that to heal distantly, all they had to do was ‘connect’ with the person who needed the healing.  To ‘send’ the healing was to ignore the fact that we are all connected.

Reiki Symbols

In the later years of Usui’ teachings, sacred symbols were introduced, primarily as a way of focusing the students.  A symbol was used to summon the earth energy, Cho Ku Rei and another symbol was used to summon the heaven energy Sei He Ki.  These symbols related to the Okuden Zenki.   Another symbol was introduced as a way to summon the feeling of oneness, Hon Sha Sei Sho Nen.  This symbol is also referred to as the transmitter to enable distance healing to occur.  This symbol relates to the Okuden Kouki.   Once both Okuden Zenki and Kouki were completed, then the final part of Usui’s teachings, could be learnt.

Shinpiden (Reiki Three)

This means Mystery Teachings and is the Master Level.  Less than students reached this level and those that did, took a long time to complete it, unlike today’s teachings.  This level concentrated on the student deepening their connection to the energy by using more advanced meditation, chants and exercise techniques.   Shinpiden contained levels within it, ultimately leading to the student being able to pass the energy on to another student and the teaching of Reiju (Unity of Mind and Ki).  In the West, we would have called this student Reiki Master.   As a point of reference, Usui had a small manual which has been translated into English by Frank Arjava Petter, a Reiki Master living in Japan, called “The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr Mikao Usui”.  This manual is said to contain the Precepts, meditations and Waka poetry.