The History of Reiki


Reiki is an ancient form of healing thought to date back to our earliest civilizations. Both Tibetan and Usui Reiki symbols have been found in ancient Egypt and other parts of the world. Reiki was rediscovered and put into a formal system in Japan by Mikao Usui, more commonly known as Dr. Usui. Dr. Usui’s work forms the basis of much of our Western Reiki teachings. Reiki was also practiced in Tibet. Although some of the symbols are different, much of the practice is the same.

USUI REIKI

Dr. Usui was a Buddhist who devoted his life to the healing arts. He found that most healing systems left the practitioner feeling drained after giving a treatment. He hoped to find a better way to heal people without being depleted of energy afterward. Dr. Usui traveled the world for many years searching. During his journey, he learned Sanskrit in order to read ancient Buddhist texts that would aid him in his quest.

It was in 1922 that Dr. Usui did a 21-day retreat on Mt. Kurama, a sacred mountain in Japan, where he fasted, meditated, and prayed. It was on the last day that he received the Reiki energy. Since the story of Reiki is mostly passed down by word of mouth, there are several variations of this story and the complete facts may never be known.

Dr. Usui’s 21-Day Fast

During Dr. Usui’s retreat on Mt. Kurama, he collected 21 stones, and each morning he would throw out a stone to count the number of days. Every day he sat and meditated, hoping to receive insights. On the 21st morning, as the sun rose, he still had not received the insights that he had hoped for. On this last morning he was meditating underneath an overhang where water drops were hitting his Third Eye. As he sat in meditation, he watched the sun rising up over the horizon. Then he knew something was unusual. It was if the sun were a ball of light coming right at his Third Eye. He was a little unsure but knew he should just allow this. As the ball of light hit his Third Eye, Dr. Usui saw symbols. He recognized these symbols, probably from a past life, but did not know their meaning. Then other balls came with other symbols. Dr. Usui was actually being attuned by Spirit, and the symbols he saw were ancient Reiki symbols.

As Dr. Usui came around from this unusual meditation, he thought it had lasted for maybe ten minutes. However, the sun was now directly above him in the sky. He must have lost track of time. He realized he must have been in this deep meditation for about six hours!

The Legend of the Four Miracles

He knew something very special had occurred, but he didn’t know what this all meant. Then he experienced what has become known as the “Four Miracles.” As he started back down the mountain, he stubbed his toe on a rock. It was bleeding badly and when he instinctively placed his hand over the toe, it stopped bleeding. This was the first miracle. Then when he arrived down the mountain, he became very hungry. He went to a nearby restaurant and ate a large meal. After a fast such a large meal should have caused him indigestion but he was fine. (the second miracle). The girl who served him complained of a toothache. Dr. Usui placed his hands on her jaw and the toothache immediately disappeared (the third miracle). When Dr. Usui arrived back at the monastery, one of the older monks lay in bed with severe arthritis. Dr. Usui placed his hands on the monk. Immediately he felt better (the fourth miracle).

Healing the Poor

Dr. Usui knew then that he had been blessed with great healing energy. He wanted to use this incredible energy to heal as many people as possible. He began with those whom he thought needed it the most. These were the poorest people in town, the beggars around Kyoto. He did this work selflessly for many years, not accepting money for healing -and helping those most disadvantaged. Then one day he saw a man begging that he had healed sometime before. The man complained that he didn’t want to be healed and preferred to be a beggar. He said it was easier than working for a living. It was then that Dr. Usui realized not everyone wants to be healed. This realization was a major turning point. After this, Dr. Usui decided to work on people that came to him seeking a healing, rather than the poor he thought needed it. Dr. Usui also decided to teach others to heal themselves.

The Spread of Reiki to the West

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a retired medical officer in the Japanese Navy, began studying with Dr. Usui in 1925. Dr. Usui gave his blessing to Dr. Hayashi to open his own healing clinic and to expand and continue the teachings of Reiki, which he did after Dr. Usui’s passing from a stroke on March 9th, 1926.

Mrs. Hawayo Takata was of Japanese descent but living in Hawaii. She was in Japan for a family matter and went to the hospital for severe abdominal pain, a tumor, and a lung condition. The doctors told her that she was in need of surgery but wanting a non-surgical alternative, she was referred to Dr. Hayashi’s clinic. Mrs. Takata was completely healed by Reiki and under Dr. Hayashi’s tutelage, she became a Reiki Master in 1938.

Mrs. Takata opened several clinics in Hawaii and taught Reiki as well. She taught students up to level II. In 1970, she began to attune Reiki Masters and initiated twenty-two Masters before she died in 1980. These Masters then taught others, and so it was through Mrs. Takata that Reiki began to spread through the West.

Alternate Story

An alternate story that was told in much of the West is that Dr. Usui was brought up as a Christian who learned some Buddhist teachings. The story goes that Dr. Usui attended university in America and was teaching bible studies in Japan when a young boy asked that if Jesus could heal then why couldn’t others. This started Dr. Usui’s quest for a healing modality.

It appears that this twist to the history was created to help Westerners to be more open to studying Reiki. Research has shown that there is no factual basis to this story. There is also no evidence that Dr. Usui was a medical doctor. It is presumed that the prefix “Dr.” was given to him either in relevance to his work as a Reiki healer or to show that he was a professional man of standing in society.

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Origins of Reiki

So where did the original Reiki energy come from and who developed the sacred Reiki symbols that Dr. Usui received as an attunement from spirit? This remains a mystery. Similar sacred symbols have been found in Egyptian history and many other ancient cultures. However, it is thought that the energy goes back to Atlantean and Lemurian times. It is not only ancient but universal and may not even be limited to this planet.

Reiki Lineage

A Reiki healer today can be taught the hand positions and symbols, but they must be indoctrinated to receive these energies from a Reiki Master who attunes them so they become a channel to the energy. Each Usui Reiki Master can trace back his lineage to Dr. Usui.

Secret Reiki

Although there is now evidence that both Dr. Usui and Dr. Hayashi gave written materials to their students, Reiki was taught by subsequent teachers in great secrecy for many years. As a student learned the symbols, all materials would be destroyed as only a Reiki Master could pass on the sacred symbols. Because of this former practice of oral teaching, there are now many small variations in the Reiki teachings.

Affordability of Reiki

In Japan, Reiki was considered a revered sacred system and in order to learn it, one would have to show a great commitment of both time and energy. When Mrs. Takata first brought Reiki to the West, she wanted to impart the seriousness and value of this. To accomplish this in a way that Westerners could relate to, she charged $10,000 to become a Reiki Master. This ensured that the student was very serious about learning, but it made it cost prohibitive for most aspirants. Eventually, learning Reiki became affordable and because of this, it has spread rapidly. There are now thousands of Reiki Masters around the world. The word of Reiki has spread and the opportunity is now there for all who wish to receive this energy and to become practitioners themselves.

by Gail Thackray

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© 2019 Gail Thackray