Although Reiki is gaining in popularity, there are many who, although they have heard of it, don’t know much about the origins of Reiki. Here is a short history of Reiki and its founder Mikao Usui that I originally wrote for my website The British Academy of Reiki, I hope you enjoy reading it.
Reiki begins with the birth of Mikao Usui in 1865. At this time Japan was undergoing a transformation. Christianity was declared illegal and those who refused to renounce it were executed, most Japanese had to register at Shinto temples. The ban on Christianity was only lifted in 1873 after Japan was forced to open up its borders. Industrialisation led to great change and people sought ways to keep hold of traditions and cultures.
Usui grew up in a village now called Miyama-Cho. He came from a Tendai Buddhist family and he had a sister and two brothers. Usui was a big powerful man who although kind, quiet and compassionate he did not tolerate foolish behaviour and he could be harsh and critical at times. Usui’s family were very poor and indeed, throughout his life he appeared to place little importance on material things. He married and had a son and a daughter. In order to support his family Usui took a number of jobs ranging from public servant, office worker, reporter and eventually a policitican’s secretary where he was afforded the opportunity to travel outside of Japan to Europe, America and China. During these visits Usui was said to have been fascinated with the way people lived their lives and the many traditions and cultures present in the world around him.
Usui also loved to study and he read many subjects including medicine, psychology, numerology and astrology. Usui was searching for the ultimate purpose in life and after many years of studying he became frustrated and on the advice of monks he carried out a 21 day fast at Mount Kurama. Some say that this was where Usui experienced a state of enlightenment however, Usui’s system was not something new to him which came in a flash of inspiration, rather it was rooted in many existing traditions. The original system did not have a name and it is thought that the name was given by the Usui Reiki Ryocho Gakkai (the Usui Reiki Healing Method) which was set up by Usui’s students in 1926 after his death.
Usui’s healing methods become very popular and it was said that he had many students. Some of his students asked him to teach them how to heal and the students travelled from all over Japan to meet him. The older generation in particular liked his methods as they believed that he was keeping traditions and customs alive. Usui’s students came to his house often they would stay for a day or two go home practice what Usui had taught them and return some time later. It could take up to a years to complete reiki first degree only a few students carried on to the second degree and even less to the master level. Reiki was not just a healing method but a whole spiritual practice . Students only moved forward when Usui thought that they were ready. Reiki was seen to be a work in progress throughout a person’s life with the aim to reach the highest level of enlightenment possible.
As Usuis methods become more and more popular the Japanese military became interested in him. Usui was approached and asked to teach the imperial officers ways in which they could help heal themselves if hurt during battle as there was a desperate shortage of medics available. Usui appeared to show some initial reluctance to do this as his system was based on spiritual enlightenment and not a mechanical process. None the less, Usui devised a system of training and he also used symbols for the different frequencies of energy. An imperial officer Dr Chujiro Hayashi was trained by Usui, a Christian he had little interest in using intuitive methods or scanning techniques which were taught by Usui . he opened a clinic which was similar to a hospital ward. Patients were treated with reiki and he documented the results noting the most beneficial hand positions for people with specific conditions. Interestingly, Hayashi still expected his students to be able to use scanning and intuitive techniques.
One of Dr Hayashi’s patients was a woman called Hawayo Takata who lived in Hawaii. She was suffering from a cancerous tumour and a number of other health problems all of which were resolved with reiki. With her good health restored, this once sceptic began to learn reiki herself. Mrs Takata taught 22 people to masters level and they have in turn, taught many others.
Because Mrs Takata was teaching reiki after the second world war, Japan and anything Japanese was not looked at very favourably. To get around this Usui was introduced as a Christian theologian who had sought to develop a system of healing similar to the miracles that Jesus had performed. Western style reiki is now taught on courses throughout the world.