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The History Of Reiki

There are at least two versions of the history of Reiki.

One version was put forth by Mrs. Hawayo Takata. She was responsible for bringing Reiki from Japan to the United States, from where it spread to the rest of the world. This has been accepted as Traditional History.

Researchers are trying to unravel an evidence based history. Researched History, therefore differs from the traditional version.

Traditional History

The founder of the Reiki system of healing is Dr. Mikao Usui. The dates in this version are unconfirmed but it states that Usui was born in 1802 in Japan. Dr Usui was the Dean of a Christian university in Kyoto, Japan. During one of his classes on Christianity, a group of students asked him if he believed, literally, all that was written in the Bible. He replied that he did. The students then asked him if he would explain how Jesus Christ healed with his hands. They also wondered why this was not done anymore especially since Jesus had assured his followers that they would also be able to do as he did. Dr Usui had no answer to their questions. His sense of honour prevented him from continuing in his post until he could answer their questions. He then resigned and decided to go to America and study Christianity in order to find his answers.

He joined the University of Chicago and became a Doctor of Theology. But his in-depth study of Christian writings did not find him the answers he needed. Dr Usui then returned to Japan.

Since the Buddha was also known to have healed with his hands he decided to study the Japanese sutras on Buddhism but found no answers there either. He also studied the Chinese sutras to no avail. He travelled to Tibet, another Buddhist country and learnt Sanskrit in order to read the Tibetan sutras. In these sutras he found the answer to what he was seeking but he realised that in order to use the theoretical information he had found he would need an empowerment. To find out how to do this he went to the Abbot of a Buddhist monastery in Kyoto, whom he had befriended during his early search. The abbot had encouraged him to continue. On being asked how he should go about getting the empowerment to put his theoretical knowledge into use the Abbot suggested that both of them meditate in order to get the answer. At the end of the meditation they decided that Dr. Usui should go and meditate on the holy mountain KuramaYama just west of Kyoto.

This is what Dr Usui did. He meditated on the mountain for twenty-one days marking the end of each day by placing a stone in front of him. Twenty days went by with no result. He was very disappointed. On the dawn of the twenty first day as he sat to meditate he saw a white light coming down towards him at great speed. At first he was very afraid and was sure he was going to die. Then he realised that this could be the answer he was waiting for.

The light hit him in the centre of the forehead and he saw millions of rainbow coloured bubbles each containing a Sanskrit symbol. He fainted. When he became conscious he felt rejuvenated and full of energy.

Dr. Usui wanted to tell his friend, the Abbot, all that had happened. He ran down the mountain and accidentally stubbed his toe on a stone. Instinctively he held the toe, which was bleeding. Miraculously the bleeding stopped. He realised that he had received the empowerment and could now heal. He continued down the mountain and reached a wayside inn where he decided to have breakfast. Being hungry he ordered a large breakfast against the advice of the innkeeper who could see that he had been fasting. But he ate the meal with no consequences. It was the innkeeper’s daughter who served him and he saw that she was in great pain because of a toothache. He offered to heal her and in no time the girl was cured. When Dr. Usui reached the monastery he found the Abbot in great pain. He was suffering from arthritis. As he told him about his experience on the mountain Dr.Usui placed his hands on the painful areas and the pain disappeared.

Now that he had this wonderful healing gift Dr. Usui wanted to know how best he could use it to serve humanity. The Abbot and he came to the conclusion that the best place to start was at the beggars colony in Kyoto where there were innumerable people in need of healing. So he went to the colony and started healing the beggars who had nothing to call their own _ not even names. Many were healed and left the colony to begin life anew. After a few years Dr. Usui saw faces in the colony that seemed familiar to him. He called one such person to him and asked him who he was. The man explained that he was one of the first persons that had been healed. He had taken a name, married and tried to lead a normal life but found the responsibility too much. It was much easier being a beggar.

The disappointment he felt was great but this episode helped Dr.Usui realise that mental, emotional and spiritual healing was as important as physical. He realised that on getting Reiki free the beggar failed to appreciate it and he felt no sense of responsibility to use it to better his life. To inculcate a sense of responsibility towards one’s life and to live in the ‘attitude of gratitude’ Dr. Usui formulated the five Reiki principles. And after this he never gave Reiki away free to those who did not appreciate it. He travelled all over Japan and talked about Reiki, healing people who requested him and also began attuning people so they could take responsibility for their own lives.

According to Reiki master Vincent Amadour ‘The Reiki Principles are the heart of Reiki. The only real mastery, is self-mastery. Usui taught that dedication to the principles and living them was essential. The real intent of the principles was to bring about spiritual enlightenment, peaceful living, kindness toward all, calm in your mind, and in your life. The principles embody compassionate living. They embody the Buddhist principles of Karuna (compassion toward all beings) and Metta (loving kindness to all). Humility, gratitude, not-anger, not worry, and kindness. In healing ourselves, living the principles, we find true mastery. Not mastery of Reiki, but mastery of ourselves’

After this Dr. Usui traveled all over Japan giving lectures on Reiki and healing people. He also formulated the system of attunements so that people could take responsibility for themselves.

Dr.Chujiro Hayashi was a student of Dr. Usui who set up a Reiki clinic in Tokyo. Many people were treated at his clinic and were healed. One of these people was Mrs. Hawayo Takata.

Mrs. Takata was an American lady of Japanese origin. She was born in Hawaii. At one point of time after she lost her husband and was in a depressed state of mind she decided to visit her parents in Japan. (This was some years before the Second World War) She was suffering from many illnesses and after arriving in Japan was advised to go in for surgery. She intuitively felt that this was not right for her and on enquiring about alternate therapy heard about Dr Hayashi’s Reiki clinic. She underwent treatment there and was miraculously healed. Now, Mrs. Takata was determined to learn Reiki herself. But Reiki was not taught to women in those days. So initially Dr. Hayashi was reluctant to teach her but she was persistent and he had to give in. She was given her first degree and later the second. She was made a Reiki master in 1938, when Dr. Hayashi visited Hawaii.

Mrs. Takata is the person responsible for introducing Reiki in the United States and from there to the rest of the world. She lived in Hawaii, healing and teaching Reiki till the time of her death in 1980 at the age of eighty. She had attuned 22 Reiki masters in U.S.A and Canada.

The traditional history of Reiki is what Mrs. Takata told her students and till recently was all the information that we had on Dr. Usui and the origins of Reiki. Recent research, however, indicates that Dr. Usui was not a Christian but a Buddhist.

The reason for Mrs. Takata stating that he was a Christian could have been because she was teaching in a country, which was at war with Japan and hence would have regarded anything Buddhist or Japanese with suspicion. Her main concern would have been to ensure that this wonderful healing system would not get lost for want of acceptance.

Researched History

Recent research by Reiki masters bring to light certain facts about Dr Usui and the origins of Reiki. The dates here are elicited from his tombstone memorial. Mikao Usui was born on August 15th, 1865, in a village of Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan at the time. He studied in a Tendai Buddhist monastery as a child. This was an important period in Japanese history as it marked the restoration of the Emperor. This was also called the Meiji period. It was a progressive period, which encouraged study and travel. Mikao Usui did both extensively and was called a person of free will. He held several posts and offices including that of private secretary to a mayor.

Apparently, between 1914 and1922, he started a business venture, which was not successful, and he went through a phase of depression. At this point of time he was also training in Zen and meditation was a part of this training. He was searching for the purpose of his life.

Kurama Yama is a sacred mountain near Kyoto where many people meditate. It is stated in his memorial that Dr. Usui went there to meditate and that on the 21st day of his meditation he received Satori or enlightenment. And through this he received Reiki. He first tested this healing on himself and his family and on realising it’s significance, made it available to all. The Five Reiki principles are very much a part of Dr Usui’s system and were taken from the Meiji Emperor’s precepts.

In April 1922 he opened his first teaching centre. He also started the ‘Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai’ – USUI REIKI METHOD OF NATURAL HEALING SOCIETY. This society is still functioning in Japan.

This, in short, is the new or researched history of Reiki. All the details available have not been included. Research is ongoing.

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