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The origins of Reiki are somewhat complex. It is a system that can be said to be both ancient and modern. Reiki has its roots in ancient Buddhist healing practices that date back to around 500 years before Christ was born. But what we now call “Reiki” was formed in the early 1900’s. 

The originator of Reiki, Mikao Usui was born on the 15th August 1865 in a village now called Miyamo Cho, in Japan. This was during an era of great change. For 200 years, Japan had been isolated from influences from the rest of the world and the traditions of daily life had stayed somewhat the same for hundreds of years. 


This ended when a treaty was negotiated with the Japanese that allowed America to trade with Japan, other countries were soon to follow. Naturally this resulted in rapid change in Japan. Prior to this social, cultural and economic revolution, the majority of Japanese people had a belief system that was based on a mix of the indigenous religion/way of life Shinto, along with Buddhism and combined with parts of Taoism. As the country opened up to ideas from the west and people started to travel, the traditional Japanese society which was more formal and structured started to break down. During this time of radical change many japanese people looked to religion for some form of faith and stability. 

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It seems that from this, Mikao Usui was inspired to create a system for spiritual development that was available to all people and was not just a system of healing, but a holistic system that could take the follower on a path to enlightenment without the constraints of organized religion. This system he named Reiki. 


Mikao Usui’s family were Hatamoto Samurai, (a high rank within the Samurai system) and Buddhists. During his childhood he studied Tendai Buddhism and Martial Arts and later became a Lay Tendai Priest. From his memorial stone we know that he was a keen student and was interested in medicine, history, psychology and the more esoteric arts. Usui travelled to Europe and America and also studied in China. He had many jobs throughout his life and also married and had two children. 


During Mikao Usui’s quest for wisdom, with advice from a Zen master he carried out a “Shyu Gyo”, a strict spiritual discipline of meditation and fasting for 21 days. On the last day on Mount Kurama Usui had a mystical enlightening experience where the great wisdom and understanding of Reiki came to him. This also gave him the ability and wisdom to heal. 


In Japanese culture at this time, sacred knowledge such as this would have only been shared with close and trusted family members. It is believed that at first Usui only shared this knowledge with a few. But after some time, realising how transformational and important his discovery was, he began to offer healing and teach others how to access this energy for themselves.  


Mikao Usui structured the methods of Reiki and created a society called  “The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai”, meaning “The Usui Spiritual Energy Healing Method”. Usui made Shoden (Reiki level I) freely available to everyone and it's thought that two thousand people learnt this from Usui himself. He trained and attuned around thirty to fifty people in Okuden (Reiki level II), and seventeen to Master level, Shinpiden. 


From interviews with early students, we know that Usui taught far more than just hands-on healing. He first taught “The Five Spiritual Principles”, students were later taught meditation, breath work, mantras, symbols and hands on healing.

Usui spent many years offering healing and teachings in Reiki and during this time passed the knowledge of Reiki to Dr Chujiro Hayashi (1878- 1940) a former captain of the Japanese Navy and a naval doctor.


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A few years after Usui’s death (9th March 1926) Dr Hayashi went out on his own and opened his own clinic called the “Hayashi Kenkyu Kai” which translates to “Hayashi Spiritual Energy Research Society”. Some research suggests that Usui may have asked Hayashi to write an expanded version of his teachings because of his medical background. 


It was to this clinic that Hawayo Takata came for treatment in 1935. She initially went for six months and then for a further year as a volunteer once she had persuaded Hayashi to teach her. He was reluctant at first as she had Japanese parents but was born in the USA and this sacred information was originally not supposed to leave Japan. Dr Hayashi later helped Hawayo Takata to set up the first clinic outside Japan in Hawaii in 1938. 

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Hawayo worked at the clinic in Hawaii until she brought Reiki to the rest of America in the 1970’s. Hawayo Takata created 22 Reiki Masters who became responsible for the initial spread of Reiki.


It seems that Hawayo Takata adapted the story of Reiki to fit the western and primarily Christian society. She knew that some of the traditional, Buddist and Japanese influences would not fit with popular views. The story that you still come across a lot today says that Mikao Usui was a doctor and a Christian teacher and lecturer. Whilst giving a lecture a student asked him how Jesus healed all those people. When Usui could not answer he set out on a quest to find the truth of how Jesus and his disciples healed the sick. The story goes on to say that Usui studied Sanskrit and ancient scriptures of India and Tibet as well as the Lotus Sutra whilst visiting various other countries and mastering ancient practices. 


The 21 day fast and meditation up Mount Kurama part is similar, however with perhaps little more flare to the story with light hurling towards Usui from across the sky and the Reiki symbols and wisdom coming to him with information about each one and its use in activating the Reiki energy (of course we don’t know for sure, this could be true). Excited, finally having his answer, Usui runs down the hill to share what he had discovered only to trip and stub his toe. He intuitively placed his hands onto his bleeding wound and was amazed to see that after a few minutes the bleeding had stopped and his toe was healed. The story continues with other healing miracles. Hawayo describes how Dr Usui worked in the slums of Japan helping to heal beggars that lived there. After a while, Usui noticed that some of the beggars were returning to the area with their original dis-eases. Dr Usui realised that for some, although the physical body had been healed they were not necessarily prepared for or desiring a new and different way of living. Usui then left the slums and began trekking through Japan and lecturing on the principles of Reiki. 


Hawayo Takata claims that Chujio Hayashi died in 1941 by stopping his own heart by psychic means. Hawayo continued to practice and teach Reiki in Hawaii and died in 1980. Before she died Hawayo trained her granddaughter Phyllis Furomoto who has continued her grandmother's legacy and is now named Grand Master of Usui traditional Reiki. The Usui Reiki system is now taught all over the world. Although Hawayo’s story of how Reiki originated seems to be exaggerated in parts and with strong Christian influences which we now know are not true, I believe her intentions were good and she is the reason why we are practicing Reiki in the west today. 

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