© December 2005 (revised July 2006) - David
L. Gleekel, CRMT
In learning about the roots of Reiki, it is
important to divide fact from fiction or language from legend.
There are some facts that most Reiki Historians agree upon.
We will start with these:
- There was a man named Mikao Usui.
- He was born in 1865
in a Japan ruled by the Emperor Meiji and died in 1926.
- He was a teacher.
- He was led to rediscover a healing energy
that he called Reiki which means Universal Life Force Energy.
- He developed a healing system that he called
Usui Shiki Ryoho (the Usui System of Natural Healing) or
Usui Reiki Ryoho (Usui Universal Life Force Natural Healing).
- He founded an organization called the Usui
Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (the Usui System of Natural Healing
Council) that still exists in Japan.
- Usui is referred to in Japan as Usui-Sensei
(Honorable Usui). We refer to him in the West as Dr. Usui.
There are many other pieces of information about
Dr. Usui that are present in the Reiki Story that are not
consistent across all sources. Here are the variations:
- He was a Christian vs. He was a Buddhist.
- He taught in a Christian Boys’ School
vs. He taught in a Buddhist Monastery.
- He studied at the University of Chicago vs.
No information to confirm this from that school.
- He taught using an oral tradition vs. He
supplied his students with written materials to assist them.
- He believed in exchanging money for Reiki
vs. He healed often at reduced or no charge for the public
benefit (as in the Kanto Earthquake in 1922).
- He was the Grand Master of Reiki vs. He was
the President of the Gakkai only and there was no Grand
Now, we move to what the figure Usui did on
his path to Reiki. According to the Western version of the story, as supplied to us by the Usui Shiki Ryoho, the lineage coming through Usui to Hayashi to Takata, Usui was teaching a group of boys. One of
the students, as they often do even today, asked a question
that Usui was not able to answer, “Whatever happened
to the healing that is described in religious texts, where
(either The Buddha or Jesus) a religious figure was able to
place his hands on someone and they would get better immediately?”
Usui did not know the answer. He was a man of
the intellect, so he first began researching the texts of
his religions (and possibly others) to find sources that might
describe how this healing was done and whether it could be
rediscovered. There were a number of mentions in many sources.
In the Medicine Buddha sutra, it described the healing that
the Buddha did and that this could be done by anyone who had
the appropriate level of mindfulness. In the Christian bible,
there was a quote from Jesus saying that this he did we could
But his research proved incomplete. There were
many references to what healing had been done and hints at
what could be done, but no pathway that was clearly described
that could lead to someone becoming a hands-on healer once
It is said that after seven years of trying
to find the answer, Usui retreated to Mt. Kurama, outside
of Kyoto, to begin a period of fasting and meditation. This
was a traditional site for Japanese Buddhists to come for
answers (a sort of Vision Quest power spot). It is also said
that Usui took 21 stones up the mountain with him (to keep
track of the days he would be on the mountain). He is said
to have told a small boy at the monastery that, if he did
not return in 21 days, they should come for his bones, because
he would be dead. Indeed, Usui was deadly serious about his
quest. He climbed to the summit, settled down in meditation,
and began his fast. (Author's note: according to a channeled account that I received in 2006, this event occurred in June 1909).
Twenty days passed, but no answers came to Usui.
He grew weaker as he watched the stones move from one pile
to another. Then, at dawn of the 21st day, Usui was looking
at the eastern horizon. He began to see the light changing
and thought he was hallucinating. There were bubbles of light
developing! The bubbles were multicolored and began to move
towards the mountain. They appeared to have symbols, similar
to those in use at the Mt. Kurama Monastery, written in old
Kanji and Sanskrit characters. The bubbles emitted a kind
of humming sound and rushed towards Usui, hitting him at the
forehead! He passed out for several hours.
When he awoke, it was nearly evening. He jumped
up, so shocked was he at his experience. He tripped over a
stone and cut his foot. He instinctively reached down to grasp
his foot and found that miraculously the foot appeared to
have already healed. He was fascinated. He began his descent
down the mountain and arrived at the hut of a poor peasant
family. They offered him what they had to eat and it is said
that he ate a full meal. Miraculously, he did not get sick
after having fasted for 21 days. He recounted his recent experience
to the family and they described how their daughter was ill
with a toothache and they could not afford to take her to
a dentist. He offered to treat her with his hands to see if
they would alleviate her pain. Once he did this, her pain
was much improved.
Usui continued down to the monastery and was
greeted by the monks, telling him that the Abbot of the Monastery
was taken ill to bed with severe arthritis. Usui went to see
him, recounted his story and was able to much improve the
Abbot’s condition. The Abbot encouraged Usui to use
what he had been given.
He went to the poorest quarter in Tokyo, called
the Beggar’s Quarter. In this neighborhood of those
who were forgotten in Japanese society, he was only accepted
by the people when he gave away everything that he had to
them. Once they accepted him, he worked there for seven years,
giving the energy freely that he had been given at Mt. Kurama.
But over time, Usui began to notice that beggars left the
quarter (having had their “sickness” of begging
healed by him), and then returned after a few months or years.
Usui met one of them and asked him, “Why is it that
you return here? Was the healing not of value to you?”
He was answered by the beggar, “The healing was all
right, but it was too hard out in the world, there was too
much responsibility, too much work; it is much easier to live
Usui took meaning from this that only if someone
receiving the healing had to put forth some form of value
to receive this healing would he value that healing. This
led to the tradition of exchange for money or barter for Reiki
sessions, except among family or close friends. Usui established
a clinic in Tokyo and began seeing upper class citizens of
Japan. A number of high-level government officials and military
officers came to see him and eventually became his students.
This grew dramatically after he assisted during the Kanto
Earthquake of 1922 in Tokyo, when ¾ of the city was
reduced to rubble. Usui was awarded an award by the Emperor
for his assistance during the earthquake.
Usui’s way of marketing was to hold a
torch and stand in the financial district of Tokyo. When passersby
would remark that he was crazy to be holding a torch in the
daylight, he would tell them that there was a light that they
could not see and he could show it to them. He would invite
them to his clinic that evening to learn. Usui developed the
concept of the attunement or initiation, designed to recreate
the experience that he had on Mt. Kurama.
Usui is said to have died four years after
the Kanto Earthquake in 1926. Information which I received from the story told by Hiroshi Doi, the developer of Modern Reiki (Gendai Reiki in Japanese) indicates that Dr. Usui passed away while on travel to teach Reiki in the North of Japan in July 2006.
One of the military officers that Usui taught
was Chujiro Hayashi. He was a retired Admiral in the Japanese
navy. He was also an engineer and is said to have been the
source for the hand positions and much of the story that we
learn in Western Reiki classes today. He also developed the
system of four attunements for level one; two attunements
for level two and one attunement for level three.
In recent research, it has been found that Hayashi
held no office in the Gakkai, but was a respected healer and
had a well-known clinic. Many of his fellow practitioners
had to work at other jobs because the practice was not considered
to be lucrative, although it was helpful to many people. In information received from Hiroshi Doi, it indicates that Dr. Hayashi was encouraged to start his clinic by the Gakkai. Later, the two organizations appeared to separate.
Hayashi was the teacher of Mrs. Hawayo Takata,
the woman who brought Reiki to the West. All Western Reiki
Masters can trace their lineage to her.
Mrs. Takata was born in 1900 and was from Kauai,
the “garden island” of the Hawaiian Islands of
parents who were native Japanese. She married young and by
her early 20’s had three daughters. Her husband died
soon after the third daughter was born and she was forced
to work three jobs to keep her family fed. Her health grew
weaker and weaker, due to her high level of stress from working
so hard. In the early 1930’s, her sister passed away
and she felt it necessary to travel to Japan where her parents
were visiting to inform them of the news. Soon after her arrival,
she suffered some kind of terrible pain and was taken to the
local hospital. The doctors recommended surgery and she reluctantly
agreed. As she was being prepared for surgery, before the
anesthesia was administered, she says that she heard her dead
husband’s voice, insistently saying to her, “Surgery
is NOT NECESSARY!” She at first thought this was her
fear talking, until she heard, “Surgery is NOT NECESSARY—ASK
the surgeon!” She asked the surgeon if there was another
way besides surgery to help her pain and was told that the
surgeon’s nurse, Mrs. Hayashi, was married to a local
Reiki Practitioner who might be able to help her.
Mrs. Takata thus met Dr. Hayashi and lived in
his clinic for a number of months, gradually getting stronger.
It is said that at her first treatment, she jumped up from
the tatami mat where the treatment was being given and looked
for electrical cords because the amount of heat that she felt
seemed to her to be like electricity. It is said that Dr.
Hayashi found this to be so funny, that he fell off the stool
he was sitting on, when he heard it.
After Mrs. Takata began to get better, she asked
Dr. Hayashi to teach her Reiki. He at first declined, but
when she agreed to stay and work with him for a year in his
clinic, he taught her the first two levels of Reiki. Then,
she and her family returned to Hawaii.
In 1938, Mrs. Takata was made a Reiki Master.
She taught from then until the year of her death in 1980.
She began to teach Reiki Masters in the final four years of
her life and by the time of her death had taught 22 Reiki
Masters. She died December 12, 1980, just before her 80th
Among the Reiki Masters taught by Mrs. Takata
was Iris Ishikuro. She is said to have taught only two people:
Her husband and a man named Arthur Robertson. Arthur Robertson
developed a type of Reiki called Raku-Kei and taught many
Reiki students in his lifetime. Both he and Iris passed away
in 1991. Even though Iris only taught two people, she is considered
the “mother” of the independent Reiki movement,
for from her lineage; people began to reduce the fees charged
for Reiki training.