Reiki history comes from stories handed down through time by Reiki masters, the inscription on the Memorial of its founder, Mikao Usui, as well as other sources.
Those who practice Reiki honor those who taught them and the lineage (ancestry) of their practice. The growth of the practice of Reiki in the West is the result primarily of three people: Mikao Usui, Chujiro Hayashi, Hawayo Takata.
Reiki History: Mikao Usui
The Reiki healing system was founded by Mikao Usui to improve body and spirit based on Reiki in the universe. Usui Sensei (sensei means teacher in Japanese) was born on August 13, 1865, in Japan.
He grew up poor, over came many difficulties, and was an avid learner. He educated himself in history, medicine, healing, and spiritual practices. He studied in Europe, America, and China.
One day he climbed Mt. Kurama (a sacred place often used for spiritual retreat) to meditate and fast, notes the USUI Memorial Inscription:
Suddenly on the twenty first day…, he felt a great REIKI [a subtle vibration of universal energy] over his head, and at the same time as he was spiritually awakened he acquired the REIKI cure. When he tried it on his own body and members of his family also, it brought immediate result on them.Having said, ‘It is much better to give this over widely to a lot of people in the world and enjoy it among them than to keep it exclusively by his family members.’ Usui-sensei moved his dwelling to Aoyama Harajuku, Tokyo in April 1922 and established an institute, where the REIKI cure was instructed openly to the public and the treatment was given, too.
He first gave Reiki therapy freely without charge. He was concerned that people were returning again and again expecting him to cure them. He realized that it was best to charge or receive something in exchange for the treatments so that those receiving them would value them and their responsibility for their own health.
After the devastating 1923 Kanto earthquake in Tokyo, he went around the city providing Reiki treatments to as many of the victims as he could. Soon after his reputation became so great that he that he was called to teach and treat throughout the nation.
He considered Reiki a spiritual healing practice and taught that the purpose of Reiki is to practice it in daily life. He initiated 16 Reiki masters who were instructed to teach Reiki simply so that it could be easily understood and accessible to the wider public.
Reiki History: Chujiro Hayashi
As Reiki History continues, one of his students, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a medical doctor, had a special relationship with Usui Sensei. They worked together to create a Reiki handbook which was used in teaching hand placements to treat various conditions.
Dr. Chjiro opened his own Reiki school and clinic in Tokyo. He further simplified the training, close to what is now used in the West, calling it Usui Reiki Ryoho (Usui Reiki Treatments).
It was here that Hawayo Takata, responsible for bringing Reiki to the West, received treatment and later became a Reiki student. She was one of 13 Reiki masters initiated by Dr. Hayashi.
When Usui sensei died, Hayashi along with other students formed the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Association) which still exists today.
Reiki History: Hawayo Takata
Mrs. Hawayo Takata was born on December 24, 1900, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She received Reiki treatments from Dr. Hayashi during her visit to Japan for her sister’s funeral. The following is an excerpt, adding to Reiki history, from Mrs Takata’s report of her first experience with Reiki, according to William Lee Rand in Reiki The Healing Touch:
Two Reiki practitioners would treat her each day. The heat from their hands was so strong, she said, that she thought they were secretly using some kind of equipment. Seeing the large sleeves of the Japanese kimono worn by one, she thought she had found the secret place of concealment. Grabbing his sleeves one day she startled the practitioner, but, of course, found nothing. When she explained what she was doing, he began to laugh and then told her about Reiki and how it worked.
After receiving four months of treatment, her ailments (severe asthma, a tumor, and gallstones) were cured. She became devoted to Reiki healing and sold her home so that she could stay in Japan to become a student of Dr. Hayashi.
Takata’s training with Hayashi was intensive, reports Pamela Miles in Reiki A Comprehensive Guide: “Clinic in the mornings, house calls in the afternoons [for patents too ill to travel], and a review of her day’s work with Hayashi at dinner.”
She returned to Hawaii in 1937 to establish several clinics where she gave Reiki treatments and initiated students. She became a Reiki master in 1938, the only one outside of Japan.
In 1960, Mrs. Takata began initiating Reiki Masters, charging a fee of $10,000. It may be that the high fee was a way to gain greater respect for Reiki. She became a well known healer and was invited to teach in British Columbia in 1973. This began the final chapter of her life which was mostly devoted to teaching.
She taught through demonstration and story telling (her own story of Reiki and anecdotes of healing). She also taught Reiki through an oral tradition. No written or other forms of instruction were allowed, everything had to be memorized.
She simplified and standardized the hand positions and was a master at adapting her teaching to the culture of her students.
She, too, considered Reiki a spiritual as well as a healing practice as recalled from this teaching, reports Miles:
So we always say the mental and the spiritual is number one. Number two is the physical. And when you can say that, that means you have applied Reiki and Reiki has worked for you.”
She sometimes referred to Reiki energy as “Godpower,” which she clarified was universal and had no religious connotation.
She initiated 22 Reiki Masters before her death in 1980. Each Master took a sacred oath to teach Reiki exactly as she had taught.
Within a few years after Takata’s death the masters she trained formed the The Reiki Alliance and supported her granddaughter, Phyllis Lei Forumoto, in continuing her work.
In the West, one of Mrs. Takata’s masters, Iris Ishikuro and her student Arthur Robertson began changing the practice and training process.
“Out of this group, many were open to change and began allowing the wisdom of the Reiki energy to guide them in the way they should practice and teach Reiki. Because of this, restrictive rules began to fall away,” reports Rand.
The Reiki community splintered and other organizations formed such as The International Center for Reiki Training. They charged more reasonable fees for the Master’s training and initiation, and used workbooks in their training.
Now, there are at least 60,000 Reiki Masters in the world with well over 4,000,000 practitioners and there are many methods of teach of teaching Reiki.
Further, science now proves through Reiki studies what those who have received Reiki have known for a long time: Reiki is an effective method of natural healing.
Most agree that Reiki has its own wisdom and regardless of the teaching method used, Reiki history will continue to develop in meaningful, and creative ways.
Three people played key roles in its now global presence: Mikao Usui, Chujiro Hayashi, Hawayo Takata.
New teaching methods have been added over time. Because Reiki has its own wisdom, Reiki history will continue to develop in meaningful, and creative ways.
Rand, William Lee, Reiki-The Healing Touch: First and Second Degree Manual [REIKI-THE HEALING TOUCH] (Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 2000).