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The History of Reiki

The information within this section hails from a variety of sources, including my own reading and research and, also, material obtained from many Reiki Classes and workshops I've attended.

I herewith present you with an incomplete,

albeit as accurate as I could possibly muster,

history of this wonderful healing modality. 


     The founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, was born on August 15, 1865, in Gifu, Japan. He and his wife had two children, a son and a daughter. He held a variety of jobs throughout his life. The story is told that, because of his curiosity and fascination with healing abilities, such as those of Buddha and Jesus, he took it upon himself to study and research various religions. At one point in his life, he went on a personal quest for spiritual truth and travelled to Mount Kurama, a mountain covered with cedar trees and located outside of Kyoto. Mt. Kurama was noted for helping people personally transform their lives. Dr. Usui climbed to the top of Mt. Kurama where he began to meditate and fast, remaining there for twenty-one days. During his time there we are told that he opened himself to a higher power and received healing for himself and, additionally, a way to heal and help others.  

     On his first day on the mountain Dr. Usui piled up twenty-one stones. Each dawn he tossed one away, thus allowing him to keep track of how long he'd been there. On the twenty-first night, he reported feeling a strong sensation (it has been described as "a great shock") in the center of his head, a sensation which knocked him unconscious. When he awakened he was filled with intense loving energy and joy and it was in this way that Usui Sensei (as he came to be known in Japan) was spiritually initiated into the energy he later named Reiki. He soon discovered that this wonderful energy could heal the physical, mental, and emotional bodies, as well as awaken spiritual gifts, balance the spirit, and help one to achieve

overall inner peace and happiness.


     After using and studying this healing energy for quite some time, Dr. Usui named his system Reiki, which means Spiritually-Guided Life Force Energy. In April, 1921, in Tokyo, Japan, he created a healing society and clinic where he offered treatments and taught classes. His organization was, and is still, named Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkei. Dr. Usui formulated and taught Reiki in three degrees: Shoden (First Teaching), Okuden (Inner Teaching), and Shinpiden (Mystery Teaching). He also created the Reiki Attunement Ritual, which a Master uses

to pass Reiki attunements (or initiations) to students.  


     In September, 1923, Dr. Usui and his students brought Reiki into the city of Tokyo to help heal survivors in the aftermath of  an enormous earthquake that devastated the city. People all over Japan began to hear of Dr. Usui's healing gift; he ended up traveling throughout the country, and even beyond, providing help wherever he could. He dedicated his life to healing and died from a stroke in Fukayama, Japan, on March 9, 1926, at the age of 62.


     It has been written that Mikao Usui was a warm, gentle, and humble man. He came up with the philosophy that, in order to acquire a peaceful state and, also, in order to teach Reiki, one needs to follow and meditate upon the principles that were written by one of Japan's emperors, 

the Meiji Emperor. Dr. Usui adopted these principles for his new system of Reiki. Today these principles are known to us as The Reiki Principles or Ideals. 

*  The Reiki Principles are lovely, wise, and gentle.  *

They are ...

~  Just for today  ~ 


~  Do not anger  ~

~  Do not worry  ~ 

~  Be grateful  ~

~  Work hard  ~ 

~  Be kind to others  ~ 


Dr. Usui taught that anyone can become a Reiki Practitioner because Reiki is found within each person. All that is needed is the process of attunement/initiation to the Reiki energy. Dr. Usui gave the Master Teaching Attunement to twenty students. As his Master initiates began teaching, Dr. Usui’s lineages were born.

     The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkei constructed a 4’ wide by 10’ tall stone memorial for Usui Sensei following his death. The Memorial is located next to his gravestone in a cemetery at the Saihojo Temple in Tokyo and it is cared for by the members of his Reiki organization. Upon it is inscribed in Japanese Kanji the story of his life and purpose.


     One of Usui Sensei’s students was Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a retired naval officer and a medical doctor, who received his Reiki Master Initiation from Dr. Usui in 1926 when Dr. Hayashi was 47 years old. It is believed that Dr. Hayashi created the standard hand positions which enable practitioners to provide Reiki to all the major organs and energetic systems of the body. At that time World War II was about to erupt and, anticipating that he would be called into service, Dr. Hayashi chose to pass his knowledge of the entire Reiki system to two women, Hawayo Takata and Chiyoko Yamaguchi. Mrs. Takata returned to her home in Hawaii to share Reiki in the United States; she is said to have brought Reiki to the West.

Mrs. Yamaguchi remained in Japan.  

Dr. Hayashi reportedly initiated thirteen people to the level of Master Teacher.


     Ms. Hawayo Takata (1900 - 1980) was born of Japanese immigrant parents in Kauai, Hawaii, on December 24, 1900. She was a Japanese American and she had at least one sister. She worked in fields, then as a maid, and eventually as a housekeeper. She was married and had two daughters. Mrs. Takata suffered from serious medical problems, including asthma, gall stones, and a painful stomach ulcer which was in need of surgery. Subsequently, she is said to have suffered an emotional breakdown. Mrs. Takata eventually traveled to Japan for medical help for her physical issues. While being prepared for surgery, she heard/sensed a “voice” that directed her not to have the surgery and instead let her know that there was another way for her to be healed. She spoke to her nurse about possible alternative treatments and eventually found her way to to Dr. Hayashi and his Reiki clinic in Japan where she received many, many Reiki sessions. Mrs. Takata received several group intensive Reiki sessions each day for several months, and, after that intense experience, she found herself to be completely healed.


     Understandably, Mrs. Takata became interested and driven to learn how to use Reiki to heal herself and others, and her persistence eventually persuaded Dr. Hayashi to teach her. Within a year she had received her First and Second Degree Reiki certification, and within two more years in the winter of 1938, Dr. Hayashi initiated her as a Teacher.


     Mrs. Takata wanted to train other Reiki Masters, but thought the Western mind would not be able to understand the Japanese ideals and sufficiently respect the Reiki tradition; hence, she formed a group called the Reiki Alliance. “Grandmaster” or “Lineage Bearer” were titles created by the Reiki Alliance, an organization in the west; these titles are meaningful only to that particular organization. In the years that Mrs. Takata worked as a Reiki Master Teacher, she initiated twenty-two Reiki Masters. She died on December 12, 1980.

The system Mrs. Takata introduced to the world is called

"Usui Shiki Ryoho"

or sometimes "Usui Reiki Ryoho,"

which means "Usui Style Healiing Method,"

or "The Usui Way as I Was Taught."


     Reiki Alliance teachers began to change the manner in which Reiki was taught, instilling a structure and rigidity very different from the simple, flexible, and intuitive manner taught by Dr. Usui. Waiting periods were established between degrees/levels; some teachers divided the degrees into pieces, charging new fees for each section, modifying the system entirely. The Reiki Alliance named Mrs. Takata’s granddaughter as Grandmaster, which, as already explained, is not a title known or used in Dr. Usui’s organization. 


One group of Reiki Alliance people lost a court battle in Texas when they attempted to patent the word Reiki, which means Spiritually-Guided Life Force Energy. That would be like trying to patent the word “breath” or any other word for something that belongs to all humanity. 

Attempts, such as this, to own Reiki come from a deep misunderstanding of the nature of Reiki. It has been questioned whether Mrs. Takata would have supported such changes and activities.


The practice of Reiki became increasingly elitist and separatist because of all these goings-on and, coupled with the exorbitantly high fees, some teachers were prompted to leave the Reiki Alliance. These teachers are described as “Independent Reiki Master Teachers” and are driven by a desire to teach Reiki to as many people as possible. Fees are much lower, and the more intuitive method of performing and teaching Reiki flourishes similar to the way Dr. Usui performed and taught this beautiful healing modality.

Today there are thousands of both Reiki Alliance and Independent Reiki Master Teachers and Therapists throughout the world, providing a potpourri of methods and teachings. 


     Meanwhile, Chiyoko Yamaguchi was quietly living her life in Japan. She raised her family, using Reiki regularly with them. Her son, Tadao Yamaguchi, born in 1952, claims that he never went to a medical doctor while growing up because Reiki took care of any sicknesses or injuries. About 10 years ago, Frank Arjava Petter, a Reiki Master originally from Germany, heard of Chiyoko and traveled to Japan to meet her. He became her student and learned Jikiden Reiki which has now been taught worldwide by Petter, by Tadao Yamaguchi, and by their students. 

Reiki is now taught and offered all over the world. It is used in hospitals, often side by side with medical care which it nicely complements. Hospital patients eagerly request Reiki Healing Sessions once they've experienced Reiki for themselves and medical staff often suggest that patients give Reiki a try knowing fully well that Reiki has been responsible for their patients' increased comfort, reduced pain, decreased stress, and improved sleep, calm, and relaxation.

Dr. Mikao Usui
Dr. Chujiro Hayashi
Mrs. Hawayo Takata
Chiyoko Yamaguchi
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