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Traditional Reiki History

Traditional Reiki, as taught and practiced in the West, enables the transfer of Reiki Energy from teacher to student to occur relatively rapidly, usually within the familiar and comfortable context of a weekend workshop. This method, called Usui Shiki Ryoho, relies on formalized attunements, which are repeated a set number of times for each level of training – four attunements for level I, the basic hands-on healing course; two or three for level II, the distant healing course; and one for level III, the master or teacher training course. These attunements are believed to have been developed by Mikao Usui for some of his Reiki Master students, including Chujiro Hayashi, a physician who treated patients with Reiki at a clinic in Tokyo.

In the 1930s, a young Japanese-American woman named Hawayo Takata, recently widowed and seriously ill, was referred by her doctors in Hawaii to Dr. Hayashi for treatment. At Dr. Hayashi's clinic in Tokyo, Takata found much more than a Reiki "cure." She found a renewed sense of life purpose. She begged Dr. Hayashi to teach her Reiki to the Master level, so that she could bring Reiki back to Hawaii. Eventually, Dr. Hayashi was persuaded, and Takata began teaching Reiki on American soil in approximately 1938. She used repeated, formalized attunements to initiate her students, presented standardized hand positions for client treatment, and told a parable-like story of the life of Mikao Usui, which placed his spiritual journey in the context of a quest for knowledge of how Christ accomplished healing miracles recorded in the Bible.

This story, told in full in The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki, is often still presented to Reiki students being trained in the traditional Western manner. However, this story is now usually accompanied by a more historically accurate account based on a translation of the inscription on the Usui Memorial, which stands by his gravesite at Saihoji Temple in Tokyo. A translation of this inscription by Japanese Komyo Reiki Master Rev. Hyakuten Inamoto is also included in ,I>The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki.

Traditional Reiki, as taught in Japan, called Usui Reiki Ryoho, assumes a different cultural context for its students and so uses a different methodology to transfer the Energy from teacher to student. Each student is individually invited by a sponsor to become a member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, the learning society founded by Dr. Usui during his lifetime. If the student is willing to make a lifetime commitment, he or she is invited to participate in the monthly meetings of the Gakkai. At each meeting, the student receives an attunement and some instruction, as well as the opportunity to practice treatment under the attentive eyes of his or her sponsor or another experienced practitioner.

With the first attunement, the student is taught only five hand positions to be used on the head, and is presented with a copy of the Dr. Usui's manual, which describes more hand positions. As the student becomes more comfortable with the practice of Reiki and more aware of subtle perceptions of energy, he or she is taught how to scan the body for signs of weakness or illness. Finally, the student is taught how to use intuition to guide the placement of the hands during treatment. These healing skills, gradually learned over months or years, constitute the Shoden (the entrance) levels of Usui Reiki Ryoho, equivalent to level I in Usui Shiki Ryoho (the Western tradition). In the same very gentle and gradual way, the Okuden (the deep inside) and Shinpiden (the mystery) levels, equivalent to levels II and III in the Western tradition, are taught.

The ongoing nature of instruction allows students in the Gakkai to learn more techniques for Reiki practice than are usually taught in a traditional Western class; these include techniques for meditation. The history that students in the Gakkai learn is also, not surprisingly, more detailed and accurate; both traditions regard Dr. Usui's twenty-one day fast and meditation on Mt. Kurama, culminating in his dramatic attunement and healing, as the turning point in his lifetime and the beginning of Reiki practice, as we know it today. Both continue to teach the Reiki principles, used by Dr. Usui for many of his meditations, as cornerstones of contemplation and guidelines for a healthy lifestyle.

News of the Japanese tradition of Reiki practice and teaching has become available in the West since Traditional Reiki For Our Times was published in the spring of 1998. In the summer of that year, an American, a Canadian, and a British Reiki Master began corresponding with Yukio Miura, a student of Japanese Reiki Master Hiroshi Doi. They learned that Mr. Doi had just published Iyashi no Gendai Reikiho (Modern Reiki Method for Healing) and would be pleased to share information about the history and current practice of Reiki in Japan.

These Western Reiki Masters invited Mr. Doi to come to teach some of these historical techniques in Vancouver, Canada, and, in August 1999, Mr. Doi kindly accepted. They also asked if they could sponsor translation of his book into English, and again, he kindly accepted. (This translation is now complete; and Mr. Doi's book is sadly out of print. Thus, through the generosity, good will, and hard work of all these people, and those many friends, family members, and students who supported them, a way was opened for Westerners to learn about Reiki in Japan.

Mr. Doi, a current member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, also taught modern or Gendai Reiki method to those gathered. This method builds on the foundation of practice taught through the Japanese tradition of Reiki, adding elements Mr. Doi learned from his study of the Western tradition and evolved through his own practice and teaching. The result is a powerful synthesis that is meaningful to both Japanese and Western Reiki practitioners and teachers.

To give more Western Reiki Masters the opportunity to learn about the practice and teaching of Reiki in Japan, Mr. Doi has continued to teach workshops. Reiki Masters who have attended these workshops are permitted to offer instruction and attune other Reiki Masters to teach Gendai Reiki. As these Reiki Masters integrate what they have learned, instruction in these methods becomes more available.

To learn how these traditional and modern Reiki methods are presented in the classes Amy Rowland teaches, please visit her web page: Amy Rowland. To learn when classes are scheduled, please click on Reiki Classes

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Amy Rowland.
Japanese Teahouse ©1998-2019 Amy Rowland.
Additional web site photos©1998-2019.
Connie Bell-Dixon, Donna Glas, and Amy Rowland.