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What is the history of Reiki?


During the last 2000 years, many advances in medicine have permeated the isle of Japan, including CTM (Chinese Traditional Medicine). With its arrival during the 8th-9th centuries came a greater understanding of the human energy system (Tan Tien, Meridians) and the introduction of Chinese Qi Gong (called Kiko in Japan). All of these practices were adopted into Japanese culture, which already employed Shi-atsu and Te-a-te. These use both Kiko energy and finger pressure in their application.


Usui Sensei's common name was Mikao and his other name was Gyoho (perhaps his spiritual name). He was born in the Taniai-mura (village) in the Yamagata district of Gifu Prefecture (Taniai is now part of Miyama village). His ancestor's name was Tsunetane Chiba (a very famous Samurai who had played an active part as a military commander between the end of Heian Period and the beginning of Kamakura Period (1180-1230). His mother's maiden name was Kawai.


Usui Sensei was born in the first year of the Keio period, called Keio Gunnen (1865), on August 15th. From what is known, he was a talented and hard working student with great ability. He wanted to be a success in life, but couldn't achieve it; often he was unlucky and in need. But he didn't give up and he disciplined himself to study more and more.


One day he went to Kurama yama to start asceticism. He employed a Tendia meditative practice - ‘shyu gyo’ kushu shinren or Zazen Shikan Taza - a very strict process of spiritual training using meditation and fasting. On the beginning of the 21st day, suddenly he felt over his head a “mysterious atmosphere” and he comprehended the truth. At that moment he got Reiki ‘Ryoho’ (this term originally meant ancestral remedy or therapy.)


When he first tried this on himself, then tried this on his family, good results manifested instantly. Usui Sensei said that it is much better to share this pleasure with the public at large than to keep this knowledge within our family (it was customary to keep such knowledge in the family to increase their power). In April of the 11th year of the Taisho period (1922) he moved his residence to Harajuku, Aoyama, and Tokyo (this is next to the Meiji Outer Gardens and the huge Aoyama Cemetery). There, he founded ‘Gakkai’ (a learning society)  He taught Reiki Ryoho (according to his student Tenon-in, who passed on in 2003 at the age of 106, Usui Sensei taught his spiritual method simply called "his method," referred to by his students as "Usui-Do", or the way of Usui). It was based upon the concepts he wrote called Usui Reiki Ryoho. People came from near and far asking for guidance and therapy; many shoes lined up outside the building (in Japan, one takes their shoes off at the door).


In September of the 12h year of the Taisho period (1923), there were many injured and sick people all over Tokyo because of the Kanto earthquake and fire. Usui Sensei felt deep anxiety. Every day he went around the city to treat them. We could not count how many people were treated and saved by him. During this emergency situation, his relief activity was that of reaching out his hands of love to suffering people. Mr. Hiroshi Doi was told that Usui Sensei  would actually lie on the ground and give Reiki from his hands and feet to at least 4 people at a time.


After that, his learning practice became too small. In February of the 14th year of the Taisho period (1925), he built and moved to a new one (a dojo or training hall) outside Tokyo in Nakano (Nakano is now part of Tokyo.) Because of his fame, he was often invited to many places in Japan. In answering those requests, he went to Kure, then to Hiroshima, to Saga and reached Fukuyama. It was during his stay in Fukuyama that he unexpectedly got sick and died. He was 62 years old.


In Western terms, Usui Sensei was 60 - born August 15, 1865; died March 9, 1926 as per his grave marker; however, in old Japan, you are "one" when born and turn another year older at the start of the New Year.


His wife was from Suzuki family; her name was Sadako. They had a son and a daughter. The son's name was Fuji, who carried on the Usui family (meaning the property, business, family name, etc). Born in 1908 or 1909, at the time of his father's death Fuji was 19 in Japanese years. We learned that Fuji may have taught Reiki in Taniai village. According to the Usui family grave stone, the daughter's name was Toshiko, and she died in September 23, 1935 at the age of 22 in Japanese years. Usui Sensei also taught his wife's niece, who was a Tendai Buddhist Nun named Suzuki San. She studied Reiki with Usui from 1915 until his death in 1926 and claimed, "There was no fixed point at which he began to teach. People were drawn to him because of his charisma and wisdom, and asked him to teach them. He never placed himself in the role of teacher.” As of this writing (2003) she is still alive - approximately 108.


Usui Sensei was very mild, gentle and humble by nature. He was physically big and strong, yet he kept smiling all the time. However, when something happened, he prepared towards a solution with firmness and patience. He had many talents. He liked to read. His knowledge of history; biographies; medicine; theological books like Buddhism Kyoten (Buddhist bible) and bibles (scriptures); psychology; jinsen no jitsu (god hermit technique); the science of direction, ju jitsu (he also learned Judo from Jigoro Kano, according to Tenon-in); incantations (the "spiritual way of removing sickness and evil from the body"); the science of divination; physiognomy (face reading) and the I Ching was very deep.  I think that Usui Sensei's training in these, and the culture which was based on this knowledge and experience, led to the key to perceiving Reiho (short for "Reiki Ryoho"). The origins of the Usui-Do system are now known to be from Taoism and Shinto; brought to Japan from China, probably around the 5th/6th centuries.


Recent discoveries by Reiki teachers and researchers, however, have revealed the story of Reiki's history and travel to the West as incomplete. Hawayo Takata, a Reiki Shinpiden (teacher) attuned by Chujiro Hayashi, who was attuned by Usui, changed Reiki's history of development in order to make Reiki more appealing to the West. There was a distinct anti Japanese feeling at the time that she moved to Hawaii in 1941, due to the Second World War and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour. Usui's religion was changed to that of Christianity. Standard hand positions were added to the three levels Shoden, Okuden and Shinpiden, to negate the use of intuition, which would have been frowned upon in the West. Usui only ever used hand positions with students who were uncertain in relying on their own intuition to locate imbalances.


After his death, the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai was formed. The Gakkai, a memorial organization, was made up of Usui's students and friends who wanted to preserve the work that Usui had started. He had brought Usui-Do and Teate together synergistically to create a Spiritual /Philosophical path and practice that contained a system to live one’s life to the fullest, in peace and harmony, without anger or worry. This system contains the philosophies and meditative practices aimed to promote spiritual growth, and hand healing practices used to heal oneself - mind, body, and spirit.




The Original Reiki Handbook of Mikao Usui - Frank Arjava Petter

The Japanese Art of Reiki - Bronwen and Frans Stiene

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