Dr. Usui and Reiki

Reiki in Japan the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai

Dr. Usui discovered Reiki during a mystical experience on Mt. Kurama, a sacred mountain north of Kyoto, Japan in March 1922. A few months later he started a Reiki organization called the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai which means “Usui Reiki Healing Society.” He also opened a Reiki clinic in Harajuku, Aoyama, and Tokyo. There he taught classes and gave Reiki treatments. After the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, the demand for Reiki was great and it was at this time that Usui began training other teachers.

Usui was the first president of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. After he died, he was followed by a succession of presidents: Mr. Ushida, Mr. Iichi Taketome, Mr. Yoshiharu Watanabe, Mr. Toyoichi Wanami, Ms. Kimiko Koyama, and the current successor to Dr. Usui as of 1998 is Mr. Kondo. Contrary to what has been said by some in the west, there is no "lineage bearer" or "Grandmaster" in the system of healing started by Dr. Usui, only the succession of presidents listed above. While Dr. Hayashi was a respected Reiki master and made valuable contributions to the development of Reiki, he was never the president of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai.

Reiki is a generic word in Japan and is used to describe many types of healing and spiritual work. It is not exclusive to the system of healing based on Dr. Usui's method. The system of healing that evolved from Dr. Usui's method is called the Usui System of Natural Healing or Usui Reiki Ryoho.

There has been a lot of speculation about where Reiki came from, but there has been little confirmation of most of these ideas. Some say that Reiki originated from Buddhism or that it contains Buddhist concepts or techniques. I spoke with a Japanese Reiki master who is also a Buddhist and has done historical research into Reiki in Japan. He said that he could see no connection between Reiki and Buddhism and that he felt that Reiki is religiously neutral. While Dr. Usui may have been a Buddhist, he had also studied Christianity and had lived with a Christian family for a time. It is clear he had a very broad background in many religious teachings and philosophies

The clearest and most authentic understanding we have been able to discover is that Dr. Usui originated the system of healing he taught and practiced based first on his mystical experience on Mt. Kurama and then later by making use of his studies in many different areas of knowledge. Usui Reiki has no connection to Buddhism, nor is it connected to Tibetan Buddhism or Tibetan shamanism or any other religion. One of the stories says Dr. Usui discovered the Reiki symbols in a Tibetan sutra, but even though people have carefully looked, no one has been able to find a Tibetan sutra with Reiki symbols in it. This is further validated by Dr. Usui’s own writing in which he says, "Our Reiki Ryoho is something absolutely original and cannot be compared with any other (spiritual) path in the world." (Taken from his Reiki Ryoho Handbook)

Reiki in the West
Usui Sensei asked Hayashi Sensei to develop Reiki which he did and Mrs. Takata who brought it to the west also changed the way it was practiced. Because of this, the system that has been taught in the west which has in turn spread all over the world is considerably different than the Reiki methods of both Hayashi Sensei and Usui Sensei.

During his mystical experience on Mt. Kurama, Dr. Usui received the ability to do Reiki treatments. Later he added the Reiki Ideals, the three Reiki II symbols, hand positions, and the attunement process. Following Dr. Usui's request to develop the system of Reiki, Dr. Hayashi created a complex hand position system based on his experience as a medical doctor and from his experience working in his Reiki clinic. He also further developed the attunement process and may have been the one to add the master symbol, although it is possible that the master symbol was added by Mrs. Takatal. (Note that Dr. Usui and his organization the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai did not use a master symbol)

Mrs. Takata developed what she called the foundation treatment which is a simplified version of what she learned from Dr. Hayashi. The foundation treatment consists of 4 hand positions on the abdomen area and 3 or 4 hand positions for the head and a few optional hand positions on the back. She also decided not to teach most of the techniques (now called Japanese Reiki techniques) she learned from Dr. Hayashi, thus simplifying the system for Westerners. (see How Mrs. Takata Practiced and Taught Reiki that was featured in the Spring 07 issue of Reiki News Magazine) She also added the fee structure previously mentioned. So, while the lineage is the same, going back to Dr. Usui, and the 3 symbols from Reiki II are the same as Dr. Usui taught, in many ways, the system of Reiki she taught was different than what Dr. Usui had originally created. The important thing is that her system is effective with the addition of the foundation treatment being her most important contribution to Reiki.

The required waiting periods between classes were added by several of Mrs. Takata's Masters after she passed on. Actually, according to Mrs. Yamaguchi who became a Reiki teacher under Dr. Hayashi, Dr. Hayashi taught that Reiki treatments should be given for free. This is why he taught mostly to wealthy students who could afford to practice without charging money. So, while some say payment must be received, we know that this is not a requirement and that it is really up to the practitioner to decide if they want to charge a fee or not for Reiki treatments.

Takata said Reiki is an oral tradition and because of this didn’t allow her students to take notes or to tape-record and she had no written handouts; neither did she write anything about how Reiki is to be taught. (We now know she did teach one class in June 1975 in which she did give handouts and did allow her students to take notes. See the summer 09 issues of Reiki News Magazine.) Because of this, it became difficult to verify exactly how Reiki is to be practiced. This became especially problematic after she passed on.


After Mrs. Takata's transition, a few teachers began making changes in the way they taught Reiki. Most of the changes were beneficial and included the addition of knowledge and healing skills the teachers had learned from other systems or had acquired from inner guidance. However, some changes were restrictive, making it more difficult for students to progress.

Some took the Third Degree and divided it into several small parts, calling each new part a new Degree and charging additional money. Often, the fact that they had modified the Takata system was not mentioned and when their students became teachers, they began teaching what they thought was pure Takata style Reiki and even calling it pure Usui Reiki when in fact it was not. In this way, many varieties of Reiki have developed with some thinking they have the only authentic version of Reiki when actually what they are teaching is a modified form. Much of the information on the web about the history of Usui Reiki and how it is taught and practiced has not been well researched and people are simply publishing anything they have heard without attempting to find the source or check references.

The editors of this FAQ and The International Center for Reiki Training which provided much of the source material for this FAQ support all Reiki schools which adhere to the original spirit of Reiki. See our Purpose and Philosophy and The Reiki Ideals - The Ethical Principles of Reiki. At the same time, we encourage all those researching Reiki to understand that not everything published on the web about Reiki has been researched and one needs to find authentic sources if one is to gain a clear understanding of Usui Reiki Ryoho. The ideas and facts in this FAQ have been carefully researched and have come from reliable and verifiable sources. (Please see the history of Reiki as described in Reiki, The Healing Touch, which contains references to all the above information.)

The Development of Usui Reiki
The following three passages trace the story of Reiki as researched by William Lee Rand. A more detailed explanation can be found in his book, Reiki, The Healing Touch.

Dr. Mikao Usui

Dr. Mikao Usui, or Usui Sensei as he is called by his students in Japan, is the founder of the Usui System of Reiki. He was born August 15, 1865, in the village of Yago in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture, Japan. Usui Sensei had an avid interest in learning and worked hard at his studies. He traveled to Europe and China to further his education. His curriculum included medicine, psychology, and religion. It is thought that he was from a wealthy family, as in Japan only the wealthy could afford to send their children to school. Eventually, he became the secretary to Shinpei Goto, head of the department of health and welfare who later became the Mayor of Tokyo. The connections Usui Sensei made at this job helped him to become a successful businessman.

In March 1922 Usui's personal and business life was failing. As a sensitive spiritualist, Usui Sensei had previously spent much time meditating at power spots on Mt. Kurama. So, he decided to travel to this holy mountain where he enrolled in Isyu Guo, a twenty-one-day training course. He was not seeking to discover a method of healing, but only to solve his personal problems.

We do not know for certain what he was required to do during this training, but it is likely that fasting, meditation, chanting, and prayers were part of the practice. In addition, we know there is a small waterfall on Mt. Kurama where even today people go to meditate. This meditation involves standing under the waterfall and allowing the waters to strike and flow over the top of the head, a practice that is said to activate the crown chakra. Japanese Reiki Masters think that Usui Sensei may have used this meditation as part of his practice. In any case, it was during the Isyu Guo training that the great Reiki energy entered his crown chakra. This greatly enhanced his healing abilities and he realized he had received a wonderful new gift - the ability to give healing to others without depleting his own energy!

Accepting the responsibility to practice and teach this new gift, Usui Sensei created the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai and also opened a Reiki clinic. He also further developed Reiki creating the various levels of training, adding 3 symbols to the practice, and developing an attunement method.

Please refer to Reiki, The Healing Touch, by William Lee Rand for a more detailed description of how Dr. Usui discovered and developed Reiki.

Dr. Chujiro Hayashi

Dr. Hayashi was a retired naval officer. He received the Reiki Master initiation from Dr. Usui about 1925 at the age of 47.

Up to this point, the Usui system of healing consisted of the energy itself, the 3 Reiki II symbols, the Usui hand positions, the attunement process, and the Reiki ideals. After being asked to do so by Usui sensei, Dr. Hayashi went on to develop the Usui system of healing. He opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo and kept detailed records of the treatments given. He used this information to create the Hayashi Healing Guide that included detailed hand positions for specific illnesses and conditions. He changed the way Reiki sessions were given by having the client lay on a table and be treated by 2 practitioners. He simplified the attunement process and may have been the one to add the master symbol, thus increasing the effectiveness of the attunement. (Although this may have been added by Mrs. Takata.) This may be why Takata only give a limited number of attunements for each level, whereas Dr. Usui recommended the student receive as many attunements or reiju’s as possible.


Hawayo Takata

Takata photo was taken on June 11, 1979, Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.
Used with permission from the estate of Gunter and Ursula Baylor

Reiki comes to the West
Hawayo Takata was born at dawn on December 24th, 1900, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Her parents were Japanese immigrants and her father worked in the sugar cane fields. She worked very hard as she was growing up. She eventually married the bookkeeper of the plantation where she was employed. His name was Saichi Takata and they had two daughters. In October 1930, Saichi died at the age of thirty-four leaving Mrs. Takata to raise their two children.
In order to provide for her family, she had to work very hard with little rest. After five years she developed severe abdominal pain, a lung condition, and had a nervous breakdown.

Soon after this, one of her sisters died and it was the responsibility of Hawayo to travel to Japan where her parents had moved to deliver the news. She also felt she could receive help for her health in Japan.
She took a steamship and was accompanied by her sister-in-law. After informing her parents of the death of her sister, she entered a hospital. It was found that she had a tumor, gallstones, and emphysema. She rested for several weeks to prepare for the operation.

On the operating table, just before the surgery was to begin, Hawayo heard a voice. The voice said, "The operation is not necessary. The operation is not necessary." She had never heard a voice speak to her like this before. She wondered what it meant. The voice repeated the message a third time even louder. She knew she was wide awake and had not imagined the voice. It was so unusual, yet so compelling that she decided to ask the doctor. She got off the operating table, wrapped a sheet around herself, and asked to speak to the doctor.

When the doctor finally came, she asked if he knew of any other way that her problems could be helped. The doctor knew of Dr. Hayashi's Reiki clinic and told Hawayo about it. This was something she wanted to try.

At the Reiki clinic, she began receiving treatments. She had never heard of Reiki before and did not know what it was. Using byosen scanning the practitioners could sense what was wrong with Mrs. Takata. Their diagnosis very closely matched the doctors at the hospital. This impressed her and gave her confidence in what they were doing.

Two Reiki practitioners would treat her each day. The heat from their hands was so strong that she thought they were using some kind of equipment. She looked around but saw none. Seeing the large sleeves of the Japanese kimono one of the practitioners was wearing, she thought she had found the location of the equipment.

She grabbed the sleeves but found nothing. The startled practitioner wanted to know what she was doing and when she explained, he began to laugh. Then he told her about Reiki and how it worked.

Mrs. Takata received daily treatments and got progressively better. In four months, she was completely healed. Impressed with the results, she wanted to learn Reiki. However, it was explained that Reiki was Japanese and that it was intended to stay in Japan. It could not be taught to an outsider.

Mrs. Takata talked to the surgeon at the hospital and convinced him to ask Dr. Hayashi to allow her to learn Reiki. Since Dr. Hayashi wanted to teach Reiki to another woman besides his wife, and since Mrs. Takata was so persistent, he decided that she should be the one. In the spring of 1936, Mrs. Takata received First Degree Reiki. She worked with Dr. Hayashi for one year and then received Second Degree Reiki.

Mrs. Takata returned to Hawaii in 1937. She was soon followed by Dr. Hayashi and his daughter who came to help establish Reiki in Hawaii. In the winter of 1938, Dr. Hayashi initiated Hawayo Takata as a Reiki Master. She was the thirteenth and last Reiki Master Dr. Hayashi initiated.

Takata did not teach or practice Reiki the same way she had learned from Dr. Hayahsi. She chose to modify the system by creating her own hand position method she called the foundation treatment. In addition, she eliminated what we in the west have come to call the Japanese Reiki techniques, which include byosen scanning, kenyoku, and gyoshi ho to name a few. In effect, she simplified the system making it easier to learn. Even so, her system is effective and we must honor her for being an innovator.

Between 1970 and her transition on December 11, 1980, Mrs. Takata initiated twenty-two, Reiki Masters. Below is a list of the Reiki Masters she initiated. This is the list she gave to her sister before she passed through transition.

George Araki
Barbara McCullough
Beth Grey
Ursula Baylow (deceased)
Paul Mitchell
Iris Ishikura (deceased)
Fran Brown
Barbara Weber Ray
Ethel Lombardi
Wanja Twan
Virginia Samdahl (deceased)
Phyllis Lei Furumoto
Dorothy Baba (deceased)
Mary McFaden
John Gray
Rick Bockner
Bethel Phaigh (deceased)
Harry Kuboi
Patricia Ewing
Shinobu Saito
Kay Yamashita (Takata's Sister)
Barbara Brown

The original twenty-two teachers have taught others. In the time since Mrs. Takata experienced transition, Reiki has spread rapidly in the West. It is now practiced throughout North and South America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, India, and other parts of the world. There are now an estimated 1,000,000 Reiki Masters with as many as 4,000,000 people having been initiated into Reiki throughout the world.

Unless otherwise noted, for the most part, the text above is reprinted from Reiki the Healing Touch by William Rand. Permission is granted to reprint portions of this text if the original source is cited: Rand, William. Reiki, The Healing Touch. Southfield, MI: Vision Publications, 1991.


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Replies to This Discussion

An invaluable piece of history for anyone who wants to understand what Reiki is all about.

So nice to see you Savlove. Haven't seen you here in a while. I got to put some more Reiki material here.

Reiki is very interesting.
I received distance reiki help.
I am very grateful.


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