The following history came from a combination of workshops and conversations with Reiki Master researchers over the past 30+ years as well as personally viewing Mikao Usui’s Memorial inscription in Japan. General references are listed at the end of this article.
Who Developed the System of Reiki?
Usui Reiki Ryoho (Usui Reiki Healing Method now called Reiki) was developed in the 1920’s by Mikao Usui. A well-educated Japanese lay Buddhist with a martial arts background, Usui was dedicated to achieving enlightenment beyond an intellectual level.
Usui Sensei studied many religious and esoteric practices in search of spiritual awakening. During a 21-day fast and meditation retreat on Mount Kurama in the outskirts of Kyoto, Mikao Usui received satori (Japanese term for awakening), birthing the healing art and spiritual practice of Reiki Ryoho (Reiki healing method).
What we now call Reiki started as a method to achieve Enlightenment – Anshin Ritusmei. Usui Sensei was influenced by the teachings of Buddhism, Shintoism, and martial arts to support the development of a person’s spiritual connection. Although some Eastern-based concepts and techniques are part of the Reiki system, Reiki is not affiliated with any religion.
The Passing of Reiki from Teacher to Student
In 1922, a healing dojo was formed in Tokyo named Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, which means The Usui Reiki Healing Method Society. (This society is still active today.) As Usui Sensei gave treatments and instructed public classes on his system of healing, his reputation spread throughout Japan.
Students of Usui Sensei erected a memorial in 1927 at Usui’s gravesite in Tokyo, one year after his passing. Much of Reiki’s history is etched in this memorial stone.
Before he died, Usui trained several Reiki Masters to ensure his healing system would continue on. Chujiro Hayashi, a retired Japanese naval officer with a medical background, is believed to be the last Shihan (Reiki Teacher) student of Usui Sensei.
Hayashi opened a Reiki clinic at the request of Usui Sensei where he offered Reiki treatments. Those interested in becoming Reiki students received training by volunteering extensive hours in Hayashi’s clinic. He added structure to the teachings by creating a treatment manual and system of giving Reiju (attunement). He encouraged students to receive Reiju from their local teacher on a regular basis.
Outside of his clinic work, Hayashi alsotaught Reiki throughout Japan. His most famous students were Chiyoko Yamaguchi and Hawayo Takata.
How Takata Brought Reiki from Japan to the West
Hawayo Takata was born on December 24, 1900, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She is believed to be one of Hayashi Sensei’s last trained Reiki teachers.
Takata’s parents were Japanese immigrants. While visiting Japan, she sought help for health conditions she was experiencing. Rather than have an operation, she visited Hayashi’s Reiki clinic where she recovered completely after receiving regular Reiki treatments for several months.
Inspired by her recovery, she asked to learn Reiki to continue treating herself and to take the powerful healing method back to Hawaii. Mrs. Takata studied Reiki with Hayashi Sensei beginning in the mid-1930’s, becoming his first known western student.
On February 21, 1938, Hayashi Sensei initiated Takata as a Reiki Master. This action took Usui Sensei’s Reiki system from Japan into the West, allowing Reiki to gradually spread around the world.
Takata Sensei is credited for not only bringing Reiki to the West, but also possibly maintaining its importance.
After World War II, the U.S. required all healing practices in Japan to be regulated. The Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Society) decided they did not want that external control and chose instead to go underground. This made the practice of Reiki difficult to find out about in Japan. It also led to a decline in membership in the Gakkai.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Takata Sensei became a great promoter of the practice of Reiki throughout Hawaii and then to the U.S. mainland. She trained 22 Reiki Masters from 1970 to the time of her transition on December 11, 1980.
The Development of Modern Reiki
Two of Takata Sensei’s Reiki Master students, Barbara Weber Ray and Phyllis Furumoto (who was also Takata’s granddaughter), were recognized as her successors by two separate groups. In 1983, The Reiki Alliance was formed with Phyllis Furumoto heading the organization intending to preserve Takata’s style of teaching Reiki.
Independent Reiki branches began to emerge due to style and practice disagreements that arose among Takata Sensei’s 22 Master students after her passing. Workbooks were created, note-taking was allowed, more reasonable fees were charged, and many students began studying with more than one teacher—all in contrast to Takata’s teaching style.
Some of the more well-known U.S.-based Reiki style offshoots include Usui/Tibetan Reiki and Karuna Reiki created by William Lee Rand. David Jarrell created his personal expression of Reiki with Reiki Plus. Other highly experienced Reiki teachers have not distinguished a separate name for their style, instead continuing to call it simply Reiki, while offering their unique blend of teachings.
In April 1993, Frank Arjava Petter, a German Reiki Master initially taught in the Takata lineage, began teaching Western style Reiki in Japan. With this move, the practice of Reiki had now circled the globe, returning to its place of origin. This action drew attention back to the Japanese styles of Reiki and how they were closer to the original intention of Usui’s teachings than those styles taught in the West.
As shown in the list below, there are now many styles of Reiki ranging from more traditional Japanese practices, to Western style Reiki in the manner taught by Hawayo Takata, and new age styles of Reiki which include elements like Reiki guides, chakras, crystals, and more.
Some of the most common styles of Reiki offered today are:
- Usui Shiki Ryoho – Takata, student of Hayashi, currently The Reiki Alliance – Phyllis Furumoto, student of Takata
- Jikiden Reiki – Chiyoko Yamaguchi, Japanese style, levels one and two training from Hayashi
- Komyo ReikiDo – Hyakuten Inamoto, Japanese style
- Gendai Reiki Ho – Hiroshi Doi, combined style of Western and Japanese
- Holy FireKaruna Reiki® – William Lee Rand combined style Reiki
- Reiki Plus® – David Jarrell, Western style, combining Takata and modern elements
- The Radiance Technique® – Barbara Weber Ray, Western style, student of Takata
- Independent Reiki styles – a generic category including all Western and Japanese Reiki practitioners who do not align themselves with one particular branch of teaching. They have chosen to include the components they have learned or added to their practice of Reiki.
Teachers have added or removed aspects of the system of Reiki based on their personal inclination, which has led to both subtle and significant differences in how Reiki is practiced and taught.
Even so, Reiki in our modern world continues to be a powerful healing method with strong roots. Its popularity continues to grow as more and more people learn the method and receive its energy.
My thanks and gratitude to my teachers and these authors who influenced the writing of this post:
- Walter Lubeck, Frank Arjava Petter, William Lee Rand (The Spirit of Reiki)
- Frank Arjava Petter (Reiki, The Legacy of Dr. Usui and The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui)
- Bronwen Stein and Frans Stein (The Japanese Art of Reiki and The Reiki Sourcebook)
- Frank Arjava Petter, Hiroshi Doi, and William Lee Rand for information gathered orally during their live workshops
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Contact Ginny Mackles at 952-426-3525