THE BIRTH OF REIKI
Dr. Mikao Usui, Tokyo, Japan
DR. MIKAO USUI
Reiki was discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui in 1922.
Mikao Usui was born in Nagoya, Japan on 15 August 1865. At a young age, Dr. Usui studied kiko (the Japanese version of Qi Gong) at a Tendai Buddhist Temple on Mt. Kuruma. Kiko involves a build-up of a supply of energy through the use of exercises before using it for healing through the laying of hands. Those using kiko are prone to energy depletion (as it can draw on one’s own energy as well) and young Usui was fascinated with questions of whether there was a way to use the healing without the depletion.
Usui then travelled all over Japan, China and Europe in pursuit of this question, learning a broad array of subjects including medicine, psychology, religion and spiritual development. Blessed with psychic abilities, he also joined a metaphysical group called the Rei Jyutu Ka which enabled him to continue with his spiritual education.
(Photo of a young Mikao Usui)
Both his education and sharp mind landed Mikao a job as Secretary for the Shinpen Goto and later as the Head of Department of Health and Welfare. He then rose to become the Mayor of Tokyo. Following his tenure as Mayor, Mikao ran his own business successfully until 1914 when unfortunately, his business took a turn for the worse.
Having grown up in a Buddhist family, it was at that time that Dr. Usui decided to immerse himself in devotional practice. He became a Buddhist monk and trained intensely. Usui eventually returned to Mt. Kuruma where he had studied as a boy and decided to take a 21 day retreat on the mountain, during which time he fasted, chanted, prayed and meditated for the purpose of attaining enlightenment.
(Photo of the location thought to be where Mikao Usui meditated on Mt. Kurama)
It was towards the end of his retreat when a great, powerful, spiritual light entered Dr. Usui via the top of his head and was so powerful that it knocked him to the ground. This light was a satori or enlightening experience. It was Reiki (Universal Energy) coming to Dr. Usui in the form of an attunement after which Dr. Usui experienced an expanded awareness.
He was so excited by his experience, that when running down the mountain he stubbed his toe so badly that it was bleeding. Automatically he put his hand over his toe and the bleeding and pain went away.
(Shrine at Mt Kurama Yama in the location thought to be where Dr. Usui received the Satori)
When Usui reached bottom of the mountain and sat to eat his first meal in 21 days, he could see a young girl crying and her face was swollen from an infected tooth. He placed his hands over the aching tooth and almost immediately the pain went away.
After returning home, Dr. Usui first started practicing Reiki on himself and then on members of his family. In time he discovered Reiki’s capacity to heal, balance and restore (to make whole, physically, mentally and spiritually).
He then moved to Tokyo in 1922 and founded the ‘Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai’ (Usui Reiki Healing Society). He opened a clinic in central Tokyo where he began teaching classes and giving Reiki treatments.
(Photo of Dr. Mikao Usui (middle) with his students)
Dr. Usui cared deeply about the greater good of humanity, he regarded Reiki as Divine and his goal was for Reiki to spread worldwide and for it to be easily available to everybody, which remained his goal up until his death in 1926.
(Dr. Usui's Tombstone in Tokyo)
ALTERNATIVE HISTORY OF REIKI
BRINGING REIKI TO THE WEST:
MRS HAWAYO TAKATA AND HOW SHE KEPT THE FLAME OF REIKI ALIVE
Over the years there have been many versions told of Reiki’s history and in particular, about Dr. Usui. The most common ‘other version’ (and one that still prevails today in many circles) is that Dr. Usui was not a Buddhist monk, but rather, a Christian Minister who was educated by Christian Missionaries and became Principal of a Christian boys’ School. Claims were made that he had attended a University in the United States and had been the President of a Doshisha University, a Christian University in Kyoto, Japan. His Christian persuasion was central to this version.
Attributed to Hawayo Takata, she told of Dr. Usui ‘rediscovering’ Reiki after he sought to discover how Jesus was able to heal others and with this important question in mind, he went to Mt Kurama to meditate on it and it is at this point that the two main versions of Reiki’s history meet up.
Vigorous research has firmly led to the conclusion that this version is much more mythology than an accurate account of Dr. Usui’s life.
However, Mrs. Takata’s version is still an extremely important one in the history of Reiki. Indeed, were it not for Mrs. Takata’s ‘modified’ version of Dr. Usui, Reiki would not have been brought to the West and we would not have Reiki available to us today. For this reason, we honour Mrs. Takata for her contribution to the continued practice of Reiki around the World and the story she told to ensure that.
INTRODUCING HAWAYO TAKATA
Mrs. Takata was born on 24 December 1900 on the island of Kauaui, Hawaii. She grew up and began working in various jobs from farm work, to an education assistant, a house worker and finally progressed to House Manager, giving all of her wages to assist her family. As the manager of the Estate, she handled paychecks and general finances for the Estate. It is there where she met Saichi Takata, the Estate accountant whom she ended up marrying and having two children together with. It was a happy but short marriage as sadly, in 1930 her husband died.
Following Saichi Takata’s death, between 1930 and 1935 Mrs. Takata continued to work hard but struggled to provide financial care for her family. In addition to the stress and burden of trying to make ends meet, Mrs. Takata suffered from a painful abdominal condition which required surgery and a lung condition which prevented the use of the anaesthetic needed for the abdominal surgery. In 1935, the burden proved too much and she suffered a nervous breakdown.
(Photo of Saichi and Hawayo Takata at the Maeda Clinic in Tokyo, dated October 23, 1928)
Desperate and not knowing what to do, every night after finishing her chores she would sit under the big camphor tree where she would meditate and pray for guidance. On one such night she heard a clear and distinct voice advising her to take care of her health first, for only then would she be able to work and earn a good living.
Within a few weeks, one of her sister’s died very suddenly so Hawayo returned to Japan where her parents lived, to deliver the news to them in person. After doing so and after her sister’s funeral she attended hospital for treatment of her conditions. It was there that the doctor confirmed that she had a tumour, gallstones and appendicitis. She was scheduled for surgery the next day.
Early the next morning, she was taken into the operating theatre to prepare for surgery and as the operating staff prepared around her she heard a voice clearly telling her “the operation is not necessary”, several times. She looked around the room but no one was talking and then she heard the words “ask…ask…ask” and when she wondered who to ask, she heard the words “The head surgeon.”
When Mrs Takata asked the head surgeon whether he knew of any other treatment therapy that would help her, he said that he did but that there was no way to know how long the treatment would take, that it could take one, two months or even a year which meant she would have to extend her stay in Tokyo. She was committed to trying the treatment and it was from there that she was referred to Dr. Churijo Hyashi, a Master Reiki Practitioner.
INTRODUCING DR. CHUJIROO HYASHI
Dr Hayashi has played two important roles in Western Reiki. Firstly, he is considered to be the originator of the hand position system used here in the West and secondly, he initiated Mrs Takata to Reiki Master, allowing her to then bring Reiki to the West.
Chujiro was an ex-naval Officer in the Japanese Navy and a Naval Doctor who graduated Navy School in December 1902. He commenced his Reiki training with Dr. Usui in 1925 at the age of 47. It is said in some circles that he was one of the last Reiki Masters trained by Usui prior to his death.
Following Dr. Hyashi's first training, he left the Usui school and started a small clinic in Tokyo named ‘Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu-Kai’.
In practising and teaching Reiki, Dr. Usui used head positions only, then treated any problem area on the body. He also gave additional positions for treating specific conditions.
This was modified by Dr. Hayashi who began using seven to eight main hand positions that covered the upper body. These positions were based on Eastern traditional healing methods (such as in Chinese Medicine) where the ‘body’ consists of the head and torso and the limbs considered ‘external’. The idea was that when treating these main positions (which cover major energy centres and acupuncture points), the energy will flow not only through the body but also to the arms and legs using meridians. Therefore it is only necessary to treat the head and torso in order to treat the entire body mind.
It is said that these may have been the basis for the hand positions used in the western world today.
(Pictured: Dr. Hyashi's clinic shaded in on old map of Tokyo)
Taking on her surgeon’s suggestion, Mrs. Takata remained in Tokyo and commenced Reiki treatments with Dr. Hyashi. Within weeks of her daily Reiki treatments, Mrs. Takata showed great improvement. She was so fascinated with Reiki that she begged Dr. Hyashi to train her so that she could treat herself back in Hawaii and also make a living for herself and take care of her family. At that point Reiki was only taught and practiced in Japan to the exclusion of all Westerners. However, following a compelling letter from Mrs. Takata's surgeon, Dr Hyashi agreed and began teaching Mrs Takata Reiki.
(Photo of a young Hawayo Takata with Dr. Hyashi)
Mrs. Takata then began practicing Reiki on herself daily and within weeks her health improved. Finally, after four months, she began to practice Reiki in Dr. Hyashi’s clinic and did so for over a year until finally earning her Second degree in Reiki.
(Reiki certificate with Dr. Hyashi's stamp)
In 1937, Mrs Takata returned home to Hawaii and a few weeks later Dr. Hyashi arrived to help her establish a Reiki clinic in Honolulu. Dr Hyashi publicly announced Mrs Takata as a Reiki Master at the end of his trip. As a Reiki Master, Mrs. Takata was allowed to now teach Reiki to others.
In her clinic, Mrs Takata both practiced Reiki and began taking classes to teach and pass Reiki on to students. She also travelled around sharing Reiki and finally came to purchase a large property in Hilo, Hawaii where she continued to practice and teach Reiki.
(Photo of Hawayo Takata demonstrating Reiki in Hawaii. Dr. Hyasahi pictured behind her at the front of the 2nd row)
In 1949, Mrs Takata had a vivid dream about Dr Hyashi’s impending death and immediately travelled back to Japan. After her arrival she was informed that Dr. Hyashi was going to ‘transition’. Dr Hyashi knew that war was inevitable between Japan and America and knew that as a Naval Reserve Officer, he would be called to active duty aboard a battleship. This would inevitably mean killing many people. As a devout Buddhist and Reiki Master, he could not destroy life. Indeed, Dr. Hyashi had dedicated his life to healing and helping people, so rather than kill others, at the age of 62 and in perfect health, he chose to make a peaceful transition at a chosen time.
And it was at this point that Dr. Hyashi made Mrs. Takata his Successor, leaving his property and practice in Kyoto to her. She claimed that Dr. Hyashi declared her the Grand Master of Reiki (The Leader and Head).
Dr. Hyashi's wife agreed to look after the clinic and the property in Kyoto until Mrs. Takata was able to return there. With the coming of World War II, Mrs. Hyashi and Mrs Takata’s communication was broken and it took several years after the war ended before Mrs. Takata was able to travel to Kyoto to the clinic.
The clinic was the only building that remained in tact with all surrounding buildings now rubble, devastated by war. Mrs Takata then returned to Hawaii with the intent of continuing to spread Reiki there and claimed that she was the only surviving Grand Master in the world after the war and that all other Grand Masters had passed away in their war efforts.
It was in the context of the war between America and Japan that it would appear that Mrs. Takata took the steps to alter the story about Reiki founder, Dr. Usui, claiming that he was a Christian that taught, studied and worked in Christian and Western institutions and Universities...and with good reason.
With animosities at their highest between the two countries, anything that even marginally linked back to Japan would have been emphatically rejected in America. Intent on fulfilling the wishes of Founder and Father of Reiki, Dr, Usui to spread Reiki worldwide and in order to secure the continued proliferation of Reiki in the West, Mrs. Takata made the story more palatable by ‘Westernizing’ and ‘Christianizing’ Dr. Usui.
Furthermore, since the War, Japanese Reiki and the association founded by Dr. Usui, ‘The Gakkai’, has since become (and to this day remains) a very secretive association, only available to the Japanese for membership (and intensely guarded against foreigners). The Reiki practiced by such members is, to this day, only practiced amongst close friends and family members.
Since the war ended, Mrs. Takata continued to practice and teach Reiki prolifically right up until her death at the age of 80.
We here in the West owe a depth of gratitude to her. It was as a result of her tenacity to keep Reiki alive after the War and her ingenuity by re-inventing the story of Dr. Usui in a way that would be accepted in the West that we have Reiki available to us today. It can be said that as a result of Dr. Hyashi's foresight to make Mrs. Takata, a Westerner, a Reiki Master and indeed his Successor, that Dr. Usui's dream to spread Reiki Worldwide became a reality. For that, I remain extraordinarily grateful to them both.
"Just for today
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be grateful for your many blessings
Work honestly and with diligence
Be kind to yourself and to others"
The Five Reiki Precepts
Dr. Mikao Usui