Usui Reiki Masters
Mikao Usui (Usui Sensei),
founder of the Reiki System of Healing
Mikao Usui, or Usui Sensei as he is called by Reiki students in Japan, was born August 15, 1865, in the village of Taniai in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture, which is located near present-day Nagoya, Japan.
He had an avid interest in learning and worked hard at his studies. As he grew older, he traveled to Europe and China to further his education. His curriculum included medicine, psychology, and religion as well as the art of divination, which Asians have long considered to be a worthy skill.
Usui Sensei also became a member of the Rei Jyutu Ka, a metaphysical group dedicated to developing psychic abilities.
He had many jobs including civil servant, a company employee, and journalist, and he helped rehabilitate prisoners. 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 also become a successful businessman.
The depth and breadth of his experiences inspired him to direct his attention toward discovering the purpose of life. In his search he came across the description of a special state of consciousness that once achieved would not only provide an understanding of one’s life purpose but would also guide one to achieve it. This special state is called An-shin Ritus-mei (pronounced on sheen dit sue may). In this special state, one is always at peace regardless of what is taking place in the outer world. And it is from this place of peace that one completes one’s life purpose.
One of the special features of this state is that it maintains itself without any effort on the part of the individual; the experience of peace simply wells up spontaneously from within and is a type of enlightenment.
Tenyo Shrine which is a short walk from where Usui Sensei was born in the village of Taniai. The Torii or archway is inscribed with words indicating that it was donated by Usui Mikao in 1923.
Usui Sensei understood this concept on an intellectual level and dedicated his life to achieve it; this is considered to be an important step in Usui Sensei’s spiritual path. He discovered that one path to An-shin Ritsu-mei is through the practice of Zazen meditation. So he found a Zen teacher who accepted him as a student and began to practice Zazen. After three-year of practice, he had not been successful and sought further guidance. His teacher suggested a more severe practice in which the student must be willing to die in order to achieve An-shin Ritsu-mei.
So with this in mind, he prepared for death and in February 1922, he went to Kurama Yama, a sacred mountain north of Kyoto. He went to fast and meditate until he passed to the next world. It must be kept in mind that he was not looking to discover a method of healing, but was seeking to experience this special spiritual state. In addition, we know there is a small waterfall on Kurama Yama where even today people go to meditate. This meditation involves standing under the waterfall and allowing the water 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, as time passed he became weaker and weaker. It was now March 1922 and at midnight of the twenty-first day, a powerful light suddenly entered his mind through the top of his head and he felt as if he had been struck by lightning; this caused him to fall unconscious.
As the sun rose, he awoke and realized that whereas before he had felt very weak and near death from his fasting, he was now filled with an extremely enjoyable state of vitality that he had never experienced before; a miraculous type of high-frequency spiritual energy had displaced his normal consciousness and replaced it with an amazing new level of awareness. He experienced himself as being the energy and consciousness of the Universe and that the special state of enlightenment he had sought had been given to him as a gift. He was overjoyed by this realization.
When this happened, he was filled with excitement and went running down the mountain to tell his Zen master of his great good fortune. On his way down he stubbed his toe on a rock and fell down. And in the same way, anyone would do, he placed his hands on the toe, which was in pain. As he did this, healing energy began flowing from his hands all by itself. The pain in his toe went away and the toe was healed. Usui Sensei was amazed by this. He realized that in addition to the illuminating experience he had undergone, he had also received the gift of healing. He also understood that this was his life purpose; to be a healer and to train others.
In April 1922, he moved to Tokyo and started a healing society that he named Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Society). He also opened a Reiki clinic in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo. There he taught classes and gave treatments.
At first, all Usui Sensei had was the healing energy. Over time he developed his system of Reiki practice. Most of these developments came in 1923 after the Great Kanto earthquake and tsunami that did extensive damage in Tokyo and killed and injured many thousands of people. Because there were so many people in need of healing, Usui Sensei decided he needed to do something to speed up his ability to train teachers.
It was at this time that he developed many of his practitioner techniques such as Gassho, Byosen scanning, Reiji-ho, Gyoshi ho, Seishin-to-itsu and so forth. He also developed a formal attunement method or Reiju kai, making it easier for others to learn Reiki and to become teachers. Prior to this, the method he used to pass on the Reiki ability was to simply hold the student's hands, but this took a long time. The Reiju kai made transferring the Reiki ability much faster. Also, he had many different ways he performed the Reiju Kai, not just one. During this time he also developed the Reiki symbols of which he had only three. These are the three symbols that we currently receive in Reiki II, which he called Okuden. He did not have a Master symbol. This important point was confirmed by Hiroshi Doi Sensei, a member of the Gakkai, and in discussions, he had with several of the Gakkai presidents and many of the Shinpiden members.
This idea was also confirmed by Arjava Petter Sensei, who had contact with Shinpiden teachers from the Gakkai and with its president.
These same sources also indicate that Usui Sensei also gave many attunements to each student, not just one or one set. The purpose of the student receiving the attunement over and over was that this process continually acted to refine and develop one’s ability to channel Reiki energy, thus making the energy one channeled more versatile and able to heal a wider range of conditions, to heal more deeply and in a shorter time. The philosophy of Usui Sensei was that there is no limit to the quality and effectiveness of the Reiki energy available in the universe and an important purpose for all students was to continually seek to improve the quality and effectiveness of the Reiki energy one is able to channel.
He called his system of healing Shin-Shin Kai-Zen Usui Reiki Ryo-Ho (The Usui Reiki Treatment Method for Improvement of Body and Mind) or in its simplified form Usui Reiki Ryoho (Usui Reiki Healing Method).
The first degree of his training was called Shoden (First Degree) and was divided into four levels: Loku-Tou, Go-Tou, Yon-Tou, and San-Tou. (Note that when Takata Sensei taught this level, which in the West we refer to as Reiki Level I, she combined all four levels into one. This is most likely why she did four attunements for Level I.) The next degree was called Okuden (Inner Teaching) and had two levels: Okuden-Zen-ki (first part), and Okuden-Koe-ki (second part). The next degree was called Shinpiden (Mystery Teaching), which is what Western Reiki calls Master level. The Shinpiden level includes Shihan-Kaku (assistant teacher) and Shihan (venerable teacher).
Demand for Reiki became so great that Usui Sensei outgrew his clinic, so in 1925 he built a bigger one in Nakano, Tokyo. Because of this, his reputation as a healer spread all over Japan. He began to travel so he could teach and treat more people. During his travels across Japan, he directly taught more than 2,000 students and initiated twenty Shihan, each being given the same understanding of Reiki and approved to teach and give Reiju in the same way that he did.
The Japanese government issued him a Kun San To award for doing honorable work to help others.
While traveling to Fukuyama to teach, he suffered a stroke and died on March 9, 1926. His grave is at Saihoji Temple, in Suginami, Tokyo, although some claim that his ashes are located elsewhere.
After Usui Sensei died, his students erected a memorial stone next to his gravestone. Mr. J. Ushida, a Shihan trained by Usui Sensei, took over as president of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai and was responsible for creating and erecting the Usui Memorial stone and ensuring that the gravesite would be maintained. Mr. Ushida was followed by Mr. Ilichi Taketomi, Mr. Yoshiharu Watanabe, Mr. Toyoichi Wanami and Ms. Kimiko Koyama. The current successor to Usui Sensei is Mr. Mahayoshi Kondo, who became president in 1998.
Contrary to what we have been told in the West, there is no “lineage bearer” or “Grand Master” of the organization started by Usui Sensei—only the succession of presidents listed above. Among the twenty teachers initiated by Usui Sensei are Toshihiro Eguchi, Jusaburo Guida, Kan’ichi Taketomi, Toyoichi Wanami, Yoshiharu Watanabe, Keizo Ogawa, J. Ushida, and Chujiro Hayashi. Contrary to one version of the Reiki story, Mr. J. Ushida, not Chujiro Hayashi, was the Gakkai’s successor to Usui Sensei. It is also important to note that the first four presidents of the Gakkai who followed Usui Sensei were Shihan who had been trained directly by Usui Sensei, and the last of these was president of the Gakkai through 1975, thus assuring that the Gakkai understanding, practice and teaching methods were the same as that of Usui Sensei.
Dr. Chujiro Hayashi
Before his passing, Usui Sensei had asked Chujiro Hayashi Sensei to open his own Reiki clinic and to expand and develop Reiki Ryoho based on his previous experience as a medical doctor in the Navy. Motivated by this request, Hayashi Sensei started a school and clinic called Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai (Institute). After Usui Sensei’s passing, he left the Gakkai.
At his clinic, which was located in Tokyo, he kept careful records of all the illnesses and conditions of his Reiki patients. He also kept records of which Reiki hand positions worked best to treat each illness and condition. Based on these records he created the Reiki Ryoho Shinshin (Guidelines for Reiki Healing Method). This healing guide was part of a class manual he gave to his students. The handbook was to be used only if the practitioner was not able to use Byosen scanning to find the best hand positions to use. Many of his students received their Reiki training in return for working in his clinic.
Hayashi Sensei also changed the way Reiki sessions were given. Rather than have the client seated in a chair and treated by one practitioner as Usui Sensei had done, Hayashi Sensei had the client lie on a treatment table and receive treatment from several practitioners at a time. He also created a new, more effective system for giving Reiju (attunements).
In addition, to increase the value his students received while he was traveling, he developed a new method of teaching Reiki. In this method, he taught both Shoden and Okuden (Reiki I & II) together in one five-day seminar. Each day included two to three hours of instruction and one Reiju.
Following the Usui method, students were encouraged to receive Reiju on a regular basis from their local Shihan or teacher after completing Hayashi Sensei’s class so as to continue to refine and develop the quality of the Reiki energy that they channeled.
Because of his trip to Hawaii in 1937–38 prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was asked by the Japanese military to provide information about the location of warehouses and other military targets in Honolulu. He refused to do so and was declared a traitor. This caused him to “lose face,” which meant he and his family would be disgraced and would be ostracized from Japanese society. The only solution was seppuku (ritual suicide), which he carried out. He died honorably on May 11, 1940.
After this, Hayashi Sensei’s wife Chie Hayashi took over his clinic and ran it for some years, but eventually, she retired; with no one to take over this position, the clinic came to an end. It is likely that some of Hayashi Sensei’s students continued to teach but most of these have also passed on. In 1999 it was discovered that Chiyoko Yamaguchi Sensei, a Shinpiden or Master student of Hayashi Sensei, was still alive and practicing. She was encouraged to teach and began doing so. Fortunately, I was able to take her Reiki I & II class in 2001 in Kyoto, Japan. Chiyoko Yamaguchi passed on in 2003.
The following is a summary of Takata Sensei’s version of her early years leading up to her contact with Reiki at the Hayashi clinic. It comes from an interview that appeared in The (San Mateo) Times, May 17, 1975, titled “Mrs. Takata Opens Minds to Reiki” by Vera Graham:
She stated that she was born 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 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 34, 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 and a lung condition, and she had a nervous breakdown. Soon after this one of her sisters died and it was Takata Sensei’s responsibility to travel to Japan, where her parents had resettled to deliver the news. She also felt she could receive help for her health issues in Japan.
After informing her parents and attending the funeral, she entered a hospital and stated that she was diagnosed with a tumor, gallstones, appendicitis, and asthma. She was told to prepare for an operation but opted to visit Hayashi Sensei’s clinic instead.
Mrs. Takata was unfamiliar with Reiki but was impressed that the diagnosis of Reiki practitioners at the clinic closely matched the doctors at the hospital. She began receiving treatments. Two Reiki practitioners would treat her each day. The heat from their hands was so strong, she said, that she thought they were secretly using some kind of equipment. Seeing the large sleeves of the Japanese kimono worn by one, she thought she had found the secret place of concealment. Grabbing his sleeves one day she startled the practitioner, but, of course, found nothing.
When she explained what she was doing, he began to laugh and then told her about Reiki and how it worked.
Mrs. Takata got progressively better and in four months was completely healed. She wanted to learn Reiki for herself. In the spring of 1936, she received First Degree Reiki from Dr. Hayashi. She then worked with him for a year and received Second Degree Reiki. Mrs. Takata returned to Hawaii in 1937, followed shortly thereafter by Hayashi Sensei, who came to help establish Reiki there, and his daughter. In February 1938, Hayashi Sensei initiated Hawayo Takata as a Reiki Master.
Takata Sensei practiced Reiki in Hawaii, establishing several clinics, one of which was located in Hilo on the Big Island. She gave treatments and initiated students up to Reiki II. She became a well-known healer and traveled to the U.S. mainland and other parts of the world teaching and giving treatments. She was a powerful healer who attributed her success to the fact that she did a lot of Reiki on each client. She would often do multiple treatments, each sometimes lasting hours and treat difficult cases every day for months until the client was healed. To help with this process, she often initiated members of a client’s family so they could give Reiki to the client as well.
Takata Sensei had a unique way of practicing and teaching Reiki that was noticeably different than how Usui Sensei or Hayashi Sensei had practiced and taught. The late John Harvey Gray was one of Takata Sensei’s most respected students and in fact, she indicated that he would be one of three Reiki Masters that were to carry on her work after she retired.
He indicates in his Reiki book that Takata Sensei had changed the way she taught Reiki because she said that the Japanese style was too complicated and would be difficult for the Western mind to learn. Because of this, she said she had simplified the system. This included the development of her own hand position system, which she called the foundation treatment. This consisted of eight hand positions, which were on the abdomen, the shoulders, and head. She also included some additional positions for the back if the client needed them.
This varied considerably from how Usui Sensei and Hayashi Sensei practiced in that they taught Byosen scanning as the way to find the best hand positions for treatment. They also indicated that Byosen scanning was the most important practice technique for a student to master after the practice of continually receiving repeated Reijus. Yet, Takata Sensei never taught this technique. She also did not teach any of the other methods used by Usui Sensei and Hayashi Sensei such as Gassho, Reiji-ho, Kenyoku, Gyoshi-ho, Koki-ho and so forth. Additionally, she had a different attunement method for each level of Reiki, taught her students that the attunements empowered the symbols and taught a Master symbol that was given to Master students. In her system, the Master symbol was needed in order to give attunements, and it could also be used during Reiki sessions for purposes of healing. She did not encourage her students to receive as many attunements as possible as was taught by Usui Sensei and Hayashi Sensei but taught that just one set of four attunements for Reiki I and one or two attunements for Reiki II and one for the Master level are all that is necessary.
The simplified system that Takata Sensei taught was effective and has proven to produce valuable results for her students and their clients. Because of this, Takata Sensei can be considered an important innovator of Usui Reiki Ryoho.
One thing that is important to understand is that if it were not for Takata Sensei, Reiki would most likely have fallen into obscurity and never have been practiced by people all over the world; even in Japan, it would have been mostly unknown. This is because, after World War II, the United States required Japan to unconditionally surrender. This placed the United States in complete control of Japan. One of the conditions the U.S. required is that all those practicing any kind of healing be required to have a license. Some of the healing groups did get licensed, but the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai decided that they did not want to be controlled by a licensing board and instead chose to go underground. They decided that the members were not to talk to anyone outside their group about Reiki and that they would only practice Reiki with each other. This made it difficult for anyone to find out about Reiki in Japan including the Japanese. Also, because it became very difficult for new members to join, the membership slowly declined. This problem exists even now, and the Gakkai membership continues to slowly dwindle. If this continues, at some time in the not too distant future the Gakkai is likely to come to an end.
Because Takata Sensei learned Reiki in Japan and returned to Hawaii and began teaching Reiki before World War II, she prevented Reiki from being lost. She was a great teacher and promoter and taught Reiki classes all over Hawaii and in many parts of the U.S. mainland. Before her passing, she taught 22 Reiki Masters who carried on the tradition.
The Evolution of Reiki
One thing I came to realize from my training experience is that there is no limit to the possibilities offered by Reiki. As demonstrated by Usui Sensei, Hayashi Sensei, and Takata Sensei, Reiki is something that is meant to be developed. This is true for the techniques one uses to practice Reiki, but it is also true for the quality of the healing energy.
Reiki energy comes from an infinite source and because of this, regardless of how developed and evolved ones healing energy has become, one will always be channeling only a small portion of the potential healing energy that is available; it is always possible for the quality, effectiveness, and benefit of one’s healing energies to improve and this includes what takes place in the Attunements, Placements, and Ignitions.
Usui Sensei alluded to this when he said he wasn’t at the top of the Reiki healing system, but one step below. It is also important to note that according to the Bible, Jesus, who is considered by many to be a great healer and spiritual master, said that we could do everything he had done and even more.
Reiki Continues to Develop
Takata Sensei required all the Masters she trained to charge a fee of $10,000 for the Master level. She taught that this was a required fee, and if you did not charge this fee, then you would not be teaching Usui Reiki. The fee wasn’t based on the length or quality of training she provided, as no apprenticeship was included.
The actual length of her Master training has not been documented by any of her Masters, except for Bethel Phaigh, who reported receiving both Level II and Master within a few days.
However, my conversations with a few of her Masters indicate in at least some cases her Master training lasted only a few days. According to Phagh, the high fee was to instill respect for the Master level. However, the high fee, along with the tendency of Takata Sensei’s Masters not to teach many other Masters, was causing Reiki to spread very slowly.
Iris Ishikuro was one of Takata Sensei’s Master students and Iris also had other training as a healer. She was involved with the Johrei Fellowship, a religious fellowship that includes healing with energy projected from the hands.(38) She had also learned another kind of healing from her sister, who worked in a Tibetan temple in Hawaii. After Takata Sensei passed in 1980, Iris decided that she would follow her own inner guidance and teach for a more reasonable fee. As far as I know, she was the only one of Takata Sensei’s twenty-two Masters who did this. The others continued to charge the high fee for Mastership.
Iris trained only two Masters. One was Arthur Robertson and the other was her daughter, Ruby. She asked them to always charge a reasonable fee. Ruby decided not to teach Reiki. However, Arthur Robertson did begin teaching in the mid-1980s. The reasonable fee allowed many more students to become Reiki Masters. He began giving Master training with ten to thirty students in each class. Those that Robertson taught trained others and the number of teaching Reiki Masters quickly increased.
Because Iris Ishikuro ignored the price restriction that Takata Sensei had placed on Reiki, she became the pathway through which Reiki would spread more quickly and eventually be passed on to people all over the world. In light of this, it is likely that the majority of Reiki people in the world have their lineage going back through Iris Ishikuro.
Arthur Robertson had also been a teacher of Tibetan shamanism and had learned a healing method that made use of several symbols and an attunement-like technique called an empowerment. This method had similarities to Usui Reiki. After becoming a Reiki Master, he developed an alternative method of Reiki that was a combination of the Tibetan style of healing and Usui Reiki. The parts from Tibetan shamanism were the use of two Tibetan symbols—with one being used as a Master symbol—and the Violet Breath. It also incorporated the use of the three symbols from the Okudenlevel of Usui Reiki. He called this system Raku Kei.