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The Real (?) Story of Reiki – Part 1 – Usui and Hayashi

Article by Angie Webster

What is the true story of Reiki? Should we base our practice strictly on tradition? If so, what is that tradition? There are so many inconsistent stories of the history of Reiki, how can we know? Is change OK? I love learning and when I first began learning about the Reiki story, the inconsistencies baffled me.

When I later discovered William Rand’s research in Reiki, The Healing Touch, I was impressed. He has dedicated a great deal of time to learning more about Mikao Usui and the history of Reiki. He has travelled to Japan and spoken to members of the Gakkai, the organization founded by Usui, and has received training from members of the Gakkai as part of his quest to understand the Japanese perspective better. In addition to researching material to help him understand the history better, he visited many sites relating to Mikao Usui’s life and death, gathering information that could be verified.

Mikao Usui

Mikao Usui

According to Rand, Usui, the founder of Reiki, was a student at a Tendai Buddhist school from the age of four. He studied qigong and later he studied medicine, psychology, religion (particularly Christianity and Buddhism), history, divination and the art of studying and reading faces. He was dedicated to helping others, often choosing jobs that allowed him to do that, and was a lifelong spiritual aspirant. In 1922, he was having major personal and business difficulties and chose to go spend a 21 day training retreat on Mt. Kurama near where he had gone to school as a boy. His hopes were that the time in meditation would bring a solution to his problems to mind. He doesn’t seem to have been seeking to discover a method of healing at all! During the retreat, he received Reiki. He became excited and ran to tell others, stubbing his toe as he ran. He put his hand over the toe, as anyone would, and felt the Reiki energy flooding into the injury automatically. It quickly relieved the pain, making him realize that he had not only received the light of Reiki, but now had the gift of healing as well.

Usui continued to develop the practice of Reiki, using the skills he had from his previous studies and through Reiki practicing on family. He eventually decided to share Reiki with others by practicing it in his clinics and through his healing society, called the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, through which he taught others how to use Reiki.

Eventually, Usui encouraged one of his students, a medical doctor and former Naval officer named Chujiro Hayashi, to open a Reiki clinic as well. Hayashi opened his clinic and school shortly before Usui died. Soon after Usui passed due to a stroke in 1926, Hayashi left the Gakkai to run his school and clinic on his own. He adapted his methods a bit, according to his style as a doctor and what proved to work best with patients over time, developing his own training manual based upon careful records of which hand positions were most effective. He also began treating patients on a treatment table, which Usui had apparently not been doing. (Some sources say Usui treated on a mat on the floor; Rand say he used a chair.) He altered training and attunement methods as well, making attunements more effective and shortening training schedules when traveling to students. Hayahsi trained Mrs. Takata, who brought Reiki to the West. Hayahsi died after commiting ritual suicide when he refused to give information to the Japanese regarding military targets that he may have seen in Hawaii during his visit to establish Mrs. Takata as a Reiki Master. He died an honorable death in 1940.

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Angie Webster
Angie Webster

Angie Webster is a Reiki Master, Teacher, and Author. Angie’s primary focus is animal Reiki, which she adores. She teaches online classes on energy healing, flower essences, herbalism, and personal growth. Angie often works with nature healing and Earth healing, hoping to better understand our connection with Mother Earth. Angie is the author of Animal Reiki: How it Heals, Teaches & Reconnects Us with Nature and Reiki from A to Z. You can follow her at: angie-webster-healing.teachable.com and on Facebook (facebook.com/angiewebsterhealing).

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • João Henrique December 2, 2014, 11:14 am

    Angie, thanks for your contribution for all reiki practitioners !

    Many of the articles we can see on the web are merely “copy and paste” of other articles.
    We need some more research to know even more about what have in our hands. What is the story behind the reiki classes and trainings we receive.

    I am thankful for your good and loving effort !

    May the reiki grow and prosper even more in your life and through your hands.

  • Ray January 4, 2015, 6:42 am

    As with Mikao Usui I too was given the gift. How I found out about it my partner woke one morning with a very bad headache, I just knew to put my hands one each side of her head and within 30 seconds her headache was gone. That was about 8 years ago, since then I have been helping people and animals to heal them selves.

  • Gustavo January 5, 2015, 4:52 pm

    I recommend reading to Frank Arjava Petter. a Reiki master who studied many years in Japan about the origins of Reiki.

    One of his many books is:Light on the Origins of Reiki: A Handbook for Practicing the Original Reiki of Usui and Hayashi
    by Tadao Yamaguchi, Frank Arjava Petter

    With love and Blessings

  • ingvor van zuuk January 6, 2015, 1:18 pm

    Thanks Angie! That’s the story I was told during my traning to Reikimaster also, 20 years ago:)

  • Tara January 6, 2015, 6:55 pm

    Hi Angie thank you so much for that information. I didn t get alot of history on Dr. Usui and how it all started so that was very informative! Keep up the good work!

  • Pip June 3, 2015, 1:47 pm

    Hey Angie 🙂

    Really interesting read. I too am fascinated by the history of Reiki and could only briefly sum it up on my website. I did a lot of research across lots of websites trying to gather what seemed to fit into context…

    I guess the question is, WHO Reiki’d Usui ?

    This is the story I’ve come to understand and enjoy sharing is basically similar to what we’re all taught I think, but let me know your thoughts:

    It was during a ‘near death experience’ whilst battling cholera he was visited by the sacred Mahavairochana Buddha, who explained to him what he needed to do. After recovery (which may have been by someone doing Reiki or a form of hands on healing?) he sought for ancient Buddhist scriptures, healing techniques and medical texts across China (to further his knowledge on Chinese Buddhists) Tibet (where many Buddhist texts are and originate), and India (because the scriptures were written in Sanskrit, so he learnt the language to read the texts).
    This also may have been the task the Buddha set for him.

    After his research and translation of the scripts, which may have deciphered hand positions and symbols, it was then, apparently, he set off to meditate close to home on Mt Kurama to see if it would piece together. This was an agreement he decided with his original Buddhist teacher from home who helped suggest the 21 day mediation of fasting and discipline. Upon the 21st day, it seems he was ‘initiated by the gods’ similar to how we are over our 7th chakra, which formed his spiritual awakening of complete access to Universal Energy. Different names came about, but it was eventually called ‘Rei Ki’.

  • Anne April 23, 2016, 1:32 am

    Thank you, Angie!
    I found your article very interesting. It is definitely fact that people seem to have a lot of different ideas about Reiki and how it should be practiced.
    I feel certain that everyone’s “discovery” of Reiki came along with personal issues that needed to be resolved so it only stands to reason that Dr. Usui was searching for his own answers. Those answers always seem to show up when we most need them, if you think about it.
    Further, I have always been of a mind that energy healing was around long before any of the people mentioned in association with Reiki and long before people ever heard the word Reiki. Jesus Christ Himself was said to have spread “light” and encouraged His followers to do likewise.
    When we study other healing modalities, there are too many similarities not to believe that everything is related and that it was all passed down through ancient times. It is too bad that so many wish to claim the honor of having “discovered” something that was probably around since the beginning of time. Still, the fact that some figured out how to teach others the way to tap into a gift that we all possess is wonderful. I am grateful for having learned.

  • Sonia Estago-Cers August 25, 2016, 3:59 am

    Thankyou for your insight Angie…Namaste <3

  • Leonard (Mr. T) September 7, 2016, 4:39 am

    Hi I would make a couple of comments as from my research I would put the statements slightly in a different way. Yes Usui did meditate over a 21 day period and receive incite and many mediums to-day achieve similar incites, however he did not receive Reiki energy, if he did what was it, his student Chujro Hayashi became aware of what we call to-day as switchwords and saw them as Symbols and he applied them into the system that was developed by Usui. Since then other changes have been applied to the system which have had a detrimental effect and reduced all elements within the system. With the system of Reiki there is nothing to learn and all of the effects are internal and nothing is brought in from outside.

    • Becky September 17, 2016, 8:33 am

      Then how is it that the energy flows following being attuned, and also the ritual of making symbols? The attunements had a profound effect on me, and I felt a complete shift within. That certainly wasn’t there before.

      • Leonard February 27, 2017, 12:17 am

        How does the energy flow; Have you ever tried to connect to you 1st name; hold you hands together and pull them apart slightly and in lower case write your first name, put the hands together and soon you may be aware of vibration. Then try the exercise with UPPER CASE, maybe different. There are 4 recognised symbols with the system, try to hold one at a time in your hand the symbols, you may be aware of different vibrations and maybe in different parts of your body. That is the first step as to how the energy will flow and there is much more. The attunement is important but you really have to know hoe to do it and why.

  • Yvette September 8, 2016, 4:33 pm

    Thank You for your article. I am a certified Reiki Master and Practitioner as well as a Facilitator with Munay Ki Shamanism Transmission of Healing using the 9 Rites.
    Reiki is a beautiful form of vibrational healing that the Universe has given us through Love and Light.

  • Atul Sharma November 14, 2016, 6:13 pm

    Important article. Thanks

  • Leonard February 27, 2017, 12:25 am

    I have been working with the system of Reiki for about 20 years and am still finding ways to make it work; the latest is that the working have been looking at us all in the face. The flow of energy is not restricted to an attunement, all that is for is to connect the Physical 3rd dimension to the Mental/ Emotional 4th dimension to remove all dis-ease and blockages and that connection can be tested by the observance of Heat/ Warmth over the Crown and there is much more to this system. I do not restrict myself to history but work with an open mind.

  • Lynda Britton September 23, 2019, 7:35 pm

    Enjoyed this read as it confirmed what I was taught over 20 years ago. I would enjoy reading more about Mrs. Hawaya Takata as she had some very helpful advice…use it, use it, use it.

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