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Reiki has become a popular healing practice since its rediscovery by Mikao Usui in 1922. It involves a method of palm-healing, wherein practitioners are believed to transfer universal life-force energy as a form of alternative healing. Over the past twenty-years there has been much debate about the origins, practices, and the source of such healing energy. After having practiced Reiki for over fifteen years and becoming Shinto priest, I have seen some misconceptions, held by both critics of Reiki and those who make use of it for healing purposes. This article will discuss some of these misconceptions in an attempt to help those living outside of Eastern influence better understand the intent and proper use of the practice of Reiki. In order to resolve many of these misconception more effectively, this discussion will be presented in question and answer form.
What is the true meaning and purpose of the term Reiki?
The term Reiki is composed of two words, rei meaning ghost, miraculous, spirit, and the term ki, meaning vital energy or life-force. However, the kanji used by Usui-Sensei, 霊気 is often translated by those of Japanese descent as ghost-force. Another translation of the term could be mysterious atmosphere. However, the use of the term ghost denotes something mysterious. Yurei is the Japanese term used to denote “departed souls.”
It is no coincidence that the term Reiki is similar to the Japanese word Reikon, which refers to the spirit of the individual and that of the Kami. Additionally, knowing that the initiatory practices of Reiki also involve the use of four symbols, it seems very likely that Usui-Sensei’s fasts and meditations on Mount Kurama, the home of the mythical Sojobo, were in effort to understand the synthesis of what is known in certain circles of Shinto as Ichirei Shikon. The online Encyclopedia of Shinto defines Ichirei Shikon as follows:
“Literally, “one spirit, four souls”. According to Shintō doctrine, the spirit (reikon) of both kami and human beings is made up of one spirit and four souls. The spirit is called naobi, and the four souls are the turbulent (aramitama), the tranquil (nigimitama), the propitious (sakimitama) and the wondrous, miraculous, or salubrious (kushimitama). Various theories exist to explain the nature of each of the four souls and the process of the historical development of the concept. The distinctive feature of the ichirei shikon theory, however, is that while each of the four souls has its own particular character and function, they exist in parallel, acting together in a complementary fashion.”
The “four souls” of the Ichirei Shikon model are represented by the four symbols in the Usui-Sensei’s system of Reiki. The “one spirit,” or Reikon, represents the Reiki practitioner. The science of Ichirei Shikon is an integral part of Koshinto, which the Art of Ninzuwu is a part. In a Wikipedia article, under the term Koshinto, we find:
“In Koshintō, the present world or utsushiyo is put in contrast to the eternal world or tokoyo. All individuals possess a tamashii, meaning a mind, heart, or soul. A tamashii without a body is called a mitama. Those whose tamashii has the nature of kami are called mikoto.
In the Age of the Kami, or Kamiyo, the Earth was ruled by kami, whose forms were akin to humans, but had pure hearts and spoke in the language of kotodama.”
During Usui-Sensei’s time, there existed many Shinto-derived new religions, the most popular being Oomoto. A popular follower of the Oomoto philosophy was Morihei Ueshiba, who taught that “Ichirei Shikon Sangen Hachiriki” (“One Spirit, Four Souls, Three Origins, Eight Powers”) represented the basic structure of the Universe, and the basic structure of Aikido.
The system of Reiki developed by Mikao Usui, had aims similar to that of the Oomoto philosophy, which was the unification of man with the divine. The alchemy of “one spirit, four souls” appears in Reiki by the practitioner’s use of the four symbols in adherence to the Five Reiki Principles. The use of Reiki as a healing system is true to its purpose, but it is a principle used in many Shinto-derived new religions. Let us explain further.
The idea that a person can be initiated into an esoteric, mystical, or shamanistic system in one day and effectively “heal” people the next day, if taken literally, is quite unreasonable. This is known by all practitioners of ancient mystical and shamanistic traditions worldwide. In order to change the result of someone’s life condition, the true healing, the person’s emotional state must change, as well as some behavioral patterns and etc. Some life conditions are the result of an individual’s karma. This is known and taught in all facets of the Tao. There are, however, methods of correcting blockages in an individual’s energy-field, which can aid in recovery. Reiki, I’m sure, assists in healing along these principles, but there is another reason why Usui-Sensei promoted it as a system of healing.
Healers cannot be initiated overnight. However, taking on the perspective of a “healer” is probably the easiest way that a Westerner can understand Shinto. The aim of Koshinto, as stated earlier, was the unification of man with the divine. In order to achieve this aim, the “divine seed” or “one spirit” in man must be cultivated and nurtured. The divine seed in man, like its source of origin, the divine world, is in service of the all. The practice of Reiki is the practice of esoteric prayer.
In esoteric prayer, people are taught to pray for the reduction of man’s karma and that many of the world’s misfortunes may be resolved before the person engaged in prayer includes own problems. In the beginning, it seems like a beneficial thing. It follows an esoteric law, if enough people pray on a matter, or think on a matter, it can affect change. Yet, the advance practitioner of esoteric prayer knows that such methods are used in bringing to fore the divine part of the person engaged in prayer. The more a person engages in esoteric prayer, the more the divine seed is given time to grow. The same is true in the case of Reiki. Many practitioners aren’t sure scientifically how the energy works, but they know it works. The divine seed in man is brought to the fore every time one exercises the perspective of the “healer,” as in the case with esoteric prayer. Every act of Reiki allows time for that part which cares about the all, time to take the forefront position in our psyche. This creates a change in our emotional state and way of thinking, allowing us the opportunity to “heal” ourselves, which is healing a part of this world. In order for a person to heal anything in this world, they must first learn how to heal themselves.
Is it true that Jesus used a method of Reiki to heal people?
Much of the healing that occurs in Christian mythology was symbolic. It is the same with Reiki. Interestingly, the following is recorded in John 14:12:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (New International Version)
According to this scripture, Jesus said that his followers will do greater works than he did. Hopefully, some Christians will see the attainment of such when they apply the teachings of Christ instead of worshiping him. This idea that Reiki was used by Jesus was something taught by Hawayo Takata, in an effort to help Westerners understand what Reiki is.
While Ms. Takata is often criticized for saying that Jesus used Reiki to heal people and she charged high fees for advanced Reiki training, her efforts helped preserve the survival of the art here in the West. We must keep in mind that during the post-WWII era, the Japanese were resented as many resent the Arab world today unfortunately. Japanese spirituality, Shinto, was exploited in the media in a similar way as Islam extremism is today. It was a “dangerous” time, being of Japanese-descent and speaking about the “obscure” teachings of Reiki. So the idea of saying that Jesus used Reiki wasn’t done so that it would appeal to the West, but as a means of avoiding persecution for teaching Japanese spirituality. People forget that Shinto was made illegal during the US occupation of Japan. Ms. Takata may have charged high fees for advanced Reiki training in order to help Japanese citizens who were discriminated against, some losing their property after WWII. People fail to mention this in their criticisms of Ms. Takata and the fact that she resided in Hawaii, where the Pearl Harbor attack took place. We state previously that most native Japanese speakers will interpret the Kanji used for Reiki, 霊気, as ghost-energy, spirit-force. In some ways this is similar to force used in Christian mythology to perform miracles, the Holy Ghost. The efforts taken by Ms. Takata, though not agreeable to all, did help ensure the survival of Reiki today.
Are there any side-effects for those who use Reiki?
Unfortunately, I must answer this question with a yes and a no. When the practitioner adheres to the original teachings of Reiki, there are no side-effects. However, due to the ignorance of some practitioners in not knowing the basic fundamentals of how life-force energy works, and no prior esoteric or shamanistic training, other than Reiki, they mistakenly assume that you could just inject “foreign entities” into Reiki and improve it. In cases such as these, the energy becomes polluted. There are some shamans who were able to modify Reiki effectively and give it a “new title,” but this is even baffling at times. First, let’s straighten out a few things concerning the use of the term Reiki.
Reiki is native to Japan. The idea of palm-healing exists in every primordial faith that has survived from ancient times till today. In Ifa, a form similar to distant-energy healing emitted from the palm of the hands exists. In Vudun, a form of healing similar to Reiki exists. An esoteric form of “palm-healing” existed in the advanced stages of the Fourth Way Schools. Such is the case with Theosophy and sciences used by the Native American medicine man. The concept of distant-energy healing is universal as it was in the ancient world, but Reiki is a term used to describe a specific school of “healing” that originated in Japan and their teachings on this universal art that are more accessible than others. It is quite disrespectful to go to another part of the world and learn their version of the universal palm-healing art and call it “something” Reiki. This is how adverse effects of Reiki are caused.
Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shinto are not separate paths of study among the Japanese people, but work together in a coherent, fluid motion. While this may be confusing for those living outside of Japan to understand, it is very simple indeed.
Confucianism represents the workings of the logical mind. Buddhism represents the workings of the subconscious self, and Shinto that of the super-conscious mind. It is very simple way of integrating into one’s life a very deep knowledge. Yet, it is approached with the same understanding that these things are not “belief-systems,” but instruments of cultivating the soul. Religions of the West can be used to cultivate the soul, when understood esoterically. However, if one has a literal understanding of the Western religious paradigm and tries to integrate such into his/her Reiki practice, it can create a toxic environment for the practitioner. Keep it simple. There is no need of interjecting Western deities into an Eastern art. Those who possess a deep knowledge of Shinto and Japan know that “purity” is integral to any practice that has anything to do with the cultivation of the soul.
Deities of Western paradigms can be invoked in the spiritual paradigms that they are said to exist or originate from. However, ancient indigenous spirituality also dictated that all deities had positive and negative sides. The negative sides were of course banished in ritual, and these are done not in cross-systems, but the system that the said entity is called from. This knowledge was lost as the Christian Church changed the meaning of the term “god” to that of the creator, which is not what a “god” is once you understand the term.
Often times, here in the West, we hear of practitioners that have met angels, or other spiritual beings in a dream or what have you. While some of these experiences may be useful, if they occur in the practitioner’s experience rarely, it is also a sign that one needs to purify themselves spiritually.
In Shinto, there exists an astral world, but also a divine world. The divine world doesn’t communicate with the mortal world in the same way that the astral world does. The astral plane is a lower world, close to the physical world, and the beings there also seek to evolve and become one with such the divine world, so is the purpose of man. Yet, there are also negative energies existing in the astral world that easily manifest themselves to the mind of the ignorant practitioner. These energies can be quite deceptive.
Basically, the purity held in the Art of Reiki is found in maintaining its five principles. Becoming a true Reiki master, if such a thing exists, has nothing to do with your level of initiation, but has everything to do with the clarity and lightness of our spirits based on our cultivation of the Five Principles found in Reiki, a matter we will discuss later.
We are taught the landscape of the astral world, as the symbols given in the Second Degree initiation exist on the astral plane, but in the Third Degree initiation, we receive the master symbol, which is a key to the divine world. However, an initiation into the realm of divine knowledge cannot be transferred in an attunement or ritual, but must be cultivated by the diligent practice of the Reiki art.
When people bring in all sorts of deities from various religious worlds, it actually makes the Reiki energy toxic. While there may be nothing wrong with these practices within themselves, it is best advised to avoid mixing your Reiki art with foreign deities in order to keep your practice pure. It may happen that some practitioners will encounter some spiritual beings in dreams and visions shortly after their initiation into Reiki and a few years after. This may occur as the result of the purging process that takes place in the subconscious mind during a recent Reiki attunement. The new Reiki initiate through his/her attunement will become aware of subconscious forces that they were formally influenced by prior to their initiation. These subconscious forces are either purging, migrating from the subconscious to conscious mind, eventually leaving the psyche of the practitioner all together. Yet, there are other energies that are a bit more stubborn and will disguise themselves as some ancient entity and trick the new Reiki practitioner into invoking them in their practice of Reiki and feeding off of the energy. This is why it is best to keep things simple. Work with Reiki as Reiki, nothing more. If you have worked with other spiritual paradigms and would like to continue, do so, but do not mix the Art of Reiki with these practices until you have acquired a fair knowledge and a sense of discernment in the landscape and workings of the spiritual worlds.
What are the Five Reiki Principles and how are they to be used?
The secret art of inviting happiness,
The miraculous medicine for all diseases.
At least for today:
Do not be angry,
Do not worry,
Work with diligence,
Be kind to people.
Every morning and evening, join your hands in meditation and pray with your heart.
State in your mind and chant with your mouth.
For improvement of mind and body.
Usui Reiki Ryōhō.
While some sources state that Usui-Sensei summarized some of Emperor Meiji’s set of principles and concepts in his composing of the Five Reiki Precepts. This is an interesting perspective. Yet in still, it is known that in Shinto one’s emotional state creates their reality. To engage in negative emotions is like having a physical disease and is perceived as being a sin. In English, the concept of sin is not a mistake, but to miss one’s goal, literally to miss the mark. Our mark in Koshinto is unification with the divine. Negative emotions can stand in the way of that. When we pursue the path of Reiki, like Shinto, purity and cleanliness of mind are essential as the divine spirit does not inhabit dirty temples. In this case, the temple is our emotional, mental, and physical bodies.
Purification is really the essence of Reiki. This is another principle that should be in the forefront of every Reiki practitioner’s minds, especially if they treat people by means of Reiki.
Can I practice Reiki even though I have my own religion?
The easy answer to this question is; “sure you can!” I have heard some answer such questions in a similar manner. It is true that many shamanistic practices help us to understand and gain a proper perspective of the religion that we may be involved in. However, some religions forbade the practice of Reiki and a Reiki instructor would do well to inform potential students of the origins of Reiki.
Reiki is a spiritual practice. Reiki does work, but for some reason there is this overzealousness displayed by many in the Reiki community, to convince non-spiritual institutions that it really works. Slow down! I understand how such excitement can occur, but the idea of trying to convince the non-spiritual establishments of state and science that Reiki works is a waste of time. Let the work of Reiki speak for itself. We live in a world where the majority of people believe that a human-sacrifice was needed in order to prepare the road of salvation for mankind. While this view may be one of the most morbid spiritually, it’s celebrated every year. There is enough room and legislature for the spiritual practice of Reiki to exist. There are several reasons why this is a good topic to bring into our discussion.
First, we have to remember how Reiki came into the modern world. Despite all the scientific evidence, the healed clients and etc, Reiki was conceptualized by the spiritual practices of fasting, meditation, and prayers. That’s how “Reiki” as we know it came into the world. Now in order to prove this practice of Reiki to a non-spiritual institution, the usefulness of fasting, meditation, and praying also has to come under the doubt and scrutiny of the said organization. This might prove to be useful, but it shouldn’t affect your confidence to engage in Reiki. When a non-spiritual institution verifies a spiritual practice, it must first “demonize” the practice before making it “safe.” On the other side of the coin, Reiki is a hands-on art and it is important to have some regulation in regards to such. However, this in itself doesn’t make the practice official in the true sense of the term. It’s quite ironic that many in the West can’t understand Japan’s one-time reverence for its Emperor, who prior to WWII had the exclusive role of king-priest, praying on the behalf of the people for eight hours a day. Yet these same people seem to think that a religion, philosophy, or spiritual practice is not legitimate unless it gains approval of the state. Interesting.
Reiki is a beautiful spiritual practice and very similar to man’s original spiritual paradigm of pure heart and mind. Value your practice by preserving its simplicity and purity, for in the innocence of children lay the keys of heaven.