Editor's note. This is one version of the story
that I was told, and for many years, in various forms was the
accepted version of events, told and re-told by Mrs. Takata’s
students and their students in turn. Not so long ago, Frank Petter
in two books, Reiki Fire and The Legacy of Dr. Usui, set the Reiki
world in turmoil by presenting evidence that others interpreted
to suggest that Mrs. Takata didn’t know what she was talking
about and most likely made most of it up. The ‘truer’
version of events is now more commonly told with the same air
of confidence as were the original stories.
Frank Petter has since published The Handbook of
Dr. Usui, and gone on to become a full time Reiki teacher and
speaker. He teamed up with William Lee Rand, and Walter Lubeck
(what I refer to as The Triumvirate of Reiki), to publish another
book The Spirit of Reiki and are now seen by many as the authorities
on the subject.
While I find the works of these three masters intriguing,
interesting and recommended for anyone in the West who takes him
or herself at all seriously as a Reiki person, I think there is
still some advantage to knowing the old stories.
Having heard different and often contradictory versions
of the story I can't help but wonder if it really matters which
version one believes is true. At some level all are true, while
none is the whole truth in any case.
Since it was possible for us to communicate with
each other, we have told each other stories, to communicate, to
teach, to entertain, and to attempt to understand what it is to
be human. Every story has a moral, a truth if you will that transcends
the 'facts.' Do we really care whether Usui traveled to Chicago
or not, whether he taught in a Christian school or a Buddhist
monastery; whether he 'saw bubbles or not in his vision on the
I have always enjoyed the old stories. Fact, is
I have always tended to view Dr. Usui's story as somewhat allegorical
anyway. It is not so much about whether Dr. Usui was a Christian
or Buddhist, or that he travelled to Chicago, or Tibet, it is
that he embarked on a journey and persevered until he found what
he was looking for. This is the lesson of Dr. Usui, and the lesson
of Reiki for me anyway, no matter which version of the story you
choose to believe.
My first experiences with Reiki were many years
ago, as a healing modality. The story of Usui began with his students
asking him about how Christ (or Buddha for that matter) healed
people. What was the secret? It was this 'secret' of healing that
Dr. Usui set out to find, and according to the story, not only
found, but found in a manner that allowed him to pass it on.
I find it somewhat disconcerting then, today, to
find that most Reiki masters in the West, and especially those
who are most ardent at promoting the updated versions of the Usui
story, have lost sight of the idea that Reiki is a healing modality.
Having thrown out the old stories, they have thrown out the whole
point of Dr. Usui's journey.
And not that there is any subterfuge here. Some
are quite open about re-defining Reiki as a 'general term for
healing', and is no longer the 'Usui Method of Natural Healing',
as it has always been known. This allows for the separation of
the name from the practice that spawned it. Now,one can just slap
a Reiki label on just about anything one cares to without feeling
the least bit guilty.
When hearing Reiki stories, I tend to find it more
useful to do what I do when I go to the movies. Suspend disbelief.
In the end, it seems to me that it is all good, and quite wonderful
that we continue to tell each other Reiki stories. The following
is one of my favourites.
Dr. Usui, a Christian monk teaching in a Christian
monastery, was asked one day by his students how Jesus healed.
He was unable to answer his students’ questions and thus
began a 21 year pilgrimage to discover the secret.
According to the legend, he immediately quite his
post at the Christian seminary and traveled to Chicago. He studied
Christian theology at the University of Chicago for some time.
It is unclear how long he was in Chicago, but his studies of Christian
scripture failed to reveal the secret of healing for which he
searched. So he returned to Japan.
Widening his search parameters he began to question Buddhist priests
how the Buddha healed. It is a well known fact that Buddha healed
and required that the monasteries founded in his name be also
healing centres. Time and again he was told, yes that Buddha did
heal the body, but long since Buddhist practice had given that
up in favour of spiritual study.
Undaunted, Usui kept searching until he found himself
in a Zen monastery near Kyoto. Usui and the head of this monastery
became fast friends. He himself had severe arthritis and had a
personal interest in Usui’s quest, as well as a spiritual
one. From this point on this monk, who remains nameless to this
day, became not only Usui’s friend, but his mentor and advisor.
Usui’s study of the Japanese translations
of Buddhist texts were of no help, so he decided to travel to
China and study the Chinese texts. Which he did and again with
no luck. By this time, it seems 14 years had passed and he was
no closer. He returned to Japan to talk it over with his mentor
friend. The advice was to ‘meditate’ which he did
for a long time until it came to him to travel to Tibet (or Northern
India, which is unclear), and learn Sanskrit so he could study
Buddha’s original texts.
He did this and found part of what he was looking
for. He found the scrolls that described the symbols and formulas
that Buddha had used to heal 2400 years before and had been forgotten
But this is not the end of the story. He had the
pattern, but not the frequency. In other words he had the symbols
but didn’t know what to do with them.
So back he went to his old friend in Kyoto to discuss
things. Together they meditated on the problem and where to go
Now it so happened that the monastery at Kyoto was
not built whimsically. It was built on the lower slopes of a very
sacred mountain called Kuryama. In fact this whole area is a hotbed
of spiritual practice. Numerous monasteries, shrines, and other
holy edifices dot the landscape.
So, Usui, after much meditation and discussion decided
that he would go up on the mountain and fast and meditate until
he knew what to do. He vowed that he would not come down until
he had the answer. So up he went and camped out by a stream, facing
East, which in the oriental tradition is the direction of power,
determined to find the answer or die in the attempt. He left word
with the monks to come up and get his body if he didn’t
come down after 21 days because he wasn’t coming down any
other way unless and until he had the secret he was looking for.
He made a pile of 21 rocks and each morning, at
dawn he threw one rock in the stream to mark the passing days.
Finally, on the 21st day, just before dawn, in the
darkest part of the night (the Yin within Yin) he arose, made
his way to his meditation spot and prayed before tossing his last
stone into the stream. He asked the Universe for confirmation
of his findings and to be given the knowledge of how to use it.
As he threw away his last stone, a light appeared far off in the
East. It grew larger as it moved towards him. Frightened, he wanted
to run away. But he thought to himself, ‘you have searched
for so many years. You fasted. You meditated. You have asked for
enlightenment and confirmation and now you want to run away from
it?’ No, if that light is for me. I accept the Satori. (editor’s
note; Satori means realization, or awakening or insight in the
oriental tradition. Something short of full enlightenment)
The light became very bright, streamed across the
heavens and hit him directly between the eyes. (Third Eye or Yintang).
For a moment he thought he had died and ascended into heaven because
he had never before been in such an euphoric state. He saw countless
bubbles in all the colours of the rainbow. Then came the powerful
bright white light, followed by golden Sanskrit letters. This
was the secret formula of the Universal Light Energy and how to
connect with it. The bubbles came to him one by one, telling him
to memorize and preserve them in his memory. Eventually, the bubbles,
the light and the Sanskrit letters faded off and disappeared.
Dr. Usui passed out and when he awoke it was well into mid-morning.
He had an overwhelming feeling of having just had a great rest.
He felt full of life and energy.
He jumped to his feet. He wanted to hurry back and
tell his mentor and friend of his exciting discovery. In his rush,
he stubbed his toe on a rock. He reached down to comfort the pain
and to stop the bleeding. As soon as he put his hands on his hurt
toe, the pain and the bleeding began to dissipate very rapidly.
He realized that something was different about the energy in his
hands. His hands were very hot. After healing his toe, he continued
down the mountain.
Soon he began to feel hungry. He stopped at a home where the owners
catered meals to travelers and ordered himself rice and tea. In
a short while, a girl with a bandage wrapped around her jaw brought
Dr. Usui his meal. She told him that her tooth had been aching
for days. He immediately thought of how he had dissipated his
own pain earlier. Perhaps he could do the same for this poor girl.
‘May I give you a healing?’
She gladly accepted his offer. He put his hands
around her jaw and within a short period of time, the pain and
the swelling started going down. The girl was very happy and rushed
immediately to her father to tell him of what had happened.
When Dr. Usui went to pay for his meal, the girl’s
Thank you sir monk, but I cannot accept your money. You have rendered
to my daughter a service for which I do not have the money to
pay. Please accept the food in exchange for the healing services
rendered.’ Dr. Usui accepted the offer.
On returning to Kyoto, he went to his mentor and
friend at the Buddhist monastery and told him what had happened.
He asked his friend’s advice on what he should do now that
he had received the keys and the energy of healing. The suggestion,
as always,was to meditate.
From his meditation, Dr. Usui decided to go to a
beggar colony in Tokyo. For the next seven years, he worked on
healing the sick on the beggar colony in return for a room to
stay in and a bowl of rice a day arranged by the chief of the
beggar colony. He worked from dawn to sunset, healing the young
and the old.
He began to understand how the energy flowed through him into
the recipient. The more he worked the more he mastered the energy.
Over the years he sent several young men whom he’d healed
to the monastery for further training so that they could earn
an honest living instead of begging.
One day he met a young beggar who looked familiar. ‘Don’t
I know you?’ he said.
“Of course, Dr. Usui, I know you. Do you not remember me?
I am one of the first beggars you healed.
I healed you and you are still a beggar?
The beggar looked at him and said, ‘Oh yes, Dr. Usui. I
did just what you told me. I went to the temple, got an education,
received a new name and went out into society and tried to make
an honest living. I had a good job and even got married. But it
was too much responsibility. So I decided I would rather be a
beggar again with no responsibilities.
Surprised and bewildered, Dr. Usui thought, ‘what
a terrible thing I have done.’ The churches and temples
were right. The physical healing is not enough. The spirit must
also be healed. Never again will Reiki be given away for free.
There would always have to be an exchange of services.
He immediately left the beggar colony.
As he walked back to the monastery, he was greeted
in spirit by the teachers who were with him on Mount Kuriyama.
This time the teachers gave him the 5 spiritual principals.
JUST FOR TODAY….
DO NOT WORRY
DO NOT ANGER
HONOUR YOUR PARENTS, TEACHERS AND ELDERS
EARN YOUR LIVING HONESTLY
SHOW GRATITUDE FOR EVERY LIVING THING
These principals brought the realization home to
Dr. Usui that he had been giving away without requiring the recipient
to take any responsibility for their own healing. Also there had
been no exchange of services or energy. And so, he integrated
these spiritual concepts into his teaching of Reiki.
For a time Dr. Usui began to teach and practice
Reiki throughout Japan as a sort of one man travelling medicine
show. When he came to a village he would light a torch and walk
slowly down main street. As people came up to him to ask why he
was carrying a torch in the middle of the day, he would invite
them to come to his camp at the edge of the village for healing.
In this way his reputation spread and soon had a following of
In 1923 he founded the Gakka, or Association and
in 1926, Dr. Usui made his transition after asking Dr. Chujiro
Hayashi to preserve and perpetuate the Reiki teachings.
Dr. Hayashi continued in Dr. Usui’s tradition,
traveling, teaching, and dedicating his life to Reiki. He trained
two Japanese women, one of whom lived in Japan and the other living
in Hawaii. The one who lived in Hawaii, Mrs. Hawayo Takata was
made a Reiki Master by Dr. Hayashi in 1938, prior to his death
and it was she who brought Reiki to the West.
*editors note. Frank Petter's books take issue with
many of the details included in this story. Specifically, it is
not actually true that Dr. Usui passed the mantle of Reiki directly
to Dr. Hayashi. In fact, it is probably more accurate to characterize
Dr. Hayashi's brand of Reiki as an offshoot of the original Usui
style. Dr. Hayashi in fact, is known to have split with the Gakka
sometime between 1936 and 1938. See my page on Dr. Hayashi.
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