In the Western tradition, the history of Reiki is passed from Master to student orally. This means that there can be slight variations in the detail. The following is the version I was taught by my Reiki Master when I received my first attunement:


 

Dr Mikao Usui was the Dean of a small Christian University in Kyoto, Japan. His students asked him whether he believed the stories in the Bible and if he believed in Christ's power to heal. They mentioned that, in the Bible, Christ says "You will do as I have done, and even greater things", and asked Dr Usui why, if this was so, there were not more healers in the world. In traditional Japanese style, he was bound by his honour as Dean to answer them. Finding that he could not, Dr Usui resigned his position and set out to find the answers to this great mystery, which was to become his life's quest. 

 

The Journey Begins

Dr Usui had been taught by a number of Christian missionaries, so he decided to begin his research in a Christian society. He studied at the University of Chicago in the Theological Seminary, but was unable to find the information he needed. He then turned his attention back to Buddhism and returned to Japan to see if he could find out more about Buddha's healings. 

Though he visited several monasteries, he could not find anything to further his knowledge. His research was discouraged by Abbots who told him that current emphasis centred on spiritual rather than physical healing. His determination eventually led him to a Zen monastery where he was supported by the Abbot and offered a base from which to continue his studies. Inspired by the Abbot's enthusiasm, Dr Usui studied the Sutras in Japanese, but uncovered little to advance his research.

He decided to undertake a mountain retreat where he could fast and meditate. He climbed the sacred Mount Kuriyama and, accompanied by 21 stones to act as his calendar, began his retreat and meditation. After 20 days, nothing unusual had happened. But at the dawn of the 21st day, Dr Usui saw a flicker of light in the darkness. This light began to move very quickly towards him. As it came closer it grew larger and he began to feel frightened. His immediate impulse was to run away, but feeling that this could be a sign or even the answer he had been waiting for, he decided not to move and braced himself for whatever was to come. 

The light quickly came closer until it struck him in the centre of his forehead. Dr Usui thought he had died. A vision of millions of rainbow-coloured bubbles appeared before his eyes. They became white and glowing, each containing a three-dimensional Sanskrit character in gold, each appearing slowly enough for him to register the individual shapes. Finally the vision faded. Dr Usui awoke from what had been a trance-like state surprised to find himself now bathed in extremely bright daylight.

In his excitement to share this experience with the Abbot, Dr Usui ran down the mountain. He was amazed to find he felt extraordinarily well despite his fast and understood that he had undergone a remarkable transformation as a result of the vision. During his descent, Dr Usui injured his toe. Instinctively, he placed his hand on the injured area for a few moments. When he lifted his hand off, he was astonished to find that the bleeding had stopped and that the pain had subsided. 

He continued on his journey and stopped to eat at an inn lower down the mountain. Although it can be dangerous to eat a full meal so soon after fasting, Dr Usui suffered no ill effects. He noticed the innkeeper's granddaughter was in severe pain with toothache. Asking permission to place his hands over her jaw, Dr Usui found that the pain and swelling rapidly diminished. 

On his return to the monastery, he discovered the Abbot suffering from arthritis. Again, Dr Usui found he was able to relieve the discomfort by placing his hands over the painful areas. The Abbot was delighted and amazed by Dr Usui's experience and transformation.

Sharing the Knowledge

Now he had this knowledge and ability, Dr Usui wanted to find the best way of using it to help others. He decided to begin work in the Beggars' Quarters of Kyoto, where he could help those who needed it most. He spent several years in the Beggars' Quarters, where he healed many people. Hoping for their successful reintegration into society, Dr Usui was later distraught to find that, after several years, those who had been healed and found jobs in the city, were beginning to reappear in the Beggars' Quarters. Devastated, he realised that he had failed to teach them responsibility for themselves, and most of all, gratitude. He also realised that healing of the spirit was every bit as important as healing the physical body. By giving away Reiki, he had reinforced the beggars' sense of helplessness. People needed to give back something for what they received or life would be valueless. It was necessary to have an exchange of energy.

Dr Usui then went on to develop the system of healing as we know it today. He used the symbols to attune others so they could take responsibility for their own wellbeing and introduced the five ethical principles.

He also began to train other teachers. One of these was a retired naval officer called Dr Chujiro Hayashi, who had worked with Dr Usui for some time. It was during the early 1920s that Dr Usui handed over the knowledge and responsibility of carrying on the Reiki tradition to Dr Hayashi. Dr Hayashi founded a Reiki clinic in Tokyo, and it was here that a Japanese American woman from Hawaii appeared in 1935.  Mrs Hawayo Takata was a widow with two young children. She suffered from depression and a number of organic disorders. It was through Mrs Takata that Reiki was to eventually come to the West.

Mrs Takata was on the verge of surgery when she heard the voice of her late husband discouraging her from having the operation, urging her to find 'another way'. After confiding to her doctor about her fears and reservations, he recommended she try the Reiki clinic. She received many treatments at the clinic and was eventually healed.

Reiki comes to the West

Mrs Takata was very keen to learn Reiki and take it back to Hawaii. In the male-dominated society of that era, Mrs Takata met with considerable opposition but she was determined and her persistence paid off. Dr Hayashi took her on as an apprentice and she lived with his family learning and practising Reiki for over a year. 

She was eventually initiated into First and Second Degree Reiki and she later returned to Hawaii where she began to practise. In 1938, Dr Hayashi initiated Mrs Takata as a Reiki Master enabling her to teach and attune others to Reiki.

Dr Hayashi was a powerful psychic and could sense the impending war between the United States and Japan and knew what the outcome would be. He immediately warned Mrs Takata of the coming trouble. She returned to Japan, where Dr Hayashi passed the entire knowledge of Reiki on to her and warned of the preparations she would need to make to ensure her own safety and to protect the Reiki heritage. 

Not wanting to be drafted to participate in the violence of the coming war, Dr Hayashi decided to end his life. One day in the late 1930s, in full ceremonial dress and amidst friends, he consciously left his body.

Mrs Takata returned to Hawaii where she established a clinic and continued her practise of Reiki. She was to continue for another 40 years, though it was not until the 1970s that she began to train other teachers. She died on 12th December 1980, having enabled more than 20 others to become Reiki Masters, including both her granddaughter Phyllis Lei Furumoto and Dr Barbara Weber Ray.

As my own attunement can be traced back to Mrs Furumoto, it can also be traced back to Dr Usui. This strong lineage helps me honour and respect my position, ensuring I always endeavour to live up to the ideals of the Reiki movement.