The Evolving Nature of Reiki

by William Lee Rand

As more information continues to accumulate about the history of Reiki a new picture is forming about how the practice of Reiki developed which has many interesting details. The following information is based on research by Arjava Petter, Walter Lubeck, Hiroshi Doi, Hyakuten Inamoto and myself. Some of the conclusions are my own which I explain below.

It appears that the form of Reiki Dr. Usui and Dr. Hayashi practiced evolved during the time they were teaching. As an example, Dr. Usui did not always use symbols, nor was there a formal attunement process (called reiju in Japan) in the beginning. The symbols were added by Dr. Usui after a few years to help new students more easily make use of the Reiki energies and techniques. Also, apparently, the attunement process was at first something that took place more by association with Dr. Usui or perhaps though some other informal activity such as reciting a poem. It was only later that Dr. Usui developed a formal attunement process.

An interesting idea that has also emerged is that when Dr. Usui did start to use symbols, there were only three. He didn''t use a master symbol. This is confirmed by the above researchers and is validated by the fact that the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, do not use a master symbol – even in attunements. The Gakkai is the organization Dr. Usui set up to preserve his teachings and therefore, they are dedicated to teaching the same way Dr. Usui taught.

This is a startling idea to many as we always assumed Dr. Usui used the master symbol. But if it's true that he didn't, then where did it come from? Based on information from the Gakkai, according to Hiroshi Doi, Dr. Usui asked Dr. Hayashi to develop the system of Reiki based on his medical training. When he was asked to do this, Dr. Hayashi was a member of the Gakkai, but after he followed Dr. Usui's request and developed new methods, Dr. Hayashi left the Gakkai to form his own organization called Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu Kai.

Dr. Hayashi developed the Usui systemThe changes he made include treating a client while the client is laying on a treatment table rather than seated in a chair, treatments given by two practitioners at a time rather than one, a system of hand positions that remained the same for every treatment rather than following ones intuition (although he may have also used unique hand positions guided by intuition as part of other treatment techniques), the development of a Reiki handbook, a new method of attunements, teaching Reiki I&II in one five day class with an attunement given on each day.

We do not have any definite information at this time about who added the master symbol to Usui Reiki. But in thinking about the facts that have been verified, it's possible to narrow it down to either Mrs. Takata or Dr. Hayashi. However, in considering this information and other details, I've come to the conclusion that it is likely that the master symbol was added to Usui Reiki by Dr. Hayashi. We know that Mrs. Takata used the master symbol and that she was taught Reiki by Dr. Hayashi. Because Mrs. Yamaguchi (also trained by Dr. Hayashi) didn't use the master symbol, some have thought that it must have been Mrs. Takata who added the master symbol to Reiki, but this is not likely. First of all, while Mrs. Takata was of Japanese ancestry, she didn't have a good understanding of the Japanese language, nor of Japanese spiritual practices. Secondly, Dr. Hayashi was an innovator and an experimenter. He was asked to develop the Usui system by Dr. Usui and we know he did modify and develop the attunement process. Therefore, it is much more likely that he was the one who added the master symbol and then taught it to Mrs. Takata.

It is my thinking that the likely reason Mrs. Yamaguchi didn't receive the master symbol from Dr. Hayashi is that as he experimented and developed new techniques his teaching and practice methods evolved over time. He may have had several ways he practiced and a number of ways he did the attunements. He could have taught Mrs. Yamaguchi one system and Mrs. Takata another.

The above research indicates that there was no single way that the Usui system was originally practiced but that it evolved over time. Both Dr. Usui and Dr. Hayashi practiced it in different ways depending on the state they had developed Reiki into at any given time. Because of this, it is difficult to determine what the original method was because both Dr. Usui and Dr. Hayashi changed the way they practiced Reiki during the time they were teaching.

We also know that after Mrs. Takata passed in 1980, many forms and branches of Reiki developed in the West. We can see from this that Reiki has always been a system that has been evolving.

I believe that the most important thing for us to consider isn't if we are practicing exactly the same way that Dr. Usui or Dr. Hayashi practiced, but that the style of Reiki we do practice creates results and is beneficial to the client. Some students of Western Reiki have had the opportunity to compare the quality of their Reiki with that of the Gakkai and they have found that both styles seem to be very comparable in terms of effectiveness – neither being noticeably stronger or more beneficial than the other. It seems that the most important factor to insure that ones Reiki is effect is simply choosing a teacher and a style that one is inwardly guided to and that feels right for the individual, and then to simply allow oneself to be guided by the spirit of Reiki.