(Rebecca wrote this article for Shibumi International Reiki Association and we thought it was time that it be included on the IHReiki blog)
Lineage in the Reiki community is one of those tenacious subjects that never really goes away. Many Reiki students first hear about their own lineage from their teacher and, from then on, it can become increasingly relevant to them.
In many traditions, lineage is used as a kind of validation that the practices, methods and teachings taught in the tradition really do stem back to the person who first created them. This means that, within some of the more competitive corners of our Reiki community, lively “my lineage is shorter than your lineage” discussions flourish abundantly. There is often an unspoken belief lurking quietly beneath this kind of discussion, that a shorter lineage can make a teaching more relevant, stronger, or even more directly transmitted from Mikao Usui although, if we examine this view rationally, it is impossible to find any logic or common sense in it. However short their lineage is, any teacher can make changes to the practices they teach.
Some Reiki students spend a lot of time collecting lineages from different teachers by attending lots of different classes, keeping track of their resulting personal lineage in a kind of complicated spider’s web or expanded family tree which contains the names of all the teachers they have worked with. The unspoken thought behind this could be based on a need to feel “well connected” within the Reiki community, or it could express a search for pure truth which is, as yet, undiscovered.
These are both rather uncomfortable ideas when placed in the context of spiritual practice, so where does the concept of lineage come from and how does it really relate to us as Reiki practitioners?
In many eastern spiritual schools there are 3 different ways of describing lineages and how they function:
1.Transmission Lineage is used to describe the line of teachers who link current practitioners back to the founder of a particular school, such as Mikao Usui in Reiki or Bodhidharma (Daruma – Japanese) in Zen Buddhism.
This kind of lineage validates the practices which are currently taught as being directly transmitted in unbroken line from the founder. It can only work effectively as long as none of the teachers in the lineage have changed those original practices. Keeping practices exactly as they were taught to us is known as “practising purely”.
2.Organisational Lineage is held by the people who are senior members of a particular school and therefore influence what happens within it.
This kind of lineage is an administrative tool which allows decisions to be made and actions to be taken for and in the community organisation. It functions in the same way as a senior management structure in businesses.
3.Primordial Lineage is a far deeper and more direct form of lineage. It is the most profound connection to our own reality that we can find within ourselves. It is where we discover our own true enlightened nature deep inside of us.
This kind of lineage is the ultimate answer to those “who has the shortest lineage?” competitions. It is not possible to hold a lineage shorter or more direct than the primordial lineage because it is the thing that connects us with our original nature in one simple, pure, deeply profound step. It is available to every practitioner and the person who is responsible for it’s cultivation is ourself. Primordial lineage is our heritage as living beings. It is the centre of our being, our primordial energy.
Primordial energy can be described in many different ways. In some eastern teachings it is described as a direct experience of Emptiness. In other traditions it is seen as discovering our own inner wisdom and knowledge, or the union of wisdom and compassion or wisdom and method. It is the state of being where we are able to see things as they are without any attachments whatsoever. Here we become part of the lineage of all beings who have discovered this primordial energy within themselves. It is this primordial state that eastern spiritual practitioners are aiming to achieve.
As we can see from the definitions above, the primordial lineage is a far more innate kind of lineage than the transmission and organisational lineages, although both these forms of lineage perform extremely relevant functions within the community. The primordial lineage differs from them on a fundamental level in that it is central to each one of us as a human being and therefore as a Reiki practitioner. It is the thing that makes us one with all that is and allows us to understand how that works. It is our true being, stripped of all the paraphernalia that we carry round with us in this life. It is the thing that would be left if all our baggage was miraculously lifted from our shoulders. It is the diamond at our heart that our spiritual practices polish.
The teachings and practices taught in eastern spiritual traditions have their origin in this primordial lineage or energy. It is in this space that the teacher finds the answers to how to teach their students, so that they too can remember their own primordial lineage. This primordial energy has an unlimited potential and therefore is a vast storeroom of limitless methods. In this space the teacher will understand the uniqueness of each student and therefore be able to teach different methods, practices or ideas to each one, depending on their own distinct qualities and abilities.
Seen from this angle, the primordial lineage gives us an explanation of why some Reiki practitioners find it easier to work with the precepts, others prefer chanting the mantras, while others finds it easier to work with symbols and mantras together. The Reiki teacher’s role is to direct their students in such a way that they get the most out of the system of Reiki in order to eventually discover their own primordial lineage.
The foremost reason for being part of a Reiki lineage is to find our own primordial energy. If a teacher is not working with this in mind, but is maybe focussing on gaining personal power or influence, then the primordial lineage cannot function. When it is functioning correctly it empowers the student and teacher together. There is a deepening of self knowledge for both of them. This is the true wisdom that the very best Reiki teachers can show us and help us to work towards.
The relationship between a teacher and student can last many years. With this in mind, choosing a teacher is a significant decision. As students, it is important that we take responsibility for ourselves and our own practice. This means that it is our role to evaluate potential teachers so we can learn how to recognise those that are in the primordial lineage. This will allow us to make a wise decision when we choose a teacher.
Although many students find it tricky to recognise a teacher who is in the primordial lineage, we should remember that this energy is intrinsic to us. It is our birthright and the truest part of ourselves. This means that our recognition can be instinctive and instantaneous. It is never an intellectual thing. We know deep inside ourselves when things feel right and the primordial lineage is the most right part of us, flawless and absolute. Nothing can be more right than that. This is how we can tell whether a teacher is in the primordial lineage. When our Reiki path feels both simple and profound it is clear that the teachings are coming from the primordial lineage root. It is useful to understand that this is where our path should be heading if we are to make the best progress we can.
As Reiki teachers the primordial lineage is what we should aim to be sharing with the students we have accepted. We need to constantly work on our own practices and keep in mind the goal of a personal state of egoless-ness. If we are going to teach as well as possible we need to know ourselves very clearly and honestly. The energy space we are currently able to work in can be misleading. Our mind and ego can be very good at deceiving us. In a mind that is not free from “self” it could be very easy to confuse the energy space we are in with something deeper. Sometimes the best way to make sure we do not fool ourselves is to take guidance from our own teachers. It is comforting to remember that the primordial lineage is always within us, as we work towards finding it.
In many lineages there is an initiation or empowerment. In the system of Reiki it is often called an attunement or reiju. Initiations from a teacher within a lineage help us to become part of that lineage. It is important to understand that an initiation is an active process for both the teacher and the student.
For the teacher, an effective initiation is always given from the space of the primordial lineage or, at a bare minimum, with the primordial lineage in mind. If this is the case, it will trigger an initial experience of primordial energy within the student
For the student, an effective initiation is received with an openness and willingness to accept it in the intention that we want to practice the system of Reiki to discover our own primordial energy.
If these two principles are not met the initiation can only be a pale reflection of a true primordial initiation with no deep trigger of that energy within the student. In short, the primordial lineage is always the base for any true initiation, empowerment, attunement or reiju. This is relevant to all initiatory spiritual practices.
The central purpose of the Reiki teacher is to work towards finding the primordial energy or lineage within themselves so that they can become an effective vehicle for the initiation to flow through. Once they are working in this lineage they need to be mindful of their role, guiding their students constantly towards discovering their own primordial energy. Each student needs to make a commitment to their own practice, staying in contact with the teacher so that they can be guided into the right way. Without this guidance, the student could quickly become lost in the darkness of dead-ends and side alleys.
As students and teachers, we are given simple tools in the system of Reiki that we can use diligently. This ongoing work will help us to move steadily towards experiencing our own primordial lineage. There is no quick fix option if we really want to deepen our practice and delve into the absolute. “Practise, practise, practise” really does make perfect. Perseverance is not exciting but the rewards are. We can take encouragement from seeing our fellow students and teachers making headway along the path and knowing that our own efforts are helping us to do the same thing.
Help walking the same way is something good that we can share with our fellow practitioners. We all have the potential to experience our primordial energy if we work at our practices steadily and patiently. Working with a teacher who is deeply connected to the primordial lineage and practising with people who are doing the same thing as ourselves are great ways to make sure we don’t get lost down those dead-ends or side alleys as we walk along the path towards our true heritage: our primordial lineage.
Here’s a little bit of that help right now:
The next time you are faced with a “my lineage is shorter than your lineage” discussion, remember the truth of your own primordial lineage – and the potential primordial lineage of the person who is facing you.
Rebecca Holton is a Shinpiden graduate of the International House of Reiki.