(Edited by Maril Blanchard)
Reiju and Reiki Attunements can be so confusing!
Within the modern Reiki community, there appears to be a lot of confusion about reiju and attunement. In this article we present a perspective that will, hopefully, clear up some of this confusion. We invite your comments.
Foundations of Reiju
In Japan, the attunement is called a reiju, which can be translated as “spiritual blessing or offering.” But, what does that actually mean?
First of all, as the translation indicates, a reiju is spiritual in nature; it’s not physical. Traditional teachings indicate that when Mikao Usui initially offered a reiju to his students, there was no physical ritual. Instead, he was ‘just sitting’ opposite the student. But, this wasn’t just any sitting — Mikao Usui was a living embodiment of the Great Bright Light, as symbolized in the Level III symbol and mantra of DKM.
DKM represents non-attachment, including non-attachment to our ego. It denotes a state of being without any sense of a ‘you’ or an ‘I’ or even of ‘doing.’ It epitomizes a space of open possibility.
Mikao Usui was ‘just sitting’ as the Great Bright Light, encompassing the entire cosmos and being that space of open possibility. In that space, Usui could offer the reiju as a healing, a blessing, an initiation, or all at the same time. In that space, the student could receive whatever he or she needed, at that moment in time. There was no need for ritual; only the ability of the person ‘giving’ the reiju to be the Great Bright Light.
In Japanese, the essence of this state of being is called nyu gag a nyu, or mind-to-mind transmission.
Unfortunately, some of Usui’s Shinpiden students had difficulty with being in this egoless state. Therefore, he borrowed a physical ritual designed to help his students remember that they are the Great Bright Light. This borrowed ritual didn’t have any symbols or mantras, only specific hand positions performed on the person receiving the reiju.
The symbols and mantras were added later, likely by Chujiro Hayashi, who studied with Usui during the last 10 months of Usui’s life. Hayashi’s intention, like that of Mikao Usui, was to help students remember that they are the Great Bright Light.
He viewed the symbols and mantras as spiritual keys, meant to unlock that which is hidden within. He taught the initial symbols and mantras as part of Okuden — the Japanese word for inner or hidden teachings. As students practiced Okuden, including the symbols and mantras, they would begin to realize that which is hidden within, their true nature, which is Reiki or spiritual energy. As their Okuden practice deepened, students would then be introduced to Shinpiden — the Japanese word for mystery teaching — and the DKM symbol and mantra. As students practiced Shinpiden, they moved from an intellectual understanding of DKM toward an embodiment of the Great Bright Light.
Throughout Okuden and Shinpiden (and beyond), students received and offered reiju —as a healing, a blessing, an initiation, or all at the same time.
The System of Reiki Moves to the West
When Hayashi taught the system of Reiki to Mrs. Takata, she referred to the reiju as an initiation, as evidenced in her personal diary. She saw the initiation as an opportunity for the student to have an initial experience that he or she is Reiki. As Mrs Takata states in her dairy, “Let the true energy come out from within. It lies in the bottom of the stomach about two inches below the naval.”
There is no indication that Mrs. Takata ever referred to the reiju as an attunement. However, after she died, some of her students — now teachers in their own right — started calling the initiation an attunement. And, this is the term now in use in many countries and among many teachers.
Unfortunately, calling the reiju an attunement gives rise to many misconceptions. One such misconception is that Reiki is external to the recipient. For example, some Reiki teachers say, “Without an attunement, you cannot channel Reiki.” Others say, “An attunement is the transfer of the ability to channel Reiki, passed from a teacher to a student.”
Such statements contradict the teachings of Mikao Usui, Chujiro Hayashi, and Mrs. Takata — for each, in their own way, taught that Reiki (spiritual energy) is our true nature, hidden within us, waiting to be re-discovered. It doesn’t need to be channeled — which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as express, move, or carry — because it’s already channeling within, through, and around us. For the same reason, it also doesn’t need to be transferred from a teacher to a student. If either statement were actually true, then anyone who wasn’t attuned would not be alive. Obviously, that is not the case!
One of the precepts in the system of Reiki is ‘be honest.’ As Reiki teachers, we need to look at the reiju in an honest way, a way that opens us to being a full embodiment of the Great Bright Light. If we really think that the reiju is just a physical ritual, then we are not being honest — anyone can learn to do the physical ritual, but does this mean that they can offer a reiju, a spiritual blessing, in a state of being the Great Bright Light? If so, we should teach everyone in the world how to do the ritual, then we can all perform it on each other and within no time the world will be a better place.
Unfortunately, few modern Reiki teachers are able to facilitate the egoless, mind-to-mind transmission that is the foundation of reiju. Many might even find it hard to understand the concepts, let alone be the Great Bright Light. It is extremely difficult to completely step out of the way — our ego has such a strong grip on everything. This is why the system of Reiki is a spiritual and lifelong practice.
Returning to the Source
To really understand the concept of attunement, we need to not only look at the cultural context within which Mikao Usui practiced reiju — that is, as a spiritual blessing or offering as the Great Bright Light — but also the practice tools that are taught within the system of Reiki. The attunement/initiation/reiju also needs to be viewed from the perspective of the precepts and the Shinpiden symbol and mantra.
The precepts are:
Do not Anger
Do not Worry
Show Compassion to Yourself and Others
As practitioners of the system of Reiki, we meditate on and attempt to live in accordance with these precepts. At the Shinpiden level, we add to our practice the DKM (Great Bright Light) symbol and mantra, which is ‘just’ a consolidated form of the precepts. It is only when we are a living embodiment of the DKM, the Great Bright Light — as was Mikao Usui — that we can truly not be angry, not worry, be humble, honest, and compassionate.
When a teacher offers an attunement or reiju —with or without the symbols and mantras, with or without a physical ritual — he or she needs to do so from a state of true compassion. And, in a truthful state of compassion, we see that we are all One, so there is nothing to give or to receive.
“We say that the giver, receiver, and the gift itself are empty and peaceful. This is our standard for dana paramita [the very best way of giving] the giver is empty of self, the receiver is empty of self, and the thing given is empty of self. Simply selfless. Without this wisdom, giving is an ego trip. How can we cross over to a life where benefiting others is more important than our own self-interests? Unsurpassable giving is realizing that there is no one who possesses and that there is nothing to possess. When we realize this, giving and receiving is done without any thought of loss or gain.”
To sum it all up, a reiju (spiritual blessing) is offered so that students can have an initial experience of their own spiritual nature/energy (Reiki). They then learn various tools — like the precepts, mantras, symbols, hands-on healing, and meditation — to deepen their experience of their true nature. Since they had an initial experience that during reiju, they know what to look for and how it feels. The most important element in the attunement/reiju process is the state of mind of the teacher, not the ritual. Different students of Mikao Usui might have had different rituals, but their state of mind was the same, the Great Bright Light.