The Esoteric Teachings of Mikao Usui

Frans StieneArticles, English 9 Comments


Within the precepts we can find this phrase:

招 福 の 祕 法
shou fuku no hi hou
pronounced: show fuku no hehoo
invite blessings of secret method

This is commonly translated as “the secret method to invite blessings”.

But 祕 法 hihou or hiho also can be translated as “esoteric teachings”.

Hi 祕 means secret, hidden, esoteric, spiritual, and deeper.

Hou 法 means dharma, reality, true principle, method, teachings, and original nature.

Therefore, by using this phrase in his precepts, Mikao Usui was pointing out his esoteric teachings. But many people get confused by the word esoteric.

A leaflet handed out at Mt Koyasan, the main temple complex of the Shingon tradition in Japan, explains what esoteric means in a very simple and clear way:

“The word “esoteric” is used within Shingon Buddhism to indicate two teachings. First, that the Buddhas preach by adjusting their teachings according to the ability of their audiences to comprehend, and so to reserve some teachings until beings are ready for them. In this case, the Buddha wisely holds back teachings temporarily until the listener is ready for them… Esoteric here does not mean a willful withholding of the teachings to a select few. The teachings of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism are available to anyone, but require careful sequential preparation through several stages. The word “esoteric” is used to emphasize the need to train ourselves to realize what was there all along but what was hidden to us by our own ignorance.”

We can see very clearly within Mikao Usui’s teachings that he also was teaching according to his students’ spiritual development. Some of his students weren’t ready for the next stage of his teachings. We can see this very clearly if, for example, we look at the Reiki III Shinpiden symbol/mantra Dai Kômyô. Some of Mikao Usui’s students were taught this symbol/mantra and yet others were not.

Reiki researcher and teacher Hiroshi Doi explains; “Usui Sensei called Shinpiden students into his room one by one, saying, “You have been working on developing your pipe of Reiki since you had it opened until you learned Okuden Koki. But that is not enough, as you were chosen to be a Shinpiden practitioner. From now on you must devote yourself to give the Light to as many people as possible.” And he showed a piece of paper with three Kanji characters of Dai, Ko and Myo on it, which indicated the basic consciousness of Shinpiden practitioner.” Hiroshi Doi got this information, and more, from an Aikido Shihan whose grandfather was a student of Mikao Usui.

When we look at the whole system of Reiki, we also can see that Mikao Usui was teaching the esoteric way, depending on the spiritual development of his students. He was teaching some of his students just a very basic form of hands-on healing and yet others he was teaching a very deep spiritual practice, with meditations to lay bare what has always been there: Reiki – our True Self.

“Usui Sensei had no standard curriculum, and the length of time of the training depended on the spiritual progress of each student. It is said that he gave one-on-one lectures mainly on the right mental attitude needed for spiritual advancement based on his own experience. – Hiroshi Doi

In his teachings, Mikao Usui also was encouraging learning in stages. Shoden was the beginner level and it is said that he had only around 2.000 students. Okuden was the next stage; for this level, he had only about 80 or so students. Hence we can start to see that students had to prepare for the next level and if they weren’t ready, he did not teach them. The next stage was Shinpiden and Mikao Usui had only about 22 or so students for this level. But that doesn’t mean that all his students at this level were taught the same; again, he was teaching according to their spiritual development. This means that some of his Shinpiden students only knew the hands-on healing parts while others were offered the deeper teachings. Again, this is why some of his Shinpiden level students were taught the Dai Kômyô and others not.

“Usui Sensei personally selected from among qualified Okuden Koki level students those who possessed a high level of spirituality, and offered them further instructions at Shinpiden level. Shinpiden students were selected to receive Usui Sensei’s direct private teachings and learn how to aim for Anshin Ritsumei.” – Hiroshi Doi

To again quote the Shingon leaflet; “The word “esoteric” is used to emphasize the need to train ourselves to realize what was there all along but what was hidden to us by our own ignorance.”

The deepest aim of Mikao Usui’s teachings was to help his students to remember their True Self – Reiki, that which was there all along in all of us but was hidden by our own anger and worry, by not being grateful and true to our way and our being, and by not being compassionate to ourselves and others – our ignorance. But it was not a matter of Mikao Usui simply giving each student a magic key to unlock the door to the True Self. Rather than just being taught information or being shown a particular practice, the student had to be ready to take the teachings into their own hands and practice the meditation practices so that they could realize this within themselves.

Comments 9

  1. Avatar of Prabha Prabhudesai
  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  3. Avatar of Widya

    Agreed. This article is very enlightening. I resonate with the content. Thank you for sharing…
    I have a question. What would happen when a student who is not ready yet take the Shinpiden level, aka Reiki Master Teacher level in Western lineage?

    1. Avatar of Frans Stiene Post

      Hi Widya,

      If we are not ready we do not get much out of any kind of teaching. Just like if we are as a beginner trying to play a difficult piece of music on a violin, it will not work.


      1. Avatar of Widya
  4. Avatar of Edward Howell
    1. Avatar of Frans Stiene Post
  5. Avatar of Henry Franssen

    Bedankt Frans,
    Thanks for the detailed explanation of the origins. So where does a person start with Reiki to know they are receiving the correct teaching in relation to its original content?.
    Do we start with the spiritual teachings or the Reiki practices?. Any information to show me the correct starting point would be greatly appreciated.

    Met vriendelijkheid,

    1. Avatar of Frans Stiene Post

      Hi Henry,

      I would start straight with the spiritual teachings which, if you find a good teacher, is interwoven in the system of Reiki.

      The correct starting point, is the right motivation, and then the right practice.

      I teach also in Holland, so if you live there we could meet for a coffee or so.


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