The Roots of the System of Reiki

Frans StieneArticles, English 9 Comments


Without the roots a plant will not grow and bear fruit. 

To really understand the system of Reiki, we need to go back to the roots that Mikao Usui planted for his teachings. By exploring and practicing the roots, we can pick the real fruits of the system of Reiki. 

Many teachers look for these roots within Mrs Takata’s or Chujiro Hayashi’s teachings. However, due to extensive research we now know that both of these teachers changed Mikao Usui’s teachings. Therefore we cannot find the real roots there.

Some people may not be happy with this article as they have invested much into their system, but I think we need to be truthful and honest when we talk about Mikao Usui’s teachings. Changes happen, but let’s be open and upfront about them. Here we examine a few of these changes.

Changes to the system by the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai

The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai is a very elusive group of teachers and practitioners in Japan. Over the years some members have taught publicly to outsiders and informed them of some of their teachings. In 2001, we met with a Gakkai member in Tokyo who explained some of their teachings.

Both this person and Hiroshi Doi, another well known Gakkai member, state that even within the Gakkai the teachings changed after Mikao Usui’s death.

“Dento Reiki [Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai] as it was practiced by members of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai before Usui sensei’s death drastically changed after his passing and even more after the end of World War II.”
– A Modern Reiki Method for Healing by Hiroshi Doi

Thus to know the roots of Mikao Usui’s teachings we cannot completely rely on the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai; we need to dig deeper to Mikao Usui himself.

Changes to the system by Churijo Hayashi

Like many other Japanese and non-Japanese Reiki researchers, Hiroshi Doi also rediscovered numerous changes made by Chujiro Hayashi. 

This is what we now know Hayashi changed…

Taken from an interview with Hiroshi Doi in the Reiki News Magazine:

“William Rand: How did Dr.Hayashi’s style of Reiki change after he left the Gakkai?

Doi Sensei: It is not that his style changed when he left the Gakkai, but that a new style was developed from the beginning of his Kenkyu Kai. A recipient, except a seriously ill person, was to sit when receiving treatment; this sitting position was changed to a lying position on a table. The treatment method was changed from one-on-one to several-on-one…

An original hands-on position was developed and the new Reiki Ryoho Shinshin or “Guidelines for Reiki Healing Method” were created. A new system of conferring and passing [reiju/attunement/initiation] on Reiki Ryoho was established, and a monthly five-day workshop was held at which Okuden was given. While at the Gakkai, the navel and the Tanden were considered important, the energy centers like the meridian lines of acupuncture, Tsubo, or vital points, and chakras, etc. became important.”

Hiroshi Doi explains this even further in his book Modern Reiki Method for Healing, and in his manuals:

“But I could find signs that he [Chujiro Hayashi] had already converted the “Usui method” into the “Hayshi method” even before he taught Takata Sensei. He seemed to try modernizing Reiki-ho based on his medical knowledge and experience as a practical therapist.”

“Next, although Hayashi Sensei advertised to the public that he taught “Usui” Reiki Ryoho after he had become independent of the Gakkai, he actually taught “Hayashi” Reiki. He adopted his own theories and techniques aimed at curing disease.”

“The basic 12 hand positions and the attunements procedures [with the symbols and mantras] we use today are all derived from Hayashi-sensei’s techniques.”

“Reiju, as currently practiced is said to be based upon the form developed by Hayashi-sensei, and then given to Hawayo Takata.”

Thus we can see that Hayashi changed many aspects of the system of Reiki. Therefore to know the roots and eat the real fruit of the system of Reiki we also cannot look completely at Hayashi’s teachings. 

Changes to the system by Mrs Takata

Even though Mrs Takata followed Hayashi’s teachings, she knew of the real roots of the system of Reiki; yet she didn’t incorporate these within her teachings. We can see this from recordings of Mrs Takata from her student John Harvey Gray:

“When John studied with Takata, he made over 20 audio tapes of her lectures and classes. On one of the tapes she discusses travelling to Japan in order to teach her approach to Reiki. While there, she met some Japanese citizens who were actively practicing and preserving Reiki as they understood it in Japan. Takata regarded their approach as entirely valid, but inappropriate for the West. It was highly complex, required years of training and was closely intertwined with religious practices. She felt these factors would deter students in the West and hobble the spread of Reiki through the world at a time when, in her view, it was urgently needed.” 
– Hand to Hand by John Harvey Gray

Here we can see that what Mrs Takata was teaching was not what teachers in Japan, who were “actively practicing and preserving” Mikao Usui’s teachings, were practicing. These also were intertwined with religious practices –  practices from Buddhism, teachings like Tendai and Shugendo for example – which Mrs Takata chose to omit from her teachings in the West.

So again, to rediscover the roots of the system of Reiki and the fruit Mikao Usui wanted us to eat, we also cannot look completely at Mrs Takata’s teachings. 

This is one of the reasons I study with Japanese Shingon, Tendai, and Shugendo priests, so that I can gain a clearer understanding of what Mrs Takata already was pointing out about Mikao Usui’s teachings. This in turn will help me to teach the roots of Usui Reiki Ryoho to our students.

Usui Reiki Ryoho, what is in a name?

Mikao Usui originally called his system Usui Reiki Ryoho; we can see this written within the precepts. 

Reiki stands for “True Self”, Ryo stands for “to heal”, and Ho stands for “teaching, method or Dharma”. Thus Usui Reiki Ryoho means Usui’s teachings to heal one’s True Self. Or in other words; “Usui’s teachings to rediscover our True Self.” 

It doesn’t mean a hands-on healing method; rather it is a method to rediscover our True Self, from which we can practice hands-on healing. Therefore, real hands-on healing is a product of rediscovering our True Self.  

“The spiritual level of the practitioner directly reflects the effect of Reiki. In a sense, the more you are enlightened, the more the effectiveness of Reiki enhances. The more you practice Reiki for saving others, the brighter your innate light shines to drive away clouds covering your mind. I think this is the quintessence of Reiki.”
– Takeda Hakusai Ajari

Traditionally in Japan you would change the name of the teachings, Usui Reiki Ryoho, to a different name only if you changed the system. If you didn’t change the system you would keep the same name, Usui Reiki Ryoho, because this showed that your teachings flowed from the source of the founder – showing respect to the founder.

Thus we also can see that both Hayashi and Mrs Takata changed their teachings because they both changed the name of their style of teaching. Hayashi changed his name to “Hayashi Reiki Ryoho Kenkyukai”. Some who teach in the lineage of Hayashi have changed the name again, indicating that they also have changed Hayashi’s teachings. If they hadn’t, why change the name of the teachings? Japanese have a very deep respect  for teachings and therefore only would change the name if they felt they had changed the teachings. To do otherwise wouldn’t be respectful to the founder of the system.

Mrs Takata, even though in some occasions she called it Usui Reiki Ryoho, felt the need to change it to Usui Shiki Ryoho.

The Roots

So, with so many teachers having changed the system of Reiki, how do we find its roots? We can find the root of Mikao Usui’s teachings by meditating on the tools he left us. 

I’ve used this analogy before, but it bears repeating: say you want to know everything about a tree. You could buy a book about trees and read it. Now you think, “I know everything about a tree!” But do you really? No; you know the author’s idea about what a tree is, based on his/her research, knowledge, experience, thoughts. This is the same when you go to a class – you hear the teacher’s ideas.

We could cut down the tree and put it under the microscope and investigate it all intellectually. But that still doesn’t help us to know really what a tree is! In the same way, after you go to a class, you could read your manual and notes over and over, to try to better understand or to memorize the ideas and teachings you heard about.

Do either of these methods help you to know what a tree is, or to know the teachings of the system of Reiki? Or does direct experience help you more?

The best option would be to become One with the tree; now we know what it means to be a tree.

The best option would be, as Mikao Usui said in the precepts, to “practice diligently” his teachings.

But that is not as easy as reading a book or going to a class or knowing it intellectually. It is hard practice and it takes time.

We know also that Mikao Usui created his system after he sat meditating on a mountain top for 21 days! To be able to do this 21 day practice, you first need to have practiced the 3 day and then the 7 day practices, building up gradually so that your mind/body/energy are better able to deal with it. And before you can do a 3 or 7 day practice, you need to have been practicing for a long, long time. This also is what Mrs Takata pointed out in the quote from Hand to Hand; it was a practice which was highly complex, required years and years of training and was intertwined with religious practices. 

What if you meditated for 20 minutes every day on the first symbol and mantra? What if you meditated for 20 minutes every day on the precepts? What if you practiced the meditation practice joshin kokyu ho 20 minutes every day? This might take years and years but only then can we truly rediscover what Mikao Usui left us.

“Though his [Mikao Usui] one-on-one Shinpiden lecture did not include healing training, I also heard that Usui Sensei’s mentorship greatly enhanced the healing ability of many of the Shinpiden practitioners, as it strengthened their resonance with the Universe and encouraged the awareness that a human is the small universe derived from the Great Universe.”
– Interview with Hiroshi Doi in Reiki News Magazine

Why did Mikao Usui’s Shinpiden training not include healing training? Because he knew from his own experience that the real healing came from the unification with the universe and this was what he was teaching his Shinpiden students. And we all know that if we have direct experiences of this unification that this will greatly enhance our healing ability.

The Fruit

Thus if we say we practice the system of Reiki according to Mikao Usui, we also want to know what the fruit is of Mikao Usui’s teachings, not the fruit of Chujiro Hayashi’s or Mrs Takata’s teachings.

This is not to say that Hayashi’s teachings are not valid or that Mrs Takata’s teachings are not correct. Both are valid in their own right; but because they both changed so much of the system, they are not the roots of the system of Reiki. Therefore the fruit will be Hayashi’s fruit or Mrs Takata’s fruit, not Mikao Usui’s.

To get the idea in our mind of the fruit of Mikao Usui, we need to go back to the roots of his teachings, the real essence.

Traditionally in Mikao Usui’s time, Reiki meant your True Self, your innate great bright light. Therefore the fruit of the system of Reiki is the rediscovering of our True Self, the embodiment of the precepts. This is what in Japan is called Satori or Anshin Ritsumei.

“So the old Gakkai members said that Usui Sensei taught the way to Satori very intensely to those who had achieved a certain level.”
– A Modern Reiki Method for Healing by Hiroshi Doi

This fruit is symbolized by a symbol/mantra which Mikao Usui put in his system in Shinpiden Reiki Level III – Dai Kômyô.

Dai Kômyô means great bright light, it is the light of our True Self.

“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 Shinpi-den practitioner.”  Hiroshi Doi got this information, and more, from an Aikido Shihan whose grandfather was a student of Mikao Usui.

So dig deep in your practice, go deeper than Hayashi’s teachings and Mrs Takata’s teachings. Go all the way down to the roots of Mikao Usui and you will start to rediscover a whole new treasure trove of teachings and experiences; you will start to rediscover your True Self. And there you will find the sweetest fruit of all.

Comments 9

  1. Avatar of Susan
  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  3. Avatar of Gina Gamba

    Interesting article. Roots give us a firm foundation from which to learn, but trees still have many branches and leaves, each unique, and no two branches or leaves will receive the sun or the rain in exactly the same way. Usui-sensei knew this, that is why he instructed his own students in whatever way met their individual needs and spiritual progress. Interesting thing about trees: if they don’t have room to be flexible even from their firm roots to grow, adapt, and evolve, they die. Students will take what they need, and leave what doesn’t resonate with them. That’s not ego or being invested or clinging. That’s self-awareness. I want my students to practice and research and debate, to make up their own minds.

  4. Avatar of Jenetta
  5. Avatar of Jeann

    Frans, this was clarifying and very helpful in my digging through the Reiki world available to us through so many factions. Thank you for your research and hands on involvement with the historians. This is very valuable, treasured information to share and indeed, meditate on how it moves forward with each practitioner.

    1. Avatar of Frans
  6. Avatar of Anastasia

    Hi Frans!

    How do I learn more about the roots? I feel like school and Reiki teachers focus more on art of self healing vs art of discovering your true self. Is there a school you would recommend?

    1. Avatar of Frans Stiene Post

      Hi Anastasia,

      Yes many just focus on the aspect of healing instead of self discovery.

      I teach in Europe, and all around the world the art of self discovery. So you can come and do one of our courses or retreats or we can do some teaching one on one.

      Have a look here:

      But you can also email me.


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