To DKM or Not to DKM

Bronwen and Frans StieneArticles, English 11 Comments


Lately, there has been some discussion in the Reiki community questioning whether the founder of the system, Mikao Usui, actually taught the DKM mantra/symbol in the system of Reiki.

DKM is encountered in the system’s final teachings of Shinpiden Reiki Level III. Most Reiki practitioners know of DKM through the teachings of Mrs Takata who, in the late 1930s, brought the system from Japan to the West. Mrs Takata taught the DKM mantra/symbol as the last of the system’s four mantras and symbols. Those questioning the DKM’s origins stem from the lineage of Mrs Yamaguchi.

Let’s investigate and see what we can discover.


Mrs Takata

Mrs Takata started her training with Chujiro Hayashi in 1935. Hayashi was a student of Usui. In May 1936, she wrote that Hayashi had “granted to bestow the secret of Shinpiden” on her (spelled incorrectly as “Shinpiten”). In February 1938, when both Hayashi and Takata went to Hawaii, he provided her with a certificate in English officially stating that she could teach the Reiki system. These dates are documented in her handwritten diary in English as well as on the certificate indicating that she spent more then two years training and studying with Hayashi. This also means that Chujiro Hayashi, her teacher, taught Shinpiden from as early as 1936.

Mrs Yamaguchi

Another student of Hayashi was the teenage Mrs Yamaguchi. Hyakuten Inamoto was one of Mrs Yamaguchi’s early students at the time of her renewed interest in the system of Reiki in her late 70s. He stated that she claimed never to have studied Shinpiden and never knew or used the term Shinpiden. She had studied Shoden and Okuden with Hayashi for 5 days from March 13 in 1938. Mrs Yamaguchi had told him that she was taught how to perform an attunement in order to help out as Hayashi needed extra help to perform attunements during a course that her family had organized. (This in itself is interesting to see the different methods of teaching that Hayashi employed). There is more to the Yamaguchi story at James Deacon’s website.

Usui Reiki Ryoho

In a manual, called the Reiki Ryoho Hikkei, handed out by the Reiki association Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, there is a question and answer section claiming to originate from Mikao Usui himself. One of the questions asked of him is:

Q – Is there a higher level more then Okuden?
A – Yes, there is a level called Shinpiden.

From this source we understand Shinpiden was taught by Mikao Usui and it was also practiced within the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, an association established in 1922.

According to Hiroshi Doi, the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai doesn’t teach the DKM as a tool but they do show their members the DKM as a goal to achieve through practice. This means that the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai utilizes the DKM, however not necessarily in the way that it is taught in the modern system of Reiki.

From these three historical sources it can be seen that

  • Hayashi taught Shinpiden from at least 1936
  • that the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (est. 1922) wrote of it in their manual and still work with it today
  • and that Mrs Yamaguchi did not officially study Shinpiden with Hayashi.

DKM, taught at the Shinpiden level, is an integral part of the legacy of Mrs Takata’s teachings and also belonged to the Usui Reiki Ryoho teachings. That another lineage does not use the same levels or mantras/symbols does not minimize their importance in the system of Reiki.


For a less technical and more experiential understanding of the DKM we can look at how this symbol and mantra relate to the system of Reiki in its entirety. The direct experience of this mantra/symbol practice can help us to understand the purpose of the DKM and, consequently, its indispensable role in the system of Reiki and Shinpiden.

A Spiritual Practice

Historically, we can see that DKM was apparent in the early teachings, but how can we, from an experiential understanding of the system, know that DKM is essential to this system? We think that this, too, is an interesting area to explore.

DKM, literally translated, means Great Bright Light, which in turn is understood as the light of enlightenment. If the system of Reiki does work with the DKM, then it signifies that this system is a spiritual one, one working with the concept of enlightenment. This is an exciting understanding of what Reiki practitioners have to work with and to work toward. It also illuminates the purpose of the three different levels of the system of Reiki, culminating in Shinpiden. Shinpiden means mystery teachings; discovering the mystery of life.

Let’s look at Usui and his teachings a bit closer to establish if what he was teaching was a spiritual practice or not and what repercussions this holds for those practicing the system..

The Memorial Stone

On Mikao Usui’s memorial stone, erected in 1927 by students of the Reiki association Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, we are informed that on Mt Kurama:
He suddenly felt One Great Reiki over his head and attained enlightenment

Does this mean that Usui had discovered his own inner Great Bright Light? If Great Bright Light refers to enlightenment, then according to the memorial stone, yes.

The memorial stone also states:
Ah, how prominent and great Sensei is that he offers the teachings to people out there after having been enlightened within!

The Usui Reiki Ryoho, therefore, saw the founder of the system of Reiki, Usui, as an enlightened being. The system was pieced together by him from his unique experiences during his journey to enlightenment. These main pieces we have called the five elements of the system of Reiki. These elements form powerful pathways to enlightenment, especially when brought together into one main practice as is done in the system of Reiki.

When a student studies all three level of the system of Reiki, Shoden, Okuden and Shinpiden, then all five elements are explored and experienced. At each level a student takes a step deeper into his or her understanding of the system of Reiki through these elements. Below you can see briefly how each of these elements can be experienced at deeper spiritual levels of awareness and how the DKM is consistently reflected within the teachings.

Element 1 – Reiki Precepts

When looking into the system of Reiki we always begin with the first of its five major elements, the Reiki Precepts. They are the guidelines Usui set in place to guide us. But where are they guiding us too?

The secret for inviting happiness through many blessings
The spiritual medicine for all illness

For today only:

Do not anger
Do not worry
Be humble
Be honest in your work
Be compassionate to yourself and others

Do gassho every morning and evening
Keep in your mind and recite

The precepts tell us that the system is the spiritual medicine for all illness, which again indicates that the system of Reiki has a spiritual nature. But take a step closer to what it means to experience these precepts, what lies within these words? It is the DKM.

It is only in the state of mind of enlightenment, the Great Bright Light, that we have no more anger and worry, that we are humble and honest, and that we can be truly compassionate to ourselves and others. DKM is a symbolic representation of the precepts; they are one and the same thing.

Element 2 – Hands-on Healing

Hands-on healing is a popular aspect of the teachings. It provides us with a physical prop to encourage self-healing, as well as providing the powerful benefit of supporting healing in others.

To heal is to become whole. Wholeness is the balancing of our humanness; balancing our emotional, our spiritual and our physical selves. We mustn’t forget what the Reiki Ryoho Hikkei claims Usui said about healing: If you can’t heal yourself, how can you heal others.

The Q and A in the the Reiki Ryoho Hikkei manual has Usui answering a question thus:
First we have to heal our spirit. Secondly we have to keep our body healthy. If our spirit is healthy and conformed to the truth, body will get healthy naturally. Usui Reiki Ryoho’s missions are to lead peaceful and happy life, heal others and improve happiness of others and ourselves.

Here it states that the system is a spiritual practice – we must heal our spirit first. It also states that our spirit needs to conform to the truth. But what is the truth?  DKM: The Great Bright Light of enlightenment! For it is only in this state of mind that we can truly see the truth; the mystery of ourselves and the universe.

Element 3 – Meditations and Techniques

Hatsurei-ho is a foundation meditation practice in the system of Reiki. Elements of it are taught in Shoden Level I and these are brought together to form a potent technique at Okuden Level II. In Shinpiden Level III it is the basis of a practitioner’s energetic practice as he or she works to become the DKM; the Great Bright Light.

A literal translation of hatsurei-ho is to generate greater amounts of spiritual energy. This energy expansion technique teaches students to expand his or her energy and when practiced for long enough, energy is expanded to the extent that the student becomes One with the universe. To be as expanded and open as the universe means that you have become the Great Bright Light. The ultimate practice of the system of Reiki.

Element 4 – Mantras/Symbols

Three symbols and mantras are taught at Okuden Level II. Okuden means inner or hidden teachings as it is within this level that you search for what is hidden within. The third symbol/mantra taught in Okuden is HSZSN, which literally translated means Your original nature is a correct thought.

This third symbol/mantra is pointing you toward your original nature, which is enlightenment or the Great Bright Light. This symbol/mantra differs from DKM in that DKM is then the actual experience of enlightenment. DKM can therefore be seen as a natural continuation of the 3rd symbol and mantra taught in Okuden. This understanding of the steps a student takes in the practice of the system of Reiki also explains why the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai use the DKM as a tool to strive toward.

Element 5 – Attunements

Some might say that we need to use the DKM symbol to perform an attunement, but in essence it is that we need to be in the state of mind of the DKM to perform an attunement. It is then that the attunement becomes a real spiritual blessing. We know that this is the direction that the practice should take when we understand that in Japan the original name for this particular element of the system was Reiju. Reiju translates as spiritual blessing or offering, because as a teacher you are offering the Great Bright Light to your students. What a blessing!

The Word Reiki

Not only does the presence of the DKM persist in emerging as the deeper meaning of the elements of the system, but you can see it directly connected to Reiki itself. The word Reiki means spiritual energy.  To be able to work with spiritual energy in its full complexity you need to be in the state of mind of enlightenment; the Great Bright Light.

So as you can see the DKM mantra/symbol is hidden within all of the tools of the system of Reiki as well as within the word Reiki itself. It is a natural outcome of your personal practice within the system of Reiki. And a full understanding of its perfection will remain safely concealed from view until your internal practice becomes an external reality.

For more historical information about DKM and its place in the system of Reiki please read our article The DKM Paradigm.

DKM is a pseudonym for the 4th mantra/symbol practiced in the system of Reiki.

Comments 11

  1. Avatar of Carol Williams
  2. Avatar of Br. Mark

    I very much enjoyed this article. I find that it gives voice to my own experience with DKM. When I was taught the symbol, I was told it was used for attunement, that it was the vehicle for opening myself as a conduit for transmission. It wasn’t put to me quite that way but that’s how I heard it.

    Your explanation makes perfect sense for me as I engage in Reiki as a form of spiritual practice and it squares with the ongoing research I’ve done into the origins and development of the practice.

    Thanks for all the wonderful knowledge you share with us.

    Br. Mark, RPO

  3. Avatar of Elly

    Thank you, Frans, for taking the time to address this. I’ve read Mr. Yamaguchi’s book, Light on the Origins of Reiki, and found its eyewitness descriptions of the way in which Hayashi-sensei taught Reiki to be riveting. However, I too was left with questions. No doubt I thought I was quite mature at 17, yet how much could I really have absorbed of a complex system and complex ceremonies at that age, especially if all my notes and certificates were subsequently lost in a turbulent war?

    Clearly Mrs. Yamaguchi’s family was deeply involved with Reiki, yet it was her older sister who was revered as a profound Reiki practitioner, one whom people came from far and wide to see. I was sorry to see that her story wasn’t followed up in the book. I was also perturbed by the focus on physical healing at the expense of spiritual development. It’s hardly surprising that Hayashi-sensei, a physician by training, should have focused on using Reiki to heal the body. And yet, the description of his teaching methods and the reverence in which the Yamaguchi family held and holds him (and by extension, Usui Founder) is clearly spiritual in nature.

    Mr. Yamaguchi’s aim is to redirect conventional medicine and environmental healing through Reiki, which is admirable, if tightly focused. And in his Reiki teaching he clearly shares a desire with you to strip Reiki of all the extraneous trappings that the New Age has plastered on. His Jikiden teachings, like yours and those of every reputable teacher, also insist on long and rigorous training and contemplation, not the “Five-Minute Master” approach (“If you’ve got the money, I’ve got the certificate”).

    Seeing Mr. Yamaguchi’s obvious sincerity reminded me again of Usui Founder’s great wisdom and foresight in seeing that people must come to Reiki from where they are, and Reiki must be big enough to meet them wherever they are, and take them in, and take them on their Way toward the Great Bright Light that is All there is.

    Usui Founder realized that people would teach Reiki from their own strengths and perspectives, and people would be drawn to Reiki for very different reasons and from very different places, and thus he sent chosen students out from the Gakkai and into the world. Takata-sensei also recognized this intuitively, teaching each student according to their strengths. Both of course created considerable havoc as a result in our cookie-cutter world, where there can be only one true recipe for chocolate-chip cookies and everything else is just wrong. When in fact there is only one Truth, but so many ways to reach it. Thank you for reminding us to keep our focus where it belongs!

  4. Avatar of Denise Poynter

    I really agree with ELLY 25-1-2012 and comments. I too am attracted to the Yamaguchi method of Reiki. My feeling is that I was already on a spiritual path seeking my personal ‘journey’, Reiki consolidated my beliefs and philosophy and combined that with the gift of healing for myself and others. From my first attunement I have felt like I have ‘come home’. Reiki fits into my life in a very natural and positive way, after 7 years I feel as if I have known Reiki all of my life. Today I am very grateful that Reiki continues to teach me by reading great articles, staying in touch with my wonderful Reiki teacher and continually staying with what I am comfortable with in my Reiki practise.  Cheers from Australia Denise.

  5. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    We met Mrs Yamaguchi in 2001 at her apartment. Hyakuten Inamoto was so kind to arrange this meeting for us, she was very nice.

    For me a spiritual path needs to have certain elements in it, the first one is a clear path the student can follow, like a step by step ladder to re-discover our great bright light. However in many Reiki systems I do not see this path, or this path is not being taught, yes you learn some specific tools but there is no path. This blog is highlighting a path within the system of Reiki.

    We wrote an article about this:

  6. Avatar of Elly

    Quite right, Frans, the path and the practice are the Way, as Usui Founder was clearly aware (from his own long practice) when he created the system of Reiki. But I think it takes many people, who are drawn to Reiki for its physical healing aspect, quite a while to appreciate or even perceive its spiritual dimension. Point of evidence being the many students who have come to you after first learning Reiki from someone else. When they are ready, they will find their Way!

  7. Avatar of Mark

    I am guessing Great Bright Light in Japanese would be Dai Kyo Myo or somethimg similar so why all the secrecy just using its initials ?
    I am also guessing that practices developing it would be similar to nimita meditations found in various Buddhist schools ?

  8. Avatar of Bronwen Stiene

    Hi Mark, There’s no secrecy. DKM is an abbreviation of Dai KoMyo. You’ll find the full word written in our other articles. It’s true that in the West people have been funny about using the word so, for ease, we just abbreviate it in blogs and books (generally), but we are also aware it is commonly and openly used in other Japanese spiritual practices. It’s neither here nor there whether the word is written up fully or not.

  9. Avatar of mark

    Thanks Bronwyn. Where can I find the full names for the other abbreviated ones ?
    I have your book TJAOR (ho ho) and there are quite a few of these in it.

  10. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  11. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,

    Here are some interesting quotes regarding this topic from Japanese Reiki teachers.

    Note from a 2008 class with Hyakuten Inamoto:
    “There is no dkm in URRGK – Not as a symbol, but as an idea
    This is your goal. If you become the DKM, everything was within you”

    “Mrs. Yamaguchi was not initiated into Shinpiden or Shihan. She was taught by her uncle how to give Reiju.”

    Hiroshi Doi about the Gakkai and the symbols:
    “For members whose character and ability come close to Shinpiden level, the Shihan (master) taught strictly to deliver ‘enlightenment’ which Usui Sensei had achieved.”

    “In the August 1999, Japanese Reiki Master Hiroshi Doi offered his own explanation, saying that in the Original Reiki Society(URR Gakkai) the symbols are no longer used. They may be shown for their historical value, but students are expected to simply use the energy they are given in empowerments at Okuden and Shinpiden level.”
    Statement made by Rich Rivard organizer of the URRI 1999 in Vancouver.

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