Yujiro: Welcome to another exciting episode of Carving the Divine TV! My name is Yujiro Seki and I’m the director, writer and producer of the documentary Carving the Divine. Carving the Divine is about the Buddhist sculptors of Japan and I’m ready to present it around the world, but before I do so, I thought it would be a great idea to introduce the basic concept and history of Buddhism. So when you guys finally watch my documentary you can experience it with maximum value. Today we’re going to be exploring something different. We’re going to be talking Reiki. To be honest with you I have no idea about Reiki. I heard about Reiki in the Western world but I had never heard about Reiki while I was in Japan. I have heard it’s very useful and today we’re going to be talking about Reiki in relation with Buddhism. But as you know, I have no idea how to start, so I invited somebody who can talk about this! I would love to introduce to you Master Frans Stiene! Welcome, welcome to the show.
Frans: Thank you, thanks for inviting me. I’m very excited about it.
Yujiro: Great! So I know you are very famous in your community, but just in case for the people who don’t know anything about you, please introduce yourself!
Frans: Yes! I’m originally from the Netherlands, at the moment I live (again) in Holland. I moved to India when I was in my thirties and I lived there for two years – one year in the Himalaya’s looking at healing and buddhism. Then I moved to Australia and lived there for twenty years! I had a Reiki and meditation centre in Sydney and the Blue Mountains but about three and a half years ago I moved back to Holland, so it has been an interesting journey. I’ve been practicing and teaching the system of Reiki worldwide for the last 25 years. I’m also training in Japan with a Japanese priest which has been absolutely amazing and really helps me to deepen my practice and see the roots of the system of Reiki.
Yujiro: Wonderful! So I have a burning question for you – what is Reiki?
Frans: That is a big question. So a lot of people think that Reiki is hands-on healing, but for me, the system of Reiki is much more than just hands-on healing – it’s a spiritual practice. We have Reiki, meaning our true essence, our true nature or Buddha nature, which is a beautiful great bright light that embodies luminosity, compassion and kindness. But to be able to lay that bare we have the system of Reiki. The system of Reiki consists of five very specific elements and those are meditation practices, precepts (you can see them behind me), hands on healing, symbols and mantras where you can chant and focus, and something called Reiju in Japanese, in modern ways it’s been translated as attunement or initiation. Almost like Japanese kaji, it’s a blessing, healing and an empowerment to help us to practice and remember that we are this great bright light, that we are Buddha nature.
Yujiro: It sounds very complicated. Buddha nature, huh.
Frans: I think it’s actually quite simple, I think we make it complicated.
Yujiro: Speaking of ‘Buddha nature’, how does Reiki relate to Buddhism?
Frans: So the founder of the system of Reiki, Mikao Usui, he practiced Buddhism and it is said that he was a Tendai Buddhist and he practiced on Mount Kurama, Mount Hiei and near Kyoto. So when we look at the system of Reiki we see very specific tools and teachings which relate back to Japanese Buddhism. For example, you have behind you, Dainichi Nyorai and Fudo Myoo. They are traditionally related to one very specific teaching within the system of Reiki. A lot of modern Reiki teachers, even Japanese teachers within the system of Reiki, don’t really teach this or know about it, but we can really see this link. Therefore the system of Reiki is really about becoming Dainichi Nyorai, or becoming Fudo Myoo. What does that mean? Well we see Fudo Myoo with a sword and flames behind him, so it’s about burning and cutting away all our worries, anger, fear, attachments and resentments so that our luminosity, our great bright light, can shine forward. Then we can ask ourselves, what is that great bright light, that Buddha nature? Ultimately it is love, compassion and kindness. Within the system of Reiki we have the Precepts, much like we have in Buddhism, and the Precepts are very simple within the system of Reiki – do not anger, do not worry, be grateful, be true to your way and your being and be compassionate to yourself and others. But as we all know it is not that easy, it’s very difficult to implement that in our daily life, so therefore we need very specific meditation practices and tools to focus on. One of the other tools we focus on within the system of Reiki is the hrih or kiriku, which is a Japanese symbol, a ‘seed syllable’ that links to Amida Buddha. So we can see these traces of Buddhism within the system of Reiki. What does it mean when we focus on that symbol of hrih/kiriku and Amida Buddha (infinite light)? It makes us realise that our true nature is infinite, light, wisdom, compassion and kindness. That for me is really important. Of course all the deities are important, all the symbols, mantras and the practices are important – but what is most important is to realise that their fingers are pointing to our true human nature, our basic human compassion and kindness.
Yujiro: Very impressive. So for you, why Reiki? I know there are many practices out there within Buddhism as well but you chose to do Reiki, so why Reiki?
Frans: That’s a really interesting question. I often ask that of myself too. When I lived in India, first I lived in the Himalayas for a long time and somehow I came across a book about Reiki. There is also, of course, lots of Tibetan Buddhism there and I really enjoyed that. I really gravitated towards the Tibetan buddhist teachings and I started to practice a little bit of Reiki. I met a Reiki teacher and for me there was something in it! But the guy who was teaching at that time, he had very much modernised it. I felt there was something missing. I remember being in Darjeeling and a Tibetan reincarnated tulku Buddhist became a friend. He asked, so what is Reiki, exactly? I was very ignorant, I’m still ignorant, and I said, “Oh, you know, you go with your hands like this [puts hands up]”. And he puts his hands on me and I don’t know, something really took place within me, within my mind body energy. Like in Japanese – san mitsu means mind body energy, or mind body speech. I thought, wow, I want what he has. I started having very specific experiences with my practice of the system of Reiki, and I didn’t really know what it was. I talked to a Buddhist in the Himalayas and he asked if I was practicing Buddhist teachings. I didn’t really know. So that really triggered something in me, where I began to research where the system of Reiki came from. So in 2001 I went for the first time to Japan and I met with Japanese Reiki teachers. That was interesting, but I still felt like something was missing. So I went back to Japan again and again and again. Finally in 2012 I became a student of a Japanese priest and that really helped me to understand the interconnectedness of Buddhist teachings and the system of Reiki. What I really like about the system of Reiki, particularly from the more traditional Japanese perspective, is that there is no dogma. It has been simplified, it’s still very tricky, but there is a simplification so that we don’t need to become a monk or a nun to lay bare our kindness, our human nature or Buddha nature.
Yujiro: How do normal people benefit from Reiki?
Frans: Of course people can do hands-on healing, but ultimately there are a lot of links to the concept kaji – in Japan when you go to a temple you can “receive” kaji as a blessing of empowerment from a priest or priestess. To be able to do this the priests or priestesses need to train a lot and ultimately lay bare their Buddha nature, their luminosity. So if i’m still in the dark with a lot of anger, worry and fear and I try to do hands-on healing on someone it is not as profound as it could be if I really emanate a lot of light. What is that light again? Love, compassion and kindness. Only then can that energy also emanate, not just from my hands, but from my whole being. When you see some of those monks, nuns, priests or priestesses in Japan and you come into their being, or you’re close to them, you already start to feel very calm. There is a certain rub-off effect, so to speak. Through practicing very specific meditations, hands-on healing on ourselves, mantras, working with symbols, being mindful so that we do not get distracted by past, present and future, receiving and practicing these rejiu or ‘kaji’ practices we will then start to feel less angry, less worried and less fearful in our lives. That, of course, will have an effect on my physical body which then has an effect on my energy, so therefore I start to feel healthier. Then only from that space we might be able to help other people and do hands-on healing on them, although it might not be for everybody. But ultimately we can only really help ourselves. It is like with Buddhism, we can go to a priest for a blessing, empowerment or teaching, but we have to go home and we have to realise that we are Fudo Myoo and that we are Dainichi Nyorai. We are this great bright light and our mind is as stable as a mountain.
Yujiro: Wow. Can you tell us a little bit more about hands-on healing?
Frans: So hands-on healing is actually quite simple in a way. For me hands-on healing is ultimately a birthright. So if you fall over, what are you going to do? You put your hands on the sore part. But as I said earlier, when I met this young reincarnated llama buddhist practitioner in the Himalayas, when he put his hands towards me it was very different than how I would put my hands toward someone. I thought, wow, I want what he has. One of the reasons his hands-on healing was so profound was because of his direct experience with his true nature, or Buddha nature. I also worked with a Taoist priest and her hands-on healing was quite amazing too. Therefore to really benefit from hands-on healing we first need to make sure that we are not distracted. If I put my hands on you, for example, and I’m being distracted by the past, present and future, my mind is distracted, which means my energy is distracted. I am not focused. Therefore the first point of all is to really take control of my own mind, then that will have an effect on my energy. Only then does hands-on healing become something quite different. For example, if I were to do hands-on healing on myself (I can touch or work off the body, it depends on what you’re doing), but if i’m distracted and I’m just going to be sitting there, then not much is happening. But if I go into it in a more focused mindful way, using my hands for myself, then automatically, slowly, I start to feel more relaxed, calm and open, and then I can become more compassionate and kind to myself and other people.
Frans: So in a way it’s actually a mindfulness practice
Yujiro: Actually, you took me by surprise by your movement, I lost track of everything.
Frans: You know what is interesting to see, and we can see the same when we go to temples in Japan (or even here in Holland where we go to churches), and we see a priest or priestess performing something. We can learn that ritual, which is wonderful, but a ritual needs to come from that luminosity, from Buddha nature, as much as possible. So within the Reiki precepts there is shinshin kaizen, the improvement of a mind body harmony. For example if I start chanting a mantra, maybe Fudo Myoo, Dainichi Nyorai or maybe the Precepts which is what we do in the system of Reiki. If I chant, it is with my body and speech, but if my mind is somewhere else then my chanting becomes unclear and indirect. So within the system of Reiki we chant the Precepts, so maybe I’ll give an example and I’ll do it. [begins to chant the Precepts whilst looking around.] So I’m distracted! I was trying to think about something while I was chanting. But if first I put my body, mind and speech in the right place, it will be great. What is that right place? Again, it is like Dainichi Nyorai or Fudo Myoo, stable, luminous and clear. What is that luminosity? If we look at a light it is empty, so we cannot touch it. It is emptiness. So then the chanting becomes more like this. [proceeds to chant in a meditative state.] Then of course it is a very different quality.
Yujiro: Hmm, I’m speechless. You showed us an example of Reiki practice – chanting. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Frans: Yeah! Some of these practices are really tricky. One very interesting practice we have is very similar to ‘kototama’ in Japanese. We can see that the founder of the system of Reiki took certain aspects from Shintoism. So there is one mantra we use in the system of Reiki that not many modern or Japanese teachers use, but traditionally it was. It goes like this – o-u-a-e. Just like the vowels. You do this chanting, but again, if I want to chant the Heart Sutra or any of the Buddhist mantras like Fudo Myoo or Dainichi Nyorai, then I need to make sure I do it from the right place. We train our minds in mindfulness so that in our daily lives we can be mindful. Mindful of what? Not being distracted by the past, present and future because otherwise I become angry, worried or fearful. So through practicing these mantras or hands-on healing on ourselves, these very specific meditations, then of course we lay bare more and more of our inner luminosity, our Buddha nature. Only through that will our lives become more like Buddha nature, more compassionate and kind.
Yujiro: I can see this is the whole system, it’s not only about the hands-on healing. I’ve got it.
Frans: Yeah it’s a whole system and unfortunately when it moved from Japan to the west it became only focused on hands-on healing, but traditionally it was more a spiritual practice to really lay bare that luminosity, your great bright light, Buddha nature or however you want to call it. It doesn’t matter. It is just that we can be a better human being.
Yujiro: Wonderful. Yes, we’ve learned a lot today! Excellent! So we would love to know more about you. Do you have a website, social media information or maybe you have a book that you published? Please, tell us! We want to know more about you!
Frans: My first book actually came out in 2003, I think, so I have quite a few books. There is ‘The Reiki Sourcebook’, ‘The Japanese Art of Reiki’, ‘Reiki Insights’, ‘The Inner Heart of Reiki’ and my new book is coming out early next year hopefully. It is ‘The Way of Reiki’ and it really talks about the links between Buddhist practices and the system of Reiki and how that really can help us to lay bare our luminosity, that Buddha nature. My website is www.ihreiki.com and it stands for the International House of Reiki, I’ve got Facebook – Frans Stiene or the International House of Reiki. I’m also on Instagram as Frans Stiene, so you can find me everywhere. One important element for me on my website and on social media is to also promote Japanese culture and the heritage of the system of Reiki. Like the things you do, for example. It’s so important these days that we actually become more compassionate. Ultimately we live in a very difficult world and it’s not always easy, so it doesn’t matter how we do it or what we practice. One important teaching I once learnt many, many years ago about Buddhism was in the Himalaya’s, where I lived, and I went to a little cafe each day to have a coffee or chai, and there were a lot of western Buddhists. All of them with their hair shaved and the robes, and they were all arguing with each other! “My Buddha is better than yours”, “all my teachings are better than yours” and it was a bit confusing for me because it was the beginning of my journey. Then I went to a Buddhist teacher, he was a Rinpoche in Tibetan Buddhism, but for me it is exactly the same as Japanese Buddhism. He gave me this wonderful teaching, I asked him, “is this normal that we have these arguments between different Buddhist teachings and sects?” He said, “Frans, how do you spot a real Buddhist?” and I say, “I don’t really know”. He said you should grab a plank and hit them on the head and see what their reaction is! For me that is so important. What is the reaction? Can we react with love and kindness instead of anger, fear, worry or any other kind of mean emotion. Only then we can really say “I’m a good Buddhist”. I’m a good Buddhist practitioner because even if someone says, “your Buddhist teachings stink”, I can react with kindness and love because my mind is as stable as Fudo Myoo, my mind can incorporate these kind of insults about our teachings, life, who we are or what we wear – so that we can be loving, compassionate and kind. That for me is really Dainichi Nyorai, that cosmic emptiness where we can accommodate everything.
Yujiro: Wow, excellent! So, you guys, if you think this information was useful make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, because that’s how we do it in the 21st century! So, thank you so much Master Stiene for coming here and talking to us about the system of Reiki and Buddhism.
Frans: Thank you.