What is Byosen Reikan Ho?

Frans StieneEnglish 24 Comments

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Edited by Maril Blanchard
During a recent teleclass, How to Perform Reiki Treatments, a student asked me to elaborate on byosen reikan ho.  Since we believe this question is of interest to many of our readers, we decided to write an article about it.

A Simple Translation

Let’s begin by teasing out a meaning of the words. Byosen reikan ho, a Japanese Reiki practice taught in Okuden Reiki Level II, is a phrase composed of five kanji:

病 Byo = illness, sickness

前 Sen = present, complete, uniform (there are other kanji for Sen, having meanings such as before, ahead, previous, future, precedence; gland)

靈 Rei = sacred, spirit, soul

感 Kan = impression, feeling, sensation, emotion

法 Ho = method, rule, model, system

A literal translation of the kanji would be ‘illness present sacred impression method.’ Since that translation doesn’t easily glide over the tongue, a simpler and more user friendly translation of byosen reikan ho would be ‘method for sensing sacred impressions of an illness.’

But, what does that actually mean?

Illness can be anything — a broken arm, stress, cancer, anger, attachments, ignorance, you name it. Impressions are what are known in Japanese as hibiki, which means echo, reverberation, or sound. These impressions are sometimes referred to as intuition, which can be felt in your body, seen as a visual image, heard as a sound, or experienced in another kinesthetic way. And, within the system of Reiki, the method is a hands-on method with the body.

Kan and Hibiki

Before proceeding further, let’s look at this idea of an impression (kan) as an echo (hibiki).

What is an echo? The scientific definition states that an echo is simply a reflection of sound or electromagnetic waves on an obstructing surface. Bringing that definition into the byosen reikan ho practice, when we are doing a hands-on method over our client’s body, our hands are the obstructing surface that enable us to experience the energetic waves of the client’s illness.

However, everything we experience is filtered through our personal interpretations of how the world works and what is important to us. 

These filters — which are defined by our society, where we grew up, what we learn from school, parents, our personal practice, etc.— are different from one person to another.

Although you and I share the same biological architecture and function, perhaps what I perceive as a distinct color and smell is notexactly equal to the color and smell you perceive. We may give the same name to similar perceptions, but we cannot know how they relate to the reality of the outside world. Perhaps we never will.

Dr. Jorge Martins de Oliveira

What does this mean? Imagine that you and two friends are at an Indian restaurant. I know, you will now wonder how an Indian restaurant is related to the system of Reiki. Hang on, it will soon be clear. Imagine that you look at the menu and see next to each meal a picture of one or more chilies. Your waiter explains that one chili means mild, two chilies mean medium hot, three chilies mean extra hot, and four chilies mean you better drink lots of milk. You and your friends order your meals and start eating. One friend, who lived in India for a long time, says that the three-chili meal she ordered isn’t at all spicy. Your other friend declares that the one-chili meal he ordered is too spicy.

Who is right?! They both are. Each person’s experience at the restaurant reflects their respective filters of what is real and important for them.

But, how is this notion of filters reflected within the system of Reiki? Imagine that three practitioner’s are doing byosen reikan ho on a single client. Each sees a red sphere of energy surrounding the client’s heart. One practitioner says that the client has a lot of love, for red is the color of love. Another practitioner says that the client has a lot of anger, for red is the color of anger. The third practitioner says that the client is very lucky, for red is the color of luck. Although each practitioner might agree that they see a red sphere, each interprets the red sphere according to his or her filters.

Again, who is right? They all are. Each practitioner’s experience reflects his or her respective filters of what is real and important. As such, each practitioner’s interpretation is valid, for that practitioner.

Let’s take this a little further, with yet another example: A practitioner feels a tingling sensation in her hands and fingers during her first hands-on healing session. Another practitioner, one who has provided dozens of hands on healing sessions but has never before experienced any tingling sensations, suddenly feels it during this hands-on healing session. A third practitioner, one who has a long-term dedicated personal practice within the system of Reiki, not only feels tingling in his hands and palms during each session, he also sees colors emanating from certain areas of the client’s body.

Yes, we are going to repeat this important idea: Although each practitioner experience is different, each experience is valid for that particular practitioner. However, no one experience is better than another. For that reason, we should not label sensations during byosan reikan ho as good/bad, right/wrong, or this/that.


You may wonder whether there is a way to experience anything without filters. Actually, there is!

To see the whole directly means to see before thinking, without timefor analysis or discrimination. If we look at things with our thoughts, we see only a portion, and if we use intellect before we see understanding is superficial. More can be learned through the power of seeing the whole directly then through intellection.
The Unknown Craftsman  – A Japanese Insight into Beauty by Soetsu Yanagi

But, how does one see the whole directly? I view it like this: Your client is like a river of energy and you are a leaf. Just let the leaf fall into the river of energy, which then takes the leaf here and there. The leaf sometimes lingers, sometimes swirls, and sometimes moves quickly. It doesn’t judge whether one movement is better than another; it is simply one with the river of energy.

During byosan reikan ho, just place your hands in the river of energy and let them be guided by the energy. They linger here, they move there. No need to judge if an area feels hot, cold or tingly. Just experience the heat, cold, or tingling. By just experiencing the sensation, true intuition will become more and more apparent within the practitioner 

As Mrs Takata used to say, “Reiki will guide you”. Reiki is our true self in its purity, without the intellect taking over and analyzing things.

Comments 24

  1. Avatar of Elly
  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  3. Avatar of Allison Allen

    Frans ,
    You always put things so simply and yet you create “within” a maximum effect. I will take the “leaf”  and the “energy”  and work with that thought in mind.
    What a wonderful way of thinking.
    Thank you
    Love Allison

  4. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Allison,
    Many people are over complicating Byosen, creating rules on what we need to feel and what we need to do when we feel things, but that is just the intellect taking over, when we are truly in the open space of interconnectedness then there is no need for intellectualization, in fact intellectualization will only be an obstacle.

    So let go, be open and flow, be the leaf….

  5. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Outstanding. Thank you.

    I, too, like the leaf and now crave Indian food (Elly, shall we go get some together?). 🙂 Also, that quote is wonderful.

    Interpretation is so subjective. Sometimes it is helpful, sometimes it is not. But even when it is helpful as a tool for exploration or narrowing in on our understanding, it only assists when we acknowledge that there is no one right answer. Truth is never black or white. Nuance is our friend, but we so often treat it as our enemy.

    Thank you again.


  6. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,
    So true, the truth is never black or white, this is why we can’t stick label on what we feel or experience. When we stick label on these experiences we stick them in a box and we are not really open. The universe doesn’t judge, or needs to be intellectualized, it needs to be experienced.

    They other day someone said, that if we become like a leaf floating in the river without judgement our practice becomes more Zen then Usui Reiki Ryoho, but that is a misunderstanding.
    Zen means meditation, not a specific meditation, but resting our mind in a meditative state, which is nothing other then resting our mind on the precepts.

    There are many words for resting our mind “with” our true self, Zen, Tao, Emptiness, Void, Great Bright Light, Reiki, The precepts, you name it, but most of the time people get caught up in these labels and think they are different.
    It is like a bright light hitting a crystal, you get lots of colors, but the essence of the colors is all the same, isn’t it?

    This is why it is so important to have a direct experience, then we start to see there is no difference between floating like a leaf without judgement in the river, Zen, Reiki, True Self, you name it….

    What an amazing journey!

  7. Avatar of Elly

    Good points, Alice and Frans! Black and white results in the Inquisition, the KKK, intolerance (and blindness) in every form. And Alice, I’m up for Indian anytime! I’d be happy to cook some yummy dal, curry and etc. for you (and Frans) anytime you could find your way down here to the wilds of PA. I know we’d have a wonderful discussion and a wonderful time!

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Elly,
    This is why, within the system of Reiki, there is the DKM – non-duality.
    In fact the precepts also point towards non-duality, and the HSZSN also points to non-duality, and….

    Might be in your neck of the woods one day, Elly.


  9. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Here are two quotes which correlate with the above article:

    “Throw everything away, forget about it all! You are learning too much, remembering too much, trying too hard… relax a little bit, give life a chance to flow its own way, unassisted by your mind and effort. Stop directing the rivers flow.”

    “So we can ask: What is compassion comprised of? And there are various facets. And there’s referential and non-referential compassion. But first, compassion is comprised of that capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering. It is that ability to really stand strong and to recognize also that I’m not separate from this suffering. But that is not enough, because compassion, which activates the motor cortex, means that we aspire, we actually aspire to transform suffering. And if we’re so blessed, we engage in activities that transform suffering. But compassion has another component, and that component is really essential. That component is that we cannot be attached to outcome.”
    Joan Halifax

  10. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans , Really nice explaination about not judging hibiki , I do have a question – what is the true purpose of Byosen Reikan Ho if we are not to” judge ” ? is it to just flow like a leaf and go where its taking us and gradually work like this for true intuition to unfold ?

    I really like the quote about—“But compassion has another component, and that component is really essential. That component is that we cannot be attached to outcome.”

    that’s seems sums up everything in the system of Reiki , not attached to outcome with compassion,  can be for yourself, your practice , your students , clients , anything .

  11. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema,
    Yes the precept about compassion within the system of Reiki is about no judgement, this means that we need to work with byosen in the same way. The precepts are instruction, and we need to follow these to practice the system of Reiki correctly.

  12. Avatar of seema

    Thank you Frans, That’s makes perfect sense .Often lot of practitioners place different stages etc. ( like heat, cold pain etc) and then “diagnose” . It again goes back to non judgment and being compassionate and hence precepts.

  13. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Great quote which relates to this subject:

    “As soon as you see something,
    you already start to intellectualize it.
    As soon as you intellectualize something,
    it is no longer what you saw.”
    Shunryu Suzuki

  14. Avatar of jose
  15. Avatar of juan F Briceno


    Great website. I would love to study with you !

    Your explanation of filtering experience is excellent. But allow me to “push” a bit on the point of sensations. Has the teaching that ANY hand sensations signal a problem, become a dogma? This teaching is very widespread and leaves no room for interpretation.  If someone senses say heat or cold when doing byosen, does that invariably and unequivocally mean that there is a medical problem? Is it possible for heat or cold sensation to medically mean something else depending on circumstances?  For example warm hands producing deeper levels of relaxation that will in turn provide greater vitality and resiliency to an individual. 


  16. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Juan,

    This is the problem what teachers have created, that when we feel something that there is a certain problem/issue to some sort of degree, from a small problem to a deep seated issue. But this of course is only the ego, the mind playing tricks.

    In reality who are we to judge, who are we to say what the issue is. This is why it is much better to just let go, be open and don’t judge.

    It can be anything when we feel heat or cold, it can come from many different levels, physical, energetic who knows.

    This is why this quote is so important:

    “To see the whole directly means to see before thinking, without timefor analysis or discrimination. If we look at things with our thoughts, we see only a portion, and if we use intellect before we see understanding is superficial. More can be learned through the power of seeing the whole directly then through intellection.”
    The Unknown Craftsman – A Japanese Insight into Beauty by Soetsu Yanagi

    I agree with you, hot hands can also mean a deeper degree of openness. But again better not to judge this openness and just allow it to take place.

    The more we try to put it in a box the more limited we get.

    Hope this helps.

  17. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Just read this:

    Like a Lotus Flower

    A dewdrop sticks not to a lotus leaf,
    A lotus flower is untouched by water.
    The same way wise clings to nothing at all,
    Not to the seen, the heard or the sensed.


    All the teachers of old say the same thing. Only in many modern teachings we started to create judgements of what we feel, see, hear, etc.
    But I think we need to learn from these older masters.

  18. Avatar of seema sahoo

    Byosen indeed is tricky when one start to analyse it.
    Recently I went to a reiki share and there were 3 practitioners working on me . I laid down with an open intent that I am ready to receive what ever I might need at this moment in my life and that was all. After that all 3 of them were ready to give there “intuitive” reading to me. One of them said that I am not very open to receive and I think from my head , then the second one said oh you were so hot and emitting so much heat in beginning and then you just “shut up” third one said I felt that you have some issue with your left side may be an injury or accident as you were warm there :). From my angle I was open and at end was kind of floating and felt one of the practitioner was “too heavy” on me , meaning the hands were heavy and clumsy and felt lot of “judgement” . It was very interesting for me to feel that as I personally have very limited experience in receiving treatments. I have found that since now I have started not to “judge” any sensation my life has become so much easier and sessions are so much “productive”. Before when I first started Reiki in 2005 in a 60 min session I was spending 20 min. in protecting myself , 20 min in judging and 20 minutes analyzing , session done. Now , since all that is gone healing is so much deeper as evident by what the students and clients say about the session but then again it is not easy . Everyone wants to “tell ” and “hear” , ego mind really plays a role in this , I still at times want to know when my teacher do a Reiju or treatment on me . Personal practice is so important ..Better go back to my meditation 🙂

  19. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Juan,

    Was thinking about this a bit more today. Many teachers say that the system of Reiki is a spiritual practice and yet stick things in a box with labels of hot, cold, warmer, hotter, pain, deeper pain you name it. So if the system of Reiki is a spiritual practice then these statements do not make any sense, if it is a spiritual practice we need to be wide open, no judgements, no labeling.

  20. Avatar of juan F Briceno


    Thanks for the comments.  From an “objective” perspective hand sensations are a signal that may mean something. I am sure that there are accomplished healers that can interpret things with decent accuracy. What I fail to understand is why some teachers defined all in very negative terms. This appears to me as one sided .

  21. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Juan,

    I agree it is a bit one sided. I have done sessions on, what i think, are real masters. Like Taoist or Buddhist teachers, wow it was amazing. Felt so much.

    We can feel heat when the person is really open and uses the energy for deepening their spiritual development.

    But I think teachers look only at pain and disease because they think they are healers, they don’t see it that you should get a hands on healing session if you feel well.
    But again this is a one sided view point.

    We can use hands on healing for deepening our spiritual journey and if we just focus on pain and disease then we find this difficult to do.

    Therefore it is better not to judge at all, just be open.

    Thanks for your insights.

  22. Avatar of uniforms dubai
  23. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,

    Love the teachings of the traditional Japanese teachers.

    “To each thing you observe you bring your knowledge, your education, your past, your customs, your heredity. This is why we can all look at the same things but see them in different ways. This is our usual human experience. But to approach the spiritual life like this is very dangerous. The point of the spiritual life is to realize Truth. But you will never understand the spiritual life, or realize Truth, if you measure it by your own yardstick.
    Dainin Katagiri

    Think this quote says it all.


  24. Avatar of Julie. Anderson

    “To each thing you observe you bring your knowledge, your education, your past, your customs, your heredity. This is why we can all look at the same things but see them in different ways. This is our usual human experience. But to approach the spiritual life like this is very dangerous. The point of the spiritual life is to realize Truth. But you will never understand the spiritual life, or realize Truth, if you measure it by your own yardstick.
    Dainin Katagiri

    I have contemplated on this quote and would like some discussion on the last part.  Surely we measure from our own experience.  That is how we grow I thought.  Experience, measure learn expand, experiance measure learn expand.  To me that is how I grow spiritually and experience deeper truth.  Love to hear your thoughts🙏🏼

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