Reiki’s Slightly Mysterious History

Reiki’s Slightly Mysterious History

The mysterious origins of Reiki are wildly disputed. No two stories of the same event match. However, here is where they converge:

Reiki was come upon at the turn of the 20th century by a Doctor by the name of Mikao Usui the last day of a 21-day meditation retreat.

What follows is the story my teacher told me. You will see, it fills in quite a bit of detail and makes the story a bit more romantic. Whether it is the truth or not is up for discussion, but here’s a story… so wrap up and listen to the reader-voice in your mind…

Dr. Mikao Usui lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Japan. In this story, Dr. Usui was Christian (others place him as being Shinto or Buddhist). Upon studying the scriptures of Christian faith he was fascinated by one question: “the healing miracles Jesus performed… were they real?”
He inquired within his seminary. One of the men Dr. Usui greatly respected returned the question.

In your heart of hearts, do you believe the miracles Jesus performed were real? Dr. Usui did. He was entirely convinced they were.

Yet, being a rational man, he wanted proof. He wanted to know if it was possible then, was it still possible today? (A very legitimate question, don’t you think?) He kept inquiring, but nobody knew of anyone capable of performing the miracle of physical healing. One day, he met a Buddhist monk and asked him the same question. “Is it possible to perform miracles of physical healing?”. This time, instead of the usual … “I don’t know”, the monk answered: “Yes, my monastery once knew how to do it…but that knowledge is now long lost”.
This news heartened the Doctor. Now he knew that it was possible! At least at one time! So, passionate and determined as he was, he stayed in the Monastery for quite a while. He studied the Buddhist scriptures, but returned with nothing. He concluded that it was through meditation and meditation alone that he would find the answer, if there was an answer at all. So…

Dr. Usui climbed a mountain top and meditated for 21 days.

Mindfulness Meditation-Reiki MontrealTo keep track of the days, Dr. Usui placed 21 pebbles on the mountain top. Every day he would cast one pebble away. The last day, when there were no pebbles left, he made a very powerful decision – one that would change the course of history… Can you guess what it was?

He decided that either he would return with the knowledge how to perform the miracle of healing (which would be known as Reiki), or he would cast himself off the mountain as his last pebble.

Lucky for Dr. Usui, and luckier for us, it was shown to him.

Reiki was born.

On that fateful day on the mountain top, the entire system of reiki was downloaded into Dr. Usui’s open and determined mind.

He was shown how to perform reiki, how to use symbols to facilitate energy concentration and healing the human body, and finally how to initiate others to reiki (teach).

Having consolidated his knowledge, he came down the mountain. Before long, Dr. Usui met a child with a terrible toothache. He asked for permission to place his hands on his face. After a few minutes, the pain disappeared. He found it odd. He hoped he wasn’t celebrating reiki prematurely. He continued his journey. He met several other individuals in need of healing. One by one, he placed his hands upon them and spiritually directed life-energy (reiki) upon them. Time and time again, it would heal them. The miracle of physical healing was found once more.

This is the story my teacher told me about how Reiki was born. The details are certainly inaccurate and romanticized. After all, the story has survived in the oral tradition for quite some time before being written down.

Now, there are three points I would like to extract from this story that will help in your understanding Reiki.

They are not obvious in the story, but very important. They are as follows:

1. Reiki does not flow out of one specific tradition. It does not require you to believe this story, nor a frame of religious reference. Because Reiki actually means “spiritually guided life energy”, it can deepen your faith and spiritual life, whatever it may be. For it to work, it is not even important that you believe in reiki itself. 

2. They are not mentioned in this story, but Dr. Usui came up with a set of five principles to live by. They are all preceded by “Just for today, …”. At Reiki Montreal, where we enjoy the philosophy and practice of mindfulness to a great extent, this means to be present, moment by moment and live consciously with deliberate decision about how each moment is lived. These are principles, and by no means need to be observed to receive a reiki treatment, or even give one, but can enhance it.

3. Everybody can practice Reiki. The teaching of reiki is not a traditional teaching. Rather, it is through a series of initiations that one can direct reiki through one’s hands. There are three levels and the initiations are spread amongst them. It is important to know that it is only a Reiki Master that has the knowledge to initiate others. Someone who has completed one level is already initiated to give reiki to others. After three levels, practitioners have been initiated with all the symbols required to practice. (Inge has completed levels one through 3, but is not a reiki master. She will not be able to give you an attunement).


For those interested in a perhaps more accurate story of Mikao Usui and his discovery of Reiki:

on Wikipedia

on Canada’s Reiki Association Website



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