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Trust doubt, doubt certainty

A practitioner questions Reiki concepts in Western schools.

When I went to Japan in 2008 to learn Usui Reiki Ryoho, the original Japanese Reiki, I was certain I would find confirmation of the essential teachings from what I knew from the Reiki Network. I knew John and Esther Veltheim had done so much investigation, learning from different Western lineages, and finally it is Network vision to teach Reiki at the highest standards.

The response to complete certainty could only be complete failure. There wasn't hardly any common idea or technique. Today I can state Reiki has experienced so many modifications in the West, it seems paradoxical that the idea of Reiki has survived.

Paradox is a great tool for the mind and development of consciousness, and so I am thankful for my experience. It helps to free my mind from its preconceptions, a necessary condition when confronting sticky problems. Whenever the mind offers a thought, it is really offering a hypothesis about reality. And there is room for error. It either can be tested, which means it might be wrong, or it can't be tested, which means, empirically, that it has no truth value.

In this sense I want to share some thoughts coming from my study and experience of the Japanese Reiki, in such question fundamental concepts in Western lineages. In this article I cannot tell what Reiki is, but maybe I can help in telling what Reiki is not.

Reiki is not a separate entity

Many practitioners and teachers follow the interpretation, that Reiki is some kind of universal consciousness, which I am separated from. Reiki would be completely independent of the practitioner, who is considered to be a passive conduit out of the loop. Another statement is that Reiki can effectively be practiced in any state of practitioner consciousness. »Doing« an initiation is necessary to establish the connection to this entity.

But if I acknowledge, that there is a field, an invisible matrix, a network in which everything is connected then why would I be separate from Reiki?

The feeling of originally not being connected, being separated, creates a dilemma, starting with the question of how the founder of Reiki could have found Reiki. It would be difficult to imagine that there was no other initiator in the first place.

Beverly Rubik's study from 2006 has shown that Reiki is not independent from the practitioner and his well-being [The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 12, Number 1, 2006, pp. 7-13]. The results suggest that Reiki, whether or not a universal life energy from a cosmic or divine source, may be modulated by the human biofield in certain psycho-physiological states.

In Japan Reiki simply means Soul energy. It is nothing separate. It is always there. It is eternal and therefore real. Not so body, mind and the concepts I have about Reiki. Those are temporary and therefore not real.

In a sense I could state using Reiki I treat the unreal with the real.

There are no initiations into different degrees of Reiki

There is no traditional initiation into second degree or master degree. The attunement is a pointer to say »Look, there is your Reiki«. Then either you have seen it or you have not.

When a boy is initiated to become a man, when a girl is initiated to become a woman both are not initiated into different degrees. There is no first degree man or second degree woman. The same is with Reiki in Japan, there is only one attunement, and it is repeated as often as the teacher meets the student. The repetition is not considered necessary but is meant to be a reminder of this connection.

I imagine that the technique of initiation itself is not so important. Likewise the Sioux Indians have different rituals for their boys to become man compared to tribes in Central Africa. This could explain why the initiations used in the Reiki Network and other Western lineages produce significant results. It will not answer of course, if the mystery of Reiki was transmitted using the modified ritual.

There is no »Master« in Reiki

The term »master« was probably born in the West. In Japan the term Shihan is used, meaning teacher.

There are no chakras in Reiki

In Japan the one and only initiation focuses on Tamashi, the seat of the soul. This makes sense, because Reiki is about soul energy. According to Robert Fueston, who has done Reiki master training with John Harvey Grey and Fran Brown, Hawayo Takata did not teach chakras. This means the chakra concept was introduced in some Western schools after Hawayo Takata.

Symbols are not doing an outside job

In the past - when I used symbols in everyday situations - I often felt kind of exhausted - drawing and again drawing the symbols in whatever situation. The statement »the more often the better« is another hint that some manipulative »doing« was going on in my understanding. I therefore find it only natural that I felt exhausted.

Today I assume the symbol itself is not doing anything. This would make the difference from Western Reiki symbols to Japanese Reiki symbols unimportant. The Japanese might write »LOVE«, and the network might write »L8VE«, both could draw on the memory of what love is about. This helps in an inside transformational process.

In the West there is no clarity in the meaning and use of the symbols

In Japan each symbol has a very clear meaning and function. Symbols are not mixed, i.e. not used in combination. There is no single application in writing a symbol on a body or subject. The 2 shirushi (symbols drawn by hand), the Jumon (magic formula) and the Kotodama (Mantra) used in Usui Reiki Ryoho 2 have a clear Japanese background. They are not thousands of years old. They are not coming from India or Tibet. Usui had created them after he found Reiki.

The first symbol is not the first symbol

In the West CKR is used as the first symbol. It is for grounding (locking with earth), for breaking energy blockages like in scars (unlocking), and as an amplifier - to make more out of less. I find this contradictious. Statements like the first symbol could strengthen the effect of Reiki cannot be proven valid and should be reconsidered. They also sound manipulative.

The CKR does not exist in Japanese Reiki 2.

Miss Takata discarded the real first symbol in the process of her teachings. Mary Mc Fayden has still learned the first symbol. Fran Brown has not.

The meaning of the real first symbol is limited to body problems, to help dissolving poisons in the body (unlocking). This relates to the Byosen concept, which together with the 5 principles is the essence of Japanese Reiki 1. The symbol is only drawn by hand, it is never written anywhere and no words are spoken with it. It does not relate to Chakras.

12 positions teach not to trust the hands

Miss Takata has discarded the Byosen concept and introduced the 12 body positions. Western Reiki puts great emphasize on those positions no matter what the sensations in the hands are. On the contrary Usui took understanding of those sensations very important. He introduced 5 degrees of Byosen (accumulation of toxins) in the body: little heat, strong heat, tingling, nothing-cold-pulsing, and pain. Areas with higher degrees of Byosen where treated until improvement took place. When we say 5-Minutes per 12 positions we basically say »You cannot trust your hands« It also means »You cannot trust yourself«. Finally it hinders the development of intuition. There might be situations where a specific area would need much more Reiki than 5 Minutes a day.

To »follow the Byosen« does not say to »treat a symptom«, because Byosen could be sensed in the left kidney and treated there, while the client reports about headache. For a beginner it is not easy to find the Byosen. That is why Usui compiled typical hand positions for different symptoms, and Takata's selection of 12 positions resulted from the most typical of all positions.

I still find the 12 positions very useful when no Byosen is found. But when sensing Byosen I now stay much longer on the indicated places, I apply the first Japanese symbol when needed and also use Kekko, a special massage like technique to help in the removal of Byosen.

The second symbol is not to create harmony or to protect

In Reiki 2 we aim for more harmony. We want to produce changes to create a better or more harmonic environment. But what is harmony? If everything is connected, aren't then the existing relations the perfect match already? Aren't they the perfect solution and response to whatever is? What is it that I do not like in the current picture of my world that I state I need harmony, that I want something different? How could I be of unconditional love if I would reject what is? Isn't a thunderstorm harmony, an insect eating another insect? So what is it the second Reiki symbol shall do for me?

In Japan there is no such call for harmony, at least not in the understanding that it is lacking. There is no call for security either. For facing the current of life the 5 principles are used, and more and more I feel living these principles is all that is needed.

In Japan the second symbol is exclusively used for treating bad habits. It is also drawn by hand only and not related to the solar plexus or energy vampires or protection of any kind. SHK translated from Japanese just means »bad habit«, so it is not a mantra. In modern Japanese language SHK would be understood as »sexual perversion«, so it is nothing holy or meant by chanting to sooth the mind. In Japan it is guarantee however, that you have 10 meters space around you if you would say those words in public.

Miss Takata obviously mismatched that the second symbol was used against SHK, or say to treat SHK, it was not representing SHK itself.

The original use of the symbol was to ask for help from the Buddha of compassion, which is why the root of the second degree symbol comes from the Siddham alphabet syllable representing this Buddha. There is only little deviation in the shape of this symbol comparing Western version and Japanese version. Miss Takata was not very good in Japanese, and maybe this is why the multiline Japanese Kotodama (Mantra) got lost, which in Japan is an essential part when using the symbol to treat bad habits.

The third symbol is not for sending Reiki somewhere

In Japan it is not the Reiki, which is sent over distance, but the HSZSN is used to bring the distant object close to the practitioner. Basically the absent treatment is also a local treatment. This deduces, that it is not so, that a multiple number of positions is treated at the same time.

The 5 Kanji syllables from HSZSN are installed on every computer with Unicode fonts. Jamming the syllables one into the other where they are identical creates the symbol. This is done with great precision and good understanding of the subtleties of the Japanese language. The expression formed gives a beautiful description about what it means to be human.

The shape of the Takata symbol indicates that Miss Takata did not know the Kanji by heart. Curiously early Japanese students never complained when they learned Western Reiki, that something was wrong with the HSZSN. When Miss Yamaguchi (student of Hayashi sensei) later taught those students the original version she asked kind of reproachful »How could you accept the western symbol?«. The answer of her Japanese students was very touching: »Because our western teacher has told us so».

The master symbol does not exist

I have no idea why the DKM was introduced into Western Reiki. Moreover already Miss Takata had given different versions of DKM to different students; this I read from a protocol of the gathering after her death.

Of course DKM is a powerful expression, but otherwise pure Kanji (on every computer with Unicode fonts). It is not used in the traditional Reiki.

Tell me sweet little lies ...

In the West, many Reiki stories were told that are now refuted.


  • Mikao Usui was not a Christian but Jodo Shu (pure land) Buddhist.
  • Mikao Usui was not a Doctor.
  • Mikao Usui did not go to Tibet or USA
  • Mikao Usui was not searching for a healing method but had a personal crisis and wanted to achieve the »peace of mind«.
  • Mikao Usui did not set a 21 days time limit for the Kurama fasting, this would not be appropriate in his quest.
  • Mikao Usui did not see the symbols during the Kurama fasting but developed them after his return.
  • Chujiro Hayashi was not the successor of Mikao Usui. Juzaburo Ushida was the successor.
  • Chujiro Hayashi has killed himself with a scalpel and not by the powers of his mind. Hawayo Takata was not present.
  • Hawayo Takata was asked by Hayashi's wife Chie Hayashi to take the leadership in the Hayashi lineage as successor, but she rejected.
  • The Hayashi clinic in Tokyo was destroyed as any other building around and practicing Reiki did not prevent the building from being destroyed.

I believe the greatest challenge is to continuously question what I have learned and took for granted. Finally these questions are about self-honesty and integrity. I will not change Reiki by this questioning but I can free myself from false perceptions.

Reiki will remain mystery and the greatest gift in my life, the simpler it becomes the better.

Axel Ebert • May 2010

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