The Reiki classes we are now teaching are centered on traditional Usui Reiki. By “traditional”, we mean that the methods that Mikao Usui taught are presented in a western context, but the intent consistent with the classes, and the methodology he would have presented when he taught them. Usui taught his last students almost 100 years ago, in Japanese. With the cultural and language differences between that time and place and our present classes, our challenge is retaining the intention and flavor of his classes in our classes today. As such, our efforts at Edens-path represent a reset to an earlier understanding of Usui’s work and that of his students. They also represent an ongoing effort.
Many teachers have had their hands in changing the direction of the Reiki that Mikao Usui first taught. Even Usui himself adjusted his classes to reflect changes in his understanding of that work. Among other things, Mrs. Hawayo Takata (founder of “The Reiki Alliance) added a symbol still in use today, and Arthur Robertson, a student of Iris Ishikuro (one of Mrs. Takata-Sensei’s 22 ‘Masters’) made many of the changes and additions that are presented by many Reiki Societies and teachers of Reiki.
The many new flavors of Reiki may still be helpful, and may bring positive energy, help, comfort and healing to those who practice them. We just don’t teach those methods.
Given the liberties that some Reiki instructors took with Usui’s Reiki teachings early on, it is hardly surprising that that the Japanese organization that is carrying on Usui’s work today wants little to do with most modern interpretations of his work. Nor are they aligned with western Reiki groups.
In particular, the Tibetan aspects of many Reiki classes that are taught today are not based Mikaio Usui’s work, but on Robertson’s interpretation of certain Tibetan principals and writings, and some loose applications of Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism.
That is not to say that Robertson’s work is without merit. But in teaching Reiki – and most especially in attuning students, we draw as clear a line as possible between what is Usui Reiki, and what is interpreted Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism.
The Fire Serpent Symbol, Raku, activating the Hui Yin point and The Violet Breath and possibly some of the meditations in Mr. Rand’s Master book were not part of Usui’s original classes. I am certain I will find other things that while useful, were not part of Usui’s work. As taught in my classes, these things will be clearly presented as auxiliary to, but not part of Usui’s original work.
While Usui himself did not use the Reiki Symbols familiar to many of us, this is understandable given that they represent principals he was very familiar with as a Tendai schooled Jodo Buddhist. The Reiki symbols we teach are generally those that Usui’s immediate students developed, used and taught, with his knowledge and approval. We teach, use and discuss the Fire Serpent and the Raku symbols in our classes (and attunements) because they are useful and do not contradict Usui’s intentions. But while they support the attunements, they are not required for the attunements to be complete.
The Symbols we use are:
- ChoKu Rei
- Sei Heki
- Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen
- Usui Dai Ko Myo
The Tibetan Dai Ko Mio is discussed, but is discussed as an optional symbol in our classes (This was an Arthur Robertson development, possibly borrowed from the Kundalini traditions).
The non – Usui symbols we teach serve the following purposes:
- The “Fire Serpent” symbol was likely introduced by Hiroshi Doi, founder of Gendai Reiki Ho, a Reiki practice closely aligned with Usui Reiki. Hiroshi Doi’s training came from the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, the original organization founded by Mikao Usui.
While Usui would certainly have known of the Chakras, what he used in his daily work was a Japanese – Buddhist understanding of these energy centers. He did so because of his study of and familiarity with hara work, – not because the Chakras are an “incorrect presentation” of the concept of energy centers. Members of the “Reiki Alliance”, understood that the Western mind was already familiar with the Chakras, and began actively teaching Chakra work in their classes, to reflect this fact. The “Fire Serpent” serves two obvious purposes. It is a visual cue that informs the practitioner that he or she is beginning an attunement by activating and opening the subject’s chakras, and it may be used as a symbolic representation of hara energy centers or the Chakras. Also, one would incorporate this symbol to allow the subject to receive Reiki more easily. This symbol is used primarily at the beginning of a Reiki session.
- The “Raku” symbol is generally used at the end of a Reiki session. It is used as a way to “ground” a person after an attunement or other Reiki session. The Raku symbol was possibly developed by Reiki Master Iris Ishikuro who was a student of Mrs. Hawayo Takata. Mrs. Takata is credited with bringing the practice of Reiki it’s self to the West. Mrs Takata was taught by Dr Chujiro Hayashi, one of Mikaio Usui’s students. The symbol and it’s usage was introduced by Arthur Robertson, a student of Ishirkuro.
As for how far Reiki attunements (as done today) have drifted from what Usui taught, it depends on where you look. For example, William Lee Rand’s Usui Reiki manuals feature a drift in that the “Tibetan” material that they include was added by teachers that came after Usui. The material both replaced and added to practices Usui had distilled from his Tendai Buddhist origins and from his early education.
So how should one teach and attune to Usui Reiki? Usui himself tailored his classes to the level of his individual students. “Master” level classes tended to be very small, or even one on one. None of his classes were “cookie cutter”. What was consistent in his classes were the Tendai Buddhist traditions that underpinned the Reiki that he taught. His Tendai Buddhism did not end when he started teaching Reiki, even though what he taught was a universal, non-sectarian application of his earlier education.
I do adhere to levels of attunement. The Reiki I and II classes will seem familiar territory for those who have taken other Reiki classes. Reiki III is a much more involved class than your typical ART / Reiki III class and includes table work and extended personal study and practice time. In this, it more closely follows the approach believed to have been used by Usui, and later refined by Mrs. Takata. The Master Class I teach has changed, in that much of the material included in this class as presented elsewhere, is presented in our Reiki III class. What we will refer to as “Usui’s Reiki III class” complimented his student’s will to make Reiki a deep and fully integrated part of their daily life. This class could truely be considered “Advanced Reiki Training”. Our Reiki III class mirrors this approach. The master class we teach, while still a weekend class, is now a hands on, how to attune, and how to teach – class.
In my classes, I teach the three main symbols (ChoKu Rei, Sei heki and Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, plus the Usui Dai Ko Myo, as appropriate to the level of Reiki being taught. The fire Serpent and Raku I will continue to teach, because as described above, they are useful visual cues for activating energy centers and for grounding at the end of a Reiki session or attunement. I will teach these two symbols as adjunct to Reiki, not as a required part of it.
As for the “Tibetan Dai Ko Mio” symbol, I don’t include it’s use in my classes. It is reputedly an “upgrade” to the Usui Dai Ko Myo symbol, which is it’s self a representation of the underlying Reiki principal. The Tibetan Dai Ko Mio symbol is represented as a “gentler, yet more powerful expression” of the Usui Dai Ko Myo. But why teach a symbol that Usui himself did not teach or use, and which does not enhance his work?
What Usui taught was elegant, simple, tailored to his individual students, and consistent with his training as a Buddhist. This means that while we can probably never know exactly what he taught when he taught his classes, what is known of his work – and that of his contemporaries, balanced against the application of both Tendai and Jodo Buddhism, gives us a framework which we can fact check the subsequent work of others – against. As such, our efforts remain a work in progress.
The answer to the question “Is there not a straight, basic way to teach this to make it simple?” is yes. The responsibility for teaching such a class rests on the teacher’s ability to read his or her students, and teach them according to their ability. That, of course means that some classes will be simpler than others. A budding shaman may (or may not!) want more a more detailed class than your 93 year old aunt Mini (I’ve heard she’s pretty sharp!)! Usui purposely read the intentions of his students, and taught accordingly. Our classes will be taught in that light, but within the framework of what is known about Usui’s work, and that of his very first students.