Much of the true history of Usui Reiki is still unknown in the West. It was passed down without written documentation in an effort of preserve the sacredness of the practice. There are many versions of the history of Reiki available online and in books. First, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the verified history of Usui Reiki as I have learned it. Then I’ll give you a brief summary of the history of Reiki as related by Master Takata. I would love for you to read the detailed account of the history of Reiki by William Lee Rand. It can be found at https://www.reiki.org/faq/historyofreiki.html. He gives the best researched history of Reiki I have been able to find. In contrast to many other accounts, examples of Reiki practices that predated Usui are given mention.
Mikao Usui was the founder of the Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki system. Usui was a Buddhist scholar born in 1865 that seemed to have dedicated his life to helping others. He was a spiritual man and in 1922, when facing some personal and financial difficulties, he decided to go on a 21-day retreat on Mt. Kurama seeking spiritual awakening. While meditating on the retreat he had a miraculous spiritual experience that gave him his ability to heal others and to pass this gift on to others through attunement and led him to create his style of Reiki. He used this knowledge to establish the Usui Reiki Healing Society. Mikao Usui believed an important part of living a good and healthy life was following certain ethical principles. Inspired by Emperor Meiji, Usui established the five principles, which I will discuss more later. Usui is believed to have had thousands of students before his death in 1926, but only 16 of these reached the Master level.
After Usui’s death, one of his Master students, Chujiro Hayashi, became Usui’s successor and began his own Reiki society. He simplified the Reiki healing process and created many detailed hand positions for treating various ailments. He also simplified the attunement process. In 1940 he committed suicide to keep from being forced to give intelligence and fight in WWII. Before his death he asked Madam Takata, who he had trained and attuned, to be his successor.
Hawayo Takata, a Japanese Hawaiian born in 1900, had become very ill and went to Japan for healing. She was preparing to receive surgery when she believed she heard a voice telling her not to have the surgery and to find another way. She asked the doctor about an alternative healthcare option and he sent her to Hayashi’s clinic where she was treated and became well. She convinced him to teach her Reiki, though it was never meant to leave Japan. She was eventually attuned to the Master Level. Takata brought Reiki to the West and trained many people, attuning 22 Westerners to the Master Level. From those 22 Masters, Reiki spread throughout the Western world.
The story that has been passed down as Hawayo Takata’s teaching by the Masters who came after her has been found to be mostly fabrication. As the story was told, it succeeded in gaining acceptance in the Western world and facilitating the growth of the healing system here. Had a more accurate account of the origin of Reiki been spread, it may never have expanded throughout the world the way it has.
The story that was passed down from Takata, and that was widely accepted until fairly recently, was that Usui was a Christian professor challenged by a student to find a way to heal as Jesus did. In his efforts for find a healing system comparable to that of Jesus, Usui went on the 21-day fast on Mt. Kurama. On the 21st day he received a spiritual awakening and had visions of many symbols. Afterward, he stubbed his toe on his way down the mountain. Upon grabbing his toe with his hand, he discovered his healing abilities.
Usui went to the poor and offered them healing, but they kept coming back needing more healing because they didn’t change the way of life that was making them sick. He then decided that for Reiki to be lastingly effective there must be some sort of exchange. At that point he began charging money for healing sessions and attunements and opened his clinic.
This is only a very brief summary of Madam Takata’s story as I have learned it. More detailed versions can easily be found with an online search engine and in numerous books about Reiki. It’s interesting to learn about the history of this healing modality that has done so much to change my life. I hope you will continue to educate yourself as more information is made available to us.