Origins of Reiki
But first, let’s talk about essence of Reiki: Compassion
From the organisation Charter For Compassion
instigated by Karen Armstrong after winning the 2008 TED prize
The source of the Reiki system of healing that has come to the West had originated through a Japanese healer, Mikao Usui (1865-1926). Many of the Western Reiki practitioners had suspected that this powerful system of healing had Buddhist origins, especially as the name of one of the symbols used in the empowerments occurs in Zen Buddhism to refer to the Buddha-nature or Clear Light Mind. Mikao Usui, himself, came from a Buddhist family background in the esoteric Tendai tradition. This also reinforces the phenomenon of compassion that is enlivened after Reiki empowerments.
The Heart is the source of our compassion and also our immune system. Health and vitality are not a matter of ‘good luck’, but ‘good living’, ‘mindful living’.
Below is one of my podcast episodes, The Sun—Your Heart—and Purpose (16:37 minutes), which contains some revelations about your Heart’s higher function that may surprise you, and is highly pertinent at this time of global chaos.
(My podcast is Your Exceptional Purpose | Astrology, available on all major podcast platforms, and also discoverable under my name.)
Reiki’s Buddhist Origins
It is now accepted that our absolute source of the Reiki teachings dates back to the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (566-486 or 563–483 B.C.E — though some Western scholars have considered more recent dates of 485–405 B.C.). The essence of Siddhartha’s teachings were about compassion and the wisdom that leads to great compassion.
Even though there were other influences (including Japanese martial arts, themselves entwined in Buddhist and Taoist roots from their Chinese sources via the 5th century Indian monk, Bodhidharma), Reiki appears to have been based principally on the Tantric (system of Buddhist Yoga) level of Buddhist teachings, known as the Vajrayana (Sanskrit for ‘Diamond Vehicle’, also referred to as the ‘Adamantine Path’); or Mikkyo (‘The Secret Teaching’) in Japan. Siddhartha’s original discourses could be assimilated at several levels, and he taught different practices according to the mentality and awareness of the people within each assembly he faced.
Mikao Usui and his family are known to have been Tendai Buddhists. This became evident when Reiki Master Frank Arjava Petter had found Usui’s gravestone and memorial stone in Japan, with the Tendai inscription; and some of Usui’s original students are still alive today and are telling their stories finally to Western Reiki Masters such as Bronwen and Frans Stiene.
There can be no doubt of Usui’s background in esoteric Buddhism, and of the Buddhist references contained within the four Reiki ‘symbols’ used in the Reiki empowerments today.
Buddhist Tantric empowerments have always been offered only by a qualified Buddhist Lama or Bonze. Should lay practitioners, then, be performing Reiki empowerments for others? This has been a difficult issue for me, personally, as Usui’s Reiki system has its roots in the Tantric Buddhist teachings, and while I have taken Buddhist vows within the Tibetan Tantric system, I am not an ordained member of the Buddhist sangha (community of monks and nuns).
And so, after much consideration, I finally came to the conclusion that for the sake of those who are genuinely drawn to the Buddhist philosophy, it would seem more appropriate that practicing and committed Buddhists were teaching Reiki rather than it being presented without the respect for, and acknowledgement of, its sacred Buddhist roots. It is also important for Reiki students to have immediate access to at least a humble introduction of the teachings involved.
I have always encouraged my Reiki students to study Buddhist teachings with a qualified Lama or Bonze or Roshi, and am happy to offer any guidance in the direction of available teachers from various lineages of Buddhism, not only in the Tibetan traditions, but also including Zen and Theravada.
You will find a lot more information on this site regarding the three levels of Reiki that I teach. I hope it inspires you.