The History of Reiki

reiki Mar 04, 2022

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a holistic energy practice and therapy that promotes a deep state of peace, clarity, love, and calmness. The practice of Reiki is spiritual in nature and is empowering and life-giving. It promotes an energetic balance of body-mind-spirit-soul, while cleansing the body of toxins. Additionally, Reiki infuses positive energy from the highest, most sacred vibrational frequency into a person’s energy fields. The word “Reiki” refers to both the spiritual, energetic healing and to the energy itself.


The practice of Reiki promotes changes in perceptions, thought processes, and daily activities by releasing worry, fear, anger, regrets, and judgments. The quality of one’s life is enhanced and space is made for joy, creativity, acceptance, self-confidence, and love. It can be taught to anyone and administered anywhere. A Reiki practitioner is a facilitator of the energy and healing process.


 Mikao Usui (1865-1926) is credited with the rediscovery of Reiki energy in March 1922 and for the name of the energy and technique (Inscription on Usui Memorial, Saihoji Temple, Suginami, Tokyo, Japan.) He named the energy method “Shin Shin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho,” which translates to “improvement of body and spirit/soul Usui soul energy healing system” and founded the society Shin Shin Kaizen Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Petter, 2012). Today, we know the healing method as “Reiki.” Usui believed that personal spiritual transformation was an important aspect of a Reiki practitioner and a lifelong process (Usui & Petter, 2000).


The origins of Reiki have been disputed and questioned universally because of the lack of authentic documentation and comprehensive records, and the oral tradition of teaching Reiki. Furthermore, Reiki’s existence in the United States came just after World War II, when anything related to Japan was forbidden (Rand, 2015). Information about the history of Reiki came from tape recordings of Takata Sensei with the assumption that the information was accurate. Until the 1990’s, the only history of Reiki was from oral recordings of Takata Sensei (Rand, 2015). Takata brought Reiki to the United States in 1937 and is acknowledged as the individual who kept Reiki alive and growing in the U.S (Rand, 2015).


Further research by Rand (2016) suggests that some of Takata’s recordings misstated the detailed account of the origins of Reiki. Takata misrepresented Usui’s educational and professional background, claiming Usui had a theology degree from the University of Chicago. She proclaimed Usui as president of Doshisha Univeristy in Kyoto, Japan, even giving him the title of “Dr.” (Rand, 2015). Petter (2012) reports that there is no documentation of a medical degree, but that his work was healing and he was considered a “doctor in the real sense of the word” (p.18). Petter (2012) believes that Takata attempted to “Christianize” the practice of Reiki and use terms and principles that she considered would be acceptable in the United States that were not taught by Usui. Despite these distortions of Usui’s career and credentials, Takata is believed to have evolved the Reiki tradition (Rand, 2015).


The following account of the history of Reiki is cited from the inscription on the Usui Memorial which was written in 1927 by Usui’s student, Juzaburo Ushida (Yamaguchi, 2007). This inscription was translated from Japanese to English by Tetsuyuki Ono (Rand, 2016).


The inscription on the memorial states that Usui traveled and studied medicine, psychology, and religion and that he practiced Buddhism and Zazen meditation in his spiritual journey (Petter 2012).) Usui was a member of a metaphysical group that studied psychic abilities. He worked as a civil servant, journalist, and secretary to the head of the department of health and welfare (Yamaguchi, 2007).


Usui’s Memorial proclaims that during a difficult time in Usui’s life, he went to the holy mountain of Mount Kurama, in Japan, seeking answers.  After twenty-one days of fasting, meditating, and praying on the mountain, Usui received Divine guidance so that he could activate the Reiki healing energy.  He first used Reiki on himself and then his family.  He also worked with the poor and decided to open a clinic in Tokyo. He gave workshops on the Reiki knowledge and method and traveled across Japan teaching and treating people with the Reiki energy (Usui Memorial, 1927).


Usui taught Reiki to about 2000 people during his lifetime. His students referred to him as “Usui Sensei”, referring to him as “teacher” and “healer” (Petter 2010). After Usui’s death in 1926, one of his students, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a Japanese physician, continued and expanded Usui’s Reiki tradition and opened a school and clinic, the Hayashi Reiki Kenyukai in Japan. Hayashi created the Guidelines for the Reiki Healing Method that adjusted the Reiki treatment to include specific hand positions that worked best for illnesses and conditions.  He also devised a seminar style Reiki class with a manual and printed materials for the Reiki students (Rand 2016).


In 1937, Hawayo Takata (1900-1980), at the age of 37, established the first Reiki clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii (Brown, 1992). Takata, after receiving Reiki in Japan for personal physical ailments, studied, trained and was attuned in Reiki by Hayashi. She continued the development of the Reiki system and teachings in the United States and for 40 years practiced and taught Reiki. In her lifetime, she attuned 22 master students. Unlike Usui and Hayashi, Takata believed that the Reiki system and symbols should be committed to memory and prohibited any written material to leave her classes (Rand, 2016).  She advanced the Reiki technique to include three additional symbols at the Reiki Master Level (Rand, 2015). Unlike Hayashi who used specific hand positions for specific conditions, Takata relied on intuition in treating her patients with repeated treatments (Gray, 2002). She created the “foundation treatment,” which focused on the head and torso. She was particularly interested in the cause of the condition or ailment (Gray, 2002).


Concerned with the American’s acceptance of this energy work from Japan, Takata westernized the technique, adapting the system to fit a different culture and lifestyle (Gray, 2002).  Takata believed and emphasized that the Reiki practitioner was a conduit for the universal life energy and therefore, could not take on another’s energy. She taught that anyone could practice Reiki on their own self or another individual (Gray, 2002).  The Reiki system evolved and in 1989, the Usui/Tibetan Reiki was put in place that included the original Reiki symbols discovered by Usui along with the Tibetan symbols introduced by Takata.


In 1980, The International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT) was developed by William Rand to establish and maintain standards for Reiki training, licensing, research, and to promote cooperation among all Reiki practitioners (Gaia, 2001). The ICRT’s philosophy is to offer all levels of classes with compassion, respect, honesty, openness, and a complete expression of love.  William Rand and the ICRT continued the expansion of the Reiki system with the development of Karuna Reiki® in 1995. Karuna is a Sanskrit word with origins in Buddhism, Zen, and Hinduism (Gaia, 2001). Karuna Reiki® has its roots in Usui and Tibetan Reiki, but is manifested here on Earth through the experimentation of symbols and attunement techniques that is needed for humans to evolve (Gaia, 2001). Karuna Reiki® is a healing energy that was developed to help individuals to “awaken to Universal compassion.” (Gaia, 2001, p. 18). Karuna Reiki® allows the upper and lower energy centers of the human body to harmonize at higher frequencies of energy so that there is an understanding of the path of life and a trust in the Divine or God (Gaia, 2001). Karuna Reiki® is trademarked by the ICRT.


In 2014, through inner guidance of Rand, Holy Fire Reiki was added to traditional Usui system. “Holy Fire is a spiritual energy that creates wholeness through purification, healing, empowerment and guidance” (Rand, 2016). Although not a specific religious practice, Holy Fire Reiki references and uses concepts of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (Rand, 2016).


Today, the practice of Reiki continues to develop and grow. As a spiritual practice, Reiki is inherently a dynamic process. The techniques and manner of giving Reiki continue to unfold and blossom. As individuals evolve, the practice of Reiki expands and as the practice of Reiki expands, individuals evolve. Additionally, as humans, we have a natural creative state in which expansiveness occurs. When we allow the process to flow within us, we create. Reiki can be practiced anywhere and with anyone who is willing and open to receive the energy.


Brown, F. (1992). Living Reiki: Takata’s teachings. California: LifeRhythm.

Gaia, L. S. (2001). The book on KarunaÒ Reiki: Advanced healing energy for our evolving world. Hartsel, CO: Infinite Light Healing Studies Center, Inc.

Gray, J. H. & Gray, L. (2002). The longest practicing Reiki master telling his story. United States: John Harvey Gray & Lourdes Gray.

Petter, F.A. (2010). Reiki Fire: New information about the origins of the Reiki power, a complete manual. (9th ed.). Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Petter, F. A. (2012). This is Reiki: Transformation of body, mind, and soul from the origins to the practice. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Rand, W. L. (2016). Clarity about Holy Fire Reiki. Retrieved February 23, 2016, form Website:

Rand, W. L. (2016). The Birth of Holy Fire Reiki. Retrieved February 23, 2016, from Website:

Rand, W. L. (2015). An Evidence Based History of Reiki. Southfield, MI: International Center for Reiki Training.

Rand, W. L. (2015). What is Reiki? Retrieved January 24, 2015 from, Website:

Rand, W. L. (2016). Reiki, the healing touch; First and second degree manual. (6th ed.). Southfield, MI: Visions Publications. 

Usui M, & Petter, F. A. (2000). The original Reiki handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press. 

Yamaguchi, T. (2007). Light on the origins of Reiki. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

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