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What are the origins of Reiki Ryoho practice?

In the early 1900’s, a Japanese lay (not part of any clergy) Buddhist practitioner of the Jodo‑Shu or Pure Land sect named Mikao Usui set out to discover Satori or ‘enlightenment’ and Anshin Ritsumei or ‘absolute inner peace.’


His search led him down many avenues, but each one left him unfulfilled. Eventually, he decided to go on a spiritual quest by meditating and fasting on the sacred Mt. Kurama near Kyoto and achieve enlightenment by any means possible. In 1922, after enduring 21 days of fasting and intense meditation, Usui Sensei experienced a state of consciousness that he characterized as “One Great Reiki.”


The word ‘Reiki’ isn’t an actual word at all, but rather a combination of two kanji. Kanji can take on different meanings depending upon the context in which it is used and what other kanji it is combined with. Possible meanings of Rei and Ki are:



1. Human spirit or soul.

2. Spirit or ghost.

3. Spiritual.

4. The universe.

5. Divine, luminous, charismatic, supernatural, mysterious.

6. A supernatural (mythical) beast or being; a fairy, an elf.

7. Reverence, sacredness, or blessing.



1. Something unseen.

2. Atmosphere.

3. Vital energy (personal or universal).

4. Air, breath, or steam.


Usui Sensei.jpg

Mikao Usui

Founder Usui Reiki Ryoho

So, the kanji for ’Reiki’ can possibly be defined as the miraculous and sacred energy of the universe, which infuses and sustains all life. And it is this definition that Usui Sensei intended when using the word to describe his experience on the mountain.

Actually, the two kanji for ‘Reiki’ are extremely common in Japan and can be used in a variety of contexts unrelated to the word ‘Reiki’ as it is commonly used in other parts of the world. Basically, it was only with non-Japanese speaking people that the term ‘Reiki’ became popularly synonymous with describing the enlightenment and inner peace Mikao Usui Sensei discovered during his meditation on Mt. Kurama. Indeed, if you were to say to a Japanese person that you ‘did Reiki,’ they might look at you quizzically, not knowing what you meant!


The spiritual enlightenment Usui Sensei experienced on the mountain revealed a realization of what the Buddhists call “the true nature of all things.” This realization can be said to be an awareness of the “Ocean of Oneness*” that permeates and connects everything in the Universe to everything else in the Universe, along with the realization that we already possess a great, innate healing ability.


Nothing heals the body except for the body. If you cut yourself, what heals you? You do. Or rather your body heals itself. You may help it along by keeping the wound cleaned and covered, but the bandage does not do the healing. Rather it simply helps facilitate the innate healing that already exists. The ability has always been there, inside you. You already have it.

There is a common misconception that Reiki is something you ‘receive’ during a ceremonial practice called 'Reiju' (or attunement). It implies that before reiju, you did not have Reiki, but after reiju, you suddenly have been given something you did not previously possess. It also implies that Reiki energy is separate from us and that a Reiki practitioner will ‘channel’ Reiki in order to ‘transfer or give the energy’ to a recipient.  Since Reiki means the energy of the universe, you cannot be separated from it, and it cannot be separated from you. You are it, and it is you. This means that you already ‘have Reiki’.  Reiju simply wakes you up to this fact. In a way, it ‘turns on the switch’.


Along with Usui Sensei’s sudden ‘enlightenment’ to the ‘true nature of all things’, was the understanding that this realization also amplified his natural ability to heal himself and others. What followed was the creation of a system that Usui Sensei called “Usui Reiki Ryoho.” This system was designed to lead individuals to attain the enlightened state of consciousness that he himself experienced, as well as activate and enhance the innate healing ability that everyone possesses.

霊   Rei  =  spiritual/universal

気   Ki    =  energy/vital life force

*term quoted from Geshe Kalsang Damdul la

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