Your Reiki Legacy

Reiki Healing Hand candleEstablished by Mikao Usui in Japan in the early 1920s, Reiki practice is closing in on its first 100 years.

As a perhaps unanticipated result of the generous effort of Usui’s student Chujiro Hayashi and his student, Hawayo Takata, Reiki practice has circled the globe and seems to be available in every country in the world.

The benefits of this expansion are apparent. Just think of all the people whose suffering has been relieved and whose lives have improved through Reiki practice.

Reiki healing test of time

It is worthwhile to consider, however — without making judgments — that whereas Reiki is widely practiced, it is rarely practiced in a way that any of the three most significant elders of the Reiki lineage — Usui, Hayashi, and Takata — would recognize.

Another point worth our attention is that although practitioners routinely say they practice Usui — or less often, Takata — Reiki, they rarely know how either Usui or Takata actually practiced. (Somehow Hayashi’s lineage seems to have stayed closer to his practice.)

How might that loss of tradition affect the availability of Reiki practice in the future? (If you have an emotional reaction to being asked this question, if it somehow makes you feel judged or attacked or less-than, please realize that is not what I am doing. If we want to choose our legacy, we need to start by addressing a few facts.)

Surviving 3000 years

My time with the Maya in Guatemala still weaves its way into every day. It was profoundly moving to witness daily life enriched by the traditions and wisdom of the ancestors, a present-informed-by-the-past I had also experienced living in India decades ago.

Of course culture changes organically as people live it. Since people have lived Mayan culture for thousands of years, there is much diversity. In Guatemala alone, 22 Mayan languages and 2 Mayan dialects are spoken.

Yet Mayan culture has survived recognizably.

Reiki healing fast forward

Reiki healing colored candles fire setup MayaHave you ever wondered what Reiki practice will be in another hundred years?

Mayan culture would not have survived if the Maya had no sense of being custodians of their tradition, keepers of tradition as well as livers of tradition.

When we understand ourselves to be custodians of something larger than our individuality, we take care to preserve tradition and we don’t make arbitrary changes. A culture cannot survive if people make changes arbitrarily.

Choosing our Reiki legacy

Let’s explore our Reiki legacy together.

Looking forward, let’s share a respectful, thoughtful discussion of Reiki culture and legacy. Realizing that our choices have consequences for the future, let’s look forward to consider how we can individually and as a community ensure that Reiki practice remains available for our grandchildren and for their grandchildren.

How do you feel about Reiki culture and tradition? What would you like your Reiki legacy to be? What choices are you making to create that legacy? Please click here to share your wisdom if you are reading this as an email, or scroll down to the comments section.

Please share this widely with your Reiki community so that we can all be enriched by reading truly diverse perspectives, united by our shared love of practice.


Please sign up for my email list and give your country so I can let you know when my travels bring me your way.

Mayan Prophecy of Change
Usui Reiki, or Not Reiki?


20 thoughts on “Your Reiki Legacy”

  1. I believe we need to look at traditions that are Japanese cultural in origin as opposed to those that are essential to Reiki practise itself.

  2. As a Reiki Practitioner, I would say that it is important for the principles of Reiki remain unchanged; Today there are many kinds of Reiki, all varying in technique – but one thing has remained, and that is to improve a system; whether it’s Reiki, or the System of you!… We can not move forward in life if we stay in the same spot. This is what Usui set out to do when he was given the gift of Reiki…. He wanted to know the inner workings of himself, and improve them. This should be Reiki’s legacy, because humanity can not heal itself if we do not improve!

  3. When I first became aware of Reiki I was very attracted to learning a “traditional” method. It seemed all I could find were classes where you could become attuned to 1 and 2 and even 3 in a weekend (no fuss, no muss!). That didn’t feel very traditional to me and I personally felt that I needed time between each to develop to the next level. Now it seems that people practice so many different “forms” of Reiki such as Angelic, Crystal and Rainbow Reiki and even make up their own.

    I am most attracted to Medical Reiki, using Reiki in conjunction with western medicine. To that end I reiki for a hospice and as a volunteer for a hospital. If we want Reiki to be taken seriously here and used in these settings, I believe it needs to be used as it was traditionally intended, to help people heal physically and emotionally. I think these other “forms” gives the medical community a view of Reiki that isn’t true and keeps it from being a viable alternative in integrated medicine.

    1. Faye, thank you for your comment.

      Fortunately, it seems that although the proliferation of New Age approaches to Reiki practice may pose a challenge to the integration of traditional approaches to Reiki practice in conventional medicine, that integration is happening anyway. Just look at the number of hospitals that offer Reiki treatment to patients, including such prestigious medical centers as New York-Presbyterian Hospital where I train peri-operative staff, Yale-New Haven Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

      You might enjoy this discussion of Medical Reiki

  4. Annabel Nicholls

    Just for your information….Hayashi-san did many many workshops in Japan in the 1930’s where he attuned many Japanese people. Many of those people continued to practice Reiki in their homes as a way of life. After the 2nd world war, the Americans banned Reiki and other alternative practices and it went underground however there were many ordinary people that continued to practice and pass the tradition on. My master…Tadao Yamaguchi grew up in a home where his mother only used Reiki. They never had any ointments, creams, pills, etc. She was also considered a healer in their community. She had been attuned by Hayashi-san at one of his early workshops. Tadao Yamaguchi didn’t realise that Reiki had spread to the west but discovered when he grew up. He now runs Jikiden Reiki and has workshops in the UK and in Japan. He also has many old artefacts and photos of the original 1930 workshops.
    All best Annabel

  5. I think that Reiki practitioners have a responsibility to respect Reiki tradition while supporting the practice’s growth and adaptation to a society that is ever changing. Clear communication is one way that we can respect tradition. Distinguishing Reiki practice from other practices is very important. Often times practices are combined and then advertised as Reiki treatment or training. If this continues, then in another hundred years Reiki practice may not be Reiki practice at all, and in that case, why call it Reiki?

    To create my Reiki legacy, I am focusing on clear communication by choosing my words carefully when talking about the practice and sometimes deciding that it is best to not talk about it at all. I want to respect the Reiki tradition by practicing the way that was taught by Usui and Takata. This involves educating myself about Reiki history from credible sources, learning from a qualified, traditional Reiki Master, and of course, practicing daily Reiki self-treatment.

    1. I agree with Nicole that we have a responsibility to respect the Reiki tradition while supporting the practice’s growth and adaptation. I also have people that tell me they do “Reiki” when they have not been attuned to Reiki.
      I believe that the energy being channeled during Reiki has always been, as it is Divine energy. So I incorporate this understanding into my teaching of Reiki, along with honoring those who brought the tradition to us.

  6. Liesl, you are so fortunate to have been taught both Western & Japanese styles of Reiki. I imagine it would make the differences clearer. It was a struggle for me to change the way I teach because taking away from teachings felt just as wrong as adding to them, even though I knew they weren’t part of the original system. I can’t express how difficult it was to reach the decision. As you say, Reiki is Reiki, & that’s all that matters.

  7. I won’t use many words. Reiki is Reiki no matter how it comes through us as long as we are an open conduit and keep ego out of the way. I teach mainly one on one to lead the person to their own inner knowing. I have been taught via the Western line but also via the Japanese line. Reiki is the core of both and our hands our guiding tool.

  8. Staying true to Reiki’s origins is important to me. As you say, diversity is inevitable as Reiki spreads around the world, & this keeps it alive & flourishing. A few years ago, when new information about Reiki in Japan was becoming available to westerners, I began to read all that I could about the original Reiki system & how it was taught. I realised that some of the things I had been taught were “add ons” & this bothered me. It was especially important to me because I am a teacher & I believe I have a responsibility to teach students the truth. Over a period of time I thought about this dilemma & came to the conclusion that I would continue to give students the information in written form but make it clear that these were not the original teachings of Usui. I bought Bronwen & Frans Stiene’s excellent book “The Reiki Sourcebook” & I recommend it to students. The focus of my teaching is now on the Precepts, self-treatment, the symbols & their mantras & various energy practices. My belief is that Reiki is simple. Elegantly simple as are all things Japanese. It’s simplicity masks the hidden depths that lie waiting to be discovered with sustained practice. It is my hope that this core will remain unaltered by time & diversity, & will bring peace, love & hope to a troubled world over the next 100 years & more.

    1. Susan, thank you so much for writing. I hope you will not be offended if I disagree with you about the Steines’ writing. I only bring it up because you cite them as a resource and I have found their reporting to be very skewed and not based on original, independent research. I know a number of masters trained by Takata and thus am aware of inaccuracies and prejudice in the Steines’ version of that period of Reiki history. Knowing that makes me skeptical of their scholarship across the board.

      1. Pamela, I am not at all offended. In fact, I am very grateful for your feedback. I was unaware of the inaccuracies & can understand your questioning of their research. This will give me more to think about.

  9. I came to Reiki from the mainstream. Fascinated by Japanese culture and tradition in general, I was disappointed in what was being taught in Western Reiki. So many theories on how it worked; the different stories of Usui sensei’s experience on Mt Kurama; the addition of Native and South American, and East Indian tools and techniques for better understanding of concepts and practice. It was confusing for me as both a Reiki teacher and full-time practitioner. So I embraced the base simplicity of Reiki, while sharing the stories (telling more than one) so students and clients could decide which resonated the best with them. If I added anything, I would cite the source, all the while feeling just as guilty as those I was silently accusing. Adding things to Reiki that didn’t belong.

    Still seeking “the true” culture and tradition of Reiki, I was later introduced to pure Japanese Reiki directly from Japan (from the lineage of another student of Hayashi sensei). Reiki without western influence was refreshing, to say the least, for this non-new-ager.

    My legacy has been to be a teacher and practitioner for mostly mainstream students and clients. To make it safe for them to try Reiki for the first time. The choices I’ve made to create this are: meeting each potential client and student where they are (citing examples and theories they could relate to); maintaining a pleasing space for the work; taking care of them-really paying attention to their needs (not my ego); and living my best authentic self as an example of the richness of Reiki in my life.

    Thank you Pamela. You always ask the best questions of us!

    1. You are welcome, Lorraine, and thank you for taking the time to write.

      For clarity, I would like to point out that the practice as brought to the US by Hawayo Takata and her Reiki master Chujiro Hayashi was a very simple practice directly from Japan without western influence. Some of us still practice that simple practice.

  10. For me, the legacy of Reiki is a simple practice, through which the practitioner can bring balance to all aspects of their life and come to experience their true nature: a balanced, happy individual who is also part of a greater whole.

    It is the simplicity of the practice that is key. Although the system of Reiki developed in Japan, whose culture is complex and derives from a wide range of influences from other cultures, as well as its own indigenous beliefs, it has become widespread outside of Japan because of the universality and simplicity of its teachings and practices.

    The core teachings of Reiki are based on self-practice: recitation of and meditation upon the Gokai (Five Precepts), whose sentiments are echoed in many other practices and philosphies) and hands-on healing: which is how balance occurs, consisting of an external act and an internal process.

    It is human nature to want to understand this internal process and how it all works but there is no necessity for this. In fact, attempting to explain this process is what tends to create confusion, as people bring in their own concepts, beliefs and techniques to support their explanations. Sometimes these concepts etc. come from traditional Japanese sources, but without any firm evidence that Usui actually taught about them. Often they come from other Eastern cultures, such as India or Tibet or more Western sources, such as New Age beliefs, based on Theosophy and other Western Mystery Traditions and religions but again no firm evidence that they were ever part of what Usui taught.

    Not only does this plethora of diverse beliefs create confusion but it also increases the complexity of Reiki practice, bringing in specific things that must be observed: do’s and don’ts – Reiki rules. These additional practices also contribute to much of the heated discussion between Reiki practitioners of different styles – even though the basic Reiki practice is the same for all Reiki practitioners. It is rather reminiscent of the way the major religions have split into several factions – all arguing over the interpretation of the same core beliefs and validity of introduced concepts and practices.

    Then we have those people who wish to regulate the practice of Reiki to “protect the client” from goodness knows what. However, it is not Reiki practice that can harm clients as traditionally Reiki is not an intervention. Practitioners are not doing anything to anyone, they are simply facilitating a healing opportunity that the client may or may not utilise. However, I agree that there may be a need to protect clients from certain misguided or dishonest practitioners.

    So, I would like to see a return to simplicity and the core practices as taught by Mikao Usui, Chujiro Hayashi and Hawayo Takata, for which there is firm documented evidence, such as what is written on the Usui Memorial and in the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai Handbook, memories and documented teachings passed on by students of Chujiro Hayashi such as Chiyoko Yamaguchi and Hawayo Takata, with no need for the addition of external sources of explanation or confusing dogma.

    Of course, this is not to say that Usui Reiki Ryoho is the only way for people to “bring balance to all aspects of their life and come to experience their true nature: a balanced, happy individual who is also part of a greater whole”. This is the goal of many, if not all, spiritual traditions and people are free to choose whichever practice (or group of practices) that helps them to achieve that goal.

  11. when I say branching off outside our Reiki practice what I mean is if you want to do something of your own flavor or something that has been Westernized from the traditional Usui Reiki form then that is fine, but don’t call it Reiki. Call it whatever you want, healing energy work, hands on healing, whatever. But I feel the tradition and integrity of Usui Reiki should be preserved.

  12. I feel quite sure for myself that I want to honor the Usui Reiki tradition I was taught in the form and content as close to the original as possible. I see no reason whatsoever to Western an already beautiful and perfect practice. My teacher honored this tradition also and emphasized keeping it intact. If we choose to “branch off” then it can be done outside of our Reiki practice. Being an Earth momma I believe pretty strongly in honoring traditions as they have been passed down.

  13. Diversity, and non-attachment, are the two words that come to mind.

    Diversity, as others have posted, is the key to a healthy and vital tradition. The way I usually discuss it — “there is a hillside full of wildflowers, which is more beautiful, the one with a variety of colors, or all one color?”

    Non-attachment means carrying your practice lightly. Let go of the idea that the form you learned is the “only right one”, or the “more powerful Reiki”. In my experience, it’s the presence and mindfulness that the practitioner brings to her/his practice, that makes the most difference.

    For me, reading Mrs. Takata’s story, and hearing of it from her living students, is a great way of feeling anchored in the Western Reiki lineage.

    For legacy, her vision of Reiki being “as common as aspirin”, is a good start. I ask myself, what would it take for the mainstream of society to trust and welcome the practice of Reiki, in all its beautiful and sublime simplicity? And, what kind of transformation in human affairs could that help to enable, for all of us?

    I’ve learned many skills, and pursued a variety of occupations throughout my life. Reiki is the first time, finally in middle age, that I have felt a total commitment to a focused practice; an awareness that this work is at the core of who I am and what I am doing here. I know many of you feel the same. I’m pretty sure that core feeling will end up changing the world for the better, one being at a time.


  14. IMO – The creation of different styles and forms of Reiki Practice is an interesting bit of creative marketing to distinguish one’s product from another. Diversity in form and function is also a “normal” and an accepted human process. My practice is different than my Master’s, who’s practice is different from how Phyllis Furumoto taught her, who’s practice differs … and so on back up the lineage. That is how traditional guild systems function. Yet there is and can be identified a “core truth”, foundational element or common aspect of practice in all those iterations. Awareness of this is how we ‘Honor our Teachers and Elders’.

    Diversity also represents a dilution. Because of that I feel that there is an important role for tradition and orthodoxy within the practice. It is good for the practioner to be aware of the difference between the core practice and how their particular form of practice as come into being. A ‘core form’ is needed when we go too far afield or become lost in the complexities of reinvention. Being able to return to the originating springhead to be refreshed and renewed is an important part … of my practice. I recommend it for others as well. I feel that a traditional foundation is the most important legacy in our collective journey to create “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” to borrow from the Trekkie culture.

  15. Every time I self-treat, I feel that I am honoring my reiki elders, the reiki practitioners who have walked before me and who are part of my lineage, dating back to Takata, Hayashi and Mikao Usui.

    Not only do I show respect, and honor to the tradition and legacy of reiki, I also benefit greatly from the reiki practice of my elders. It is as if the pulsations of their hands intertwine with the pulsations of my hands every time I practice reiki. In the same way, I humbly share my reiki experience with the students I initiate.

    In addition to providing me with daily balance, reiki self-care also offers me a contemplative space where I can be comfortable with not knowing how exactly my elders practiced. I do not feel the need to explain how reiki works, or state my own personal model of reiki as the truth. Like Takata, I put my hands-on (reiki on), hands off (reiki off), and let the reiki treatment speak for itself.

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