ENERGY": DEFINING REIKI
© 2002/3 James Deacon
the term "Reiki" is used to describe both the system
of healing & spiritual development developed by Mikao
Usui, and the therapeutic 'phenomenon' at the heart
of the system, it is this latter - the 'Reiki' itself, rather
than the system - that I wish to focus on here.
When it comes to the matter of a definition of Reiki, a commonly
held view amongst Reiki practitioners, it seems, is: "don't
think too much about it - Reiki is experiential - just do it.."
- and of course, in one sense, this is true.
on the other hand, as the Shakyamuni Buddha is credited with saying:
"With our thoughts we shape our reality".
So too, I would venture to suggest: "With our thoughts we
shape our Reiki..."
Takata-Sensei's Explanation of Reiki:
When asked what 'Reiki' meant, Takata-Sensei frequently gave a
very simplistic answer, along the lines of: Rei means 'Universal',
and Ki means 'Energy'.
[Yet it has been said on more than one occasion that this particular
explanation was something that only came to prominence, probably
during the latter 60's, to fit a more generalised 'frame of reference'
of the people drawn to her as potential students]
in attempting to transmit a deeper understanding of the meaning
of Reiki to her students, Takata-Sensei spoke of Reiki as:
universal force from the Great Divine Spirit"
cosmic energy to heal the ill..."*
yet more specifically, as:
It is not associated with any visible material being.", she
said of it, "It's an unseen spiritual power that radiates
vibration and lifts one into harmony. This power is incomprehensible
to man, yet every single living being is receiving its blessings..."
interpretation of Reiki as: 'God Power' has lead many to the conclusion
that, in giving the 'simplistic' interpretation: "...Rei
means 'Universal', and Ki means 'Energy'...", Takata Sensei
was actually using 'Universal' in the sense that many mystics
have used it, i.e.: as being a contraction of: 'the Universal'
- an alternative (and intentionally less religious) term for 'the
Divine', ' the Numinous' or 'God''.]
usual way in which Reiki Teachers tend to explain Reiki to new
students, is to opt for the simplistic approach [generally a very
good place to start] - the "Rei" part of the name being
translated as "Universal" (though some do explain that
in essence, it refers, more properly, to something Spiritual or
Sacred, and can mean "Soul"), and "Ki", translated
simply as "Life-Force Energy" (though a few mention
that it also implies 'Spiritedness', 'Feelings', or the effect
of energy in action.)
Some Reiki Teachers, seeking a middle ground between, on the one
hand, the more ''Newtonian' / 'scientific' concept of 'Reiki as
Energy', and on the other, the more 'Spiritual' concept of 'Reiki
as the Power of God', express Reiki as: "Spiritually-influenced
(or "Spiritually-guided") Life-Force Energy"; or
even as "Charismatic Healing Radiance".
seeking to play down the (I personally feel, undue) emphasis on
the concept of 'Reiki as Energy', without necessarily using terminology
implying 'Things of the Spirit', prefer to speak of Reiki as an
- in common Japanese usage:
many modern Japanese-English dictionaries, the term Reiki, (written
using the modern style kanji-pair) is given (in common usage)
as meaning: 'Aura'.
can also refer to the 'Holy Atmosphere' one experiences at a Shrine,
Temple Holy Mountain, or other sacred site.
of latter years, probably due to the re-surgence of interest in
the modality and its growing popularity - 'Reiki' (written using
the 'traditional' or 'old style' kanji-pair) is beginning to appear
in some modern Japanese-English dictionaries to denote the 'Healing
Reiki Kanji themselves:
a general guide, the meaning of a kanji-pair is derived
from a synthesis of meanings of the individual kanji making
up that pair; and so, the meaning of 'Reiki' is ultimately
derived from meanings attributed to the individual kanji: 'Rei'
We should always remember that the 'romanised' five-letter word:
'Reiki' is simply a transliteration of the Japanese, and just
as in English where (for example) the words 'rite', 'write' and
'right' all have the same sound, so too in Japanese there are
often many words that sound the same, yet are written in different
kanji - and have very different meanings.
distinct from 'Reiki' i.e. the spiritual/therapeutic 'phenomenon'
associated with Usui-Sensei, there are also several other, un-connected,
written forms of the double-syllable: 'rei-ki', each having their
own distinct meanings - including: sacred ground or sacred precincts;
established rule; cold, chill, cold weather, cold wave, cold air;
& (electrical) excitation.
obviously, we are concerned solely with the 'Rei' and 'Ki' kanji
as used to denote 'Reiki' - the spiritual/therapeutic 'phenomenon'.
is the nature of kanji in general, the kanji 'Rei' & 'Ki'
can have many levels of meaning.
linguist (or for that matter, a good academic Japanese-English
Dictionary) will explain that -
Divine, the Numinous
A supernatural Being or Spirit
The Spiritual nature
Luminosity of the spirit; the luminosity of a God or Sage
Charisma, charismatic power
Inconceivable spiritual ability
Something Pure, Unpolluted
Something wonderful; a wonder
A shaman, a person or being with spiritual or supernatural powers
A rainmaker, a diviner
primarily encapsulates/refers to:
Spirit (in the sense of 'Spiritedness')
The generative forces of Heaven & Earth
The material force of the Universe
Steam (the kanji for 'ki' implies steam rising from a covered
pot of rice cooking over a fire, with the lid of the pot being
lifted by the steam.)
The effect/result of energy being expended
as 'Energy' or ...
we speak of Reiki in terms of 'energy', what do we understand
by this - many have a perception akin to that of electricity flowing
through a wire, to others it may be one of 'emoting' or motivating
force, yet others still will hold a perception of 'Love'.
mentioned, Takata-Sensei also referred to Reiki as 'God Power'
- something Spiritual or Sacred.
is commonly expressed that "Reiki has its own Intelligence"
- that it is "Spiritually-influenced" or "Spiritually-guided".
this not put it more in the category of 'Energy-Presence' or 'Energy-Sentience'?
the latter part of the 19thC, when metaphysical, mystical, and
spiritually minded people began to adopt a 'more scientific' vocabulary
in which to attempt to express their conceptualisations, it has
been a common (and often unconscious) practice to substitute terms
such as 'energy', 'energies', 'vibrations', etc. for supposedly
'less scientific' terms such as Spirit, Spirits, Presences, etc
just where does 'Energy' end and 'Spiritual Entity' or 'Presence'
on the given context, the word Reiki can be used to suggest a
Spirit, an Aura - even, in certain cases, to refer to the influence
of a Ghost or Ancestral Spirit.
manifestation of some form of Numinous Being or Presence is a
common concurrence with instances of kantoku (visionary
mystical experiences) or satori (lesser-enlightenments)
in Japanese Culture.
following is an extract from the writings of Morihei Ueshiba -
the founder of the Spiritual Discipline and Martial Art: Aikido
- describing his 'satori'-like mystical experience out of which
the art of Aikido was created:
in the spring of 1925, if I remember correctly, when I was taking
a walk in the garden by myself, I felt that a golden Spirit sprang
up from the ground, veiled my body and changed my body into a
the same time my mind and body turned into light. I was able to
understand the whispering of the birds, and was clearly aware
of the mind of God, the Creator of this Universe..."
Now, in the account of Usui-Sensei's experience on Mt. Kurama,
recorded on his monument, it states:
"One day he went to Kurama Yama on a 21-day retreat to
fast and meditate. At the end of this time, he suddenly felt a
great Reiki over his head and received spiritual insight into
the Reiki healing method..."
great Reiki over his head..." - this is usually interpreted
as meaning he felt 'Reiki energy' but it may in fact be simply
stating that he had a kantoku visionary experience of a
great (in the sense of 'important') Spirit over his head. A vision
of, as Takata-Sensei put it 'God Power' - the Power of God - what
in western terminology we might refer to as the 'Holy Spirit'
- an 'energy' in the sense of a Numinous Being (in the Japanese
conceptual view, possibly: a kami, butsu, or bosatsu)
rather than 'energy' in our Newtonian understanding of the term.
while the commonly-held perception of Reiki may well be that of
Healing Energy - possibly even 'Spiritually-influenced' or 'Spiritually-guided'
Healing Energy, perhaps it may help to deepen the quality of our
connection if we allow ourselves to perceive Reiki - not so much
in terms of a 'Universal Energy' - as in terms of a 'Universal
Spiritual Presence' - a 'Holy, Healing, Spirit Presence'.
this perception, Reiki as a system can truly be claimed to be
a system of Spiritual Healing - a charism - a 'Gift of
seems that in hearing Takata-sensei speak of Reiki as a "...a
universal force from the Great Divine Spirit"
and '... a cosmic energy...'
, many of her students took this to mean that Reiki - as an 'energy'
- was something outside of ourselves: something 'out there'
- beyond us. Something we 'channeled', rather than something
arising within us. And this is the understanding these
students passed on to their own students.
However, this idea of Reiki as being something external
is perhaps only part of the truth...
In a diary entry dated Dec. 10 1935, Takata-sensei wrote about
"...Energy within oneself "
- and also about how we must "...meditate
to let the "Energy" come out from within."
the "Energy" she said: "It
lies in the bottom of your stomach about 2 in. below the navel."