James Deacon's...... Reiki Pages..............................
(formerly: All Energy-Therapies Web)

+ + +


Copyright 2009 James Deacon


 Is it best to learn Reiki with a Japanese master, or at least a Westerner who is a master of Japanese Reiki? I want to learn Reiki like Usui and Hayashi taught it, not with all the add-ons, changes and confusion I'm told exists in western Reiki...

Well, IMO, the only way for you to be absolutely certain you are learning Reiki "like Usui and Hayashi taught it"; would be for you to invent a time machine, travel back in time and study with them directly.

And as for "add-ons, changes and confusion", contrary to what many would have us believe, this is not something unique to styles of Reiki originating in the West.

On closer inspection of 'Japanese' Reiki, we can see that all is not exactly as authentic, add-on free, and brimming with clarity as the hype would have us believe.

To begin with, even today, probably the greater majority of Reiki masters in Japan practice and teach styles of Reiki which originated in the west at a time after Takata-sensei's passing, or alternatively, practice and teach styles which are derived from (or at very least are heavily influenced by) modern, western, Reiki styles.

Many Japanese Reiki Masters teach Karuna Reiki, or Seichim, or other Western styles which are only loosely based on Usui Shiki Ryoho. And even those who do teach Reiki under the name 'Usui Shiki Ryoho', generally tend to teach the modern-day version as commonly taught in the west (Something which, with all its talk of chakras, and crystals, and Reiki Guides and 21-day cleansing periods, etc.,etc., Takata-sensei herself might have a hard time recognising as Usui Shiki Ryoho...)

Although, Takata-sensei tells us that she taught Usui Shiki Ryoho classes in Japan in the mid 1970's (see here), it was not until the mid 1980's that the first classes in a modified form of Reiki (devised by one of Takata-sensei's students) were taught in Japan and as a result, Reiki (in this modified form) gradually began to become known on the Japanese 'New Age' scene.

At least a couple of 'home grown' Japanese Reiki styles have evolved out of this particular modern Western Reiki style (though these Western influences are usually played down, with much being made of formative influences apparently having been drawn from obscure Japanese sources...)

And it is fair to say that, just as in the west, in Japan you will also find Reiki practitioners who are not averse to creating new symbols, adding new practices, and otherwise modifying and embellishing things to suit their personal views and beliefs...

And of those who claim to teach 'traditional' Japanese Reiki, well it seems there is more than a little confusion and misunderstanding as to what actually constitute the 'traditional' teachings.

Take the Reiki symbols for example:

First we were told that originally there weren't any symbols used in Reiki, that they were something added - almost as an afterthought, it seems - supposedly as a means of helping people with poor levels of sensitivity to feel the 'energy' - that they were of no real importance (though if this was the case, just how drawing some unimportant 'squiggles' would help improve sensitivity, was never explained...)

Then it was claimed that the four symbols (referred to as 'shirushi'[1]) were no longer taught as part of 'Japanese' Reiki, yet that they were still shown to students out of historical interest.[2]

Apparently the symbols did not have names; they were simply referred to as Symbol 1, Symbol, Symbol 3, and Symbol 4.

However, later, we were told the symbols did indeed have names. Oh, and there were only three, not four....

Yet at least one of those Japanese practitioners who claim there were only three symbols, actually teach and use four symbols themselves...

And then, apparently - whereas in Usui Shiki Ryoho (as originally taught by Takata-sensei) the names of the symbols were also mantras used in conjunction with the drawn symbols – well it seems in 'Japanese' Reiki the symbol names were not mantras; we were asked to believe that the symbols had separate mantras, in addition to the names (which er, they apparently didn't have, or...?!)

And while for a time at least, we were told that the phrases we in the west knew as the name/mantras accompanying each symbol were indeed the symbol mantras (but not their names), apparently some great mystical occurrence took place outside the range of our awareness, as, suddenly the phrases we in the west knew as the name/mantras accompanying each symbol, which had indeed been the symbol mantras (but not their names), were now no longer – had never been - the symbol mantras (or their names...)

According to one Japanese practitioner, the name for what, in Usui Shiki Ryoho, had been referred to as the 'power symbol', was not 'Choku rei', but Zui-un[3]

However, according to another, the name was Kumo[4]

Yet another teaches that the name is/was Un[4]

Some Japanese Practitioners draw the actual 'power symbol' itself very similarly to the way in which Takata-sensei was taught to draw it by Hayashi-sensei; though somewhat disconcertingly, the version used and taught by a couple of prominent Japanese practitioners is suspiciously similar to a modern alternative version of the power symbol, created in the late 1980's by an 'independent' Reiki master of Austrian(?) origin.

Some teach the 'power symbol' at level 2, as Takata-sensei was taught to do by Hayashi-sensei, yet others teach their version of this symbol at level 1.

Some teach the 'power symbol' as a means of intensifying the Reiki-flow; others, merely as a way of increasing byosen sensitivity.

As to the accompanying mantras (which, may - or may not - have originally been referred to as 'jumon'[5] in Japanese):

Well, some claimed that the 'power symbol' - this Zui-un, or Kumo, or Un - didn't actually have an associated jumon.[6]

However, according to others it did.

One claims the jumon was... 'Un'.

Though this 'Un' used as the jumon or mantra apparently isn't the same 'Un' as the 'Un' used by others as the name of the symbol (depending, that is, on who you ask)...

It seems that in a desperate case of 'clutching at straws', certain Japanese Reiki practitioners had been attempting to manufacture a link between the Reiki symbols and symbols used by the Kurama Kokyo sect (based at the temple on mount Kurama since 1949).

The Kurama Kokyo worship a triune deity: Sonten - the three aspects of which are represented by the deities Mao-son, Bishamon-ten, and Senju-Kannon.

Now, in this trinity, Mao-son is seen as representing 'the power of Sonten'.

Mao-son's emblem is the Sanscrit character 'hum'. In Japan this is pronounced 'Un'. And as Mao-son is seen as the 'power', it would seem it was only a short (if uncreative and misguided) jump to the conclusion that the emblem of Mao-son was most likely associated with the Reiki 'power symbol'.

Hence, the jumon associated with the 'power symbol' must have obviously have been 'Un' all along...

Some, went further than this, claiming that not only was the word 'Un' the jumon of the 'power symbol' but that the visual depiction of this Sanscrit character 'Hum'/'Un' was actually the original form of the 'power symbol'; and that two further Sanscrit characters - representing Senju-Kannon and Bishamon-ten - were respectively the original forms of the 'mental/emotional' and 'distance' symbols...

Of course, it seems others had created different 'truths'...

Some claim that the 'mental/emotional' symbol (which didn't have a name?) was apparently originally called Muryou-ju,[7] or depending on who you ask: Mugen Muryou-ju [7]

Some claim its jumon is Fukuju[8]; though others claim Fukuju is its name, not its jumon...

Though yet others have said the jumon is actually a 'modified' version of the more familiar 'Seiheki'.

And some say the 'mental/emotional' symbol does not have a jumon.

While some use the 'mental/emotional' symbol in conjunction with recitation of the Gokai ('Reiki Principles').

Some Japanese Practitioners draw the actual 'mental/emotional' symbol itself very similarly to the way in which Takata-sensei was taught to draw it by Hayashi-sensei; however, others use what can only be described as a partial/incomplete version of the symbol; and yet others still, use a modified form of this latter incomplete version.

As to what is referred to as the 'Distance symbol' in Usui Shiki Ryoho:

Well, most Japanese Practitioners, it seems, draw the actual 'distance symbol' symbol itself very similarly to the way in which Takata-sensei was taught to draw it by Hayashi-sensei, with minor variation in the number of strokes used (some use 21, some 22).

According to some Japanese Practitioners, the jumon is pronounced Hon Ja Ze Sho Nen (the Ja is another 'reading' of the kanji pronounced as Sha in the more familiar form: Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen).

Others do not consider the symbol to actually be a 'symbol' as such - claiming rather that drawing/writing the visual aspect of what we deem the 'distant symbol' constitutes part of reciting a jumon...

Some claim the vocalised element (i.e. the jumon-proper) should be pronounced Hon Ja Ze Sei Nen (the Sei is another 'reading' of the kanji pronounced as Sho in the more familiar form: Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen).

As for the 'master symbol':

Some Japanese practitioners would have us believe that the 'master symbol' was not traditionally part of Reiki at all (but rather an add-on, originating several years after Usui-sensei's passing!!)...

However, of those Japanese practitioners who do use and teach the 'master' symbol (and this group actually includes some of those who claim the 'master' symbol is not a original Reiki symbol !!), most, it seems, draw the symbol in its regular three-kanji form.

And, just as happened in the west after Takata-sensei's passing - where many and varied new uses were dreamed up for the 'master symbol' - so too in Japan the symbol is widely used far beyond its sole original purpose[9]

While most also tend to use 'Dai Ko Myo' as the jumon, some apparently vocalise 'Dai Mitsu Mei' instead. [Simply for the sake of being different, perhaps?].

(Mitsu is simply another 'reading' of the kanji pronounced as Ko in the more familiar form: Dai Ko Myo, and Mei is another 'reading' of the kanji pronounced as Myo).

And as is the case with the 'distance symbol', no doubt there will also be some who claim that the 'master symbol' is not a 'symbol' at all - that drawing/writing the visual aspect (i.e. the three kanji) merely constitutes part of reciting a jumon...


[1]Shirushi - a sign, symbol, 'glyph' or graphic visual representation; also a mark made with a stamp or seal.
[2] Interesting, as at that time many western practitioners were also no longer using the symbols...

[3] Zui-un translates as 'Auspicious Cloud' ( – a good omen). It is also the name of a brand of Aloeswood Incense!
[4] Kumo and Un are two alternative 'readings' of, i.e. ways of pronouncing, the same kanji character meaning 'cloud'
[5] Jumon - an incantation; a spell, a charm; a magic word, 'words of power'/ 'words filled with spirit'.
[6] or at least, they themselves had not been taught its jumon
[7] Muryo-ju = 'Infinite Felicitation' or 'Uncountable Blessing' - also the name of a specific manifestation of Amida Butsu.
Mugen = Infinity, Infinite Compassion, Infinite Wisdom, Unconditional Light

Fuku ju means something like "a long and prosperous life" (used as a toast, it is much like saying "Cheers!").
[It is also the name of a popular brand of sake]
[9] i.e. as part of the initiation process

 On a web site I read about a Reiki Master who was meant to be trained by one of Mikao Usui's students still alive today who is known as the Soke Dai . It said Soke dai is a Buddhist title for the current lineage bearer, tho someone else said it had to do with martial arts? The Reiki Master gives his lineage as Usui Mikao, Soke Dai, and then himself.

Well, I must say that I personally have previously never heard Soke-dai described as being a Buddhist title.

The term Soke-dai is indeed often used today in relation to Japanese martial arts; however, it seems, many westerners who practice Japanese martial arts are somewhat confused as to the precise meaning of the term, and thus use it incorrectly – interestingly enough, usually believing that it refers to the person considered to be the current head (or as you put it) 'lineage bearer' of a particular art.

In order to understand the term Soke-dai we first need to have an understanding of the term Soke (so-ke)

Traditionally, the term Soke (or more fully Sodenke) has been used denote the head of a family-(or guild-)based discipline, skill or art.[1].

The term Soke is used to refer to the original 'Founding Father' [2] of the discipline/skill/art, and is also to refer to those who have succeeded the founder as hereditary/generational 'Family Heads' of that tradition.

It has long been the Japanese way of things to 'keep it in the family' with the teaching and practice of specific arts being closely guarded, regulated and controlled by certain families or 'guilds'; and with the innermost 'secrets' of the art only being shared from father to son down through the generations.

When the Soke or Head died (or retired) it was common practice that he would be replaced by a blood-line descendant, who would in turn assume the role of 'Family Head'. On occasion, however (for example if the Soke had no male offspring) the Soke, might designate another blood-relative to take on the role of Head of Family after his retirement/death. More rarely, the Soke might designate a non blood-relative - an 'adopted' son, or even a son-in-law to succeed him.

This intended next-generation successor (be it offspring, other blood-relative, adoptive son or son-in-law) would have been trained to the highest level - a senior instructor in the given discipline/skill/art, and would have been made privy to the innermost secrets of the tradition by the Soke.

It was quite common that this intended 'inheritor of the lineage' of the given discipline/skill/art would be referred to by the title Soke-dai.

However, as stated, many westerners have misunderstood the meaning and significance of the term Soke-dai [and likewise, of the term Soke].[3] Many seem to think that the term Soke refers solely to the originator of the art, and that Soke-dai means something like “the originator's current successor” and that the individual will still be referred to as Soke-dai after the Soke has retired or died.

Yet this is not the case.

Now while Soke is a title for the founder of an art, as mentioned above, it is also a title for the generational Heads of that art.

And while Soke-dai is indeed a title (usually) held by the Soke's designated successor [4], this latter title does not actually refer directly to the individual's status as designated next-generation successor per se.

Rather it refers to their high-ranking status within the art.

As mentioned, the designated successor would be a senior instructor in the given discipline/skill/art, trained to the highest level; to all intents and purposes, an equal to the Soke in all but name.

The term Soke-dai actually speaks to this fact.

Soke-dai (which is actually a shortened version of: Soke-dairi) implies 'in place of the Soke' - a proxy – a stand-in for, or official representative of, the current Soke.

A Soke-dai is someone authorised to speak, act and teach on the current Soke's behalf when, for whatever reason, the Soke can not be present.

More directly put, Soke-dai is simply a 'Deputy Soke'.

Sometimes, within a large family/guild-based art, there may be several Soke-dai – several Deputies - to assist the Soke with day-to-day instruction and teaching, administrative duties, meetings, etc, etc.

Yet only one Soke-dai will be deemed 'heir apparent'. [5]

And when the current Soke eventually retires (or dies), this 'heir apparent' will (barring unforseen circumstance) assume the position of Head of Family.

From this point on they are no longer referred to as Soke-dai for they are no longer the Soke's deputy.

They now hold the title Soke, and as such will have one or more deputies (Soke-dai) of their own.

However, to distinguish them from previous Soke, their title will often be augmented with an ordinal number.

The Original Head of Family – the founder of the art – may be referred to (retrospectively) as Shodai Soke (i.e.1st generation head), his immediate successor, as Nidai Soke (2nd generation head). The Nidai Soke's successor, as Sandai Soke (3rd generation head), and so on.

Thus I feel it rather confusing that the term Soke-dai would be used to indicate the current Head of a given art (at least, that is, by anyone familiar with traditional Japanese protocol in such matters)

The term Soke-dai really only has meaning where used in relation to Soke.

For there to be a Soke-dai or deputy, there would of necessity also have to be someone currently filling the role of Soke – someone for the Soke-dai to deputise for.



[1] While traditionally used in relation to various other arts, the terms Soke and Soke-dai have only really been used in relation to martial arts for about 130 years or so.
[2] i.e. one who has independently developed their own unique art or discipline (or alternatively, has modified an existing art or discipline to the extent that it was thus recognised by the individual's peers as constituting a 'new 'style)
[3] This is commonly the case with many martial artists who have had no direct contact with or experience of the particular art as actually practised in Japan.
[4] While the Soke is still alive
[5] And, while all the Soke-dai will have been highly trained, traditionally, the Soke will only share the innermost 'secrets' of the art with this one chosen successor








earthwatch institute
[click on banner]

[click on banner]

Reiki Pages


reiki books and music

reiki books and music

Site Built & Maintained by James Deacon. Copyright 2007 James Deacon. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The contents of this site is for general information only. James Deacon does not necessarily endorse the methodology, techniques or philosophy of individual modalities detailed herein, and accepts no liability for the use or misuse of any practice or exercise on this site, or ones linked to this site.