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Attunement = Empowerment = Attunements?
In Reiki terminology, 'empowerment' and 'attunement' used to mean the same thing:

Attunement - from the analogy of 'tuning in' a radio. In the Reiki sense, tuning the student in to the Universal Lifeforce Energy - or rather to specific frequencies within that all-pervasive Energy: the 'frequencies' otherwise referred to as the 'Reiki Energy'

Empowerment - coming from an Japanese esoteric Buddhist concept: kanjo - a rite in which an individual receives a 'spiritual permission' ie, is spiritually/esoterically empowered to work with a particular practice, or manifest a particular ability - in this case the Reiki ability
(some folk still refer to the initiation symbol (DKM) as the 'empowerment' symbol)

So, 'empowerment' and 'attunement' were just different ways of looking at the process of 'getting' the Reiki Phenomenon

[Other folk sometimes spoke of the process in terms of bringing the individual into 'alignment' with the Reiki capability.
Yet others talked in terms of 're-patterning' the individual's field - as if re-programming some form of 'psychic-energy computer' to enable it to interact with the subtle energy-phenomenon that is Reiki…]

But all these terms/concepts mentioned above are really very modern:
Takata sensei actually spoke of the process as an 'Initiation' - a sacred ritual; however, the word 'Initiation' was seemingly a bit too overtly esoteric for some, so it fell out of favour and both 'attunement' and 'empowerment' (terms which on the surface at least had less 'mystical' connotations than Initiation) came to be used interchangeably as the standard terminology.

Empowerments and Attunements, no longer the same?
Then, more recently, some people started to differentiate between 'empowerment' and 'attunement' - using 'empowerment' to refer more to a non-initiatorial practice - simply a way of boosting sensitivity - enabling the individual to experience the feel of the 'energy' more deeply, and thus interact with it more effectively.

The state of boosted sensitivity achieved through 'empowerment' is temporary; however it appears that, through repeated empowerment, the effects may in fact be cumulative - resulting in a permanent and progressive deepening of sensitivity. But due to the subjective nature of the experience, it is difficult to be certain if this is indeed the case.

Reiju - Attunement or Empowerment, or..?
While initially it was believed that modernday forms of reiju (all of which seem to stem from the process as reinvented/recreated by Hiroshi Doi*) essentially served the very same purpose as the initiation process (denju, in Japanese) as practiced by Takata-sensei, over time this view has altered and it is now generally understood that the various forms of reiju function either more along the lines of an empowerment (in the more recent 'increased-sensitivity' meaning of the term), or alternatively, simply as a form of 'blessing ceremony'.

[*When Doi first began teaching reiju, it was assumed that the process he was working with was the 'original' version (or at very least, close to the original version) used by Usui-sensei.
It was only some time later it became clear that Doi's reiju was purely his own creation - something he designed in an attempt to emulate the feel of the reiju process he claimed was used in the Gakkai, but which he himself, not being a Gakkai master, had not been taught.]

As such it would seem that modernday reiju is lacking something that was present in Usui-sensei's reiju -. the effect of the latter probably having been more in keeping with that of the later initiation/attunement process (which may have actually evolved out of the reiju process).

Original meaning of the term: reiju?
Technically, the term reiju (in its purest sense) - depending on which of two specific kanji you use to write the ju part, can mean either 'to give spirit', or 'to receive spirit'.

And just as modernday reiju is seen as being simply a 'blessing ceremony' by some, in its original sense, the term reiju can indeed also refer to the sharing of a 'blessing' - but at a very deep, spiritual/esoteric level.

The term reiju implies the sharing/conferring of an actual Spiritual Gift.

In a Reiki context then, rather than simply being about increasing an individual's ability to sense the 'energy', the original concept of reiju can perhaps more properly be understood as having been about 'Blessing' an individual with the actual Reiki itself: the actual Reiki ability itself. Usui-sensei's reiju being a process for facilitating gradual transfer of the Spiritual Gift of Reiki to another living being - perhaps a means of sharing with them (at a subtle level) the essential 'flavour' of the phenomenon that was Usui-sensei's initial 'Reiki Experience' during the meditation on Mount Kurama?

Reiju then - the sharing/conferring of an actual Spiritual Gift - is an (albeit incremental) initiatorial process comparable to the denju (initiation) as practiced by Takata-sensei.

In its deepest sense, denju constitutes a simple form of 'transmission-empowerment-ritual' - the likes of which are to be found in Japanese Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhist) traditions [also in the Esoteric Buddhist traditions of Tibet and China] - and which are viewed as central to the student/disciple's development and 'spiritual unfolding'.

In its earliest manifestation, so we are told, Usui-sensei's system was a Reiho: a 'Spiritual Method' - for improving mind and body; it is also claimed by some that Usui-sensei's original reiju was actually itself derived from Mikkyo ritual.

So this would seem to put denju and Usui-sensei's reiju (not the modern reinventions) on a relatively level footing.

From the perspective of the Esoteric Buddhist initiatorial traditions it can be understood that, via either the denju process or (Usui-sensei's version of) the reiju process, the teacher is conferring the 'Reiki Ability' on the student - not just in an actual, practical sense, but also in the more spiritual/esoteric sense of passing on to the student the 'spiritual permission' to manifest what is afterall an essentially sacred therapeutic phenomenon.


See also:

More Concerning Reiju...

Reiju - and other 'higher' practices?

Reiju: The Spiritual Gift

From reiju to denju...

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