original Usui technique or latter-day 'add-on'?
Copyright © 2010 James Deacon
has now been almost a decade since the Reiki community first began
how Usui-sensei supposedly taught students the practice of intoning
what are commonly (and somewhat erroneously) referred to as “the
that the intoning of these syllables was
a method “used by Usui before he introduced symbols”,
in part at least, as a means of helping some students 'connect with the
Apparently, so the story goes,1 those students
who were Buddhist were given Buddhist meditation exercises to
practice, and followers of Shinto were given the socalled 'kotodama' to
also been presented as 'fact' (albeit unsubstantiated)
that it was not until some
date Usui-sensei created the familiar
chokurei, hon sha ze sho nen, etc. - simply by choosing
words which contained the 'kotodama' syllable-sounds - and also added
(symbol) to each jumon (as
a visual aid?).
version of the tale is that the creation of the jumon and shirushi was
in order to help students who were having difficulty connecting to
the 'energies' (via meditative or 'kotodama' practice?), however
another version is that it was as a result of the Naval officers (who
had joined Usui-sensei's dojo) refusing to chant the sound-syllables?
as will be discussed later in this article. there is much to suggest
that the story of the supposed creation of the jumon
a later date,
is not correct. That in all likelihood, the jumon
already existed at an early stage in Usui-sensei's teachings.
it must be said that, over the years, several concerns have been
raised regarding the 'provenance' of the information concerning the
'Reiki kotodama'. A major concern is, did the Buddhist nun -
who, it is claimed, is the primary source
of the information - even exist?
there have been many aspects of the story - little things - which
don't seen to 'sit' quite right:
If, as stated, Usui-sensei supposedly taught
exercises to his Buddhist
students and the 'kotodama' practice to
students, why is it that Usui-sensei's teachings, as
shared from the perspective of a clearly Buddhist student
on instruction in the 'kotodama' – a practice
supposedly taught not to Buddhist students, but to Shinto ones?
some people have questioned why the syllable-sounds are referred to as
"the Reiki Kotodama" - when, not only are there
problems with the use of the word 'kotodama' here, but, so we are
also asked to believe, Usui-sensei's early students (and this would
supposed source of the 'kotodama' information) were apparently not
even aware of the term 'Reiki' in connection with Usui-sensei's
teachings? If this was genuinely something taught by
why then did the technique not have a proper Japanese descriptive name,
in the same way that all the other techniques had?
there are further issues - with the actual 'kotodama'- related
example it is claimed that Usui-sensei taught 'classical' kotodama
amongst the supplemental 'background' kotodama information originally
provided by those who suggest this,
there are certain details which can be seen to contradict this claim,
and point to the material they teach being heavily influenced by (if
not actually based on,) 'modern-era' evolutions of kotodama theory,
in particular, the expression of the discipline as expounded by the
founder of Aikido: Morihei
is compounded by the fact that, in order to 'flesh-out' what little
information concerning kotodama they received as part of their own
training, several of the Reiki practitioners now teaching the 'Reiki
kotodama' have, over the years, drawn heavily on the work of modern
writers who's understanding of kotodama is also based on
to the discipline.
began to study kotodama
gaku (the science/study of kotodama) with Onisaburo
Deguchi (spiritual leader of the Omoto kyo religious
about 1919, and over the years evolved his
approach - an approach which, by the time he began teaching Aikido
(1940's) was in several ways significantly
different from both the 'classical' expression of kotodama
the personalised form as practiced and taught by Deguchi.
simple fact is that - in what is perhaps a slightly misguided attempt
to 'recreate' what Usui-sensei might
have taught in relation to kotodama theory - several people are now,
perhaps unwittingly, teaching concepts and applications which did not
even exist as such during Usui-sensei's lifetime.
those who teach the 'kotodama', teach the first syllable-sequence as
a method of connecting with 'earth' energy' and the second sequence
as a method of connecting with 'heaven' energy.
within the 'classical' approach to the discipline of kotodama gaku,2 there already exist practices for connecting with
earth (nature) and
heaven ”energies “ (or, as they were understood during that era:
– and, following kotodama principles, the
combination of syllables in each of the two socalled 'kotodama'
mentioned, can be
seen to possess other, different,
influencing properties than those currently assigned to them.
it would seem that, if
Usui-sensei really did teach what is now referred to as the 'Reiki
Kotodama', the original nature and significance of at least
elements of the practice may have
been forgotten, or at least, become confused over time. Though we
should perhaps not rule out the possibility of people having
intentionally altered certain things out of a need to overlay
personalised significance and meaning onto elements of the practice
- something which has happened many, many times, in various
of the Reiki discipline.
questions are voiced concerning the authenticity of the
'Reiki-kotodama' material, a
common response is that the best thing would be for the person to
work with these sound-syllables for a while - experience for
themselves if this has an enhancing effect on their Reiki practice –
and so, make up their own mind as to the validity of the technique.
is a description of one very basic approach to working with the
in the traditional Japanese zazen
posture (- or on an upright chair, with back straight, feet flat on
the ground) - with hands either palms down, resting on your thighs,
or in the formal gassho
your attention in your hara, at the area known as seiki
tanden (a couple of inches below the navel).
and still the mind.
on the moment - there is ONLY the moment.
the breath smoothly, steadily and easily in through the nose, then
vocalise the kotodama as you breathe out through
a low and deeply resonant voice, intone each 'kotodama' slowly,
strongly - with total concentration and unity of body, mind and
each syllable: each 'word-sound' distinctly, separately - do not run
or slur them together. Let each 'word-sound' fill your whole body -
vibrating throughout every molecule - every atom.
aware of the resonance extending out throughout your aura into the
very air about you....
Now it must be said, in
following the "try it and see for yourself" advice, most people do
notice varying degrees of beneficial, enhancing effect on their 'Reiki
this does not in any way prove the authenticity of
the technique (i.e. as something
actually taught by Usui-sensei). It simply goes to effectiveness.
the technique can
have enhancing effects; there is little doubt of
However, the same holds true (to varying
degrees) for just about
every other technique
which also involves mindful focus, specific breathing, and
have generally been shown to have beneficially
enhancing/augmenting effects in relation to the 'Reiki flow'
- yet it
would be naïve to assume that simply because a given technique is
effective, this somehow constitutes proof that it was actually
taught by Usui-sensei.
- and on the other
would also be naïve to assume that simply because a given technique was
by Usui-sensei, that it can not be effective.
more we interact with the phenomenon that is Reiki, the more we realise
that each person's experience is a unique one.
deeper we travel on our journey into Reiki, the further we get from the
'one size fits all' approach that applied at the outset of the journey.
Each practitioner has the potential to evolve in their own
way, to give their own unique expression to the Reiki phenomenon; and
likewise, different individuals may find different approaches and
techniques to be more effective in supporting their own
personal, unique process of
If a Reiki practitioner finds a
technique (or develops a
of their own) which they genuinely feel has a beneficially
enhancing/augmenting effect on their Reiki,
then certainly they should work with it; and, if they think it
appropriate, share it to others.
the years, many people have done this - experimenting with
independently-evolved techniques and practices, or
'adopting-in' to their personal Reiki practice various pre-existing
other non-Reiki sources - new techniques, approaches, theories, etc.
which they genuinely believe help them make a deeper level of
connection with the phenomenon that is Reiki.5
masters, many have then chosen to pass on these newly adopted
techniques etc. to
students - as 'tools' which may possibly also prove of value in the
students' own journey.
while some have
clearly explained to their students precisely which practices, etc. are
their own 'add-ons', many have not, and so it has all too commonly been
the case that such students have been left with the understanding that
all of what they
have been taught was originally also taught by Mikao Usui.
it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a less-than-scrupulous
intentionally seek to present a technique as an 'original' one in order
to 'hype' the
practice, for primarily financial reasons. (Contrary to what some might
think, the world of Reiki is not immune to such things, Reiki
initiation and training in no way guarantees the unfolding of
However, in some instances,
the part of the
teacher to clearly identify their own 'add-ons' has simply been a case
of them not considering it important - their reasoning is simply
one of: "afterall, if a
In other instances, certain
(somewhat misguidedly, perhaps) might believe that in allowing their
students to infer that a particular technique is
one, they are not really doing any harm - that such inference will
weight /validity to
the practice in the students' minds.
That it will give the students
a confidence which, if lacking, could result in the students perhaps
setting up subconscious resistance to the effects of a
practice which the teacher
genuinely believes could be
beneficial for the students' Reiki-related
growth and development.
whether or not any of the above scenarios apply to the "Reiki
kotodama', we will probably never know for certain.
Though we can say
that, for some individuals at least, this particular practice can be a
& THE 'UNFOLDING' OF JUMON
1 Although the story
has gone through several revisions over the years
And also, I believe, within the
Deguchi / Omoto Kyo approach
an approach which is probably as familiar to Aikido practitioners,
as it is to Reiki ones:
teachers now instruct the student to silently 'intone' the
syllable-sequences for a few moments before they begin vocalising them. The
aim is to have the vocalised sound vibrate in the centre of the mouth,
students may (or may not) be
taught to visualise/imagine a small orb of light floating just above
the centre of their tongue; it is from within this orb that the
sound vibration should occur.
5 And contrary to what some would
have us believe, this is not just a 'Western' phenomenon, but
an 'Eastern' one also - with several
practitioners having 'adopted-in' additional practices from
sources, created new symbols, altered the form, names, and
significance of pre-existing symbols, etc. etc...