THE REIKI SYMBOLS...
© 2006 James Deacon
[Latest addition: May.15 2007]
Which came first - symbols or kotodama?
versions of the 'new' history of Reiki would have us believe that
the four symbols were not part of Usui-sensei's system in the
early days - and that the functions within the Reiki system now
ascribed to the four symbols, were originally ascribed to four
mantra-like utterances derived form the practice known as kotodama.
But how plausable is this theory?
Let us consider, for example, the symbols HSZSN and DKM.
We must remember that the distance and master symbols
are not 'symbols' in the abstract sense ( i.e.'glyphs'), but are
rather, are actual phrases written in Japanese calligraphy, and
these particular pieces of calligraphy read, respectively, as
the words hon sha ze sho nen and dai ko myo.
Now in the kotodama-derived practice, which it has been claimed
predated the introduction of the symbols, the 'phonomes'
or sylables uttered with the intent of producing the effects more
commonly associated with the distance and master
'calligraphy-symbols' are actually modifications of the
phrases HSZSN and DKM themselves [hon sha ze sho nen has
been 'deconstructed'/reduced to 'ho a ze ho ne', and dai ko
myo to 'ai ku yo']
Thus, can we not infer from this that, the HSZSN and DKM 'symbols'
must have come first (- in order that the phrases could
later be modified in order to produce the forms
used in the kotodama-style practice)?
# Symbols only introduced to help people feel the 'energy'
versions of the 'new' history of Reiki, would also have us believe
that the four symbols were not part of Usui-sensei's system in
the early days (- no mention of kotodama here!)
This time, we are asked to believe that the symbols were supposedly
introduced at a later date simply as a medium through which to
assist people - primarily the Naval contingent who had joined
(and to all intents and purposes, taken over) Usui-sensei's dojo
- who were apparently having difficulty feeling the 'energy' .
But how likely is this?
Three of the Reiki symbols are derived from Buddhist symbols.
So just how well would this have gone down with the Imperial Navy
- Usui-sensei utalising a set of essentially Buddhist symbols
to aid the Navy - an instrument of an overtly Shinto-centred
state - to practice healing?
# On not
keeping the symbols and their mantras/names secret
four Usui Reiki symbols are indeed considered Sacred by many of
us - but sacred is not the same as secret.
I feel, it is important to remember that while many westerners
tend to think of the Reiki 'symbols' as being four arcane, mystical
'glyphs', two of the four are simply words written in Japanese
kanji (Chinese Characters)
There are many thousands of kanji characters - some highly obscure
& only very rarely used; however every Second Grade student
in Japan is expected to be familiar with the three kanji: dai,
ko and myo.
So if every Second Grader is familiar with the kanji for 'DKM'
- how can we claim DKM is secret?
And every Fourth Grade student in Japan is expected to be familiar
with all the kanji used to write HSZSN
a similar vein, the suggestion that the symbol's Japanese 'names'
should not be spoken out loud in public is a bit like suggesting,
for example, that English-speakers should not be permitted to
speak the everyday words 'great bright light' (DKM).
In fact, some years back the phrase 'DKM' (- a big/great bright
light) was apparently used as part of an advertising slogan for
a Japanese company selling Flashlights!
I feel we also have to remember that the symbols/their names are
not exclusively the 'property' of Reiki
It is generally accepted that the SHK symbol is essentially a
poorly rendered version of the Buddhist 'seed symbol' Kiriku (pronounced
somewhere between K'rik and K'lik in Japanese)
Now while Kiriku is a Sacred symbol (being the 'spiritual emblem'
of both Amida Butsu and Senju Kannon Bosatsu) and has secret
significance to those initiated in the Mikkyo (esoteric) traditions
within Buddhism, the symbol itself is not secret. In fact
it is to be found on public display all over Japan.
DKM also has central significance within the religious group known
as Shumei (founded by Mokichi Okada - originator of the healing
practice called Johrei ). As a sacred Shumei symbol, is openly
on display in Shumei centres.
DKM is also of great importance in the practice of Johrei itself
- particularly in relation to the ohikari or 'focussing
pendant' used at the third level of this healing practice.
term Choku rei [though perhaps not the symbol itself] is an important
concept in the beliefs of both the Byakkõ Shinkõkai
and the Omoto kyo spiritual groups [though the Omoto kyo primarily
use the alternative 'reading' of the Choku rei kanji: Nao Hi]
as for the HSZSN - a version of it even crops up in historical
'magical charms' used by the Ninja !
# CKR - a Buddhist Symbol?
have heard several people asserting that the CKR is a Buddhist
symbol, however I have never found any evidence to suggest that
the CHR symbol has ever been used in Buddhism (yes of course,
there are variations on the spiral pattern that is part
of CKR used in Buddhist symbolism, but not the complete CKR itself)
# The Symbols and the Initiation process
the initiations as used and taught by Takata-sensei, the symbols
were used oh so sparingly compared to the way many people use
For whatever reasons, many people - including several of the '22'
- have felt the need to modify Takata-sensei's initiation process.
Many versions of initiation/attunement process now call for all
four symbols to be used in passing each level of Reiki.
However Takata-sensei taught that only certain symbols
were used at each level. Most importantly, the DKM was only
written during the level 3 attunement. Only its mantra
was used in passing the level 1 and 2 initiations.
personally feel it is down to issues of insecurity on the part
of several early post-Takata 'masters' (not trusting in the inherent
power of each symbol and the need only to use it as Takata-sensei
had taught) that we've ended up with people using all the symbols
at all the levels. A case of 'Belt and Braces' gone mad!
# The Symbols and different 'energies within
Takata-sensei's day the symbols had very specific proposes:
There was one symbol to focus, concentrate and intensify the effect
of Reiki; another, to facilitate the healing of psychological
issues; yet another, to form a temporary meditative connection
between Practitioner and Client at a distance; and finally, one
solely for use in initiating Reiki Masters.
Reiki was understood as a single, unified, integrated energy.
There was never any talk - never any concept - of the symbols
either representing, or connecting the Practitioner or Client
to, different 'energies within Reiki' or - as it is sometimes
expressed - different aspects or qualities of the
This idea of the symbols being linked to different energies, or
different aspects or qualities of the energy, was one of the many
new perceptions which developed within western Reiki in the years
after Takata-sensei's passing.
gradually, as various forms of western Reiki were imported into
Japan, this thoroughly modern, western 'New Age' perception of
the symbols also found its way into the newly-evolving Japanese
Reiki, and it was not long before we were being asked to believe
that not only was this in fact an original Japanese perception,
but that this was the primary reason why Usui-sensei had introduced
the symbols into Reiki in the first place: to assist certain students
in differentiating between the various different aspects
or qualities - the various 'energies within Reiki' ...!!
# 'Symbol 1', 'Symbol 2', etc...?
Doi received his initial western-style Reiki training from Mieko
Mitsui (though apparently later, he 'remembered' that he had
actually received Japanese Reiki training - albeit by a
different name - from a Japanese practitioner some years prior
to meeting Mitsui!)
Due to the nature of the teaching structure in the form of Reiki
taught and practiced by Mieko Mitsui (variously known as Authentic
Reiki, Real Reiki or The Radiance Technique), she herself was
only qualified to teach levels 1 and 2 in the art.
In this particular form of Reiki, at level 2 the student was taught
the standard three symbols, however, unlike in the more familiar
Usui Shiki Ryoho, at this level, the symbol's names/mantras
were not taught (this being something reserved for a higher
level in the system). Instead, the symbols which were referred
to as 'cosmic patterns' were simply identified by numbers.
Quite probably, none of Mitsui's level 2 students (including
Hiroshi Doi) would have even been aware that the symbols had
Is it mere coincidence then, that later, when Hiroshi Doi claimed
to have made contact with the 'original' Usui Reiki Society, he
also claimed (for a while at least) that in this 'secret' Reiki
organisation, the symbols were referred to, not by names, but
simply as 'Symbol 1', 'Symbol 2', etc...?