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REIKI - TIBETAN ORIGINS? - part 1
Copyright 2003 James Deacon

In Takata Sensei's 'teaching story' Usui Sensei is said to have discovered a 'key' to healing in the Buddhist Sutras.

This is the first suggestion that Reiki may have had Buddhist origins. However, as to precisely which Sutras (there are a vast number of Buddhist Sutras - primarily in Sanscrit and Pali, but a great many also translated into, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese), and exactly what form this 'key' took, was never explained by Takata Sensei.

[The Takata account also states that in his quest for the ability to heal, Usui Sensei traveled to the West to study. If this was in fact the case, in the course of his studies would no doubt have encountered the occidental healing practices which had become highly popular since the 18th century - the various forms of 'animal magnetism' or 'animal electricity' (also referred to as Mesmerism or Mesmeric Healing, ' Stroaking', 'Magnetic Healing', etc); and also various forms of (usually Christian-based) 'Spiritual Healing'.]

The idea that Reiki was a long-forgotten, ancient Tibetan form of healing, rediscovered by Usui Sensei, seems to have first been suggested by Arthur Robertson, a student of Iris Ishikuro (one of Takata-Sensei's 22 'Masters').

Arthur was the creator - in the early 1980's - of the first so-called 'Tibetan' Reiki style: Raku Kei Reiki.

Tibet has long been seen as the secret fount of seemingly all Spiritual Wisdom - this, in the main, being due to the 'hype' created in the 19th century by various Esoteric groups such as the Theosophists, and others, who became obsessed with Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism, Mysticism and Magic. So perhaps it was only to be expected that the idea of Reiki being a practice from the 'mysterious land of Tibet' [an idea, it must be clearly stated, that has never been backed up with any factual evidence] would grip the hearts and imaginations of a great many of the' new age' Reiki contingent.

The notion that Reiki originated in Tibet became widely popularised as a result of the marketing success of Diane Steine's book: 'Essential Reiki', which (while not actually being the first book to do so) became (in)famous for openly depicting versions of the Reiki Symbols. (However, Steine sought not only to merge Reiki with Tibetan Tantra, but also with Wiccan 'Goddess-centred' beliefs as well.)

Richard Blackwell (AKA Lama Yeshe Drugpa Trinley Odzer) - a Clinical Psychologist who claimed to be ordained as both a Tibetan Lama and Japanese Shingon Priest, is perhaps, along with Diane Steine, one of the primary individuals responsible for propagating the supposed Tibetan origins of Reiki.

Essentially responsible for the creation of 'Medicine Dharma Reiki', 'Universal Healing Reiki' and 'Men Chhos Rei-Ki', Blackwell claimed to be in possession of many of Usui Sensei's original papers, including the very 'Sutra' in which Usui-Sensei (re-)discovered Reiki.

Blackwell claimed that this 'Sutra' - apparently called the 'Tantra of the Lightning Flash' - and supposed to be a Tibetan Esoteric (i.e.. 'Vajra' or ''Tantric') Buddhist text - outlined a comprehensive healing method - the original 'Reiki'.

Blackwell even went so far as to claim that the 'Tantra of the Lightning Flash' had been brought to Japan by Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon - one of the two major branches of Japanese Mikkyo (Esoteric) Buddhism.

[It is historical fact that Kukai had actually returned to Japan (from China) with the sacred texts on which Shingon was founded, several years before Guru Rinpoche (founder of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism) had even taken the Tantric teachings from India to Tibet. Further, the original catalogue of the texts brought to Japan by Kukai still exists, and this 'Tantra of the Lightning Flash' is not one of them].

More recently, it has emerged that Blackwell based his whole premise for the Tibetan origins of Reiki almost entirely on so-called 'channeled' information...

Much of the (unfounded) 'evidence' that Reiki comes from Tibet, revolves around the fact that in Tibetan Buddhism there is a deity: Sangye Menla referred to as the 'Medicine Buddha' - a Buddha of Healing. It is frequently suggested that this 'Medicine Buddha' is the source of Reiki healing.

However, Sangye Menla is simply the Tibetan name for the Buddhist deity known in India as: Bhaishajya-guru.

And most of those who are of the 'Reiki comes from Tibet' persuasion seem to either gloss over (or be unaware of ) the fact that this same Buddhist deity - under the name:Yakushi - has, from the very outset, played an important role in Japanese Mikkyo tradition, which as mentioned above, was actually established before Vajra (Tantric) Buddhism was taken from India to Tibet...

Others of the 'Reiki comes from Tibet' persuasion, cite the fact that Tibetan Buddhist traditions utilise initiation procedures to confer ability/'spiritual power' from master to student as evidence - but miss the point that all esoteric Buddhist traditions - Indian, Chinese & Japanese, etc., also make use of such practices...

Many have claimed that the Reiki Symbols (that is, the four original symbols taught by Usui-Sensei himself - as opposed to later additions, modifications and 'other-cultural imports') are secret Tibetan symbols.

Now while the origin of the socalled 'power' symbol is still disputed, it is generally accepted that the 'mental/emotional' symbol is almost certainly a stylisation of a character [from a form of the Sanscrit script known as 'Siddham' - or shittan in Japanese] which is used in esoteric Japanese Buddhism as the 'spiritual emblem' of the Buddha Amida.

The 'distance' symbol and the 'master' symbol however, are actually Japanese phrases written in kanji characters. While adopted by the Japanese, kanji are originally Chinese ideograms, not Tibetan characters or symbols. Tibet had (and still has) it's own independent system of writing.The Chinese system of writing was not used in ancient Tibet.



Part 2 of this article to follow at a later date



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