USUI-SENSEI AND REIKI
The terms Reiki, Reiho, and Reiki Ryoho revisited
© 2006 James Deacon
[Edited: Feb, 2007]
Usui-sensei did not re-discover 'Reiki' nor did
he create or develop 'Reiki'
What Usui-sensei did was to create/develop a system of spiritual
practice the primary purpose of which, it seems, was
to act as a medium for (incrementally) sharing with others the
actual transformative phenomenon he himself had experienced during
his now-legendary meditation on Kurama Yama.
he did not call this spiritual practice 'Reiki'
need to remember that our useage of the word Reiki - to
identify the system developed by Usui-sensei - is a very
modern, western, mis-application of the term. Likewise,
our use of the word as a verb, indicating the actual performance
of a treatment.
the modern understanding of Reiki (i.e the phenomenon itself)
as 'energy' may be somewhat different to the understanding Usui-sensei
So if Usui-senseis spiritual practice was not called Reiki,
what was it called then?
some would have us believe it was called Usui Teate,
others, Usui Do.
the only solid source of information we have [and I use the word
solid in a very literal sense I refer to the
Memorial stone which stands at the side of Usui-senseis
tomb], disagrees with both these suggestions.
title of the inscription on the Usui memorial clearly identifies
Usui-sensei as the founder of 'Reiho'.
while some folk have attempted to make us believe that 'Reiho'
was a contraction a shorthand version - of the phrase 'Reiki
Ryoho', it seems this is quite incorrect.
actually refers to a 'Spiritual method' - in this case: Usui's
spiritual method: Usui Reiho
the spiritual practice: this spiritual method developed
by Usui-sensei - whether it was part of the original intention
or not  was also
perceived to awaken in the individual, strong therapeutic abilities.
this therapeutic aspect of the practice (i.e. what we commonly
refer to as Reiki) was identified by the name Usui
Reiki Ryoho 
Usuis Reiki healing method
So, what exactly is Reiki (in this context)?
people still incorrectly state that 'Reiki' translates as 'universal
- and it must be said that the other common translation: 'Spiritual
energy', while perhaps moving far more in the right direction
is, it seems, still not quite correct
are many words in Japanese that may be described as ki-words
- compound-words formed by adding the familiar ki
(as in Rei-ki ) to the end of another word. Examples include:
genki, inki, and tenki.
if we attempt to translate such compound-words by simply translating
and combining the meanings of the two individual original
words, this will not necessarily give us an accurate translation
of the compound-word itself.
us take, for example, the word tenki - as a stand-alone,
ten signifies heaven, or sky. Ki is of course most
commonly translated as spirit, energy (or feeling).
the compound tenki would therefore perhaps mean:
Heaven Energy (as opposed to Earth Energy)?
actually it simply means: Weather!
combining the literal meanings of the two parts of the compound
Reiki does not really give us a truly accurate understanding
of the compound itself.
research would suggest that Reiki - as the term is used
in the name Usui Reiki Ryoho - more immediately translates
simply as spirit or 'spiritual'; thus Usui Reiki
Ryoho translates most clearly as: Usui's spiritual healing-method
certain usage, the kanji-pair used to write Reiki can indicate
something like 'spiritual essence' or 'spiritual influence'
the term Reiki is used in the name Usui Reiki Ryoho,
there is not necessarily any direct reference to energy
- in this context, the ki part of the compound would simply
seem to speak to the dynamic - the effect of spirit in
As stated above, Usui-sensei did not re-discover, or for that
matter create or develop, something called 'Reiki'
did he re-discover or create/invent/develop Reiki Ryoho
meaning 'Spiritual Healing (Method)', the term Reiki Ryoho
had apparently been used by various people in connection with
their own particular therapeutic practices.
example, in 1919, a therapist named M. Kawakami published a book
entitled: Reiki Ryoho To Sono Koka (Spiritual Healing &
Its Effects); and Fumio Ogawa tells us that a Mr Daiseido Tanaka
also practiced his own particular method of Reiki Ryoho,
prior to Usui-sensei developing his Spiritual Healing
did not invent Reiki Ryoho. What he actually created
was 'Usui Reiki Ryoho'.
It would seem that what he created was named Usui Reiki
Ryoho out of a need to differentiate between it and the
Reiki Ryoho practiced by other Spiritual Healers of the
there were also other healers who referred to their practice
as Shinrei Ryoho and research would seem to suggest that
the terms Reiki Ryoho and Shinrei Ryoho are interchangeable
expressions. - - the terms Reiki and Shinrei both
translating as spiritual.
The term Reiki also appears in the philosophy of the Omoto
Kyo spiritual group (who were particularly influential during
the early 20thC) - indicating, not 'energy' per se but
rather the energetic-effect of the innermost aspect of
the human spirit.
Kyo talks of the ichirei ['one spirit'] - that spark of
the divine that resides in everything living thing in creation.
ichirei [- the 'rei' here, indicating spirit, is the same
rei as in Reiki] this spiritual essence - is seen to manifest
more profoundly in higher lifeforms.
in human beings, the divine spark is referred to as nao hi
- spiritual presence or spirit direct (from
hi is "... the simplest, purest, innermost aspect of
the human spirit, embodying supreme good and ultimate beauty
which is able to save your body and soul
Reiki can be seen as the manifest effect of
Nao hi in action
is also interesting to note that the kanji for nao hi can
also be read as choku rei without any change or
loss in meaning
In the Reiki Ryoho Hikkei (Treatment Companion/Guide),
Usui-sensei is quoted as saying that he did not go in search of
This term is used in the Hikkei
The whole concept of Reiki being understood to refer to "universal/life-force
energy" (i.e. in the sense of an energy outside of
ourself) seems to really be something quite modern - a Western
conceptualisation that was imported into Japan in the 1980's.
In a diary entry dated Dec. 10 1935, Takata-sensei wrote about
within oneself "
- and also about how we must "...meditate
to let the "Energy" come out from within."
Concerning the "Energy" she said: "It
lies in the bottom of your stomach about 2 in. below the navel."
would seem to be a very different view of Reiki from that
commonly held by many people today...
Again in the Hikkei, Usui-sensei is quoted as saying that he did
not receive this method from anyone else
Compare with this quote from the Hikkei: "Every living, breathing
being possesses the spiritual ability to heal. This is true of
plants, animals, fish and insects, but it is humans - the culmination
of creation - who possess the greatest power. Our method is a
practical manifestation of this power."