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Four symbols - no less, no more

Whether the symbols were a part of Reiki from the very outset, or were added some time later, one thing that we know for certain is that there were four symbols - and only four.

However, since the early 1980's onwards, several Reiki practitioners have created their own personalized 'brands' or styles of Reiki.

Some of these people created modified versions of the original symbols (e.g. mirror images, etc), or even replaced one or more of the originals with a completely different symbol. Others use modified versions in conjunction with the originals or have added symbols from various different spiritual/esoteric systems, and also added brand new, channeled, symbols.

And, just as they had done with the actual symbols themselves, some of the creators of these new 'brands' of Reiki have also altered, added to, or even replaced the meaning and association - the core purpose, function and significance - of the original symbols, to suit their own personal beliefs.

It must be said that, in some instances, change to the actual significance of the symbols was due to little more than over-enthusiastic 'clutching at straws' in what was otherwise probably a genuine attempt to uncover possible original symbol-associations that, it was believed, had somehow been 'misplaced' in the transmission of the system down through the 'Reiki Generations' from Usui-sensei's day.

The Four Elements

For example, some people decided that the four symbols must be linked to the Four Elements: CKR to Earth, SHK to Water, HSZSN to Fire, DKM to Air. (However, some, who had subscribed to the Four Symbols/Elements association, on later discovering that the concept of the Four Elements is actually a western concept and that in Japanese esoteric thought there are Five Elements, rather than admitting that the association was therefore somewhat flawed, decided that originally there must have been a fifth symbol, and set off on a quest to discover this 'long lost' Reiki symbol!)

Heaven and Earth

Others - influenced no doubt by Taoist yin-yang theory - decided that CKR must represent the 'Earthly' energy, and SHK the 'Heavenly' or spiritual energy.
(As to where the other two symbols come in, well this was and is usually glossed over.)


Yet others, focussing on the belief that Usui-sensei was a Tendai Buddhist*, decided to attempt to, as it were, 're-Buddha-fy' the significance of the four symbols.

*(Even though there is no more 'hard' evidence to prove Usui-sensei was Tendai than there is to prove he was a Christian - as was previously believed)

As we have seen, it is probable that the SHK symbol was originally derived from the shuji (Siddham character) Kiriku - which in Buddhist belief is associated with both Amida Butsu and Senju Kannon (Kanzeon) Bosatsu.

Following on with this line of thought so it seems, some in the 'pro-Tendai camp' decided that each of the Reiki symbols must represent a particular Buddhist Deity, and therefore also represent the symbolic significance of that particular deity.

Yet, while the three symbols we know as the Reiki symbols SHK, HSZSN and DKM are also seen to have certain significance within Buddhism, this does not mean that these symbols - when used in the context of the Reiki system - have the same significance as they do in their Buddhist usage.

Nonetheless, these pro-Tendai Reiki folk promptly proceeded to assign a Buddhist deity to each of the Reiki symbols.

As Buddhas (Butsu) 'out-rank' Bodhisattvas (Bosatsu), Amida won out over Senju Kannon and was assigned to the Reiki symbol believed to have been derived from their joint shuji symbol, i.e. the SHK. Some even went as far as to change the name of the symbol to: Muryouju, others to: Mugen Muryouju [Muryouju is the Japanese name for Amida in his manifestation as 'Buddha of Infinite Life']

But as the male deity Senju Kannon is a very popular figure in Japanese Buddhism, it was presumably decided that he could not be left out, so Senju Kannon Bosatsu was assigned to HSZSN. Though, what connection there may be between the significance of HSZSN in its Reiki usage and this particular Bosatsu, is unclear. The same goes for the supposed connection between the CKR symbol and the Buddhist deity assigned to it: the Bosatsu (Dai)Seishi.

Finally, the pro-Tendai Reiki folk chose to assign the Butsu Dainichi (or Dainichi Nyorai as he is known in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism) to the DKM symbol. [Perhaps it should also be noted that Dainichi is actually the central Buddha of the Shingon school of Buddhism]

However, there were yet others who, in a similar attempt to link the symbols to specific Buddhist deities, decided (for whatever vague reason) that the Bodhisatva Monju should be assigned to SHK, the Buddha Ashuku to HSZSN, and Amida to DKM. Finally, they too opted to assign Dai Seichi to the CKR.

So, we have those who have attempted to overlay the Reiki symbols with (conflicting) Buddhist associations, others who have sought to clothe the symbols in western esoteric Four Elements associations, and yet others seeking to associate the symbols with Taoist concept of the energies of Heaven & Earth.

Kurama Kokyo

Yet others still, have sought to read into the Reiki symbols, associations with the beliefs of the Kurama Kokyo sect - an independent 'new religion' with strong Buddhist ties.

The primary reason for attempting to create this association seems to be due to the fact that the temple complex on Mount Kurama (where, of course, Usui-sensei experienced the 'Reiki Phenomenon' ) is the headquarters of the Kurama Kokyo sect.

Kurama Kokyo worships a Supreme Deity known as Sonten. Viewed as the source of all creation, Sonten, 'the universal soul', is perceived as a triune deity, expressing in the world as the three spiritual qualities of Power, Love and Light.

In Kurama Kokyo belief, these three qualities are personified in the form of three deities, since ancient times closely associated with Mount Kurama. The quality of Power, seen to correspond to the Earth, is embodied by the Shinto deity Maoson (or Gohomaoson). The quality of Love, seen to correspond to the Moon, is embodied by the now familiar Buddhist deity Senju Kannon. The quality of Light, seen to correspond to the Sun, is embodied by the Buddhist deity Bishamon-ten.

The Kurama Kokyo sect also makes use of the shuji symbols associated with each of these three deities to represent the spiritual qualities of Power, Love and Light - the three individual aspects of Sonten's nature.

On learning this, some Reiki practitioners, it seems, leapt to the conclusion that, as Usui Sensei had experienced the Reiki Phenomenon on Mount Kurama, which is the headquarters of the Kurama Kokyo sect, then the shuji used by the sect to represent Power, Love and Light must surely be the source of the first three of Usui-sensei's Reiki Symbols; especially seeing that Senju Kannon's kiriku was amongst the three.

Thus it was not long before the 'Power of Sonten', the 'Love of Sonten', and the 'Light of Sonten' - with their correspondences to Earth, Moon and Sun - were being equated with CKR, SHK, and HSZSN. Also, the shuji representing the 'Power of Sonten' and the 'Light of Sonten' were being hailed (though as it transpired, without foundation) as probable original forms of the CKR and HSZSN symbols respectively. (The shuji representing the 'Love of Sonten' i.e. kiriku, of course already being more widely accepted as the probable source of SHK).
To complete the symbol set, the unity that is Sonten himself was equated with the DKM.

However there was one slight flaw in attempting to associate the qualities of the Kurama Kokyo's Sonten deity with the Reiki symbols. Although the temple complex on Mount Kurama is currently the headquarters of the Kurama Kokyo, the sect and its Sonten doctrine did not even exist during Usui-sensei's lifetime.

In fact, it did not come into being until nearly a quarter of a century after Usui-sensei's death.

The 'Power' Symbol

The 'Power Symbol' and its 'secret Shinto jumon'

The 'Mental-Emotional Healing' Symbol

Various different forms of Symbol 2

The 'Distant' Symbol

Various different forms of Symbol 3

The 'Master' Symbol

The Master Symbol part 2 - The Reiki symbol that (supposedly) never was...

Various different forms of Symbol 4

The Introduction of the symbols into Reiki

'Training Wheels' or Essential, Deeper 'Spiritual Tools'?

The Symbols from a Japanese Buddhist Perspective

The Kurama Kokyo Sect and the Reiki Symbols

The Choku Rei Trail - the terms 'Choku Rei', 'Dai Ko Myo'
and 'Reiki' in Japanese 'New Religions



Reiki Pages


reiki books and music

reiki books and music

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