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Origin of the Reiki Attunement 

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Last Updated: December 2, 2009
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This page is one of a series where I give my ideas on aspects of Reiki.  They are intended to give some "food for thought" and are only my viewpoint.   While a number of facts may be included, you should decide for yourself how much (if any) of the content feels right to you

One of the most interesting aspects of any Reiki class is the ceremony that is referred to as an "attunement" or "reiju". I've discovered that there is no one unique ceremony, but rather there are many versions to be found, both inside and outside Japan.  These come in various lengths, complexity and secrecy.  I often wondered where did they all come from, why are they different and why does the Reiki energy not always feel the same?

Looking to the Origins

To answer that I needed to look back at what I learned of the original methods of Usui Sensei.  Back in 1996, in my studies with Dave King  he talked about how certain Japanese masters taught that Usui Sensei did not have an empowerment ceremony.  Instead, Usui Sensei used a small ceremony for a sort of "blessing" he would give to a student the first time he or she took a new level of training.  In studying with Andy Bowling in 2008 he too confirmed that prior to 1920 Usui would give a sort of blessing to students when he met with them.  (Andy was teaching the knowledge Chris Marsh had learned in Japan about Usui). So it seems that from the time Usui was teaching in a sort of unorganized fashion in Kyoto, to the later days of his more formal style of classes in Tokyo, he had gradually developed his approach to such a ceremony. 

The interesting thing about it was that with this ceremony, Dave explained that there was no intention to pass any energy or Ki to the student.  For example, the process Usui Sensei used in 1923 in his Nakano-ku, Tokyo dojo was intended only to mark the possible transformation that a student might experience due to teachings in the current level of class being studied.  The ceremony was only given the first time the student took the class, and only outwardly presented (i.e. it was visible) as such in each of the lower levels of his training, from Rokyu or Shoden to that of Nidan or Kaiden (Note that students were expected to retake classes until they had completely absorbed and understood the knowledge to the teacher's satisfaction.)  The ceremony was performed behind the drapes of the tokonoma at the front of the dojo and was short and simple.  In a way, it's purpose might be viewed as being similar to the awarding of the coloured belt in some Japanese martial arts classes.

Dave told me:
"In the 1923 system there was a transformation at each level from rokyu to shichidan [13 in all]. The transformations for the lowest 8 levels were identical. Each of the remaining transformations were different, culminating in the waterfall misogi for schichidan [brrrr]. We were told that there was some special significance to the transformations at rokyu, shodan, nidan, yondan, godan, rokudan and shichidan. .......In a system for the self, one does not require others to raise ones ki, they just need to be in that place of shikan." 

(shikan - calm abiding and clear observation - as in Tendai meditation)

Misogi Waterfall Ritual
(click here for source of image)
Dave's sources/teachers were the Hayashi student Tatsumi-san, the Eguchi student Yuji Onuki, and the Usui student known as Tenon-in or Mariko-obaasan.  In fact he and his colleague Melissa Riggall each experienced the shichidan process from Tatsumi - Dave in 1995 and Melissa in 1996. They may be the only non-Japanese to have done so. In 2006 Dave published a book about his experiences with Usui related students - "O-Sensei - A View of Mikao Usui"

Usui Sensei was also known to hold a great amount of personal Ki naturally. Sensitive people seemed to pick up on it when near him. In Mochizuki's 2002 book "Cho-Kantan Iyashino Te" he says:

"There are a lot of anecdotes about Usui Sensei.  He had a very intense spiritual power; a lot of people instantly felt the Reiki energy at the time they met Usui Sensei; at a workshop, students could be given the Reiki energy by touching Sensei's garments." 
By Reiki energy of course Mochizuki means the natural high powered Ki that Sensei radiated due to his own spiritual development.  One day in 1996, while in the home of Tatsumi-san, Melissa pointed to the kanji for "Reiki" on the small photo of the Usui Gainen, Tatsumi-san had.  She said this was what the healing system was known as outside Japan.  Tatsumi explained that they never called it that; they simply called it "Teāte" (tey-ah-tey -- hand or palm treatment).  He said Usui was referring to his ancestors when he used that term.

So how is it that Usui Sensei is given credit for passing on his "Reiki" energy?  Well, you might consider how you tend to radiate the strong energy of your emotions as you express your feelings about a powerful situation you experienced, or perhaps about a favourite topic. So too might Usui Sensei have been strongly expressing his Ki automatically as he talked passionately about his beliefs and topics in his classes.  For example, as he taught the old Chinese Taoist concepts of the symbols, he might have been unconsciously expressing his own development of each of the four he used in his system. 

I had a similar experience in 2002 with Mr. Hiroshi Doi when he once explained to me the reference names used in the URR Gakkai for these symbol energies. For example, instead of calling the first one the "Power Symbol" as is so often heard outside Japan, he said in the Gakkai it was referred to as "Zuin."  (Note: this is not it's kotodama in the Gakkai).  At the same time, Doi unconsciously was radiating a much stronger version of each energy than I had ever felt in his classes, or any one else's for that matter.  I am guessing that he was radiating the particular energy he might have experienced in the presence of his own URR Gakkai teacher for each of these.

I had another experience like this in 2000 in Kyoto as I was being led across a large hotel hallway to be introduced to  Mrs. Yamaguchi, another student of Dr. Hayashi's from the 1930's.  She was not looking in my direction as I approached,  but as I got within 10 feet of her I felt myself step into a powerful energy field.  It reminded me of what Mr. Doi had explained,  that the URR Gakkai teach that one eventually can become the Reiki energy as one works with it.  However, I found Mrs. Yamaguchi's own personal energy to be much softer than her Reiki energy.  Still, as I say it was quite noticeable to me.

Reiki Reiju / Denju is Born

While this might explain how Sensei could have unintentionally shared his natural Ki at times, what we now call "Rei Ki", it didn't tell me how the URR Gakkai Reiki attunement or reiju process came about. The answer may be found with one of Usui's senior students, Toshihro Eguchi.

Dave King was told by Usui student Tenon-in that Eguchi first took the complete Usui training with Sensei in Kyoto in 1921. This was at Sensei's dojo, not far from the foot of Mount Hiei, which is the home of the Tendai Buddhist main temple.  As I mentioned, it was a time when Sensei's system was still unstructured. Tenon-in explained to Dave and Melissa that she and the other four lay nuns volunteering to work with Sensei, would come from the Tendai temple each day and spend the day learning Usui's teachings (she said he simply called them "my way" - hence Usui-do or Usui-no-michi), as well as making many pots of tea and generally cleaning up after Sensei and his paying students (still a traditional role for some dojo.)

Usui Sensei (and his family and the nuns) then moved to Tokyo in 1922 (it's interesting to note that Usui's brother, Dr. Sanya Usui, a medical doctor, lived there with his family).  The following year Eguchi followed them, taking a job as a high school principal in the Tokyo area.  Eguchi also rented the Usui dojo 2 evenings a week (paying Usui a large fee) to teach some of his own ideas. This was a common practice in the dojo and allowed Usui Sensei some additional income.  As Eguchi taught, Sensei would sit on the side and observe and monitor, but he did encourage Tenon-in and others to take note. 

At that time, Usui-Do (Dave says it was perhaps better known as "Usui-no-michi") was now structured into 13 levels of training (modeled after the martial art of Judo), although few completed the final steps.  Tenon-in and her sister nuns were allowed to complete to rokudan while Eguchi, and later Dr. Hayashi, were 2 of the very few (possibly 3) to reach shichidan (see the Usui-Do table.)  As I mentioned before, dojo students (doka) normally re-took classes over and over but as dojo members (paying a monthly fee) they could sit in on the evening lectures of Eguchi and others as well.  Eguchi eventually influenced modifications into the Usui system and by 1925 he was teaching as his evening class, a popular version known to students as Usui Teāte, which Sensei did endorse (according to Tenon-in.

One of these changes involved Eguchi applying to each student, his own version of a simple ceremony, which he eventually termed Denju.   He had borrowed this from a friend named Nishida.  Like Usui's, the ceremony was a form of blessing offered to each doka without condition or intent.  Originally the ceremony contained a Komyo Kaigan (a form of prayer), but Usui Sensei would not allow this part because meetings in the dojo were sometimes monitored by officials of the Emperor looking for unauthorized religions (only Shinto and Buddhist sects were allowed).  Tenon-in recalled at least 3 such visits to the Usui dojo. 

Tenon-in also reported that Eguchi's blessing was given during class to each student, each time they took the class.  As mentioned, the purpose of the ceremony was to mark the possible transformation that the student might experience due to the teachings. Standing in front of a student, Eguchi would simply hold his hands around him (or her), but did not intend to apply any Ki.  However, it is quite likely that his natural Ki had grown substantially in the continuing presence of Usui Sensei and with his own inner work; and thus like Usui, he too may have radiated a strong Ki. Participants in both these men's classes were most likely getting a lot of strong energy exposure, over and over.

An example of this kind of experience for me occurred when I took UsuiTeāte training with Dave King in 2004.  Dave was using the original ceremony attributed by Tenon-in to Usui Sensei.  As Dave moved around us with our eyes closed, I could sense his very strong yet soft energy, and I could easily resonate with it.  With my energy training I later found I could duplicate it and enjoy it again and again; kind of like replaying a very enjoyable time. 

Perhaps this kind of experience is what later motivated Eguchi to change his intentions or purpose while using his ceremony.  Eguchi's method became a standard part of the new Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai healing oriented  training that Admiral Ushida encouraged Eguchi to develop in December 1925.  By late January 1926, the original Reiki empowerment ceremony was born and part of the new healing system in a society that Ushida called Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai - presumably honoring the essence of Usui's Gainen.

We get a bit of a description of this simple Eguchi ceremony in a later Japanese publication.  In 1927 Eguchi left the URR Gakkai due to disagreements with Admiral Ushida.  He formed his own healing system and allowed advertising, magazine articles and books to be written about it.  A look at the 1930 book "Teno Hira Ryoji" written by a senior Eguchi student named Koshi Mitsui produces such an example of the Eguchi ceremony at this time. Mitsui quotes one of Eguchi's patients, Junichi Tashiro, as saying:

"After the treatment, I received a Denju.  Eguchi-sensei placed his hand on my head and then blew strongly on the top of the head.  He touched my Gassho hands and seemed to pray something.  He repeated this on me within 15 minutes.  He told me that when I received Denju for 3 continuous days, I would be capable of giving Denju to others.  After giving me a Denju, Eguchi-sensei told me that I had to practice this method and give treatment to others, as many as possible; otherwise, the effectiveness of the method would disappear." 
The kanji used in the book for the term "denju" translates to "initiation."  Notice that Eguchi had added back in the prayer or Komyo Kaigan, possibly because he was performing the ceremony in private. The fact that he felt his recipient could give Denju to others after 3 days of repetition is quite interesting.  However, I wonder how well and efficiently someone without Eguchi's training and experience could do this.  Perhaps this was the reason why several initial applications were encouraged; it would have given the recipient more exposure, much like the experiences in the Usui dojo.

Reiju in the URR Gakkai

Going back to late December 1925, this was when Admiral Ushida and his large group of navy retainers first enrolled in the dojo. According to Tenon-in, Ushida immediately took over the dojo (presumably the evening classes given by Eguchi?).  She said that since the students were effectively paying the bills, Usui Sensei did not formally object.  It seems Ushida had learned of the healing experiments that Eguchi and Dr. Hayashi were conducting in recent months during Eguchi's evening classes.  As I mentioned previously, Tenon-in said Ushida then influenced a new system based on healing, which he called Usui Reiki Ryoho. This system had 3 main levels, plus a ceremony eventually called "reiju" was being used to now assist the transformation in each class. After Usui's passing, a level of branch leader/teacher or Shihan was added as the Gakkai spread out to over 60 branches across Japan.  It's possible that the original target for this healing system was the navy.  According to F.A. Petter, many of the original sites where lectures were held by the URR Gakkai were in locations where there was a navy base.

Mr. Doi, a current URR Gakkai member, taught me that the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (learning society) held several days of classes for the first level of training, each usually a couple hours in length.  Classes may have been held on consecutive days or as part of a branch's frequent meetings.  During each class, reiju was performed with each student.  Mr. Doi said that while some seemed to be able to express a high amount of Ki after one reiju, it was felt that after at least 5 applications, all students were successful. 

The first ceremony being used by Ushida and others was similar to the Eguchi ceremony (quoted above in the Mitsui book.)  At the URRI 2002 conference I hosted with Tom Rigler in Toronto, Mr. Doi demonstrated this reiju. 

He also explained that over the years the URR Gakkai have continually changed their method of reiju so as to try to improve on it, although this particular version is no longer in use. The following was the Ushida procedure for each recipient:

  1. Stand in front of the receiver. 
  2. Gassho and bow.
  3. Place your hands to each side of the receiver's head. 
  4. Place the middle finger of each of your hands onto the receiver's temples.
  5. Breathe Reiki energy into the receiver's crown with a sharp blow to the top of the head.
  6. Do this 3 times.
  7. Gassho and bow.
This procedure would also be used during Hatsurei-ho meditation at the beginning of each Gakkai meeting. Mr. Doi had a humorous anecdote to share with this version of reiju. He said that sometimes the Gakkai president  (Ushida) would accidentally spit as he blew onto the crown of the receiving Gakkai member. So some of the members would place a small cloth over their crown before the reiju was given. 

As I mentioned, eventually this reiju was replaced by other ceremonies as some Gakkai presidents or branch Shihan attempted to improve on the ceremony.  Another version Mr. Doi once demonstrated to a group of us (in a Madrid restaurant in 2001) involved alternating 2 hand placements around the head. 

  1. The first placement required pointing the index and second fingers of the dominant hand above and towards the recipient's crown (although not touching it), 
  2. at the same time, the same was done with the first two fingers of the other hand, in front of and pointing towards the forehead. 
  3. This was held for about a fast count of 10. 
  4. The second placement involved repeating the above but this time using the flat of the palm of each hand in the same locations.
  5. Again, this was held for a fast count of 10. 
  6. These alternating hand placements were repeated 3 times. 
Presumably the procedure would be preceded and followed with a bow to the recipient. 

If you have learned Mr. Doi's Gendai Reiju and Gendai Power Reiju you can see where he may have gotten some of his ideas from these 2 Gakkai reiju 

Dr. Hayashi's Original Modifications 

Dr. Hayashi seemed to prefer Eguchi's original ceremony and used a modified form of this in his classes.  In 1931 he made a break from the URR Gakkai, formed his own school and made more changes to his system.  Because of this, several of his senior members, including Mr. Tatsumi, left the clinic at this time.  Hayashi still gave reiju during each class day, but according to Mrs. Yamaguchi (in "The Hayashi Reiki Manual" - Petter, Yamaguchi), he would also have his students who were in teacher training (Shinpiden) practice reiju on new students.  This matched somewhat what Mr. Doi told me about new students attending their first URR Gakkai meeting, that at least 2 of the teachers (Shihan) or Shinpiden present would give reiju to the new member during the opening Hatsurei-ho meditation.  After which he or she would be assigned to a teacher.

In his second level class (Chuuden) Dr. Hayashi would use a modified form of his Shoden reiju as he introduced each of the first 3 traditional Usui symbols.  Hayashi was now drawing one of the symbols over the student's palm as he held his Ki there during Reiju.  Three separate reiju were given, one for each symbol. 

This version was taught to Dave King by Mr. Tatsumi.  Dave used a modified form of this in his Traditional Japanese Reiki school from 1995 to 2000, but the heart of the ceremony and the hand placements were from what Tatsumi-san had taught Dave and Melissa.  In November 1998, Melissa explained to me that she had spent much time in Japan after Mr. Tatsumi's passing, going over and following up his notes from his years with Dr. Hayashi.  She then spent the remainder of her life (1997 to 2003) in China at a Taoist retreat outside of Harbin, to track down more sources from the Tatsumi notes. 

She explained the 7 levels of empowerments that were in the Tatsumi documentation:
When Given


- in first connecting transformation - practitioner opening
- in the 3 practitioner symbol transformations - practitioner completion
  (this is made up of the 3 Okuden empowerments)
- in the #4 symbol transformation - shinpiden empowerment
- given to the new teacher at initial training
- given to the new teacher at completion of training
- given to the senior teacher
- given to Melissa Riggall and Dave King by Tatsumi Sensei. 

Melissa said Tatsumi taught that the empowerments or transformations given beyond #3 (above) involved no ritual or movements at all, and were all done with a form of intention.  In his book "O-Sensei: A View of Mikao Usui" Dave said that #7 involved "... a pre-dawn misogi no O-harai at the waterfall of the Tsubaki Shrine in the Mie province of Japan that served as my transformation to the shichidan level of the system."  (see the photo above for an example.)

As I mentioned earlier, by 1938 Dr. Hayashi was making changes to his system, and the above levels of empowerments and achievement seemed to have been reduced.  In my article "Why So Many Reiki Styles" I explain how change has always been a constant attribute to the Reiki system, right from its beginnings.  Mrs. Yamaguchi's classes that were given to non-Japanese (beginning in 2000) followed a methodology she told Mr. Doi that was used by Dr. Hayashi, perhaps mainly when he was conducting infrequent out of town classes far away from his clinic.  She would hold class over 5 days and dedicate 2 days to Shoden and 3 days to Chuuden.  Each class day was about 2 hours or more in length, with a reiju/attunement given to every student each day.  And just as Dr. Hayashi had made his own changes to the system, the Yamaguchi's were adding in other influences to theirs, particularly some Joh-Rei content favored by Tadao. 

Mrs. Yamaguchi and her son Tadao began calling their system "Jikiden Reiki", which might also explain a changing view on the Reiki reiju or attunement process.  George (Tan-lin) Mullen, a student of Eguchi trained Yuji Onuki, shared this explanation of that term with me. 

"In a Jikiden system (using initiation or reiju) what happens is that the "belief" of the "master" is passed directly to the body-mind of the recipient. The classical jikiden pattern for QI emission is one opening (KAI), one building up, one reinforcement and one closing "attunement". For a symbol one uses a single "attunement" in which the "master" draws out the symbol and silently says the kotodama which results in a transfer of total knowledge of that symbol - but only the material revealed to the student in the class is "remembered" and the rest stays "hidden"."
This might imply that there was a stronger intention included as part of the ceremony each student experienced.  It's possible that this was even part of the URR Gakkai reiju as well.

Dr. Hayashi's Attunements After 1931

The next episode of attunements seems to involve Hawayo Takata, a Hawaiian student of Dr. Hayashi who trained partly in his Tokyo clinic and also in Hawaii during Dr. Hayashi's 1938 visit.  Her initial version of the attunements seem close to what Tatsumi had learned.  Rev. Hyakuten Inamoto told me of introducing Fran Brown to Mrs. Yamaguchi before she began teaching again in 2000.  He said they compared their ceremonies and they were pretty close.  Inamoto said that at that time, Mrs. Yamaguchi would begin her ceremony in the front of a person, possibly because she felt this was more proper when giving reiju to a man. 

By 1979 Mrs. Takata seemed to have made changes to her ceremony.  Where each reiju or attunement given at the first level used to be exactly the same, now there were slight changes for each day or class segment.  As Takata's students began to teach on their own, some made more changes, even lengthening the entire process.  The Reiki Alliance seemed to offer different variations from time to time, and some of the next generation students like Arthur Robertson began adding in components from other sources like Taoism and new symbols into the process.  An example of 2 lineages downstream from Robertson are the Tera-Mai Reiki lineage of K. Milner and the International Center for Reiki Training lineage of W. Rand.  Both make use of the Taoist microcosmic orbit that Robertson introduced, but one has a kidney breath and the other leaves this out.

Those two systems are also good examples of North American teachers being influenced by Spirit Guides or an inner knowingness to make additional changes to their attunement methods.  Milner was guided not only to change her attunement but was also given new symbol energies and a shift to her Reiki energy.  Students of her could definitely feel the changes each modification brought.  Rand felt guided to combine the multiple attunements into one ceremony, which proved to be just as effective.  While his Robertson influenced attunements already included new symbols, Rand and Qigong master Glenn Derrick later felt the urge to add Milner's symbols into a new system Rand created that he called Karuna Reiki.  See my page on Western Symbols for these examples. 

Perhaps just as the Chinese Taoists of old were influenced to have hundreds of personal development symbols from which Usui Sensei eventually drew his 4, now modern day energy workers continue to receive the same kind of energy influences from their own spirit helpers. An example of my experience with this can be found at My Symbols page. 

If you have comments or suggestions, Contact Me.     I will try to answer them all.

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