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Threshold Notes -- The Reiki Symbols

Last Updated: February 28, 2013         RETURN TO THRESHOLD NOTES iNDEX

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This Note is one of a series where I give my ideas on aspects of Reiki and/or energy work. The pages are intended to give some "food for thought" and some 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.

O-Sensei: A View of Mikao UsuiWhen I first learned the Reiki symbols I read a variety of stories that explained their origin, including one about Usui Sensei seeing the symbols appear in bubbles of light during a meditation. However it wasn't until Melissa Riggall shared something with me in an email in late 1996, that I began to have a growing understanding of where and why they originated.  This in turn would lead me to discover more of Sensei's interest in these "connections" as they applied to his original Usui-no-michi teachings.  If you have read the most excellent and revealing book by Dave King titled "O-Sensei: A View of Mikao Usui," then you know Usui came across the symbols (and possibly others) in Zen Buddhist material, learning their origins and use in Chinese Taoism.  Using notes from the Hayashi student, Mr. Tatsumi, Melissa discovered one of the actual books Usui had been reading in an old temple library, the book with the symbols in it. It still had Usui’s hanko stamped on the borrower's card, dated 1904. In Melissa and Dave’s training with Mr. Tatsumi, Mr. Onuki (an Eguchi student) and Tenon-in (an Usui student) they learned Usui taught the symbols as they were originally presented, each intending to awaken and develop an inner "connection" to one's own abilities or traits.

It was some time later, after the forming of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, when students of Usui began to use the symbols as healing tools as well.  I suppose this is kind of like how the invention of the knife eventually led to the screwdriver, scraper and nail file.  No. 1People will always find an alternate use for the tools others have originated and developed.  Also, I have found it is quite common for modern Reiki people to refer to the symbols using their special phrases, or what are called “kotodama.”  For the first traditional symbol people might talk about it as "choku rei."  Yet in traditional Japanese teachings this might be disrespectful,  so instead in Usui Teate teaching the symbol can be referred to as number 1 or perhaps as Focus - as this relates more to what it's original purpose was.  Mr. Doi had told me that in the URR Gakkai, it was referred to as Zuin, meaning "auspicious clouds."   In Usui’s classes the actual kotodama was taught only in a special kata intended to give the student a “mindful” experience of the inner process evoked.  Note that the original kotodama or phrase would have been in Chinese.

The original kata was performed very slowly, respectfully and as I mentioned, mindfully and without judgement.  The kotodama would be voiced in a long, monotone sort of chant, somewhat similar to that in Shinto.  The entire kata is really something one needs to experience with the guidance of a teacher, rather than just read about or watch on video.  Participation in an Usui Teate class is an ideal setting for something like this as it is conducted very close to how Usui Sensei taught (although in English).  Somewhere along the way the URR Gakkai modified this kata and eventually, through the teachings of Dr. Hayashi, this led to the modern form of activating each symbol.   Mr. Doi revealed that in the Gakkai, they even dropped the drawing of the actual symbols, retaining only some form of the kotodama.  The drawings might only be shown to a senior student, mainly as an historical note.  Thanks to Hayashi's teachings and the notes of some of his students like Mrs. Takata and Mr. Tatsumi, we know what the original drawings were.  However, some Japanese students, like Mrs. Yamaguchi, may not have been taught the 4th (Nidan) symbol by their Shinpiden level teacher (hers was her uncle, Wasaburo Sugano).  Yet this symbol was clearly part of other students' Reiki education, as well of course, part of Usui's originally class material.   smile

Here are links to some of the web pages mentioned in this Note:
O-Sensei: A View of Mikao Usui        Early Studies in the Usui System 
Melissa Riggall's Visit to Tatsumi
     An Experience With Some Usui Students     
Traditional Reiki Symbols                 Usui Teate   
Richard (Rick) Rivard

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

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