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Reiki1 is a system of hands-on healing. The Japanese word is most often translated to mean 'universal life energy'. The ki in reiki can be translated to mean 'universal life energy' by itself. Rei can mean spirit, ghost, or external spiritual forces in general. Perhaps a closer translation of reiki would be 'spiritual energy' or 'energy from spirit'.

In Japan, the term reiki was not originally associated with a particular healing system, but was rather a type of force that various systems were said to use. Reiki was taken to mean not just ordinary ki, but a force coming from somewhere else, the practitioner being a conduit or channel catalysing the flow of healing energy. Outside of Japan, reiki is no longer a general term for a kind of energy. Reiki is now the term used to refer specifically to the Usui Healing System2, a school of healing founded by Mikao Usui.

Reiki Treatment

To some minds, health is simply a state of physical, emotional, and spiritual balance. In fact, maintaining a balance of elements3 is a central precept in most healing traditions. Even the Greek physician Hippocrates4 believed that health was achieved when what he called the sanguine humour, a hot element (yang), is in balance with the phlegm humour, a cool element (yin).

In the East, traditional medical treatment involves restoring health through the balancing of a vital energy within the body called qi - or ch'i. Acupuncture is based on this idea and uses a variety of techniques in an attempt to rebalance the flow of energy in a sick individual. With reiki, the practitioner transfers balancing qi through their body with the same goal.

The reiki practitioner, or channel, facilitates a flow of reiki energy to the recipient by placing their hands on or above the recipient. Many people experience sensations of heat or tingling coming from the practitioner's hands; some feel nothing at all. This transfer of energy helps to rebalance the recipient's energy system and restore health. While the results of a reiki treatment can vary widely, most people will at least experience relaxation and a sense of wellbeing after a session.

Reiki Jargon


The ability to channel, or give, reiki is not learned in the traditional sense. A reiki teacher performs a special ritual to attune the student.

Reiki Practitioners

This is anyone who can give reiki, regardless of level.

Reiki I

Also called 'First Degree Reiki' or 'Reiki Level I'. The student is taught the history of reiki, hand positions, how to give a treatment, and is attuned to reiki energy.

Reiki II

Also called 'Second Degree Reiki' or 'Reiki Level II'. The student is attuned to Reiki II symbols and is instructed in their use. At this point the practitioner has to ability to send reiki to others over a distance.

Reiki III

This level is very often broken up into two separate levels. The student is taught the symbols for master level and is then instructed how to attune others to reiki. When separated, the first half is called Reiki III, Reiki 3(a), Advanced Reiki Training, or Reiki Master Practitioner and encompasses only the attunement. The second part, called Reiki III/Master, Reiki 3(b), Reiki Master, Reiki Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher, or just Reiki III gives the secret of how to teach.


In the Reiki III level, the term Master is derived from sensei, which in Japanese can mean teacher, master, or doctor. A realistic translation of Reiki Master would be 'teacher of Reiki'.

History of Reiki

Mikao Usui is the founder of reiki. After 21 days of fasting and meditation, he discovered, channelled and rediscovered his system of healing. He spent seven years in the poor quarter of Kyoto before opening a healing clinic in Tokyo in 1922.

Usui had many students and trained several teachers. When he died in the late 1920s, he left the clinic to Chujiro Hayashi. Hayashi developed a system of hand positions and the system of degrees for passing on attunements.

Before Hayashi died in 1941, he initiated 13 masters. One of them was a Hawaiian woman named Hawayo Takata. Mrs Takata is responsible for the spread of reiki in the western world. She is also responsible for developing the pricing structure to go along with the degree levels. By the time she died in 1980, she had initiated 20 Reiki Masters who presumably fronted the fee of $10,000 each.

Takata named Phyllis Furumoto, her granddaughter, her successor. Occasionally both Takata and Furumoto have been called only Reiki Grand Masters, though this title is contested by many.

'Real' Reiki

Reiki is taught in a slightly different way by any given teacher. Takata herself taught as the spirit moved her, causing great confusion among students who over time have compared notes. Many hands-on healing systems known by other names are repackaged reiki. Often systems called reiki are taught with other elements thrown in.

Any new age hobby the teacher has could find its way into a class. This often leads to confusion as to where reiki stops and other beliefs and techniques start. As a result, there is a feeling among some practitioners that the tradition has been diluted.

This has led to some strange criteria as to what is part of a 'real' reiki class. Some criteria are justified; for instance the use of crystals is not part of reiki. However, in some cases, the criteria are arbitrary, advancing some political agenda. Occasionally, a reiki practitioner might pull the 'my X is more Y that your X' trip. Don't let it get you down and back up slowly.

1Pronounced ray-key.2Usui Healing System is translated from the Japanese, Usui Shiki Ryoho, shiki meaning style, form, or system. Many early books on reiki would refer to the Japanese as Usui Shiko Ryoho. Shiko in Japanese means urine.3Qi, energies, fluids, humours, prana, etc.4Often called the 'Father of Medicine'.

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