The Imperial Naval Officers
It seems that Usui’s fame as a healer had spread as far as the Japanese military – there were about 30 famous healers in Japan in Usui’s time, and he was one of them. He had been approached by them to teach a simple hands-on healing system that could be used by Imperial Officers as a sort of ‘energy paramedic’ system. There was a dire shortage of medically trained personnel in the Military (one Doctor for 5,000 ratings), and they needed some system that could be used to tide people over while they awaited medical attention. This led Usui Sensei to teach the Imperial Officers a method that was focused on the treating of others rather than working on the self – meeting their specific needs – and the symbols were introduced jointly by Usui Sensei and Eguchi as a quick way of depicting the energies. In fact, Eguchi played a significant role in the development of this system. The Imperial Officers simply did not have the time to get to grips with the energies in the way that Usui had been using with his other students: using meditations or chanting sacred sounds over a long period of time.
So the “Reiki” treatment system was probably first taught in about 1923, though Usui’s spiritual teachings were being passed on as early as 1915. The ‘Navy’ system that Usui put together was actually implemented, and there are 1930s Japanese Defence Manuals that detail the “Reiki” system depicted by the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai. So we can see that the “Reiki” treatment system taught to the Imperial Officers did not represent an evolution of Usui Sensei’s system in the last few years of his life: rather he put together an ad-hoc system to meet the needs of a group of people who approached him for a particular purpose.
The Imperial Naval Officers were Jusaburo Gyuda/Ushida, Ichi Taketomi and Chujiro Hayashi. It was certainly surprising to Usui's students that Usui would teach such people as Officers of the Imperial Navy. Indeed, it seems that there was some 'resistance' to this taking place, and Usui's friends were upset that he would teach his spiritual system to military men. But Usui had been doing some healing at a naval base, and it seems that there was some metaphorical 'arm twisting' that led to the officers being taught by Usui.
In terms of “treatment techniques” we do not know what Usui taught to the Imperial Officers. The various methods used in the ‘Gakkai may have been taught to the Imperial Officers by Usui, they may have been hinted at, but what we can say is that symbols were introduced and taught to the Imperial Officers as a way of depicting a particular aspect of the energy, and the energies/symbols are likely to have been used in a simple way when treating others. The complicated system of mixing symbols and symbol ‘sandwiches’ that are used in the world of Western Reiki is a very un-Japanese approach.
Dr Hayashi, like the other Imperial Officers, does not seem to have been interested in the 'spiritual path' aspects of Usui's system. He was a Christian, apparently, and he was fascinated by the treatment possibilities of Usui’s system. This led him to put together a healing guide containing various sequences of hand positions that could be used to treat a wide range of specific medical conditions. This guide was included in materials given to students of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, and has been published as “Dr Usui’s Handbook”, though it was in fact the work of Dr Hayashi.
Dr Chujiro Hayashi
Chujiro Hayashi was born in 1878. He graduated from Naval School in 1902 and by the time he was doing his Master training with Usui Sensei in 1925 he was 47 years old, a former Captain in the Imperial Navy, and he was a Naval Doctor. He and the other Naval Officers Ushida and Taketomi were the last people to be taught by Usui. It seems that Hayashi was one of Usui's less experienced Master students since he may have trained with Usui for only 9 months. When you reached Master level with Usui, this represented the commencement of a long period of training which culminated in learning the connection rituals, and considering that other students of Usui spent 9 months meditating on only one energy at second-degree level, Dr Hayashi cannot have learned the inner teachings of Reiki in such a short space of time, nor reached the higher levels of Mastership. Together with the other naval officers, Dr Hayashi was a founder member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, a 'memorial society' set up after Usui's death. The 'Gakkai was described by Tatsumi (one of Hayashi's Master students), rather disparagingly, as an 'officer's club'.
Although he was one of the founding members of the 'Gakkai, he left, it seems, because the nationalism displayed by the other officers conflicted with his Christian beliefs and went against Usui's teachings, and because of the many changes that the other Imperial Officers were introducing into the system, for example the introduction of many kiko (Japanese QiGong) techniques. But Hayashi changed things too, as we'll discover shortly.
After he completed his training, Hayashi opened a clinic with eight beds and 16 healers working there, and clients were treated by two or more people. He kept detailed records of the treatments that were given, and used this information to create 'standard' hand positions for different ailments which ended up being published in the training manual given to the Gakkai's students (the Usui Reiki Hikkei). In fact this work had already been started when Usui was alive, and it seems that Dr Hayashi was carrying out the research with Usui's knowledge and approval. Usui was interested to see if his spiritual system would 'stand alone' as a healing system. This guide to 'hand positions for different ailments' is very much trying to mould Reiki into the 'medical model', where you diagnose a particular ailment and then ‘prescribe’ a particular set of hand positions to deal with it, very different from Usui's simple and intuitive approach. Despite this research, though, Hayashi still expected his students to be able to use scanning or intuitive techniques to work out their hand positions, with his 'standard' positions as a fallback position.
Dr Hayashi founded his own society in 1931, five years after Usui died. It was called Hayashi Reiki Kenyu-kai, which means Hayashi Reiki Research Centre. Since Dr Hayashi had made some changes to the system he had been taught by Usui, he was honour bound to change the name of the system, but the changes that he introduced were not popular: some of his senior students left the school, including Tatsumi, who believed that the teachings were no longer Usui's. Hayashi's focus was very much on hands-on healing. Dr Hayashi would teach First Degree over a five-day structured course, with each day's training taking 90 minutes, and students would receive his more complicated attunements on four occasions during this training, by way of echoing Usui's weekly empowerment sessions. Dr Hayashi trained 17 Reiki Masters and produced a 40 page manual which contained the hand positions for different ailments.
Since Dr Hayashi would not have been taught Reiju by Usui Sensei, it seems that attunements were developed by the Imperial Officers as a ‘constructed’ ritual that gave them the same sort of experience that they had when receiving empowerments from Usui Sensei. Certainly the ritual that was taught to Tatsumi by Dr Hayashi is not Usui's Reiju, and neither is the ritual being used by Mrs Yamaguchi, another of Dr Hayashi's Master students.
Chujiro Hayashi died on May 10th 1940. Sadly, he took his own life; it seems that he was very concerned at the build up of nationalism in his country, and it was the threat of war that led to his death. Dr Hayashi's wife Chie continued as President of his school, teaching in the 1940s, but their children did not continue the clinic.
Hawayo Takata was born in 1900 on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She came to Dr Hayashi's clinic suffering from a number of serious medical conditions that were resolved through Reiki, but she was originally intending to receive conventional Western medical treatments for her tumour, gallstones and appendicitis. The story goes, though, that on the operating table (just before the surgery was about to start) Mrs Takata heard a voice that said "The operation is not necessary". She is said to have refused the operation, and asked her Doctor if he knew of any other way to restore her health. The doctor referred her to Dr. Hayashi and she began receiving a course of treatments.
Mrs Takata was quite sceptical about Reiki. She felt so much heat from the practitioners' hands that she was sure they were using some sort of electrical equipment - maybe little electric heaters secreted in the palms of their hands! She looked in the large sleeves of their Japanese kimonos, under the treatment table, but of course there was nothing there. Her scepticism turned into belief as her health problems resolved themselves, and she decided that she wanted to learn Reiki for herself.
Dr Hayashi wanted to teach Reiki to another woman besides his wife (someone who would not have to be called up to fight in a war), and since Mrs. Takata was so persistent he decided to teach her to Master level, which happened in 1938. Dr Hayashi gave Mrs Takata permission to teach Reiki in the West, and she did so in the USA. She was the 13th and probably the last Reiki Master that Dr. Hayashi initiated, and between 1970 and her death in 1980 Mrs Takata taught 22 Reiki Masters. Until quite recently, all Reiki practitioners in the Western world derived their Reiki from this lady, and could trace their 'lineage' through her to Dr Hayashi and Mikao Usui.
The original twenty-two teachers have passed on the Reiki tradition, and Reiki has spread throughout North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia to many parts of the world. It is almost impossible to estimate the number of Reiki Masters and practitioners in the world, but it must run into tens of thousands, and maybe millions, respectively.
But is cannot have been easy for Mrs Takata, teaching a Japanese healing technique in the United States, after the Second World War, with memories of Pearl Harbour still in everyone's minds. The American population was not particularly well disposed towards anything connected with Japan. Also, while nowadays people are exposed continually to magazine articles about feng shui, tai chi and other energy cultivation techniques, ideas of traditional Chinese medicine, meridians, chi and the like, and alternative medicine in general, at that time in the United States these ideas must have seemed to have come from another planet. Mrs Takata was trying to transmit her whole culture, and a totally alien one as far as her students were concerned.
For this reason, Hawayo Takata was obliged to modify, simplify and change the Reiki that she had been taught by Chujiro Hayashi, in order for it to be acceptable to the Westerners that she dealt with, and the Reiki that she had been taught by Dr Hayashi had already been modified by him after he had been taught by Mikao Usui. Not only did Mrs Takata modify the practices of Reiki, but she also felt obliged to put together a story about the history of Reiki to make it more acceptable to a hostile American public. Out went Mikao Usui, Tendai Buddhist, and in came Dr Mikao Usui, Christian theologian, who travelled the world on a great quest to discover a healing system that explained the healing miracles that Jesus performed. Mrs Takata’s upbringing in Hawaii was one where it was traditional to tell stories or parables to convey important principles or truths, and she applied this tradition to Reiki; perhaps she should have realised that such stories would have been taken to be historically accurate by her Western students. Stories about Usui being a Christian Doctor, going on a world-wide quest, and studying theology at various Universities along they way, are not true. Despite this, they are repeated in Reiki books, even ones that have been published recently.
As well as putting together a Reiki 'history', Mrs Takata ended up being referred to as 'Grand Master' of Reiki, to make a distinction between herself and the Masters that she taught. This is an office, position or title that was not envisioned by Mikao Usui. Reiki is not based on the idea of gurus or great masters to whom one has to pay homage. Unfortunately, some people in the Reiki community are greatly wedded to the idea of 'The Office of Grand Master' and what I see as the narrow and dogmatic view of Reiki that is approved by the current incumbent, Mrs Takata's grand-daughter, Phyllis Lei Furumoto.