Exploring Mikao Usui’s Teachings

Reiki Sunset

Everything in the Universe possesses Reiki without any exception. – Note from a student of Usui-san *

Many people claim to be in the direct lineage of Usui-san and that they are teaching the “true” teachings of Mikao Usui. But is this possible? This is an interesting question since it is said that Mikao Usui taught different students different things depending on their spiritual progress.

Usui Sensei had no standard curriculum, and the length of time of the training depended on the spiritual progress of each student. It is said that he gave one-on-one lectures mainly on the right mental attitude needed for spiritual advancement based on his own experience. – Hiroshi Doi

This means that different teachers are teaching different aspects of Usui-san’s teachings and these will relate to the teacher’s own personal understanding, as well as the particular teachings given by their Reiki teacher, their teacher’s teacher, and so on. For example, one teacher might focus on a clinical hands-on healing method, and another teacher may emphasize the spiritual aspects of Mikao Usui’s teachings. These different “ways” with Reiki indicate each teacher’s own personal interest. In addition, Reiki students will gravitate to the teacher who speaks to their own spiritual understanding and “way.” One is not better than the other, just a different way. In addition, each practitioner’s unique contemplation, practice and experience of the tools they are given is much deeper than lineage and teacher, as it consists of a simple and direct experience of Mikao Usui’s teachings, which is for me, his real heritage.

Despite these differences related to each Reiki teacher and practitioner’s uniqueness, it is also interesting to think about what Usui-san, himself, had in mind.

… although the style may still exist, it is difficult to know in many cases what the founder’s original intentions were, how he expressed himself to his students, or if the style has indeed changed over the centuries. What prompts or handbooks still exist may mean very little to the uninitiated and sometimes even to the current teacher himself. – William Scott Wilson

In this article I’d like to take a look at the tools Usui-san left behind and see what clues about his teachings we can find hidden within these tools.

To understand better Usui-san’s tools I’d like to attempt to see them from a late 1800s to early 1900s perspective, rather than a modern Japanese outlook. Taking a historical perspective is an important way we can try to see things with his eyes so we can more deeply investigate the clues he left behind.

Usui Reiki Ryoho

The common name used for Mikao Usui’s teachings is “Usui Reiki Ryoho.”

Reiki = True Self

Ryo = to cure or heal

Ho = method or dharma or teachings

“Usui Reiki Ryoho” can be read as: Usui’s teachings (dharma) to cure and heal one’s True Self. The name describes a healing system to rediscover your True Self and doesn’t say anything about hands-on healing. The name itself provides the clue that it is only through discovering our True Self that we can start to do hands-on healing on others at a much deeper level.

Mrs. Takata also pointed out that Reiki starts with rediscovering the “energy” of the True Self. Mrs. Takata’s diary, dated Dec 10th 1935 says, the “meaning of ‘Reiki’ Energy within oneself, when concentrated and applied to patient, will cure all ailments – it is nature’s greatest cure, which requires no drugs. It helps in all respects, human and animal life. In order to concentrate, one must purify one’s thoughts in words and to meditate to let the true “energy” come out from within. 
It lies in the bottom of the stomach about 2 inches below the navel. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, concentrate on your thoughts and relax.”

Here she is saying that Reiki is the energy within oneself, she even calls it the True Energy, which lies at the bottom of the stomach. She is emphasizing that we need to concentrate and meditate to let the energy come from within.

By looking at these clues we can see the importance of Reiki as a method of rediscovering our True Self before we even could think of helping others. The Gakkai in Japan also concurs:

First we have to heal our spirit. Secondly we have to keep our body healthy. If our spirit is healthy and conformed to the truth, the body will get healthy naturally. – Reiki Ryoho Hikkei, a manual handed out by the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai

If you can’t heal yourself how can you heal others? – Reiki Ryoho Hikkei

From these clues we can see that we must start with the self in order to rediscover the True Self, and this is the ultimate healing journey.

The Precepts and the Meaning of Healing

Reiki is a system of healing, but what is “healing?” To “heal” doesn’t mean only to physically heal yourself but most importantly to heal your heart/mind. Fortunately, Usui-san left us the precepts, central to the system of Reiki; they show us the real meaning of healing. The following version of the precepts is from the Usui memorial stone, a translation found in Hiroshi Doi’s manuals.

Just for today,

do not be angry

Do not worry

Be thankful

Do what you are meant to do

Be kind to others

It makes sense that Usui-san may have given different students slightly different versions of the precepts to support their spiritual progress and understanding. For example it is said that Usui-san also taught this precept: “Do not bear anger for anger is an illusion.” Of course, for someone who didn’t have a deep spiritual understanding of what the word illusion was all about, Usui would have adjusted the precept to that person’s understanding, making it simpler and more accessible.

Within the precepts, whatever version we may be contemplating, Usui-san is pointing to the heart/mind element. He is not saying anything about a physical issue, and helping others is the last precept. First he states that we need to heal ourselves of our anger and worry, because these are obstacles that prevent us from helping others. And what does helping others mean? Healing them on a physical level? If that were the case Usui-san would have pointed this out in the precepts as well. No, he is pointing towards helping others to get rid of their anger and worry, and to find their True Self.

In other words the precepts are pointing out Anshin Ritsumei – spiritual peace, or enlightenment. Anshin means “peace in your heart/mind”, and if we have found peace in our heart/mind then we can start to help others find this peace in their heart/mind. This is the ultimate kindness. This is the ultimate healing. This is our True Self. In the below quote, Hiroshi Doi offers us some insight into how the concept of Anshin Ritsumei fits into Usui’s teachings:

Usui Sensei personally selected, from among qualified Okuden Koki level students those who possessed a high level of spirituality, and offered them further instructions at Shinpiden level. Shinpiden students were selected to receive Usui Sensei’s direct private teachings and learn how to aim for Anshin Ritsumei.

There are many different translations of the precepts; again one is not better than the other, just a different way of looking at it. Ultimately, the precepts are there to help point out the way to ultimate healing: the path to our True Self.

Importance of Dedicated Meditation Practice

In order to be the best Reiki practitioner/teacher we can be, we must dedicate ourselves to a daily practice. What might this practice be? According to Hiroshi Doi, the meditations of Joshin Kokyu Ho and Hatsurei Ho are some of the most important elements within Usui-san’s teachings.

We humans hold the Great Reiki that fills the Great Universe. The higher we raise the vibration of our own being, the stronger the Reiki we have inside will be. – Quote from a student of Usui-san *

This quote helps to explain why Usui-san put meditations like Joshin Kokyu Ho and Hatsurei Ho within the system of Reiki. The more we practice them, the stronger our Reiki will become. In fact, Hatsurei Ho literally means, “generating a greater amount of spiritual energy.” Therefore we can see Usui-san was pointing out that regular practice of this meditation would generate a greater amount of spiritual energy. In turn we can use this energy for helping ourselves and others to rediscover the True Self.

By simply trying these meditations once we do not get anywhere; we need to practice these meditations on a daily basis. Through regular practice with these meditations, Usui-san was pointing us again back to the precepts. As a result of our dedicated meditation practice, we will begin to let go of our anger and worry and become more compassionate to ourselves and others.

Can We Do Our Practice While Talking or Watching TV?

Hatsurei Ho has been handed down starting with Usui Sensei as a practice of self-purification and spiritual growth leading to enlightenment. 
- Hiroshi Doi

Joshin Kokyu Ho means, “breathing technique to purify your mind.” Kokyu also means “movement of your ki” and “focused power.” Usui-san is pointing toward the mind and focus. In our modern world, we often think we can just talk or watch TV when we do hands on healing on others. But if this was the case why did Usui-san put Joshin Kokyu and Hatsurei-ho in his teachings? Practicing these meditations creates a focused mind by requiring concentration and intention. If our mind is all over place while we are talking and watching TV then we have no power in our ki, as the mind is very distracted and unfocused. Another thing to consider is that when we do talk or watch TV during treatments, it is often about things which are based on worries and fear, or just idle gossip; this in turn takes us away from being in the state of mind of the precepts.

Speaking of Mind….HSZSN, The Right Mind and the Confused Mind

The symbols and mantras were traditionally taught within Okuden and/or Shinpiden. Okuden means “inner” or “hidden teachings.” This means that the tools taught in this level are meant to be internalized in order to find what is hidden within ourselves: our Reiki/True Self.

Looking at the 3rd symbol taught in Okuden, we can see that literally the kanji of hon sha ze sho nen, 本者是正念, translates as, “I am Right Mind.” But what does Right Mind mean according to Japanese spiritual practices?

The Right Mind is the mind that does not remain in one place. It is the mind that stretches throughout the entire body and self. The Confused Mind is the mind that, thinking something over, congeals in one place. – Takuan Soho (1573 – 1645)

Right Mind is a mind free of judgment and labelling, because as soon as we label or make a judgment our energy and mind becomes stuck and therefore it is not free flowing anymore. If we want to unify with the universe, our mind needs to be completely free flowing, not being bound by labels and judgments.

Within the kanji of HSZSN, 本者是正念, is the kanji of Nen, 念, and within this we can also see the kanji of Shin/Kokoro, 心. They call Shin/Kokoro the radical of Nen; a radical is a clue to of the origin of the kanji and also to the general meaning. Shin/Kokoro means heart/mind, wholeheartedness, the enlightened mind, essence, and the mind as the principle of the universe, centre and core.

So why did Usui-san put this in his system? Modern teachings might say it is only for distance healing. But if we look at the historical origins, we can see that this mantra is simply about realizing Right Mind. When we are of Right Mind, then our heart/mind and energy cannot get stuck in anger, in worry, in fear or the judgment of dualistic thinking. With Right Mind we can be complete free and at ease, one with the entire universe.

Techniques and Letting Go of Ego

Usui-san also handed us some different techniques like Byosen and Reiji-ho. Byosen is a basic technique in which we move a bit more away from the basic standard hand positions. Reiji-ho is where we become more intuitive, letting go of labelling and ritualistic movements, allowing the energy to guide where to place your hands.

The most basic technique in Dento Reiki [Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai] involves detecting a Byosen and then placing the hands on the affected area in order to perform an effective healing treatment…Different Reiki healers experience different kinds of sensations. – Hiroshi Doi

When there are many Byosen, the technique known as Reiji-ho can be employed for greater effectiveness. Reiji-ho allows for the hands to be naturally drawn to the area that needs to be treated. This is a very important technique in Dento [Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai] Reiki. – Hiroshi Doi

By looking at what the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai thinks of these two techniques we can start to see that they are just stepping stones towards a full intuitive hands on healing session without the need of any technique at all, where the energy simply guides you. This can only start to happen when we let go of our ego.

Both techniques are also intuitive techniques so when we start to label what we feel, and put that in boxes it is counter productive to being intuitive.

 Both these techniques were placed into Usui-san’s teachings to help us to let go of the ego, the “I”. Because it is the “I” which is trying to label things as hot or cold, positive and negative, good or bad. We can see this also within the precepts, as it is only when we let go of the “I” that we can truly embody the precepts. It is the “I” who is getting angry and worried, it is the “I” who will be in the way of letting true compassion come out.

Within true compassion there is no need to label and judge, no need to interpret what we feel. Within true compassion we can just be and let the client take whatever he/she needs, not what we, the ego, thinks our client needs. Again we reach a space of free flowing energy and a free flowing state of mind.

Symbols and Mantras and Our True Self

The third level of Reiki teaching is called Shinpiden, which means “mystery teachings,” and what is this mystery? The mystery is our True Self, or “enlightenment.” The symbol/mantra taught at this level is Dai Komyo, 大光明, which means Great Bright Light. This is the light of Anshin Ritsumei, our True Self/Reiki. By using this mantra/symbol Usui-san was pointing out the very essence of his teachings.

Komyo exists in me and I exist in Komyo. -
 Note from a student of Usui-san *

The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai and one other Japanese Reiki school also doesn’t use this symbol and mantra. Does this mean that it is not a part of the system of Reiki? Hiroshi Doi knew of an Aikido Teacher whose grandfather was a student of Usui-san and who was called into Usui-san’s room and was shown the Dai Komyo. Because we know Usui-san was teaching his students differently according to their spiritual progress and understanding, it makes sense he would not have shown the Dai Komyo to all students.

I think Chujiro Hayashi might have taught in the same vein as Usui-san, teaching his students according to their spiritual progress. And this is why, Mrs. Takata who was his in-house student, was taught the Dai Komyo and maybe some of his other students not.

As much as we enjoy the tools of symbols and mantras that Usui-san left for us, we should always remember not to get too distracted by them and to remember where they are pointing. They point us towards purification of our heart/mind so that we too can resdiscover our True Self and gain Anshin Ritsumei or “enlightenment” and therefore help others to gain it as well.

Human consciousness can go anywhere in the universe in an instant. You must endeavour to develop your consciousness quickly and not rely on the symbols for too long. – Note from a student of Usui-san *

Hands-on Healing

The basic 12 hand positions and the attunements procedures [with the symbols and mantras] we use today are all derived from Hayashi-sensei’s techniques. – Hiroshi Doi

Hands-on healing is in reality the last tool, as you have by now realized, from exploring Usui-san’s teachings, that the deeper aspects of hands-on healing really come from your own personal spiritual development and clarity of your state of mind.

Conclusion: Our Heart/Mind is the Most Important Element of Mikao Usui’s Teachings

Note from a student of Usui-san: “The universal law of the great universe and one’s mind must be perpetually integrated.”

Here are some of the main points we have covered in this article:

  • Usui-san put practices and techniques within the system of Reiki to help you to focus and clear your heart/mind.
  • Mrs. Takata stated in her diary that we need to focus to let the true “energy” come from within though meditation and concentration.
  • The precepts point the way to the ultimate healing: rediscovering the True Self.
  • According to Hiroshi Doi, the meditations of Joshin Kokyu Ho and Hatsurei Ho are some of the most important elements with Usui-san’s teachings.
  • Mind and Focus is very important when practicing Reiki.
  • HSZSN points to Right Mind. When we are of Right Mind, then our heart/mind and energy cannot get stuck in anger, in worry, in fear or the judgment of dualistic thinking.
  • Byosen and Reiji-ho are just stepping stones towards a full intuitive hands on healing session without the need of any technique at all, where the energy simply guides you. This can only start to happen when we let go of our ego.
  • By using DKM Usui-san was pointing out the very essence of his teachings: the light of Anshin Ritsumei.
  • The deeper aspect of hands-on healing really come from your own personal spiritual development and clarity of your state of mind.

All of these points lead to the same conclusion: that our heart/mind is the most important element within the system of Reiki and that we can only purify this through meditation. This is the key teaching of Mikao Usui.

I’d like to conclude with a quote from my most esteemed Japanese teacher:

The spiritual level of the practitioner directly reflects the effect of Reiki. In a sense, the more you are enlightened, the more the effectiveness of Reiki enhances.

The more you practice Reiki for saving others, the brighter your innate light shines to drive away clouds covering your mind. I think this is the quintessence of Reiki. – Takeda Ajari

taken from a recently published article … http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/article/exploring_mikao_usuis_teachings