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Reiki Symbols, Attunements & Beyond

reiki symbols attunements

Symbols are a big part of Western Reiki

In the Western style of Reiki, the Reiki symbols are seen to be very important. They are seen as an integral part of the system; indeed for many people the symbols are Reiki, the symbols are the energy.

It has been a basic tenet of Western Reiki that you have to be ‘attuned’ to the symbols for them to work for you and that you are connected to Reiki only when you have been ‘attuned’ to the symbols. All Western style attunement systems – as far as I can see – involve being attuned to symbols at First Degree, Second Degree and Master levels.

However, no one really knew if you needed to be attuned to the symbols for them to work for you, and no one really knew whether symbols needed to enter into the connection ritual used, because no one knew of a way to attune people without using symbols! The only connection rituals that we had were attunements, and all attunements used symbols!

Do ‘attunements’ need symbols?

New information coming from Japan, and the experiences of some Reiki people experimenting in the West, suggest that the Reiki symbols might not be such a necessary part of ‘attuning’ people as was once thought, and suggest that there is no need for a person to be ‘attuned’ to a symbol for it to work for them, so long as they are already connected to Reiki.

Now, we now know that Mikao Usui did not teach symbols to the vast majority of his students, and those few students who were taught symbols (the Imperial Officers) were not ‘attuned’ to these symbols by Usui Sensei.

In fact, Mikao Usui did not attune anybody to anything: he used to ‘empower’ his students, and the empowerments that he bestowed on his students, at all levels, did not utilise the Reiki symbols.

So where did attunements come from, and where did the idea of ‘attuning’ someone to symbols in order for the student to be ‘connected’ to Reiki, and to be able to use those symbols, come from?

Well it seems certain that the Imperial Officers had not trained with Usui Sensei for long enough before he died for them to have been taught by him how to empower students (Usui taught this quite far along on the Master student’s journey). Usui did not attune people and he did not teach attunements.

The Imperial Officers created attunements

It seems that the Imperial Officers developed for themselves a ritual – an ‘attunement’ – by way of trying to replicate the experiences that they had had when being empowered by Usui Sensei, and because they had been taught symbols, these symbols entered into the ritual that they developed.

hayashi reiki history

Dr Hayashi helped to create attunements

A version of this ritual was passed from Dr Hayashi (one of the Imperial Officers) to Mrs Takata, who passed on a ritual to her Master students, and the ritual has now been endlessly distorted and embellished as it has been passed from teacher to teacher in the West.

Interestingly, Hiroshi Doi – a member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Memorial Society, set up after his death by some of the Imperial Officers) – has said that the ‘attunement’ methods used in the ‘Gakkai do not involve the use of symbols: the ‘Gakkai’s students are connected to Reiki, but the Reiki symbols are not used in this process.

Mr Doi also said that Mikao Usui introduced the symbols for the benefit of students who could just not accept that they could ‘do this thing’, and by giving them something concrete to use, they learned to focus and control the energy more easily.

Hiroshi Doi also says that the current ‘Gakkai students do not use the Reiki symbols, though they are shown them out of historical interest. Mikao Usui no doubt chose the symbols very carefully, to represent different aspects of the energy, but the energy and the connection to the energy came first.

Reiju empowerments: a ‘symbol-free’ connection ritual

Let’s go back to the empowerments that Usui was using: the empowerments bestowed by Usui Sensei could be referred to as “Reiju”, a Tendai Buddhist blessing made with the intention that the student should ‘receive what they need’, and a form of Reiju has been passed to us via Mikao Usui’s surviving students.

Reiju is a way of ‘connecting’ you to Reiki, though all such rituals really do (whether attunements of empowerments) is to help you recognise something that is already there: they do not connect you to something external to you that you were not connected to before. Reiju – at all levels – does not involve using symbols, at all.

So Reiju is a way of ‘connecting’ someone to Reiki but without any symbols entering into the process. And thus we have a way of demonstrating, for the first time, that ‘attuning’ someone to a symbol is not a necessary step in ‘connecting’ them to Reiki.

This is quite a revelation for the world of Western-style Reiki.

Not only that, but now that we know how to connect people to Reiki without using symbols, and without ‘attuning’ people to symbols, we can at last find out whether one needs to be attuned to a symbol for it to work for us.

Several years ago I experiment, and this is what I discovered…

You don’t need to be ‘attuned’ to a symbol for it to work

I found that students attuned at First Degree level, using Western-style attunements, can produce noticeable effects in their hands when using the Reiki symbols; they can use the symbols, experience their energies and channel the energies that the symbols represent.

Western-style Reiki First Degree attunements use the Reiki symbols, of course, but you are not usually ‘attuned’ to them in the way that you are at Second Degree level, and First Degree students are not ‘supposed’ to be able to use the Reiki symbols, or carry out things like distant healing (though, of course, this is nonsense).

I also found that the symbols work just as well for First Degree students who are connected to Reiki using Reiju empowerments, (the symbol-free connection ritual). In fact, I have noticed that students attuned using Reiju seem to be more sensitive to the flow of Reiki than students attuned in the Western style.

Taking this one stage further, I have been using Reiju empowerments with students at Second Degree level, students who were ‘connected’ using Reiju at First Degree too, and found that students attuned in this way can use the Reiki symbols in just the same way, and just as effectively, as students attuned using the Western system… although these students have not been ‘attuned’ to the symbols.

A Reiki revelation

All this leads me to believe that once you have been connected to Reiki – and we now know that symbols do not need to enter into this process – then the Reiki symbols will work for you, and you do not need to be ‘attuned’ to them specifically (whatever that means).

Not only that, but I believe that any symbol will direct the energy in a particular way once you have been attuned to Reiki: Usui’s chosen symbols which come from Shintoism and Tendai Buddhism, but also symbols from other cultures and traditions, and channelled symbols too.

I have personal experience of this, and so do my students. Channelled symbols, for example, can be used effectively by people who have not been ‘attuned’ to them; they can be shown them, meditate on them and experience their characteristic energies.

I have been in contact with a Moldovan Doctor (and Reiki Master) whose Reiki friends use Christian symbols to control and focus the Reiki energy. I also know a Moslem Reiki Master who uses Moslem prayers to frame the energy in a particular way, and he can feel the energy altering its nature as the prayer is recited.

In Usui Sensei’s original system, sacred sounds called ‘kotodama’ were taught as a way of experiencing, and directing, the energy. Students were not ‘attuned’ to a kotodama (however that might have been achieved): they simply used the sound and the sound moulded the energy.

The Reiki symbols are simply graphical representations of different aspects of the energy.

You can simply look at them, remember them and use them and they will work for you, whether or not you have been through some sort of ritual that involved the teacher visualising them as they ‘connected’ you.

From personal experience, and the experience of many Reiki people, I can say that it is possible to produce the desired effect with the energy through intent only, whether that be distant healing or gearing the energy in the direction of mental/emotional balancing or physical healing.

So for me there is a distinction to be made between the energy of Reiki and any graphics (symbols) that might be used to control and focus the energy in a particular way. Reiki is the energy, you are ‘connected’ to the energy, but symbols do not need to enter into the connection process for it to work, nor do you need to have been ‘attuned’ to a symbol before it will work for you.

There are many ways of directing the energy: by using symbols from Japan or from other cultures or sources, by using sound, and through simple intent.

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Picture Credit: Loren Javier