Some Common Reiki Myths Debunked

Over time, a lot of inaccurate information about Reiki has ended up being published in books and on web sites, and propagated as the half-truths and inaccuracies have been passed from teacher to student in different Reiki lineages, so what I thought I would do is to have a look at various web sites and see what the most common inaccuracies were. I have collected below a dozen ‘Reiki myths’ and hope what I say below will shed a little light on the situation.

(1) Reiki was invented in the 1870s

Reiki’s founder, Mikao Usui, was born in 1865 and died in 1926. In 1870 he was five years old, and is unlikely in the ten year period before his 15th birthday to have developed the Reiki system! Reiki actually came into being in the 1910s and was taught by Usui until his death.

(2) Mikao Usui was a Doctor

Although Mrs Takata – the lady who first taught a version of Mikao Usui’s system in the West – taught people that Mikao Usui was a Doctor, she did this to emphasise that Usui was a professional man, a person of some standing, and she did this as part of a longer allegory that she taught as the ‘history of Reiki’. In Japan he would have been referred to by his students as Usui “Sensei”, with the word ‘Sensei’ meaning something like ‘revered teacher’.

(3) Mikao Usui was a Christian teacher

Again this is part of the allegory that Mrs Takata taught, a ‘history’ that was only very loosely based on historical fact, something that she taught in order to make Reiki acceptable to a potentially hostile, and largely Christian, American audience (she was teaching shortly after WWII, remember). Mikao Usui was not a Christian and did not teach in a Christian school in Japan. He was a Tendai Buddhist.

(4) Reiki is a forgotten Tibetan Buddhist healing method

Reiki has nothing to do with Tibet and Mikao Usui did not ‘discover’ Reiki by reading ancient Tibetan Buddhist sutras. Usui Sensei would not have had access to Tibetan Buddhist writings in Japan in the 1900s and he did not need to have, since Reiki draws on the various Japanese traditions that he was exposed to: Shinto, Tendai Buddhism, Shugendo (Mountain asceticism) and martial arts.

In fact Buddhism had already arrived and become established in Japan long before it arrived in Tibet. As I understand it, Buddhism did not pass from Tibet to China to Japan. Japanese Buddhism originated in China, and eventually Buddhism arrived in Tibet from two sources: from China and from India. The only connection between Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Tendai Buddhism is that, both being forms of Buddhism, there will be general similarities between the different traditions.

Reiki is not a Tibetan Buddhist thing.

(5) Reiki came into being after Mikao Usui saw symbols in bubbles of light after a 21 day period of fasting and meditating on Mount Kurama

This is another part of the fable that Mrs Takata taught. While it is true that Mikao Usui carried out a meditation on Mount Kurama, it was not quite the “disappearing up a mountain and coming down three weeks later with the Reiki system” that was implied by Mrs Takata’s story. Mikao Usui did carry out a three week formal meditation process called the “Lotus Repentance Meditation” which involved daily meditations on the mountain (and going home again at the end of the day), but he had already been teaching his spiritual system long before he carried out the first of these meditations; in fact, he did this meditation five times during his lifetime. Usui’s meditations will have contributed to his spiritual development but they did not lead to a ‘eureka’ moment that brought the Reiki system into being.

The Reiki symbols were taught only to a few of Usui Sensei’s students right towards the end of his life. Most of his students never got to see or work with a symbol because they were not a part of his system. So Usui Sensei had been teaching his system successfully for a long, long time before he and his senior student Toshihiro Eguchi jointly introduced the symbols, basically for the benefit of the Imperial Officers.

(6) Reiki treatments should not be given to people with pacemakers

This is just one example of a whole load of nonsense Reiki ‘contraindications’ that wash around the Reiki movement and are passed on from teacher to student ad infinitum. There is not a shred of evidence, either anecdotal or otherwise, to suggest that pacemakers are adversely affected by a Reiki treatment and Reiki can safely be used to treat people with pacemakers. Reiki can be taught safely to people with pacemakers too.

(7) Reiki should not be given to pregnant women

This is another nonsense contraindication that has no basis in fact. And in fact if Reiki were a problem for pregnant women then we would not be able to treat any women of childbearing age since it is possible to be pregnant without knowing it yet. So Reiki is safe. Reiki treatments can be given to pregnant women and pregnant women can be attuned to Reiki.

(8) Reiki should not be given to people with cancer

Oh dear, here is another nonsense contraindication. The idea here – again completely unsubstantiated by any evidence at all – is that Reiki will ‘feed the cancer’. There is a variation on this Reiki myth which suggests that a particular Reiki symbol, when used, will ‘feed the cancer’. Let’s think about this for a moment: everyone has cancer cells in their bodies all the time. It is normal for some cells to go haywire and our immune system spots the defective cells and eliminates them. If Reiki is dangerous for people with cancer then we should not actually be able to treat anyone at all, since everybody has cancer cells in them. In fact being attuned to Reiki would be akin to a death sentence!

Reiki is safe and we can safely ignore the endless stream of Reiki contraindications that wash about the place like so much bilge.

(9) To do Reiki, you need to have a spirit guide

No, this is not correct. Spirit guides or Reiki guides have nothing at all to do with the practice of Mikao Usui’s system. You can practise Reiki happily while having no contact with any ‘spirit guide’; you can practise Reiki quite happily while not even believing in spirit guides. What has happened is that Reiki teaching in many lineages got caught up with the New Age movement, and lots of New Age ideas and principles and practices ended up being mixed in with Reiki teaching over the years.

If you want to investigate the idea of spirit guides then I have no objection, but such a thing is not Reiki and does not feature on any of our Reiki courses because it has nothing to do with Reiki.

(10) Reiki involves using crystals

Not really, no. This is another New Age practice that has attached itself to Reiki teaching in some lineages. Do stuff with crystals if you like but you don’t need to use crystals to treat people (or yourself) with Reiki. Crystal healing and Reiki healing are two separate things, though some people like to experiment, and that’s fine.

(11) Reiki involves working with Angels

No: another New Age idea that has ended up being bundled together with Reiki on some courses. An interesting subject , of course, but the study of Angels has nothing to do with Mikao Usui’s system and I do not believe that it should feature on Reiki courses.

(12) There is a ‘Grand Master’ of Reiki

As I understand it, to make a distinction between Mrs Takata (the lady who introduced a version of Usui’s system to the West) and the Masters that she initiated, her Master students started to refer to her as a ‘Grand Master’, and this ‘office’ is now seen as being occupied by Mrs Takata’s granddaughter, Phyllis LeiFurumoto. Reiki Masters who are members of the “The Reiki Association” in the UK, and in the various “Reiki Alliance” societies in different countries, tend to defer to her as being the standard-bearer of Mrs Takata’s system, the one true way.

It is clear, though, that there never was an office or a title of ‘Grand Master’ in Usui’s system: such an office or title was never envisaged and never used. So the title “Reiki Grand Master” has no basis and means nothing. Anyone can call themselves such a thing if they want to puff up their ego a little. I would avoid a Reiki ‘Grand Master’ like the plague: Reiki practice should involve a little humility I believe.

You may come across a few people who are calling themselves Reiki Grand Masters, in the UK and in other countries. The title is meaningless.


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