What Is Reiki?

Reiki is a modern name for ancient systems of healing with hands. During a Reiki session, the practitioner places their hands on or near the recipient. The recipient naturally responds to this connection, typically experiencing relaxation and an improved sense of well-being. The connection works on a deeper level as well, functioning as a subtle reminder and support to the recipient’s innate capacity for self-healing.

Reiki’s foundation appears to trace back many centuries to healing practices from Tibet and elsewhere in southern Asia. Modern Reiki is largely based on the work of a Japanese Buddhist Priest, Dr. Mikao Usui. It is difficult to untangle the facts and myths about Dr. Usui, but it appears that, in the early twentieth century, after a lengthy, multi-day meditation, he experienced a spiritual awakening after which he was able to channel healing energy through his hands.

Dr. Usui used the word “Reiki” to describe this energy, combining the Japanese words “Rei” and “Ki.” “Ki” means the universal life-force energy that flows through all beings. It is the same as what is called “Qi” in Chinese, “Prana” in Sanskrit, “Ruach” in Hebrew, and many other things throughout the world. “Rei” can be translated as “universal” or “wisdom of the universe.” Thus “Reiki” can be translated as “universal energy,” “enlightened energy,” or “healing energy.”

Dr. Usui treated many people. He also taught a small number of “masters” who passed along Reiki to others. Western Reiki traces back to an American woman, Mrs. Hawayo Takata, who learned Reiki from one of Dr. Usui’s masters after she experienced profound healing from Reiki treatments. Mrs. Takata formalized many of Dr. Usui’s teachings and passed them along to twenty-two masters. Following her death, some of Mrs. Takata’s masters began to teach Reiki to more and more people. Reiki has continued to spread and evolve since then. Today, Reiki has become a widely-practiced modality that provides spiritual, emotional, and physical relief to people all over the world.

If you are interested in further reading about Reiki and its history, there are many sources to consult. Among them are Reiki Fire, New Information about the Origins of the Reiki Power, by Frank Arjava Petter (Lotus Press, 1997), or Reiki for Life, by Penelope Quest (Piatkus/Tarcher, 2002), or the many resources published by the International Center for Reiki Training at its website www.reiki.org.

What Reiki Isn't

Reiki is not a religion. It has no dogma. It requires no specific set of beliefs. Instead, Reiki is a technique for working working with subtle aspects of the body, which in turn can have effects on the physical body.