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- miscellaneous research
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[Version 1.02] Copyright © 2012 James Deacon
MEIJI, USUI & SHUGENDO: The Meiji Restoration, State Shintoism, Buddhism, Mikao Usui, the 'Kantoku' traditions of Shugendo... oh, and last but not necessarily least, Hase Yoshio!
Copyright © 2002-4 James Deacon
In 1868, Prince Mutsuhito (1852-1912) became the 122nd Emperor of Japan, taking the name Meiji (meaning: "enlightened government"). The accession of this Emperor to the throne marked the beginning of a national modernising process referred to as 'The Meiji Restoration'. Meiji was the first emperor to live in Tokyo - as opposed to the old, traditional imperial capital - Kyoto. And, while he would eventually come to exert considerable influence in the governing of Japan, Meiji's primary role was as a symbol of national unity - as a 'figure head'. It was actually his ministers who dealt with the business of governing the country. However, it has been said that his 'figure head' presence was essential - that it gave the new government an aura of legitimacy - something it desperately needed in order to undertake its planned modernising transformation of Japan - which, amongst other things, included the implementation of a new authoritarian form of state religion to be known as State Shinto - a state religion which had Meiji, as Emperor, at its centre. Historically, the indigenous religion of Shinto, also known as 'Kami No Michi' (The Way of the 'Kami' or Numinous Beings), had been of central importance in Japanese culture since the earliest times, its pervasiveness being due in part to its ability to coexist happily with other faiths, Buddhism in particular. In fact, from the 8th century onwards, the Japanese people had reconciled Shinto and Buddhism to such a degree that Buddhist temples were built within Shinto shrine precincts and Buddhist priests were entrusted with the running of Shinto shrines. This conciliation had been made possible thanks to the emergence of a syncretic doctrine known as: 'Ryobu Shinto' [or:'Honji Suijaku'], which - essentially by initially equating the Kami Spirit-Beings with Buddhist Deities (i.e. Buddhas & Boddhisatvas, etc), enabled the followers of one faith to legitimately venerate the other faith's Divine Beings as alternative manifestations of their own. This popular synthesis prospered, and was typified by wandering 'Yamabushi' (mountain priests), itinerant practitioners of 'Shugendo', who ministered to the people with a mixture of Buddhist and Shinto rites. The new cult of State Shinto, however, was of a more regimented variety. Under its auspices, priests became state employees, and detailed instructions concerning the rituals and doctrine of State Shinto were set out by the Ministry of Religion. To say that Buddhism did not fare well in the early years of the Meiji Era, is perhaps an understatement. Amongst other things, Shinto and Buddhism were officially separated by decree. Buddhism was, severely 'downgraded' with Buddhist statuary ordered to be removed from Shinto shrines, Buddhist rituals which had previously been performed by the imperial household were abolished - infact, all traces of Buddhism were purged from the imperial household. Curbs on Buddhism gave rise to iconoclastic outbreaks; the government revoked all ranks and privileges enjoyed by the Buddhist hierarchy, the state confiscated all lands belonging to Buddhist temple; and across japan, a great many temples were simply destroyed. The Buddhist priesthood was regarded as a deterrent to the National
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modernising process, and while many priests were forced out, some voluntarily converted to become state employed officials at Shinto Shrines. The doctrine of Suijaku was annulled, and the Shugendo tradition of the Yamabushi was proscribed by the new regime as being an unacceptable hybrid. Shugendo has two main branches: Honzan-ha and Tozan-ha, these being affiliated with the Tendai and the Shingon schools of Mikkyo Buddhism, respectively. Translating as 'the way of cultivating psychic and spiritual powers', Shugendo is a tradition involving the practice of strict ascetic mystical disciplines including fasting, isolation, meditation (often under waterfalls), and the use of incantation and mudra-like techniques to achieve 'Kantoku' (- illuminating visionary mystical states) and to gain spiritual empowerment. These severe austerities, coupled with various rites of initiation, imbue the Yamabushi with shamanic-like powers of healing, exorcism, clairsentience, and mastery over both intense heat and extreme cold (fire and ice). Pilgrimage round various holy mountains & their temple shrines is also an important feature of Shugendo, with the Yamabushi priests commonly having links with a specific mountain and its deity. Such mountains are held to be places of great supernatural power - 'power spots' - described by many Japanese shamanic practitioners as being 'usui' -places where the veil between this world and the world of the spirit is thin (usui = thin) It has been remarked on several occasions that the account of Reiki's founder Mikao Usui - a follower of Tendai (- though some suggest he was Shingon) - journeying around Japan from temple to temple in his quest to find healing knowledge, and undertaking a 21 day fast on Mount Kurama (itself an ancient Yamabushi stronghold), culminating in a visionary experience or Kantoku, may in fact be an account of a man undergoing a Shugendo discipline. [It is also quite possible that whilst undertaking various Shugendo disciplines, Mikao Usui had received empowerments / attunements (- possibly not that dissimilar to Reiki Reiju) in the form of blessings from Mikkyo Buddhist Priests] Mikao Usui's story is certainly not unique - even amongst the founders of other modernday healing traditions and 'new religions' in Japan, similar themes can be found. For example, the experience of Hase Yoshio, founder of the healing sect 'Reiha no Hikari Kyôkai': Having been sickly since childhood, Hase Yoshio was suffering from tuberculosis, pleurisy, and after surgery for an intestinal condition, his doctor had told him he was unlikely to survive more than a month. In the time he had left, he decided go on a religious quest. Hase said goodbye to his family, and, dressed in white (signifying that he had become an ascetic), left the city of Takamatsu and climbed to the summit of Gokenzan Yama, where, he sequestered himself in a small hut. Lining up twenty-one stones to count the days, he sat in perpetual meditation, discarding one of the stones each day. The day came when there was only a single stone remaining, and on this day, Hase experienced a spiritual phenomenon. He became aware of the voice of god, and the voice said, "Be the messenger of god and walk the path of god." As the voice spoke to him, Hase was transfixed - unable to move - as if he were tied down; and suddenly, all the terrible pain that had crippled him for so long mysteriously dissipated. And in time his health recovered fully…. * * * * * * *
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Reijutsu, Hand-Healing, 'New Religions' & Reiki in early 20thC Japan
Copyright © 2002 James Deacon [Modified March, 2009]
A number of people seem to be under the misapprehension that Usui Sensei was somehow responsible for what has been referred to as a 'revival' of Healing-hand practices in early 20th century Japan. However, such healing practices had been quite common in Japan for many centuries and there is no reason to believe they had fallen into decline during the Meiji era. In fact, it is known that many and varied forms of hand-healing practices existed during Usui Sensei's lifetime. 'Teate' (hand/palm healing) systems had long existed (and continue to exist today) with in the martial disciplines, for example: the various schools of Ninpo (Ninjitsu) and traditional Bujutsu schools such as Katori Shinto Ryu, and I believe, Yagyu Ryu - the Jujutsu/Kenjutsu discipline believed to have been studied by Usui Sensei himself. And, outside of martial arts circles, there also existed several teate practices utilising a form of vital life-force energy referred to as:'seiki'.
seiki Various forms of seiki healing practice [not to be confused with the modern 'Seiki Soho' healing] had been around since at least the Edo period and some practitioners were certainly active around the time Usui Sensei was teaching Reiki. For example, we know of one Seiki therapy group: the seiki ryoho kenkyu jo (Seiki Treatment Institute / Research Establishment) which was definitely active in the late 1920's. Also, Traditional Japanese Medicine (essentially Traditional Chinese Medicine with a name-change) included 'Ki-jutsu' techniques (which would later also be referred to as 'kiko' techniques) - originally believed to have been derived from Qi Gung Hand Healing. It has been said that Usui-sensei was a member of a 'group' called Reijutsu Kai, which were met near Mount Kurama. However, during the early part of the 20th century, Reijutsu wasn't just a 'group' - rather, it was quite a large, flourishing 'movement'. It would seem that what Usui-sensei belonged to was a local Association (Kai) of which there were apparently a great many in the Reijutsu movement.
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A Shinto-related phenomenon, amongst Reijutsu's aims was the improvement of health of the nation. Reijutsu made use of a variety of healing methods including Reiki-like 'laying-on-ofhands' and healing through religious rituals. The Reijutsu movement became quite prominent, and practitioners even travelled to Mongolia and gave lectures on their techniques to Chinese. (As a result, it is said, elements of Reijutsu found their way into Chinese Qi Gung practices.) Then, there were (even in Usui's day) countless 'folk practitioners' - including members of the supposedly suppressed Shugendo cults, who utilised hand-healing (admittedly in conjunction with exorcism, prayer and other esoteric practices). And a great many of the spiritual groups, often referred to as: 'new religions' (shinko shukyo) or 'new religious groups', which existed in Usui's time, were essentially 'healing sects', several of which had materialised around a charismatic 'founder' who had developed or 'received' healing powers. Many of these new religious'/spiritual groups (- which generally tended to incorporate elements from Shinto and Buddhist teachings -) came into being as a result of their founders undergoing either mystical visionary experiences of, or indeed actual possession by, Kami (numinous beings), or sometimes, by Ancestral Spirits. Now, while most people, it seems, view Usui Sensei's 'Reiki Experience' on Mount Kurama in terms of mystical connection with an abstract 'Spiritual Universal Energy', it may be of interest to note that, while the term 'Reiki' essentially implies : 'spiritual essence', 'spiritual influence', or 'the effect of spirit', some suggest the term may also be used to indicate the refer to the influence of an Ancestral Spirit...
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USUI SENSEI'S TRAINING CENTRE & STATE SCRUTINY
Copyright © 2007 James Deacon
The Meiji-era had been a time of unprecedented change, upheaval (and instability) in Japan - a time of rapid growth and modernization. "For the good of the nation" the Meiji Government had recognized a need to monitor and regulate the activities of all group and organizations (political, social, & spiritual), lest they disseminate 'dangerous thoughts' - ideas in any way conflicting with, or critical of, the official views and doctrines of the State. Though, this 'big brother' style approach was not really anything new; rather - particularly in relation to spiritual/religious groups - it was in many ways simply a continuation of policies implemented during the pre-restoration eras. (For example the Genroku period has seen the forceful prohibition of "new doctrines & deviant sects") Laws passed during the Meiji era required that the tenets and principles of all spiritual/religious groups must in no way contradict (or even appear to contradict) the doctrines of the Imperial Cult ('State Shinto') central to which was a belief in the divinity of the Emperor, and the veneration of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. Conformity to the State ethos was seen as paramount, and this focus on the prevention of 'Thought Crime' was a trend that continued into and throughout the reign of Meiji's successor: the Emperor Taisho. For example, in 1925, the Taisho Government passed the Chian Iji Ho (Peace Preservation Law/ Public Security Act), primarily with the intent of stemming the spread of Socialist thought. However this Law was also implemented to control the growth and activities of religious and spiritual groups - both large and small. All such groups had to be legally approved by the Bureau of Religion - a department of the Ministry of Education. Groups that did not achieve legal sanction -i.e. did not achieve the status of officially recognized organizations - were viewed with high levels of suspicion and held in great contempt by the authorities. In many cases, deemed ruiji shûkyô ('quasi/pseudo-religious organizations') these unsanctioned groups fell under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry and were subjected to persistent police monitoring and frequent, rigorous, inspection and scrutiny. It is quite likely that a spiritually-orientated group such as Usui-sensei's would have been classified as ruiji shûkyô... We are told that in Apr 1922 Usui-Sensei opened his first training centre in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo.
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Over the next two years, the number of people studying with Usui-sensei grew to the extent that in Feb 1924 Usui-Sensei moved his Centre to larger premises in Nakano. The fact that this group was increasing in number was presumably carefully noted by the authorities. As the group continued to grow this would have led to greater interest from officials at the Home Ministry. We know from the Memorial Stone in the Saihoji Temple graveyard that Usui-sensei's fame had spread far and wide, and this would no doubt have been a cause of considerable concern for the authorities, who would need to be reassured that there were no elements of Usui-sensei's teachings which might be deemed to be in any way critical of, or contrary to, official State doctrine. We are also told that in 1925, about twenty Officers of the Imperial Navy (including 2 Admirals) joined Usui-sensei's Centre - that it was under their influence that the chanting of gyosei poetry - penned by the Meiji Emperor - first began to be used at the start of the meetings; and that within days of their arrival, there was a sudden shift in the nature and structure of the training being provided at the Centre. This sounds as if the Centre was actually being taken over by the Naval Officers? Had they perhaps been assigned the task of 're-aligning' the activities, aims and objectives of the Centre? And perhaps also, been tasked with discovering ways in which Usui-sensei's skills, teachings and training (like that of many others) could be 'appropriated' for the greater good of the State?
[to be continued…]
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USUI-SENSEI: A SAMURAI CONNECTION Was Mikao Usui really descended from the fabled Chiba clan?
[Copyright © 2006 James Deacon] [Modified, 2012]
Usui-sensei's family tomb stands in a graveyard at the Jodo shu (Pure Land sect) Saihoji Temple, Tokyo. On a plinth in front of the tomb there is a stone displaying a mon or family/clan crest: a crescent moon (its 'horns' almost extending to form a complete circle) with a 'star' [actually a small circle] between it points. A 'moon-star' mon is familiar throughout Japan as being an emblem of the famous samurai clan: the Chiba.* So does this mean Usui-sensei was of Chiba samurai ancestry? Well, so we are led to believe. Afterall, on the memorial stone standing to the side of the family tomb, it states that one of Usui-sensei's ancestors was Tsunetane, who was indeed a member of the Chiba clan [though, some who claim 'insider knowledge' tell us that Usui-sensei's ancestor was not Tsunetane Chiba, but rather one Tsuneyasu, a son of Tsunekane Chiba** - but a Chiba none-the-less] Yet to date, neither I nor anyone else (unless someone is holding out on us) has managed to uncover any documentary evidence [by this, I mean external substantiation/verification - official records, etc - or for that matter, any form of documentary evidence not directly originating within the 'Reiki community'] to support the claim of Usui-sensei's Chiba lineage - via either Tsunetane or Tsuneyasu. And further, to the best of my knowledge, to date no one else researching the History of Reiki / Life of Usui-sensei has managed to discover any official records even connecting him with either the Chiba clan, or with the Usui family which was part of Chiba. Yes, there was a Usui family who were important members of the Chiba clan - some say they were named after either Usui Castle or Usui City, some say the castle/city were named after the family - but either way that does not necessarily 'prove' that Usui-sensei was actually of that particular Usui family. For that matter, we cannot even be certain that Usui-sensei was actually born a Usui… You see, under the Tokugawa Shogunate (pre 1868 and the Meiji restoration), only the ruling/warrior classes (i.e. Nobles and Samurai) classes had the right to use a surname, and for that matter, the right to wear a sword. Though it was not unknown for the Shogunate to permit certain gono - 'wealthy peasants' the right to both use a surname and wear a sword (- for a hefty financial consideration, of course). But generally, common people were only allowed a personal name.
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Where necessary, to distinguish one from another, commoners would be identified in terms of their place of origin, e.g: "Kenji from Taniai village"; or alternatively, as 'son of so-and-so', e.g. "Fuji, son of Toshihiro", whose offspring would in turn be "X, son of Fuji", and so on, thus preventing the commoners from gaining a clearly defined familial lineage. However, after the Meiji restoration, it was decreed that (as part of the modernisation./Westernisation process) all Japanese citizens should assume a surname. As a result, a greater part of the population who had, prior to Meiji era, no familial name, suddenly gained one. Some people took the name of their place of birth or residence as their surname, some simply made up names, or chose names with pleasant associations. Others - hoping to gain varying degrees of prestige and advantage for themselves and future generations, assumed the surnames of famous figures from history. Many simply took the name of the samurai clan that had previously ruled over them and their ancestors… Without documentary evidence, we cannot be certain if the founder of the Reiki system was of noble or samurai lineage, was of gono ancestry, or if, just like millions of other ordinary Japanese folk, his surname had simply been assumed by his father in response to Imperial decree … Part of the problem is that, in order to uncover documentary evidence concerning Usuisensei's ancestry, we need some official documentation concerning Usui-sensei himself. And, as of the time of writing, we have not discovered any reliable sources - no official record of his birth or death, his marriage, the birth or death of his children, etc. (we only have what we can learn from the inscriptions at the family tomb) As a result of the Meiji Government's "Proclamation of the Great Doctrine in 1870, every Japanese citizen was required to register at their local Shinto Shrine; and again, I am unaware if even any record of the registration of the Usui family itself (i.e this specific Usui family) has been discovered. (The closest we get is a rumour of some or other inscription at the shrine in the village of Taniai - where, we are told, Usui-sensei was born - apparently stating that a family named Usui funded the construction of the shrine's Torii Gate) Obviously, research efforts aren't helped by the fact that a lot of official records were no doubt destroyed in the devastating fire-bombing of Tokyo during WWII, but as Kyoto did not suffer the same horrific level of destruction, one would hope there is still the possibility of some documentary evidence relating to Usui-sensei's birth/early life being uncovered in the future.
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NOTES * While the mon displayed at the Usui grave-site has the crescent 'leaning' as it were slightly to the left (as one looks at it), another version of this Chiba emblem commonly sits 'upright' - the 'star' is centre top. [I have also seen this 'upright' version attributed to the Ito samurai clan] . It is also quite possible is that there is actually no connection at all between the Chiba crest and the mon displayed at the Usui grave. [edit 27/11/06: Just recently I have been informed that the latter emblem may be associated with yet another samurai clan: the Obu - but this has yet to be confirmed or denied] ** Tsuneyasu was apparently the third a son of Tsunekane, so his own offspring would constitute a side-branch of the family.
The 'moon-star' mon: 月星 月星
Other mon also used by the Chiba clan 九曜星 九曜に半月
'upright' version of Chiba 'Moon-star' mon
mon at Usui grave-site
the Kuyoboshi mon “Crest of Nine Stars."
"Half-Moon Kuyo" mon - Moon-star & Kuyoboshi combined
The 'moon-star' crest and Myoken Bosatsu, some notes: The 'moon-star' crest (tsuki ni hoshi 月に星 or tsuki boshi 月星 in Japanese) was originally (and still is) the emblem of Myoken Bosatsu, that is, the Bodhisattva Myoken. During the Heian period, Myoken was adopted as tutelary deity of the Chiba clan, and along with the bosatsu, they also adopted the 'moon-star' crest as a mon. (It seems this adoption was in recognition that Myoken had afforded protection in battle to one of the Chiba-clan ancestors). It is interesting to note that the crest, as it appears in the roof-edge decorations on Chiba Castle, has an additional element - a diamond-cross in the centre (but this is a decorative feature, not part of the mon itself). Whilst commonly referred to as a Bosatsu, Myoken (originally an Indian deity: Sudrsti) is more properly a ten - a deity of non-Buddhist origin. Myoken is the deity associated with the Polaris (aka the Pole Star, or North Star) and the 'Big Dipper'/'Great Bear' constellation, both of which (star and constellation) have been essential for
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ships navigators. For this reason, Myoken has been worshipped - by sailors, merchants and others who rely on the sea for their livelihood - as the Bosatsu of safe voyage. This deity is also considered to generally bring luck and prosperity, and to afford protection from fires, As well as being an apotropaic deity (one capable of averting or combating evil), Myoken - the "keen-sighted" or "wondrous seeing"- is also considered a healing deity, and is specifically associated with the prevention/healing of diseases of the eyes. Myoken (some times depicted as male, sometimes female) is also said to have the power to increase ones lifespan Myoken is strongly associated with the Nichiren sect. One legend states the reason for this being that that Myoken once appeared to the founder Nichiren; however another view is that Myokenworship only became significant in Nichiren after the Chiba clan became followers of the sect.
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REIKI IN JAPAN BEFORE 1985 - a New Perspective
Copyright © 2007 James Deacon
In 1985, New York journalist and Reiki teacher, Mieko Mitsui travelled to Japan with the intent of doing some research into Reiki's origins. While there she began teaching classes in a particular style of Reiki (a modified and augmented version of Usui Shiki Ryoho, as taught by one of Takata-sensei's students: Barbara Ray), and as a result, could be said to have been single-handedly responsible for sparking a 'Reiki Revival' in Japan Yet beyond introducing the Japanese to this particular style of Reiki, Mitsui also reported that she had made contact with other, pre-existing Reiki Practitioners in Japan, and apparently had herself received some training from at least one of them. The presence of these Reiki practitioners was naturally taken as proof by Mitsui that Reiki had not died out in Japan, as had previously been believed. Mitsui is commonly hailed as being the first person to re-introduce Reiki from the West to Japan - however there is one fact that she and many others are clearly unaware of… What follows is an extract from a recording of a talk given by Takata-sensei at the Trinity Metaphysical Center, in Redwood, California in 1976: "I took Reiki out of Japan. Last year I went back and I gave them the first degree, and they are just crying for the second degree this year, so I am going back again. Next year, I shall go back to Japan and create ten Teachers. And this is the way I'm going to return Reiki, back to Japan. There will be Reiki Centres in Japan, and Masters there, and they will take care of all the necessity and they will have many, many Reiki students; and so, I do not have to go again. And so … next year to Japan will be my last trip. So, I will spend many months there" That Takata-sensei had re-introduced level one Reiki to Japan in 1975 may come as a great surprise to many. However, it seems Takata-sensei never got the opportunity to return again to Japan, as she had intended, to teach levels two and three  The reasons behind this are not clear, but possibly can be put down to health. While, at the time, the information had not been revealed to her students, it later emerged that, sometime in 1975, Takata-sensei had had a heart attack, so after this she was probably less inclined to travel overseas...
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Yet, levels two and three aside, the simple fact that Takata-sensei had initiated a number (how many exactly is unknown) of level one Reiki practitioners in Japan - ten years before Mitsui's visit, is in itself a revelation which, I feel could, impact significantly upon the so-called 'new' history of Reiki: Surviving Original Students of Usui-sensei's teachings? Back in the late '90's that we began to hear rumours about a small group of very elderly Japanese men and women. It was claimed they were some of the original students... - that what they had been taught was something different from the Reiki as introduced to Japan by Mieko Mitsui - that what they had been taught had not even been called Reiki - that the methods and practices they had been taught did not include the use of the Reiki Symbols - that they had not even been shown the Reiki Symbols - in many cases, didn't even know of the Symbols' existence... Well of course it is possible that these people were some of the original students - not students taught by Usui-sensei, but rather original Level 1 students, taught by Takata-sensei in 1975 - the system taught by Takata-sensei was something different from the Reiki as introduced to Japan by Mieko Mitsui [as mentioned above, the form of Reiki introduced by Mitsui had been modified and augmented by Barbara Ray] - and of course the system taught by Takata-sensei was not called "Reiki" [but rather: "Usui Shiki Ryoho"] - and as for the Reiki Symbols: well of course the methods and practices they had been taught did not include the use of the Reiki Symbols - in those days, Level 1 students did not get to see the Reiki Symbols - in most cases, Level 1 students probably wouldn't even know that there were any Reiki Symbols
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- the Reiki Symbols were a secret, not to be revealed to students until Level 2 
Just imagine the scenario, if you will: Takata-sensei reintroduces Reiki to Japan in 1975. The small handful of Japanese students are full of gratitude - having been honoured to receive the 'spiritual gift' that is the Reiki Initiation, and the accompanying 'first level' of training in this sacred art... Diligently, they practice what they have been taught - mindfully developing their skills and sensitivities - whilst eagerly awaiting the day when Takata-sensei will return to assess their progress, and decide if they are ready to receive the next stage in their training - the second level. But that longed-for day does not arrive. For reasons un-beknown to the small group of Japanese students, Takata-sensei does not return. And so they gradually come to the realisation that they are alone... Over time, in their isolation, perhaps it is that several of these Japanese students became disheartened, perhaps even move away altogether from practice of Usuisensei's art. Others, of a more determined spirit, perhaps attempted to develop beyond what they had been taught - to move beyond the entry level teachings (referred to as the "introductory course" by Takata-sensei). Yet, being unaware as to what the next stage of training (the "intermediate course") actually entailed - they found themselves somewhat at a loss... What were they to do? It is quit feasible that [- as would happen in the West, not that many years later] some of these Japanese students would have sought to augment and advance their practice, understanding and perceptions by adopting/integrating elements from other disciplines , and also perhaps would have sought inspiration by drawing on meditative practices and other elements from their own particular spiritual faiths. These things, combined with a little 'informed guesswork' and intuition, and soon a 'reconstructed' version of Usui-sensei's teachings gradually began to evolve... But how were they to pass on the spiritual blessing - the 'Reiki gift' itself - to others? These level 1 students were of course unaware of the true nature of the initiation process.
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It was Takata-sensei's practice to confer initiation in a darkened room; and during the proceedure the students eyes were closed. Though, even had some of these Japanese students (as many others in the West had done before them) given in to temptation and tried to watch from under slightly raised eyelids, what would they have seen as they sat in gassho, but fleeting glimpses of Takata-sensei, moving to and fro, gesturing obscurely, at times breathing strangely - there in the electrifying, silent darkness... Perhaps it was that in their quest for a process by which to confer the 'gift', someone happened upon a concept found within several of the modernday spiritual groups often categorised as 'new religions' - a means of giving and receiving a spiritual blessing - a process referred to as reiju... And so, as a result of these Japanese students, integrating what little they were aware of concerning the process of the original initiation they themselves had received, with what they had discovered about this other reiju blessing process, a 'Reiki reiju' was born (though something more visually akin to the seated Reiki treatment method than to the original, formal, initiation process Takata-sensei had used) Also, as on each of the four occasions they had met with Takata-sensei [the four consecutive evenings over which the introductory level course was held], they had received the blessing/initiation from her, (and they had probably also been informed by her that the second level would bring with it a deepening of the connection with/awareness of Reiki ,) it was not really that much of a leap for these enthusiastic Japanese students to conclude that - had their training continued as originally planned then on every occasion that they met with Takata-sensei they would have also received this 'blessing'.  And so was born the idea of the regular, ongoing, receipt of this 'Reiki gift' this spiritual gift - this reiju...
Within a very short few years after Takata-sensei's passing, Reiki in the West, had in many cases evolved far form the specific understandings and practices as taught by Takata-sensei herself. Imagine just how much 'Japanese Reiki' could have evolved in the ten years between Takata-sensei returning Reiki to Japan in 1975 and Mitsui 'rediscovering' Reiki there when she visited in 1985?
[To be continued...?]
_______ NOTES  Phyllis Furumoto has confirmed that no masters were created by her grandmother in Japan in the 70's [on a related note, we know that Takata-sensei went to Japan to visit Hayashi-sensei's widow, Chie, in the early 1950's - so it is not beyond the realm of possiblity that she may have taught some Reiki classes there at that time.]
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 And even Level 2 students would probably be unaware that there was a further Reiki Symbol taught at Level 3. The majority would be under the impression that the Reiki system only had three symbols in total...  For example, Johrei (- which, while externally perceived as a form of hand-healing, is more properly considered to be a form of spiritual purification. A means of spiritual development first and foremost - healing being simply a side effect of the Spiritual practice)  [And also further methods to help facilitate changing bad habits for good, thus improving mind and body]  Obviously they would have no way of knowing that it was only as part of the 'introductory' training that the four initiations (with their connection to the 'four soul aspects') were given, and that they would have only received one further initiation at each of the other two levels of training.
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REIKI-WEST MEETS REIKI-EAST: Genuine 'Japanese-lineage Reiki' or simply a Western, 'New Age' import, redressed in Japanese clothing?
Copyright © 2005/6 James Deacon
The late 1970's saw the beginning of what could be described as Japan's 'New Age' boom, with a growing interest in everything from UFO's to channeling to Chinese Chi Gung to magical protection to crystals to Tarot cards to dolphin-communication and Tibetan chanting. Through the 1980's and 1990's, New Age magazines such as 'My Birthday', and 'Mð', rapidly grew in popularity, with monthly sales reaching over a third of a million copies. The number of shops selling New Age and omajinai (magic) goods also mushroomed, as did the number and variety of New Age-related training seminars being offered across Japan. Many alternative forms of healing (often imported from the West) also began to grow in popularity... Reiki, it seems, was one of them. In the mid 1980's Mieko Mitsui had introduced Barbara Ray's version of Reiki to Japan training a number of students to level 2. (And it is known that at least one of Mitsui's students later travelled to the USA to undergo Alliance-style Master level training.) Through the late 1980's and into the early 1990's, several other western Reiki teachers had temporarily visited Japan, providing training for small numbers of students. Though it seems it was not until April 1993 that the first western Reiki teacher (Frank Petter) set up a permanent Reiki teaching presence in Japan - offering training in all three levels. [Petter had apparently only received his own attunement to all three levels in Berlin - towards the end of 1992]. Yet, while there had been a growing interest in Reiki amongst the Japanese, there seems to have been very little interest in delving into the native origins of the art. It could be said that with all things 'New Age' related, it is - in part at least - the allure of the exotic, the unknown, the culturally 'other', that fuels interest in the subject - and the growing interest in Reiki amongst the Japanese was essentially a part of their 'New Age' scene. It turned out that on the whole, the Japanese who were drawn to the art of Reiki - either as clients or as students - weren't interested in homegrown Reiki - they wanted 'proper' Reiki - from America! Of course, for those western Reiki practitioners who had had the opportunity to visit Japan, it was a very different matter. They were in, the main, eager to attempt to discover whatever they could about native Japanese Reiki.
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And soon, several of the Japanese practitioners, who had been trained in western-style Reiki by Mieko Mitsui and others, began to find they were being contacted by growing numbers of gaijin (foreigners) wanting to know if they also practiced 'Japanese-style' Reiki, or if not, if they could at least tell them something about it and how it differed from their own 'western-style' Takata-lineage Reiki. It seems that a couple of these Japanese practitioners (who had neither any actual knowledge of, nor any real interest in, native Japanese Reiki) told the gaijin who contacted them that the Reiki they practiced was actually a hybrid: part western-style, part Japanese-style. Were they being intentionally deceitful? Well, no, not really. In fact technically, their claims were only partly a lie - and, to the mindset of these particular Japanese practitioners, a 'white lie' at that. To their way of thinking, part of what they were practicing was indeed Japanese Reiki had not the essential core of Reiki as introduced from the west actually originated in Japan? And from what was understood, the system as taught in America by Takata was almost exactly what she in turn had learnt from Hayashi in Japan. And afterall, these gaijin had obviously come a long distance in search of native Reiki. To be seen to be unable to help them - to have to dishearten them and turn them away empty-handed - would have been impolite. It would have also meant a 'loss of face'. Then, one of the English-speaking Japanese practitioners, in a genuine attempt to provide his western 'Reiki-cousins' with some factual information, made a fortuitous discovery. After a little research he had managed to uncover what he considered a really helpful source of Reiki-related information. Over a period of several weeks, in several discussions with some of the gaijin, this Japanese Reiki practitioner freely shared several - as the gaijin saw it - 'precious nuggets' of information concerning Chujiro Hayashi. He told them how Hayashi and Usui had first met in a place called Shizuoka. That Hayashi had been 45 years old at the time. He mentioned that Hayashi had previously been a Commander in the Imperial Navy, but although technically retired when he met Usui, he was still part of the Naval Reserves. The Japanese practitioner also told the gaijin that Hayashi had a wife named Chie, and one son and one daughter. He said that Hayashi had his own clinic in Tokyo, that he also had a home there, as well as having a summer villa in Atami, near Mt. Fuji. He further explained how it was at the villa, surrounded by his senior students, that Hayashi had committed suicide. The Japanese practitioner also provided them with the exact date that Hayashi ended his life: May 10, 1940.
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He said that, after her husband's suicide, Chie Hayashi continued to live in their Tokyo home, and took over running his Reiki Clinic. And that apparently, Chie Hayashi was still actually running the clinic some 14 years after Hayashi's death. Needless to say, the foreigners were fascinated to learn this wonderful information concerning Chujiro Hayashi, so graciously provided by their new-found Japanese Reiki contact. He, in turn, was pleased that they were pleased. However, one wonders if they were perhaps less appreciative when they realized the actual source of this information? That their contact had gained all of this valuable Hayashi-related information - not as the gaijin might possibly have imagined - from some Reiki Master in a surviving native Japanese lineage, but instead, from tape recordings of talks given in the 1970's in America - by Takata sensei... And there were other Japanese practitioners of imported 'Western' Reiki who found themselves in the awkward position of having gaijin pressing them for all sorts of other Reiki-related information. For example, wanting to know about the particular training methods used in early 'Japanese-style' Reiki, or the precise origins of the symbols, the exact meanings of their names; information about the initiations; Usui sensei's background, his spiritual and religious beliefs, etc. etc. No doubt there were those amongst them who, though not actually having the requested information to share, yet at the same time not wishing to appear impolite, simply told their gaijin 'Reiki-cousins' what they thought they wanted to hear - albeit in somewhat vague and noncommittal terms - agreeing with assumptions, and taking cues from the many 'leading questions' that, in their overeagerness, the foreigners would certainly have asked. Afterall, what harm would it do? For example, one or two 'influential' gaijin Reiki Masters had begun incorporating Chi Gung derived exercises into their Reiki training classes. The primary reason for this, it seems, was in an attempt to strengthen the flow of Reiki energy, which (possibly due to various modifications made - by themseves and others to the system as it had originally been taught by Takata-Sensei) had, in the opinion of many practitioners, become noticably less potent. Was it, one wonders, sheer coincidence that in discussion with their new-found Japanese contacts, these same gaijin were to learn that Usui-sensei had apparently also taught his students a set of energy-development exercises - from something called 'ki-ko'? (Ki-ko is the Japanese pronunciation of the term 'Chi Gung')  And when the gaijin began asking about Usui's religion - well, the foreigners themselves had already decided that, contrary to what Mrs. Takata had claimed, Usui was not a Christian.
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(Now, to a great many Japanese, Shinto is not actually spoken of in terms of being a 'religion,' per se) So when the gaijin asked what religion Usui practiced, well, unless he belonged to one of the so-called 'new religions' then in all likelihood he must have been a Buddhist of some sort. So that is what they let the foreigners believe. Afterall, it was probably true just not definitely true. During the 90's, several western Reiki Masters (having completely missed the inner significance of the use of symbols in relation to Japanese spiritual-transmission traditions) had decided that the symbols might not be all that necessary to the Reiki system of healing. They had, it seems, begun to view the symbols as little more than 'training wheels' - something for the novice level 2 student to work with, then discard as their abilities developed. How pleased they must have felt when - on sharing these opinions with their Japanese counterparts - they were told that in Usui-sensei's original Reiki Society (which still existed, but perhaps conveniently wanted nothing to do with gaijin Reiki practitioners), the Reiki symbols were also no longer used . Moreover, that they had not even been part of the original form of Usui-sensei's Reiki, but had been added at a later date simply as a training aid for students! And we know that in at least one instance, when someone asked a leading question along the lines of: "Did Hayashi teach Reiki in 2 and 3-day classes like we do today?" the answer received was (predictably) in the affirmative. And again: "Is it known if he also taught levels 1 & 2 back-to-back like we do today?" Of course, in yet another attempt to please, the answer was again a 'yes'. (At the time of answering, this particular Japanese practitioner was obviously unaware that, as we know from Takata-sensei, initial tuition for the first level consisted of four days of training second level tuition not being given until the student had showed progress in developing their skills at level one. Also, that the concept of teaching Reiki levels back-to-back was actually something devised by 'Independent' western Reiki Masters - but not until several years after Takata sensei's passing.) And so it was that what had started out as a series of simple attempts to be polite (and find 'face-saving' ways to respond to the requests made by honoured guests), would further down the line - lead to much misunderstanding (as to the individuals' motivation) and also confusion (as to the 'hard facts' concerning native Japanese Reiki). It was part of the culture - to attempt to fulfil your guests' requests - but it was also proper for a guest not to be too demanding. It was impolite to have to say no - it was also impolite to (however unintentionally) force a host into the position where they were unable to fulfil your requests - it was even worse not to recognize that this was what you were doing.
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And many of these gaijin were so 'blunt' - didn't seem to grasp Japanese sensibilities always 'in your face' and (albeit unintentionally) aggressive - and, in their enthusiasm, ever pushing for more, more. In time, many Japanese practitioners became frustrated with the seemingly endless demands for information they did not have. Several eventually realized they would have to adopt a western-like mindset response - and, at the risk of 'loss of face' - admit they were unable to be of help their 'Reiki-cousins' from the west. However, sad though it may be, in Reiki (both 'Western' and 'Japanese'), just as in any other area of life, there are always unscrupulous, dishonourable people willing to take advantage. Several such people it seems, were quick to latch on to some of the more wide-eyed and over-trusting gaijin Reiki practitioners who have ventured forth in search of the 'secrets' concerning native Japanese Reiki... ________
NOTES:  While ki-ko, as a New Age import, became popular in Japan from the late 1970's onward, it is unlikely that Usui-sensei would have been familiar with the name. Though it is indeed the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term 'Chi Gung', it seems the Chinese had only begun using the term 'Chi Gung' to describe these particular practices some time around the 1950's.  While initially it was said that the symbols were no longer used in the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, now it seems they are still used. It was also said they did not have names, but were simply referred to as : Symbol 1, symbol 2, etc. Now it seems, the Gakkai does use names for them afterall!
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