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Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Reiki Balances the Chakras: a Japanese Healing Practice in New Age India

Justin STEIN

A 2009 article in the Life & Style section of The Times of India, the worlds
bestselling English-language daily newspaper and most-visited newspaper website,
concludes with a call to action that seems more from the mouth of a charismatic preacher
than the pen of an ostensibly impartial journalist. Use your hands to heal yourself and
others, the author urges readers. Your touch may lead to miracles! Her subject?
Reiki, which she describes as a Japanese technique and a spiritual practice that heals
by balancing the chakras of the body. i
The audience of this article, largely upper- and upper-middle-class Indians, may
recognize a mix of the familiar and the foreign in the authors description of this
ostensibly Japanese technique in terms of chakras, the wheels along the central channel
of the subtle body in yogic anatomy. However, this is not because it resonates with
traditional Indian idea of health. Although the chakra system indeed derives from
premodern yogic models that also promote a balance of lunar and solar energies, the
concept of balancing ones chakras is not a product of ancient India but also the
twentieth-century New Age. Though once a distinctive element of Indian religion, the
chakra system was teased out of its original context by a small group of English and
American occultists and spiritual healers who then re-spun it into a common thread that
today, like belief in the energetic properties of crystals, has been woven into the very
fabric of metaphysical religion around the world. ii Thus, while references to the chakra
system should be understood within the cultural inventory of other autochthonous

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

elements in the world of Indian Reiki, they must also be understood within other trends in
transnational metaphysical religion.

Among the most important of these trends is the cross-cultural hybridization at the
heart of the process called transculturation. Coined by Cuban anthropologist Fernando
Ortiz in 1940, transculturation is a valuable conceptual tool for analyzing how
intercultural interactions transform and generate cultural practices. iii In addition to the
mixture of elements from prior practices and introduced ones, Ortiz also intended the
trans- of his neologism to express both the loss of prior practices and the creation of
new ones (which he termed deculturation and neoculturation, respectively). He
believed, rightly, that these processes are unrecognized by the more prevalent term
acculturation and its assimilative connotations. iv
Reiki is an apt subject for transculturative analysis. Reiki is a group of spiritual
healing practices, first systematized in 1920s Japan by Mikao Usui (1865-1926) but
repeatedly reimagined in diverse locations by diverse actors for diverse audiences. The
vast majority of the worlds Reiki practitioners trace their lineages to Hawayo Takata
(1900-1980), a Nisei (second-generation Japanese immigrant) from the Hawaiian island
of Kauai who learned Reiki in Japan in the 1930s and spent the rest of her life teaching,
ultimately authorizing twenty-two of her students (mostly in North America in the late
1970s) to become teachers themselves. Takatas students and her students students
brought Reiki to every continent of the globe and today one can find professional Reiki
practitioners and instructors in most countries, but particularly in North America, Japan,
India, Australia, New Zealand, the U. A. E., and Israel. v

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Reikis lineage structure and general lack of organizing bodies have allowed its

practices to rapidly diversify, resulting in divergent practices. In the transculturation

process, individuals in diffuse locales have differently imagined the practice of Reiki,
transforming their teachers practices by combining them with local ones, disregarding
certain elements, emphasizing others, and innovating others still. vi These transformed
practices are then re-disseminated across geographic and cultural divides and the process
begins anew. vii Indian claims that Reiki balances the chakras are but one hybridized
blossoming of a vast, variegated, and decentered rhizomatic network that spans the globe.
It is estimated that, in the approximately twenty years since its introduction to
India, over one million Indians have paid to undergo the initiation called Reiki
attunement, empowering them to channel a universal energy in order to heal pain and
disease. viii It is tempting to identify this as simply another example of a global trend to
seek out alternatives to Western biomedicine, as Rohit Pithauria does in a recent feature
on alternative therapies in India Today, where he presents Reiki alongside acupressure,
acupuncture, and aromatherapy. However, in sharp contrast to the accounts of
acupressure and aromatherapys restorative benefits that Pithauria cites from practitioners
of those arts, the description of Reiki he provides from practitioner and teacher Jaishree
Iyer is that of a distinctly spiritual discipline passed from master to disciple, only
mastered by an individual building up enough life force energy through meditation and
practice. ix
But, given both the abundance of indigenous Indian spiritual healing practices and
the cultural gap between India and the cultural products of East Asia lamented by Arjun
Appadurai in a recent paper, x why have so many Indians turned to these techniques of

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Japanese origin to find healing? This essay addresses this question, describing some of

the historical processes involved in Reiki becoming a prominent form of healing in India
and proposing some reasons for its popularity there. xi

The demography of Indian Reiki practitioners is largely composed of upper- and

upper-middle-class Indian urbanites and thus resembles that of Indian devotees to Sathya
Sai Baba. xii Indeed, spiritual devotion to such gurus can serve a mediatory role,
predisposing devotees in India and elsewhere to accept both the healing miracles claimed
by believers in Reiki and the master-disciple relationship concretized in Reikis system of
initiation-based lineage. Yet, while lineage structures stresses continuity with an
imagined original, authentic revelation, the spiritual landscape of contemporary India also
replicates ruptures from the nations social history; it is a palimpsest that bears traces of
colonial authors even as it is reinscribed by the consumerism that has followed Indias
liberalization. As argued convincingly by Peter van der Veer, the intrinsically Indian
spirituality defined by Hindu reformers and anti-colonialists such as Ram Mohan Roy,
Swami Vivekananda, and Mohandas Gandhi, was constructed in dialectic opposition to
Western materiality in an essentializing discourse of exceptionality. Though this
narrative was used in resistance to European imperialism, it also represents an
internalization of the Orientalist discourse that contrasts modern European material
superiority with ancient Asian spiritual sophistication. xiii
Yet Reikia spiritual healing practice of Japanese provenance brought to India
by enthusiastic Westerners who describe its power with scientific vocabulary including
energy, vibrations, and quantaseems, on some level, to both transcend and

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

include this binary discourse of East and West. xiv The Indian Reiki practitioner engages
in a practice with connections to multiple nodes in a transnational network of cultural

signifiers: a truly global practice that includes foreign elements of both Western and nonWestern origins. xv Some of the ways in which the binaries of East/West, spirit/reason,
antiquity/modernity, as well as the syntheses of these polar opposites, helped to mediate
Reikis introduction to India and facilitate its popularity there are concretized in the
woman who introduced it to the subcontinent.
Reiki seems to have first been brought to India in 1989 by an American
psychologist whose hybrid identity is seen in the multiple monikers she marshals. xvi As
Dr. Paula Horan, she cites her Ph.D. in psychology to establish her credibility, a typical
move in the world of spirituality, which has a complex relationship with the world of
institutions. xvii In fact, one of the chief factors in Reikis success worldwide is its
licensure of metaphysical healers through the certification of initiation. Furthermore, the
history of Reiki is rife with non-medical doctors who use the title Doctor to connote
authority and suggest medical expertise. xviii However by also going under Laxmi, the
spiritual name given her by her Indian guru, Sri H.W.L. Poonja (also known as Papaji),
Horan cites the credentials of the indigenous guru-disciple relationship mirrored in
Reikis initiation-lineage model. Based on initial fieldwork, I have found that Indian
practitioners are more likely to describe their Reiki Masters in devout language than nonIndians, often saying that it was the grace of God that drew them together.
Yet, while in some sense this Laxmi, Ph.D. who both teaches Indians to
manifest abundance through intention and leads Jana Yoga retreats in Europeis a
distinctly American incarnation of the Hindu goddess of prosperity, she is no first-

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

generation hybrid of East and West. Several iterations of dialectic interaction between
Indian and Euro-American spiritualities have transformed such black and white
distinctions into brilliantly nuanced shades of gray. In her introduction to the article
Energy Dynamics, Horan describes how invisible energy blocks are literally
sketched into the physical matrix on a cellular level, preventing individuals from
reaching full potential and growing in coherence; she then explains that in India,
Tantric practitioners have long known the secret of manipulating these energy blocks
which can result from lifetimes of attachment. xix The ease with which Horan moves

back and forth between the ultra-modern vocabulary of North American psychodynamics
and that of ancient South Asian religious practice is the legacy of generations of
Theosophists, Hindu reformers, and others who have blended the black and white of
East/West, spirit/science into masterworks of monochrome, stunning grisaille portraiture.
To provide another, more polychromatic example, consider the widespread
correlation between the seven chakras and the seven colors of the light spectrum. While
ten yogis will typically provide ten clashing schemata for the chakras colors, Reiki
practitioners consistently describe them in an orderly rainbow, ascending from red at the
perineums root chakra to violet at the fontanels crown chakra. The New Age
consensus on this matter is reified in the words of the India-born, Dubai-based Reiki
master Mohan Makkar, who writes: The most important thing to remember is the colour
of each chakra. Mix the wrong colour and it will bring a major disaster in your life. xx
Makkar, who holds a Ph.D. in A. M. (likely alternative medicines), has no doubt that
the chakras colors are as described by twentieth century Euro-American mystics, even if
he is unaware of this descriptions non-Indian provenance.

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Aligning Reiki with this decontextualized rainbow-colored chakra system is by no

means specific to the Indian Reiki community, xxi but this connection takes on very
different meanings within and without the subcontinent. In the global network of New
Age practitioners, the specifically Indian identity of the chakra system was obscured by
the Theosophists that popularized it and, like Reiki itself, chakras today can broadly
encode Eastern wisdom. Even a leading German Reiki author who lived and worked
for years at the Indian ashram of the guru known as Osho describes the chakras as force
centers known to most Eastern philosophies. xxii
While non-Indian references to the chakras can be such vague appeals to the
authority of exotic Asian tradition, for Indian practitioners, the claim that Reiki affects
the chakras combines the foreign with the familiar, the hybrid quality characteristic of
transculturative practices. It makes no difference that the chakra system being utilized is
the twentieth century rainbow system rather than that described by scriptures or yogis;
Indians have internalized Theosophists visions of India as much as Euro-Americans
have. In the words of Ortiz, the result of every union of cultures is similar to that of the
reproductive process between individuals: the offspring always has something of both
parents but is always different from each of them. xxiii As such, even the ostensibly
Indian elements of Indianized Reiki are themselves the progeny of earlier iterations of
Another hybrid reimagining of Hindu tradition underlies the account of an Indiaborn psychology professor recalling her first encounter with Reiki at a New Age
conference in Boulder, Colorado. Sangeeta Singg, who teaches at Angelo State
University in west-central Texas, describes the scene in a chapter on Reiki in an edited

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

volume providing peer-reviewed research supporting various complementary therapies.

She writes:
I assumed that Reiki was similar to some healing practices that have been in
existence for centuries in India. If you have ever seen the pictures of Hindu gods
and goddesses, you would notice that they have their right hands facing you with
energy bursting out of them. This energy represents the divine energy that heals

and blesses. Also in India, when younger people touch the feet of elders as a form
of greeting, the elders place their palms on the younger persons heads and
shoulders giving them ashirwad, which means blessings. xxiv
This passage is compelling, not because an Indian psychologist living abroad relates an
unfamiliar spiritual healing practice to those of her homeland, but because this hands-on
healing practice of Japanese origin causes her to reinterpret familiar icons and customs.
The rays of light emitted by Hindu deities become healing energy; ritualized bodily
contact becomes a reciprocal healing practice.
In a sense, Dr. Singg and Dr. Horan are mirror images, both liminal figures, but
on opposite sides of the looking glass. Horan traveled from the U. S. to India to study
with a guru, but she now resides there full-time, teaching seminars in which she applies
Hindu language to her native practices of Reiki and psychodynamics. Singg came
from India to the U.S. to study psychology, where she is now an academic and health
professional who has reconceived the cultural practices of her homeland in terms of Reiki.
These examples demonstrate a bilateral aspect of the transculturation process:
intercultural exchanges produce not only the assimilation of the foreign but also the
reimagining of the familiar.

Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Other examples of Reikis Indianization include the chanting of OM at the end

of Reiki classes, the teaching to focus on particular chakras during Reiki treatments, as
well as explications of Reiki in the Sanskrit terms of Tantra yoga and of Reikis
reinforcement of the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita. xxv The stories Indians tell of Reikis
origins. While instructors from around the world teach that Usui, Reikis Japanese
founder, rediscovered the practice of Reiki in Buddhist scriptures written in ancient India,
it is fairly common for Indian authors to claim that Usui actually traveled to India to learn
Sanskrit and study sutras. xxvi Ascribing Reikis source to India and Siddhartha Gautama
engages contemporary Indian practitioners in the homecoming of an authentically Indian
lineage, like the Indian followers of Western disciples of Indian yogis. xxvii Uncritical
reception of these narratives allows practitioners from around the world to reimagine
Indian religious history in terms of a contemporary healing practice.
Yet using markers of Indian religiosity is only one way that practitioners and
instructors make Reiki appealing to Indian audiences. Perhaps equally important are
emblems of Reikis foreignness, its exotic, even Oriental nature that gives it a different
sort of authority than that of indigenous healing methods. The exoticization of Japanese
culture, language, and people in India may have been mediated by American or British
influence, but it is certainly present in how Indians perceive Reiki and its origins. Like
similar websites produced in America, Europe, and Australia, Indian websites tend to
linger on the multiple meanings and orthographies of the traditional kanji (Chinese
characters) for rei and ki, a pastime wholly absent from their Japanese equivalents, which
typically do not even employ the kanji. xxviii As kanji make up two of the four sacred
symbols shared by all Reiki lineages and taught to upper level students, the fetishization

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University of Toronto

of Japanese script, exhibited on the tattooed shoulders and biceps of the global generation,
is undeniably part of Reikis transnational appeal.
Indian exoticization of Reikis origins is explicit in the opening passage of a
webpage called Reiki History hosted on, a lifestyle site with extensive
information about Reikis multifarious teachings and practices. It reads:
Not much has been known about the actual origin and history of Reiki, it is
believed that the healing art found its origin in the orient, centuries ago. People
studied energies and developed a method of sounds and symbols. If truth be told,
many healing processes have emerged from this root system and the original
source itself go elapsed regrettably. In the mid 19th century, the ancient system
was rediscovered by Dr. Mikao Usui, who was a Japanese Christian professor in
Kyoto (Japan). xxix
Along with some misinformation, xxx this brief excerpt provides rich fodder for textual
analysis. To begin, the narrative of reviving a forgotten, original root system from
Asias distant past resonates with two themes. The first, and more general, is the idea,
sometimes called lapsarian, that human cultures have degenerated from an original,
unified, enlightened age into the current, fragmented, ignorant world marked by disease
and strife. A common conclusion of the lapsarian narrative is that present-day
individuals must work to restore humanitys natural state of good health and peace. This
theme is used extensively in New Age culture, but can also be seen in any number of
established religious traditions that teach of a primordial golden age.
The second, and more historically specific, theme is the idea that Reiki is a revival
of an ancient, ahistorical Oriental wisdom. The uncomfortably anachronistic description


Justin Stein

University of Toronto

of Reikis origin in the orient, centuries ago is a clear example of Indian internalization
of European narratives of Asian exceptionalism. Following a discourse established by
Vivekananda and Gandhi, this anonymous Indian author implicitly agrees with
generations of Orientalists that the ancient, inscrutable East is, in contrast to the West,
characterized by ancient spiritual wisdom rather than modern material technology. This
bifurcation of East and West, past and present, spirit and science, sets up the possibility
for their synthesis by present day figures who are able to bridge the two worlds. Usui is
one of these figures as he

did an extensive study for 21 yrs to know about the healing phenomena of ancient
sages. He also studied the earliest sutras . . . [and] the ancient sounds & symbols
that stimulate the life force energy for healing, and are directly connected with
human body and nervous system. He then went through a metaphysical
occurrence and got empowered to use these sounds & symbols for healing. Till
his death in late 19th century, he taught the healing art all over Japan and named it
Reiki. . . . a powerful spiritual art of healing which has also received scientific
validation. xxxi
The exoticism and appeal to religious and scientific authority inherent in this text
is largely the work of Hawayo Takata, the Nisei who told Dr. Usuis story to North
American audiences in the 1960s and 1970s. Judging by Reikis incredible success in
India, this story works for Indian audiences today as it did for Takatas students four
decades earlier. Like Drs. Horan and Singg, Usuia Japanese Christian who develops a
present-day healing system out of ancient Buddhist textsis a hybrid figure who
negotiates East and West, tradition and modernity, faith and science, spirit and reason.


Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Central to Reikis transnational success is its audiences desire to similarly reconcile

perceived conflicts between the modern, rational, scientific West and the ancient,

intuitive, spiritual East. Usui is the idealized builder of a bridge spanning these worlds,
and practitioners are able to follow his path with the guidance of their instructors (called
Reiki Masters), who substitute for the original, absent master. Thus, no matter where
on the globe, Reiki Masters and their disciples are able to draw on elements of both
worlds through their engagement with Reiki.

This preliminary study is only a prelude to a more sustained work on this subject.
In this brief paper, I have simply tried to demonstrate that Reiki appeals to Indian
audiences and develop some initial analysis of this phenomenon. However, in order to
more thoroughly understand the attraction of Reiki for these audiences, there are several
avenues that must be pursued. First of all, future fieldwork must address the significance
of commercial aspects of Reiki, a convenient, if not always cheap, art to learn, and a
potentially lucrative one to teach. Second, the study would benefit from some sense of
the context of recent Indo-Japanese relations, both in terms of socioeconomics and
cultural imaginaries. Arjun Appadurai, in the paper cited in this articles introduction,
refers to the role of East Asian settings as exotic locations in Tamil film and we have
already seen an Indian website that refers to Reikis origin in the ancient orient. xxxii
Given Indias contemporary position as a major producer of and market for technological
goods and services as well as popular cultural media, how have sociocultural relations
between Indians and Japanese on material and symbolic levels affected the reception of
Reiki in the subcontinent? Finally, based on my social interactions with members of


Justin Stein

University of Toronto

Torontos sizable South Asian diaspora, as well as my citations of Mohan Makkar, the

Indian Reiki Master based in Dubai, it seems that any study of Reiki in India would also
have to take into account the bilateral interactions between Indians living within and
without Indias geographical boundaries.
In conclusion, while some of the conclusions of this paper are broadly applicable
to the transculturation of Reiki and other Asian spiritual practices worldwide, there
remains more work to be done to determine why Reiki has been so successful in India.
This preliminary study on Reikis success in India has tried to capture some site-specific
elements of Reikis appeal to upper- and upper-middle-class Indian urbanites, including
the mediatory role of Westerners in this intra-Asian cultural flow as well as distinctly
Indian combinations of the allure of the exotic and the authority of the local.

Rakshita Pandey, Reiki: Healing with a Miracle Touch, The Times of India, March 5,

The 1927 book The Chakras by British Theosophist Charles Leadbeater wasnt the first
English-language volume on the subject, but in the words of Catherine Albanese, it
signaled the cultural detatchment and reattatchment that transformed the language of
chakras into a Hermetic and metaphysical lingua franca. A Republic of Mind and Spirit:
A Cultural History of American Metaphysical History (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2007), 453. Albanese goes on to analyze Leadbeaters claims that mystics from
both East and West were familiar with the force-centres of the chakras and argues that
he went further than earlier Theosophical writers such as Blavatsky in showing more
clearly how portable and culturally detatchable the South Asian teachings actually were.
Republic, 455. It is unclear when the now ubiquitous phrase balance the chakras began
to be used, but it was heavily popularized by three American metaphysical healers
described by Albanese, each of whom published a best-selling book on chakras in 1987:
Anodea Judith, Rosalyn Bruyere, and Barbara Brennan. Republic, 455-461.

Translated into English as Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar in 1947, Ortizs
best-known book, Contrapunteo Cubano del Tabaco y el Azcar, has since been
republished several times.


Justin Stein

University of Toronto


Fernando Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1995), 102-103.

The combined listings of two online directories ( and, accessed September 29,
2011, provide contact information for Reiki practitioners and instructors in over one
hundred countries and territories. One notable absence is China, perhaps unsurprising
given its treatment of Falun Gong practitioners. Furthermore, Reiki has been taught on
literally every continent: in December 1999, William Lee Rand taught a Reiki class at the
South Pole, where he also embedded a crystal grid designed to [promote] world peace
by becoming a planetary beacon charged with healing energies sent by people from all
over the world; he had placed an identical crystal grid at the North Pole two years earlier.
World Peace Crystal Grid Placed at the South Pole, Reiki News, accessed September 27,

This propensity is particularly evident when one examines the practice common to all
Reiki lineages of recounting the life of the founder Usui. The authors of Usuis memorial
stone make use of Confucian rhetoric to compare him to the excellent and wise scholars
of the past and describe his spiritual method as rectifying ones heart-mind by means
of ones intrinsic spiritual powers (original translation). Various schools of Reiki claim
that Usui was an initiate of either Shingon or Tendai Buddhism, the two major forms of
Japanese esoteric Buddhism (mikky). See Lama Yeshe, Medicine Dharma Reiki: An
Introduction to the Secret Inner Practices with Extensive Excerpts from Dr. Usuis
Journals (Delhi: Full Moon Publishing, 2001) and Dave King, O-Sensei: A View of
Mikao Usui (, 2006). For a North American and a South American Christian
interpretation of Reiki, see Bonnie Gray-Levesque, A Judeo-Christian Look at Reiki: One
Womans Opinion (Parker, CO: Outskirts Press, 2009) and Maria Celeste Manzione,
MariEL Reiki English Manual, last modified November 6, 2007, For speculations that Reiki was
brought to Earth, possibly to a lost continent, by extraterrestrials, see Barbara Weber Ray,
The Reiki Factor: A Guide to Natural Healing, Helping, and Wholeness (Smithtown, NY:
Exposition Press, 1983), 45 and Diane Stein, Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide to an
Ancient Healing Art (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1995), 8-9. Ray, among others,
also discusses Reikis use in ancient Egypt and Tibet. Recent attempts to recreate the
traditional and authentic original practices of Usui have emphasized his innovative
spiritual practices, including the chanting of the poetry of the Meiji Emperor. Frank
Arjava Petter and Mikao Usui, The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui (Twin
Lakes, WI: Lotus Light Press, 1999) and King, O-Sensei.

In addition to the language of transculturation, I have also found helpful Manuel

Vsquez and Marie Friedmann Marquardts discussion of this process in terms of the
dialectic of deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Globalizing the Sacred: Religion
across the Americas (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 51-54.


Justin Stein

University of Toronto


William Lee Rand, Reiki in India, accessed June 14, 2011, This is roughly half of the estimated two million
Reiki practitioners worldwide and, even if this estimate is ultimately inaccurate, its
magnitude points to the fact that Reiki has been incredibly popular in India. A 2004
article about Reikis resurgence refers to how it spread like forest fire in the mid-1990s.
Suma Varughese, Reiki Rediscovering Reiki, Life Positive, May 2004,

Rohit Pithauria, Alternate Gains, India Today, February 23, 2010,

This comment was part of a larger discussion of the discursive space of Asia in which
Appadurai asked whether the people of India and Japan see a shared Asian heritage.
He concluded that while there are examples of intra-Asian relationalities in popular
cultural media (such as the use of exotic and modern East Asian settings in Tamil
cinema), these cultural spheres are much more conscious of their relationality to the West
than to one another. Arjun Appadurai, The New and the Now: Globalization and the
Politics of Dj Vu (paper presented at the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global
Affairs, Toronto, October 22, 2010).

Throughout this paper, when I refer to the subcontinent, India, and Indians, I am
not describing an undifferentiated mass of land and people, but a distinct territory and
demographic: an archipelago of urban enclaves disproportionately peopled by the upperand upper-middle-classes, as well as particular outposts in prominent non-urban spiritual
locales such as ashrams and pilgrimage sites.

Hugh Urban, Avatar for Our Age: Sathya Sai Baba and the Cultural Contradictions of
Late Capitalism, Religion, 33 (2003): 73-93.

For more on this interactional model of the construction of mutually opposed national
identities, see the works of Peter van der Veer, particularly Imperial Encounters: Religion
and Modernity in India and Britain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001);
Introduction (with Christophe Jaffrelot), in Patterns of Middle Class Consumption in
India and China, eds. Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter van der Veer (Los Angeles: Sage,
2008), 11-34; and Global Breathing: Religious Utopias in India and China, in
Transnational Transcendence: Essays on Religion and Globalization, ed. Thomas C.
Csordas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 263-278.

The idea that forms both transcend and include prior ones comes from Ken Wilbers
integral theory. A Brief History of Everything (Boulder: Shambhala, 1996).

For a compelling account of how the circulation of Japanese popular cultural media has
been able to provide a similar non-Western alternative modernity in East Asia, see
Koichi Iwabuchi, Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese
Transnationalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).


Justin Stein

University of Toronto


According to a recent blog interview with Horan, Indias first Reiki class was held in
Mumbai in 1989. Lalit Puri, Paula Horan Brought Reiki to India, February 24, 2011,

For a recent text on American spiritualities that provides extensive reflection on this
complex relationship, see Courtney Bender, The New Metaphysicals: Spirituality and the
American Religious Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 37-38.

The most prevalent usage of the title Doctor in the Reiki world is in stories of Usui,
Reikis founder, who is often referred to as Dr. Usui, despite not having been either a
medical doctor or recipient of a doctorate. Another crucial figure in global Reiki history
is Dr. Barbara Weber Ray; the dust jacket of her most famous book cites Rays Ph.D. in
the humanities, her membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Mensa, and her Fulbright
scholarship to bolster the claim that Dr. Ray is the most qualified authority on Reiki.
The Reiki Factor: A Guide to Natural Healing, Helping, and Wholeness. Smithtown,
NY: Exposition Press, 1983. This practice is prevalent in India as well. Dr. P. S. Lalitha
of Chennai, a former professor of veterinary medicine, has prominently on her home page
CONSULTANT IN LEADING HOSPITALS, which some might think implies that she
is a medical doctor. Holistic Healing, accessed September 27, 2011, And the husband-wife team who are the founding directors of the
Reiki Healing Foundation in New Delhi are described on their website as: Dr. N. K.
Sharma & Dr. Savita Sharma are undoubtedly, the real & the perfect Gurus whose
courses on the Laws of Nature are scientific & myth-breaking. World Renown
Naturopath & Reiki Grandmasters, accessed September 27, 2011, Reiki Healing
Foundation, By no means is this sort
of appeal to credentials unique to Reiki; consider how Mehmet Oz, host of Dr. Oz, one
of the top syndicated television programs in the U.S., gains authority by wearing medical
scrubs on air.

Paula Horan, Energy Dynamics: Clearing Desires and Resistances to Reach Our Full
Potential, accessed September 27, 2011,


Mohan Makkar, Mohan Makkars Reiki Magic (the Usui System) & Creative
Visualization Exercises: the Symbols and Attunement Techniques Revealed Step by Step
(Completely Illustrated) (New Delhi: UBS Publishers Distributors, 1999), 51.

A February 2011 Google Images search for Reiki yielded rainbow-colored chakra
diagrams in two of the top five results, and two of the other images also had rainbows,
including a rainbow colored OM symbol (a Sanskrit syllable). All five of the websites
that hosted these images were based in the U. S.


Frank Arjava Petter, Reiki Fire: New Information about the Origins of the Reiki
Power: a Complete Manual (Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 1997), 100.


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University of Toronto

Ortiz, Counterpoint, 103.


Sangeeta Singg, Reiki: An Alternative and Complementary Healing Therapy, in

Complementary Therapies in Rehabilitation: Evidence for Efficacy in Therapy, ed. Carol
M. Davis (Thorofare, NJ: SLACK, Inc., 2008), 261-278.

The first two examples come from Makkar, Reiki Magic, 50-51, 148. The latter two
come from two articles from the English-language Indian body-mind-spirit magazine
Life Positive. Shamal Durve, Reiki why Reiki works, Life Positive, March 2007, Meenakshi Suri,
Reiki Light Made Manifest, Life Positive, June 2005,


Makkar, Reiki Magic, 36. Sukhdeepak Malvai, Reiki: A Unique Art of Healing
(Delhi: Gyan Books, 1998), 26.

Kathinka Frystad, The return path: anthropology of a Western yogi, in

Transnational Transcendence: Essays on Religion and Globalization, ed. Thomas C.
Csordas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 279-304.


For instance, see the main page on Reiki on Life Positives website, which not only
provides thirteen meanings for the character rei, but also provides five different ways to
write reiki in different styles of Japanese orthography. Notably, Reiki in Japan is
typically written in katakana, the syllabary primarily used for words of foreign origin.
Reiki Introduction, Life Positive, accessed June 14, 2011,

Reiki History, accessed June 14, 2011,


As mentioned earlier, Usui, who was never a doctor or a professor, first systematized
Reiki in the 1920s. There is also no evidence that he was a Christian. All of these
apocrypha (except the inexplicable idea that Usui, born in 1865, rediscovered Reiki in
the mid-nineteenth century) can be traced to the hagiographic account of Reiki history
told by Hawayo Takata, the woman who brought Reiki out of Japan in the late 1930s.

Reiki History, accessed June 14, 2011,


Appadurai, The New and the Now.