The Usui System of Reiki - Different Traditions, One Origin
Tadao Yamaguchi, a Reiki teacher from Japan, was in Germany for the first time in July of 2004 to hold a course in "Jikiden Reiki." At the periphery of the course, which took place in Dusseldorf at the home of Frank Arjava Petter, there was an opportunity for a joint conversation. The participants were: Tadao Yamaguchi, Frank Arjava Petter, Walter Lübeck, and Oliver Klatt.
Arjava: I like the fact that all four of us have different backgrounds, different personal histories, and different experiences in terms of our Reiki training. And yet, it appears to me that there really aren't any major differences between us: We are all human beings with similar strengths and weaknesses. I am happy (to Tadao) that you are here today, that you have made the long journey here from Japan, and that we can have this exchange with each other today.
Tadao: I am very happy to be here today.
Oliver: Is this your first visit to Germany?
Tadao: Yes, I am here for the first time.
Oliver: How do you like it here?
Tadao: I am surprised that the days are so long. The sun shines until 9 p.m. and at 10 p.m. it is still light for a long time.
Arjava: In Japan, the days are not so long. The sun always sets at 6 or 7 p.m., even in the summer. In comparison, the days are very long here in Germany. In the evening after a Reiki course, for example, we still have plenty of time to enjoy ourselves by daylight.
Tadao (to Arjava and Walter): This is the first time in three years that we are seeing each other again.
Walter: Yes. Back then, I got out of the airplane in Brazil and ten days later I stepped out of the airplane in Osaka.
Arjava (to Tadao): This is the first time that you are teaching outside of Japan, here in Germany, and back then it was the first time that you taught a foreign group.
Tadao: In the meantime, I have held a total of ten courses that have been interpreted into English. And some of the Reiki teachers have visited me since then: Fran Brown, William Lee Rand, George Araki, and his daughter.
Oliver (to Tadao): You teach Japanese Reiki, the "Jikiden Reiki." How would you translate "Jikiden Reiki"?
Tadao: "Jikiden Reiki" means the "direct teaching" from Hayashi-Sensei.
Oliver: So this teaching comes directly from Dr. Hayashi?
Tadao: Yes, through my mother, Chiyoko Yamaguchi, to me. She studied with Hayashi-Sensei in 1938. And I am now passing this teaching on to others.
Oliver: How would you describe this teaching?
Tadao: It is very original, kept very simple, and not at all complicated.
Arjava: I think Tadao means that we in Western Reiki have added many things to it and made a sort of cocktail out of it.
Oliver: Some people have done that.
Arjava: I think that everyone has done that. Even Takata.
Oliver: The Reiki that I teach in the tradition according to Takata is still in a very simple form and not at all complicated.
Arjava: Yes, but if you take a precise look at it you can see that much has been added.
Walter: And much has been taken away.
Tadao: I am not saying that "Jikiden Reiki" is better. It is very original, kept very simple, and it transports the Japanese mind in a wonderful way as a result.
Walter: We should also remember: At the time that Dr. Hayashi was teaching Reiki only 16 years had passed in which the teaching was able to develop, from 1922 to 1938. Mikao Usui only had four years to develop his teaching before he died in 1926. So it is quite understandable that the Reiki of that time was very clear and simple. There was a similar development in Buddhism, for example: In the beginning, Buddha taught in a very clear and simple way, but the more time passed, the more movements and styles there were and this development continues even in the present. I think such a development is also necessary. When more people have access to a spiritual discipline or healing art, there must also be different teaching methods in order to reach the many different people.
Arjava: There are so many different countries, so many different religions.
The Roots of a Teaching
Walter: But when we do not know the roots of a teaching, this can lead to the teaching becoming disjointed. This is why I think what Tadao is teaching is very important.
Tadao: My mother learned Reiki about 65 years ago. For a long time, she and I did not know what was happening in other countries in terms of Reiki.
Walter: And we did not know what was happening in Japan.
Arjava: Tadao was surprised when he found out that people all over the world are teaching Reiki.
Tadao: Yes, I was surprised. Back when my mother and I only taught Reiki in Japan, there were only a few people who understood what it was actually about.
Arjava: Back then, it was taught as a type of "home remedy," for family and friends.
Walter: Like "curing with incantations" here in Germany.
Arjava: Yes, we have similar traditions here. Tadao's mother always said that Reiki is quite similar to "curing with incantations."
Walter: I think this is practiced throughout the world. But the "curing with incantations" is much more limited in its application than Reiki. It is limited to certain areas of application such as healing a broken bone, for example. It is more esoteric than spiritual.
Arjava: And Reiki has a spiritual nature and a holistic orientation.
Tadao: We can heal all kinds of things with Reiki.
Walter: And we are happy that your family has preserved this tradition so well. In the West, there was a great deal of chaos in the Reiki world during the 1980s and especially in the 1990s because we were not aware of our roots. There were many speculations about them, channeled messages, and personal assessments. And then the process began with Arjava bringing things to light. This made it possible for us to become aware of the roots of Reiki. (to Tadao) And then the contact to your family was established. I think these are the only true roots that we have.
Arjava: Perhaps there are still others that we don't know about yet. The one exception is the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, but its members don't speak with us.
Tadao: I don't know. None of the members of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai has ever spoken with me. Do they also teach and practice Reiki outside of their group?
Arjava: No, just within their group.
Tadao: I have a great deal of respect for my mother. She even visited people at home in order to help them when they had problems. I am certain that Chiyoko very much loved working with Reiki.
Walter: This was also my impression, without a doubt: that she was deeply devoted to Reiki.
Arjava: I once asked her how she would express what Reiki means to her personally. She thought about it for a while and then said: When I stand at the bus stop and see someone who is not feeling well, then I would like to help him. This is Reiki for me. I was very touched when she said this. It was so simple: compassion in action.
Walter: I have also observed this in Reiki students: After they were initiated into Reiki, this quality developed within them. For some it is like a quantum leap, and for others it is like a steady development. But I think that it touches everyone in this way.
A Worldwide Renowned Method of Healing
Oliver: Tadao, it feels good to me to establish this connection with you here, to be in personal contact with you, a Reiki teacher who teaches Japanese Reiki. I think that in the course of time and on the path that Reiki took through the world, something of the Japanese roots of this teaching has actually been lost.
Tadao: I am also very happy that I came to Germany.
Oliver: And, at the same time, I think that this development may perhaps have been necessary. It was a necessary step to leave these special Japanese characteristics behind in order to let Reiki become a worldwide renowned method of healing, which today is popular throughout the world.
Tadao: I think it is fine that this development has taken place, that Takata has removed the Japanese aspects. Yes, this was probably necessary. I am also grateful to Takata-Sensei. She is very popular, even in Japan. Thanks to her, Reiki has spread throughout the entire world - and the Japanese are always very interested in everything that comes from other countries. I am aware of this, and I understand it. Reiki is so effective. And I would never have thought that I would one day come to England and Germany to teach it here.
Oliver: I was surprised when I discovered that almost every Reiki teacher who now teaches the Japanese Reiki techniques had his first contact with Reiki through a lineage that comes from Takata. And then later, they found out all the things about Japanese Reiki and the Japanese techniques. This is interesting.
Walter: Yes, but it is quite apparent. At that time there was no one other than Takata who taught Reiki.
Arjava: And now that there is someone who teaches Japanese Reiki, namely Tadao, only a few people were interested at the beginning. The first "Jikiden Reiki" seminar in England, for example, wasn’t even full. (to Walter) You mean that people had no choice in earlier times. They could just learn Western Reiki because there were no Japanese Reiki teachers from whom they could have learned Japanese Reiki.
Tadao: Even the Japanese who wanted to learn Reiki had to go to America. Or the Reiki teachers from other countries came to us in Japan and taught Reiki there, like Arjava.
Walter: But I don't think it was really necessary to take the Japanese aspects out of the teaching. Other similarly complex spiritual teachings like Zen Buddhism, Judo, Aikido, Ninjutso, and Shiatsu have all come to the West with their Japanese roots. And, this is something that I observed in India: When something comes back from the West into an Asian country the people there think that it has become more important. Not because it has changed but simply because it comes from the West.
Tadao: I have a seminar center in Kyoto. When Japanese speakers hold lectures or courses there, the Japanese people are hardly interested in them. But when I invite speakers from other countries, then the people ask: What is going on there? And then they come and want to participate.
Walter: It's the same in Germany. Maybe people are like that everywhere in the world.
Tadao: The people in Japan speak about this healing center because many foreign speakers come.
Walter (laughing): Maybe we should learn a lesson from this if it's the same everywhere in the world...
Arjava (laughing, to Tadao): Then Walter will send his students to you, and you can send your students over here. Then the people will think: Oh, there are so many Japanese here, we have to go and see what this is...
Tadao (laughing): I will take a photo of the participants of this seminar in Germany so that the Japanese will be interested in it. Then they will ask: Why are there so many foreigners in the seminar? That must really be interesting...
The Practice of Reiki
Walter: This time, this decade, offers a wonderful opportunity for Reiki to become officially recognized as a method of healing such as Tai Chi Chuan, Qi Gong, and yoga. I am hoping for this.
Arjava: I am certain that it will take this direction. One reason for this is that the public-health systems throughout the world are no longer functioning. There is no money for them. As a result, these methods of healing can step in. They help people to once again focus on what is fundamentally important. Difficult times are good times, in essence.
Walter: They help us return to the practice and not get lost in ideas.
Tadao: The most important thing is the practice itself. Many Japanese Reiki practitioners hardly give Reiki treatments to other people.
Walter: Yet, this is a fundamental aspect of the practice.
Tadao: Well, not everyone agrees with that but many people do. Sometimes people who have learned "Jikiden Reiki" from me ask about Western Reiki. They are interested in it. Then I recommend a Reiki teacher of the Western style, but someone who also gives Reiki treatments.
Walter: That is the essence.
Oliver: I find it interesting that Reiki practitioners in Japan make this distinction between Western Reiki and Japanese Reiki. When I became aware of this during the work on my book Reiki "Systems of the World", I was surprised. I would not say that I practice Western Reiki. And I also do not feel as if I had no roots. I am rooted in my practice and in the lineage through which Reiki came to me. I learned from a teacher who was initiated by Takata. That feels complete to me. The essence is perfect. And, in addition, I have the wish of coming into contact with Reiki teachers of other traditions, including Reiki teachers from Japan, in order to learn more about the Japanese roots. But, seen in an essential way, I consider my practice to be complete. I have my roots.
Arjava: This is also true. But you do not know the difference. If you knew it, you would understand it.
Oliver: It's not possible to do everything in life.
Walter: This is true. We must orient ourselves upon the things that are important for us.
Arjava: I remember (to Tadao) when I met your mother for the first time. We did a "Reiki Mawashi." This is when we sit in a circle and each of us places our hands on the back of the person in front of us. I had my hands on your mother's back, and she said to me afterward: "I felt your hands as very warm. I feel that you have already been practicing Reiki for a long period of time." That felt good - not for my ego but because I recognized that we are all essentially doing the same thing. But I still wanted to know how she did it...
Walter: I come from a background that is similar to Oliver's. I was trained in Reiki by a Master who was taught by Mrs. Takata's granddaughter. In the initial period after the training, this was a reliable background for me. But then I found out that it did not give me reliable roots. This happened when my questions encountered a fearful attitude. Because of the other traditions that I had learned - such as yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi Chuan and the martial arts—I was accustomed to receiving a clear and truthful answer, with a loving basic attitude, when I asked a question of a Master or Grand Master. When I could not find this in my Reiki lineage, neither in the individual people nor in the larger groups of the so-called long-term Reiki Master, I thought: Then there is probably something missing here. This was the emotional ground for me to begin my research work on Reiki and ultimately develop "Rainbow Reiki". Before that time I had always thought: If there was something that needed to be clarified, then I would just ask someone in my lineage and then I would receive an answer, as I was accustomed to doing from teachers of other Asian traditions. I was very impressed by the way in which (to Tadao) you and your mother reacted to my questions when I visited you in Kyoto. There was this clarity again, a practical understanding and a relaxed basic attitude.
Walter: I think it is important that the people really take Reiki seriously. It's not so much what you teach but how you teach it.
Arjava: I think the most important thing is really how you do it. No matter which lineage, no matter which technique - this is not as important.
Oliver: When you truly embody it in the moment of teaching, then this is a good thing.
Arjava: I remember how I had the experience that some of the Japanese who had practiced Japanese Reiki for many years didn't want to have anything to do with me when they heard that I practiced Western Reiki.
Arjava: Yes. (to Tadao) When we found you and then called you, we told you on the telephone that we were involved with Western Reiki. Your response was: No problem! I was completely surprised and thought: Why isn't it a problem for him? And then my ex-wife told you on the telephone: But my husband is a foreigner, and you said that this also wasn't a problem for you. I had already expected to have the door slammed in our faces again...
Tadao: My mother was very happy to see you and welcome you. She was only concerned that you would not be able to sit on the floor. Back then we didn't use chairs yet.
Walter: Incidentally, I like to give Reiki treatments just like that, on the floor. This may drive some of my students crazy - pain here, pain there - but I like it.
Oliver: There is so much devotion in it.
Walter: Well, I just like to be close to the earth.
Oliver: Ah, I understand...
Walter: You don't have to worry whether the table is large enough, whether people can stretch their legs or not. And: When I (assumes the Reiki practioner's pose) sit on a chair like this, it gives me a headache.
Tadao: But the Japanese don't do that very often...
Walter: There are chairs that allow you to kneel, and they are fine for me.
Tadao: My mother had a chair like that...
Walter: And some of these chairs have springs so that you can rock.
Oliver: I'd like to try out a chair like that one of these days.
Tadao: My mother had one of these chairs, but without springs...
The conversation continues for a while. Among other things, we also talk about the German and the US Reiki magazines. Tadao mentioned that people in Japan would certainly be very surprised to hear that there are specific magazines in the United States and Germany that focus exclusively on Reiki.
In the early evening, a woman arrives who had requested a Reiki treatment from Arjava. She is seriously ill. With her permission, we - Tadao, Arjava, Walter and Oliver - all treat her at the same time for a good half an hour with Reiki. Afterward, she appears to be a new person. This was an interesting experience for all of us. And once again, it becomes clear: We all share the simple practice of laying on our hands, no matter what tradition we come from.
Ikuko Hirota interpreted for Tadao Yamaguchi. The interview was edited by Oliver Klatt and translated by Christine M. Grimm.
Originally published in German language in "Reiki Magazin" (Germany) 1/2005