The founder of Reiki was Mikao Usui.
He was born in the village of Taniai, now called Miyama-cho, on 15th August, 1865.
His ancestors had lived there for eleven generations. His ancestry dated back to the Chiba clan, once an influential samurai family. Significantly for his life, his family followed the esoteric Buddhism of the Tendai sect.
At the age of four he was sent to a Tendai Monastery to receive his primary education. While living in Kyoto, it is said that Usui deepened his meditation studies and undertook lengthy retreats to further his spiritual development. Sources say that he trained in Shingon Buddhism.
Research in Kyoto
Usui did much of his research in Kyoto, as it was home to many large and extensive Buddhist libraries and monasteries with collections of ancient texts.
Usui persevered in collecting, studying and practising using these text’s, becoming an advanced practitioner and master of meditation. As a result, he became respected as a Buddhist teacher with a following of devoted students.
The group practised rituals to avert new diseases that were ravaging Japan, as well as practices for healing every type of illness.
The Usui Memorial states that one day Usui made a decision to undertake an intensive meditation retreat on Mount Kurama, performing the practice of "shyu gyo".
It was after this that he gained his insight into healing. According to a number of sources including the memorial stone, a great energy appeared above his head and he was empowered with the Universal healing energy.
Using all he had learnt before and his degree of spiritual training, he put together a system of healing which became known as Usui Shiki Ryoho.
After much thought and contemplation, it was his decision to share these teachings. Usui first practised Reiki on his family and friends.
Next he offered Reiki to Kyoto’s lower class district. Because Kyoto is a spiritual centre, the people in the streets were taken in and cared for. So Usui opened his home to many and with unbounded compassion brought them Reiki. This also gave him the opportunity to perfect and refine what he was teaching.
He continued to hold regular classes for his growing number of Buddhist followers.
In April 1922, Usui moved to Tokyo where he worked as the secretary to Shinpei Goto, Mayor of Tokyo at that time.
Usui opened a Reiki clinic in Harajuku, Aoyama, where the Meiji Jingu shrine had been built in 1920. He began to set up classes and teach his system of Reiki. Many students are said to have come to study with him.
The Kanto Earthquake
On 1st September 1923 at 11:58am, the Kanto earthquake hit the Kanto plain and devastated Tokyo, Yokohama and surrounding areas. Estimates put the death toll between 100,000 to 140,000 people.
In response to this catastrophe, Usui and his students offered Reiki to countless victims. His clinic became too small to handle the throng of patients, so in February 1924, he built a new clinic in Nakano, outside Tokyo.
His fame spread quickly all over Japan and he began receiving invitations from all over the country to come and teach his healing methods.
Usui was awarded a Kun San To from the Emperor, a very high award given to those who have done honourable work. Soon his fame spread throughout the region and many physicians and healers rushed to come and learn from him.
Dr Hayashi became one of Usui’s students. He joined Usu’s mission and travelled around Japan with him.
When Dr Usui died he passed the torch onto Hayashi who continued usui’s work at the clinic (it is thought that Hayashi was a Christian rather than a Buddhist).
It was here that he trained Mdme Takata who is believed to have spread the word of Reiki healing to the west when she moved to America.
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