I recently published an interview with Tadao Yamaguchi and introduced it to the Reiki community by promising rare insight into traditional Japanese Reiki. One of the readers found themselves disappointed, as, like so many articles on Reiki, we had offered no proof or supporting evidence of what Reiki is. The following is my attempt at an answer to this reader’s questions:
So what is Reiki, and where is the evidence?
To answer simply, Reiki is a natural healing system using touch created by Mikao Usui in 1920s Japan after he had achieved an experience of enlightenment, and crafted from extensive, deep knowledge of various traditions. Priding himself in the simplicity of his healing system, Usui sensei deliberately chose elements that would result in a healing modality easy to learn by anyone (and not forcing them to adopt elaborate spiritual systems or beliefs).
As to proof of what Reiki really is, we cannot offer it, as to date there is none. As Mr Yamaguchi says, “if the power of Reiki were to be scientifically proven, Reiki would spread a lot more rapidly.”
So is Reiki a belief system?
Not in my eyes. Experience shows that belief is not necessary for Reiki to have an effect, and probably very few people believe that Reiki will help them in any way until they experience various effects for themselves. While it is true that we can’t currently measure or explain Reiki energy in scientific terms, I am convinced that it would be possible to measure some of the effects of Reiki treatment in a scientific way. For example, many people experience deep states of relaxation and, often for the first time, tune into a deep part of themselves as a result of Reiki treatment. I am sure that these Reiki induced altered states of consciousness would show up on brain monitors (as has been done for meditation). At the moment, we perhaps just lack the institutional and financial muscle to instigate research of this type.
For an overview of credible research available on the efficacy of Reiki (no research has been done yet specifically on Jikiden Reiki) I would recommend a look at the medical papers listed on Pamela Miles’ website . One of the studies she often cites is on patients who have suffered a heart attack. Giving Reiki treatment in this scenario has been shown to improve heart rate variability (which indicates a state of improved resilience and makes further problems less likely).
Is Reiki spiritual or physical?
“Is the system of Reiki spiritual and if so why is an attunement necessary?” Yes, it is a spiritual healing system, and it is mostly a physical treatment method. This is me paraphrasing Mikao Usui’s answer (the founder of Reiki practice) when he was asked the same question. To me, one of the big attractions of the Reiki healing system is that it works for anyone, regardless of whether you think of yourself as a spiritual person or not. And, really, spirituality and reality are inseparable, indivisible. You may like to read Amanda Jayne’s blog post on the subject, too.
Underlying Reiki is a Shinto world view, based on the understanding that the original creative energy that resulted in the physical universe still permeates every aspect of it. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about quantum physics, and don’t always like how some of us in the healing world latch onto it perhaps without really understanding much. I also have a feeling that the circle is closing, and that cutting edge science is not a million miles away from what the Reiki healing system conceptualises as a spiritual world view. I’ll leave this to the people who understand science to articulate! (If there’s anything in it).
Are attunements necessary?
Now the second part of your question, “Why is an attunement necessary?” Mikao Usui discovered that he had developed the ability to heal himself and others by touch, as an unexpected by-product of an experience of enlightenment. This happened for him after years of hard ascetic practices (and perhaps lifetimes worth of preparation, who knows).
The same path is open to anyone. And highly unlikely to be successful for you and me!! (At least in the short term). The beauty of the Reiki healing system is that Mikao Usui managed to create a method that reliably enables anyone to bring enough energy through their body to benefit themselves and others. That’s why we need ‘reiju‘, the slightly inadequate English translation of which would be attunement.
How does reiju work in scientific terms? I don’t know. Does it work? Absolutely! The energy that, for example QiGong practitioners can feel build up between their hands (sometimes after years of practice) can be felt immediately after three attunements.
Are Chakras part of Reiki?
Your last question “If in reality Reiki is a holistic system using vibration to raise the vibrations of chakras, why the secret? So this is hard to answer, as I’m not sure I entirely understand your question. First of all let’s clear up a misunderstanding. The chakra system comes from India, and has nothing to do with the original Reiki system. It’s not that it’s necessarily wrong to find similarities and compatibilities with other healing systems. They were simply not part of Japanese Reiki. The conceptual framework in Jikiden Reiki is a different one, based on applying high frequency energy (Reiki) on diseased parts of the body, or those areas that have accumulated excess toxicity, and using it to stimulate the body’s innate healing and cleansing ability.
Is Reiki a secret healing method?
“Why the secret?” So here I’m not sure what secret you are referring to. Why don’t we put out everything that we teach on the internet, as has happened with the Reiki system that’s come to the West through Mrs Takata? The answer, in essence, is respect toward the teachings and the original teachers. In spiritual traditions such as Esoteric Buddhism, you probably would have had to prove yourself by scrubbing temple floors for twenty years before you would be trusted with anything of equivalent value to what you are being taught in the Reiki healing system. Does it help, putting all that we know out there on the internet? Not in my view, as it simply cheapens everything and exposes form without understanding, leading to more and more mis-understanding.
Can we preserve the integrity of Reiki practice?
Are there any guarantees that we avoid misunderstanding when passing on the teachings directly (as the original teachers did)? I guess there can never be any absolute guarantees. We simply make the very best effort that we can to offer the teachings in their integrity, with their background understanding intact as much as is possible, by qualified teachers, who have had to demonstrate their understanding before becoming teachers. Does this offer a complete safeguard towards preserving the integrity of the teachings? No. Not always. People still filter what they are being taught through previously encountered concepts, misremember, misunderstand or apply their own ideas. In Jikiden Reiki, this inevitable situation is counterbalanced by a worldwide supportive community including many practitioners and teachers inside and outside of Japan who are familiar with the Japanese language and culture. There is also a standard curriculum that is being taught by all Jikiden Reiki teachers.Committed to passing on Reiki in its original simplicity and clarity, we take collective custodianship of the practice and gently point out to each other when we think that we’re getting something wrong.