Reiki And Buddhism
by Don Brennan
Last issue we shared what we learned from Hyakuten Inamoto, a Reiki Master and Buddhist monk from Kyoto, Japan. Hyakuten received his Reiki training from Mrs. Yamaguchi, who learned Reiki directly from Dr. Hayashi. He has also served as the English translator for Mr. Doi’s Reiki classes and those taught by Mrs. Yamaguchi and her son Tadao.
Hyakuten has studied the sutras, visited Dr. Usui’s village and continues to do research on Mikao Usui and the origin of Reiki. He has a unique understanding of Japanese history, religion, culture and language, as well as Japanese Reiki, and has the ability to share all of this with English speaking Reiki practitioners. Previous attempts to make sense of a Buddhist connection with Reiki have usually been made from a substantially limited western perspective.
Before we go any further, we’d like to share a few points from his lecture about Reiki in Japan. He is not a member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakhai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Society) in Japan and wanted to stress that no Westerners are practicing “Usui” Reiki. Dr. Hayashi studied just a short-time with Usui, as a teaching Master, before Usui died. He later left the Reiki Gakhai and made changes in the way that Reiki was taught, calling his method Hayashi Reiki Ryoho. So Hyakuten considers the Reiki that he does to be Hayashi Reiki. For the rest of us, it would be more accurate to say that we do Takata Reiki, because Mrs. Takata, in bringing Reiki to the West made many changes and withheld elements of Dr. Hayashi’s teachings. He stressed that the only Reiki practitioners who can legitimately claim to be doing “Usui” Reiki, are the 500 members of the Reiki Society. But then he received a round of applause, when he said that all Reiki is Reiki and that he believed that the Reiki of one group is no more powerful than the Reiki of any other group.
He surprised us when he said that Dr. Hayashi charged a lot of money for Reiki classes. He said that he charged 50 yen, which was a lot of money at that time. With a class of 10 students, he could earn 500 yen, which would buy a small house, in those days. It wasn’t clear which level of Reiki classes he was talking about, but it makes Mrs. Takata seem a little less out of line with the high fees she charged for Reiki training.
I later asked him about the stories we’ve heard of Dr. Hayashi teaching students in exchange for their work as Reiki practitioners in his clinic. He said that he didn’t know for sure, but we know that Mrs. Takata learned Reiki that way and that there is a long history of teaching through apprenticeship in Japan, so it is likely that he did sometimes teach with that arrangement. (It’ll be interesting to read much more about Dr. Hayashi in Arjava Petter’s new book when it comes out later this year.)
In all of Hyakuten’s research, he could find no direct connection between Reiki and Buddhism, beyond its general cultural influence. Asked about the book Reiki and the Healing Buddha, by Maureen J. Kelly, which attempts to trace the origins of Reiki back to a Buddhist tradition in the distant past, he felt that the author strained and distorted the interpretation of facts to try to make her case to connect Reiki with ancient Buddhist concepts of healing. He emphasized Mikao Usui’s own statement in his Handbook: that Reiki was an original method and that he didn’t learn it from anyone. From all that Hyakuten could determine, Reiki was a byproduct, a gift, that Dr. Usui received through his enlightenment on Mount Kurama.
A discussion came up about a Reiki group claiming to have a more powerful form of Reiki because Mikao Usui taught one form of Reiki for those in a Buddhist monastery and a less powerful version for laypeople. This group claims to have received this lineage and offers it through their particular lifestyle discipline. Hyakuten could find no substance to these claims and felt that the very idea contradicted Mikao Usui’s desire that Reiki be shared with everyone throughout the world.
Asked about the stories of Mikao Usui being a Buddhist monk, Hyakuten said that there were many different stories about Dr. Usui being a Buddhist monk and being a Christian minister and so forth. He put all these stories to rest, when he said that Dr. Usui was not a Christian but was a Buddhist and everything indicates that he was not a Buddhist monk but rather was a lay Buddhist of the Pure Land sect of Japanese Buddhism. As a scholar and a spiritual seeker, Dr. Usui spent time in Zen Buddhist monasteries, but he remained a member of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, the spiritual name on his gravestone is a Pure Land Buddhist name and the sanctuary where his grave is located is a Pure Land Buddhist sanctuary.
copyright all rights reserved 2003 Don Brennan