How is Jikiden Reiki different from Usui Reiki?

Mikao Usui SenseiAnd what would an Usui Reiki Master get from taking this class? How often have I been asked this question in person or by email. This time, though, I have been asked in a public way, so I thought I had perhaps best answer in public, too. First of all: Jikiden Reiki is Usui Reiki, as this simple hand-healing method started with Mikao Usui in Japan in 1922. ‘Jikiden’ means directly transmitted, and in the Japanese language and culture, is a term that refers to a traditional art form,  passed on carefully from teacher to student without changes.

Chiyoko and Tadao YamaguchiChiyoko Yamaguchi, who had learned Reiki from one of the teachers trained by Usui Sensei, Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, and her son Tadao decided to pass on what they had learned from Dr. Hayashi after they had met with many Western Reiki practitioners and realised how much the practice had changed, with so many new elements having come in that orginally had nothing to do with Reiki practice, and with notions that they considered fundamental to Reiki practice either not known at all or marginalised.

What would a Usui Reiki master get from taking Jikiden Reiki training? I have taught a number of Reiki masters, who have hugely appreciated what we teach and who found that it has clarified many questions for them and deepened their understanding and their practice. I have also met  one or two who were happier with their own way of doing things.

So, I will answer your question from my personal experience, as ultimately we choose what’s right for us, and that’s individually different isn’t it. Having trained in Western Reiki to master level first (which in itself was a wonderful experience, and Reiki as a healing practice ‘caught’ me straight away), I could nonetheless sense the inconsistencies and felt uncomfortable at being given tools with applications that I knew from experience, worked just fine, but didn’t know where they were coming from. Incidentally, I have heard Phylllis Furomoto express what seems to me a very similar frustration at her experience of learning Reiki from her grandmother, Hawayo Takata, in two interviews.

I want to make it very clear that we have no criticism of Mrs Takata and are deeply grateful to her for having found a universal format (i.e. devoid of it’s original (Japanese) cultural and spiritual context) that allowed Reiki practice to successfully spread in many countries around the world. But in different historic circumstances from those Takata sensei found herself in in Hawaii and America just after the World War II, we can now gain access to the specific Japanese cultural and spiritual roots of Reiki practice, and for me that is important, as it makes the practice intelligible and trustworthy, and allows for deeper understanding.

Just for the record, I’m not saying that only Jikiden Reiki training allows for understanding of Reiki practice, and I have seen many practitioners grow deep roots and insight into the nature of Reiki simply from consistent practice (the path that Takata sensei recommended).  I had also realised a thing or two about Reiki practice and Reiki treatment in this intuitive way that weren’t being taught in Western Reiki. (My first Reiki Master had learned  in the 1980s, just a few steps away from Mrs Takata). You can imagine my delight when I found these confirmed, explained and elaborated upon in the Jikiden Reiki teachings.  In my opinion though it was perhaps the fact that Reiki was passed on without its Japanese roots that has also opened the door widely to  misunderstandings and to Reiki becoming amalgamated and confused with so many other ways of thinking about energy work. Instead of blending everything with everything else until we end up with grey, why not simply accept that there are many paths to healing, and different windows to truth (and keep our window clean)?

Again, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that combining Reiki practice with other healing modalities or other thought systems is necessarily wrong and must never happen. But we are now in a situation where Reiki has become amorphous and personally, I can understand why anyone with their critical faculties intact might dismiss this wonderfully simple and accessible healing modality after a 20 minute browse on the internet. Jikiden Reiki is very much about keeping the practice as much as possible to how it was conceived of by its founder, and there’s a rigour and discipline in Jikiden Reiki that I see as a mark of respect to the original teachers.  Reiki was born out of an experience of enlightenment and crafted as a healing method from a broad knowledge base of different traditions. Mikao Usui prided himself in the simplicity of the method he had created, and to me this is one if its incredible strengths.

Frank Arjava PetterAsked why he hasn’t founded his own school of Reiki, internationally respected Reiki teacher, researcher and author Frank Arjava Petter gave the following answer in a recent newsletter: “Personally I don’t see the point in adding another new form of Reiki to the confusion because I think that trying to improve upon “soul energy”- Reiki- is quite inappropriate. Let’s be respectful instead to what we have been given by Usui Sensei and those who carried the torch after him.”

So without being able to reveal the details of Jikiden Reiki practice (you will appreciate that these are being passed on directly from teacher to student), what are some  of the aspects that I most appreciate about Jikiden Reiki?

I value the conceptual framework for how Reiki energy interacts with the diseased body and think that it has great practical value. In Jikiden Reiki, we don’t work with set hand positions, but instead  focus treatment on the areas where there are accumulations of toxins (byosen), using Reiki to help the body break them down and eliminate them more effectively. From a jikiden point of view, a toxin free body tends to naturally show a quick healing response and is quite capable of looking after itself. Yet, living in the 21st century it’s almost impossible not to experience toxin overload. Training practitioners to develop sensitivity in their hands so they can find the problem areas in my opinion is an invaluable asset, as working directly on the problem areas tends to get faster results when illness is already manifest and is also a skill of great value in preventative health care.  Using Reiki early on, perhaps we never need to experience the more serious conditions that may develop if we don’t regularly clear the build up of toxins. And what a blessing to have the means to do this in our own hands!

While the concept of byosen can easily be taught in a week-end workshop, you will appreciate that the skill of effectively reading a client’s body comes with time. This most useful perception skill is subtle at first and really begins to unfold with practice, ideally on others, not just oneself. Once fully developed, the ability to sense byosen gives useful insight into the natural healing process, and helps the practitioner make important treatment decisions: where to focus treatment and for how long. Are we dealing with a chronic problem or is it acute? How long to stay in the same area during a session, and how many sessions will be needed? Don’t get me wrong: We are not medically trained and cannot diagnose the nature of the problem or name your disease. We simply decide  where focusing Reiki treatment is most useful, and can assess healing progress and frequency of treatments needed for best results based on the changing sensations in our hands. On a number of occasions, the ability to sense byosen has also helped me to find areas where emotional trauma was stored in the body, and for this then to be safely released with Reiki treatment.

Going back to why adding more isn’t always a good idea and may create clutter where there once was clarity, I really admire the simplicity of the healing system created by Mikao Usui. Once the original context and intentions have been re-inserted into Reiki practice, we simply don’t need to worry about many of the complicated debates found in Western Reiki (on issues such as grounding or protection for example) as we realize that the answer has already been built right into the core of Reiki practice. “In the Western mind everything seems so complicated”, Chiyoko sensei once said. I  love the elegance of a system that takes care of complexity in the simplest possible way.

Personally, I also like that spirituality in Jikiden Reiki is implied in everything, as natural as water or air, and therefore need not be shouted from the roof-tops. (My colleague, Amanda Jayne has written a wonderful blog post on this, which I would encourage you to read). Instead we focus on becoming compassionate by working on ourselves. For this we have the Gokai, or 5 Reiki principles, which Arjava Petter describes not only as a road-map to enlightenment, but also as a reliable compass of our progress, indicating where we still need to work on ourselves. And this, at least in my case, is very much work in progress, and helps me to keep humble and real.

I had already mentioned how grateful I am for the insight Jikiden Reiki allows into the tools that we use in Reiki practice. This is a far different experience from being given shapes and words and their application. Learning about the context from which these tools were taken and their inherent meaning and function not only makes sense of the treatment methods we use (physical, psychological and distant) but also allows for a unique insight into the philosophy behind Reiki practice and the world view underlying it.  It is also here that we find the answers to issues that have become very complicated and involved in Western thinking about Reiki.  Again, everything fits so elegantly and addresses the task at hand in such a straightforward way.  Sei Heki treatment for example accomplishes incredible results, even with long-term mental or emotional patterns, and knowing the background to this treatment method it becomes clear how this can be achieved in such a simple way. I am of course not saying that you will find scientific explanations here, and you probably don’t expect this. I find Jikiden Reiki spiritually trustworthy and offering a coherent system though.

Ultimately, everything we do in Reiki practice is designed to bring us back, gently and at our own pace, to our original state of perfection and oneness, and Jikiden Reiki offers simple and effective tools along this way.



26 thoughts on “How is Jikiden Reiki different from Usui Reiki?

  1. Great post, Gisela. Like you, I had experienced some questions about some of the techniques, symbols and other practices in Western Reiki, and when I began to learn more about Japanese-style Reiki from Arjava Petter and Bronwen/Frans Stiene’s books (and later from Komyo Reiki training), it confirmed some things I had experienced intuitively. Having a baseline understanding of Japanese spirituality and cultural aspects helps put Reiki in its original context. It was of particular interest to me because I had practiced zazen (Zen meditation) for years and had an interest in Japanese spiritual practices. Reiki simply made sense to me.

    However, I try to be very careful not to imply that one system is “better” than the other. Reiki as Mrs. Takata taught it was consistent with her time, the culture she lived in and the normal process of syncretism when a practice or belief system from one culture is imported into another. Buddhism as it was and still is practiced in India is not the same as it is practiced in Tibet or other East Asian cultures. That doesn’t make those schools or practices of Buddhism less authentic, but it is helpful to understand the differences.

    The primary difference to me seems to be the emphasis in the West in “doing” versus “being” or “becoming.” It really goes back to Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” The non-dual nature of the mind is not a Western philosophical or spiritual concept, so there are all these explanations, processes and techniques practitioners are trained in via Western Reiki to slowly bring about the understanding inherent in Japanese culture.

    It personally does not bother me that some Reiki practitioners talk about working with chakras, or utilize different (or additional) symbols or have created new systems. I don’t think Reiki needs all of that, but if people feel those things resonate with them, that is their choice. My interest is simply to educate that there are differences between how Reiki was/is practiced in Japan versus what Mrs. Takata and her successors have taught, and let people decide for themselves. Ultimately, though, it’s simply about placing our hands where needed and being present with Reiki.

  2. Dana thank you very much for your comment. I agree with you, there is no place for superiority in Reiki, and I love Jikiden Reiki for the clear understanding that Reiki energy is soul energy, our core nature that is part of the divine. This makes a nonsense of the idea that ‘my Reiki is better than yours’. Let me quote Arjava again (from the same newsletter): “What we’re working with in Reiki practice is ” pure and uncontaminated cosmic energy. That energy has no attributes and is strictly supra- personal. And that is the beauty of it- let’s keep it that way!”

    And while perhaps our cultural conditioning can sometimes get in the way as you say, the beauty for me really is that Reiki is a path of direct experience. We don’t need to understand the concept of non-duality and we don’t even need to know the word to allow Reiki to transform us through dedication to the gokai and through practice. In Amanda’s words: “Whether giving or receiving Reiki, this will naturally bring us to a better-feeling place and one in which our ego is not so dominant. It is our egos that ask the questions, that need to know the answers and that are so busy deciding what is right and wrong or whether the energy is strong enough that we miss the opportunities available to us in every moment to stop, feel, and let go. It is in that space that we realize the answers are already there, waiting for us. Reiki works no matter where you are, who you are and whether you are thinking about the spiritual or not. You do not need to be silent or meditative for it to work. However, when you want to, giving or receiving Reiki can also be a time you can practice slipping into that empty space.”

  3. Hi Gisela, excellent explaination. In addition to that, in my talks and conferences I always strongly point out the content and cv of the classes – in Western (often called “traditional Usui …) Reiki it really depends on whom you get trained – and what they teach you. That can be good with a very dedicated teacher, who has long experience and the will to share that with you – or somebody who reached teacher level just by doing 1, 2, 3 and teaching! If that sounds bitchy – well, may be a bit frustrated…I know lots of Reiki teacher who never attended more than once each level – and teach Reiki in one day or in two days two levels etc… Then the student want to go on, and the next teacher requieres to repeat everthing with him again (and to pay full, of course) and teaches sth. different…That can be very frustrating. In Jikiden Reiki we are obliged to fulfill certain steps until we are allowed to teach. That means, to reach shihan-kaku level (assistant teacher), you have to repead at least once shoden and okuden (on a very reduced price) and to reach shihan, then you did repeat it at least twice (and once then with Arjava Petter and/or Tadao Yamaguchi). Just doing the repetitions provide a deeper understanding for the content – and thus a better basis to teach yourself. Even having done that a lot, I always find it interesting to join a seminar of another shihan or of Tadao sensei and Arjava sensei – there is always sth. I did not have in mind anymore, a small detail which I might not have heard before and – of course – the questions of the students.
    The content of a Jikiden Reiki class is fixed – means, as a shihan I am obliged to teach a certain content – depending on my time schedule (I can always extend that), I have to teach the same content which Dr. Hayashi (as far as we know) taught to his students last century. And this is an obligation to all shihan-kakus and shihans all over the world. So, with whoever you study Reiki – you get always the same information and can always go on with it under the same conditions – no matter where or with whom.
    For me an important issue – and a security for a quality class.
    Oops, that was a long comment….
    Nabila G. Welk, Jikiden Reiki shihan in Spain.

    • Nabila and Gisela, Have just gone through SHoden and Okuden in Frankfurt with Tadao Sensei and Arjava Sensei, I was struck by the sacredness of it all. Experiencing Reiji for each of those days with all the wonderful Shihans who participated in the course as well and the consistency with which the material was so lovingly taught, I agree with you completely. I am so looking forwar dto continuing on my journey to become Shihan-Kaku and then Shihan. Of course, to be really good at it, you need to “apprentice” and who better than the Master himself. This is about clarity and simplicity of delivery. Reiki is contained in all of us, it does not have a “label” and therefore can not be said to be better this way or that. What strikes me in all of this is the simple belief that each and every Jikiden Reiki trained person holds.. Reiki IS our energy and we are simply the channel for it. That the lessons are consistent no matter where you get them is the value of what is being taught. I am willing to do this over and over again until I am good at what I do, for the one reason, I am here to heal people and in order to do that, you need to be skillful. And the GOKI are wonderful principles by which to live your life. We can make a change in the world, albeit sometimes it seems very small changes.. but add them all up and it becomes a huge wave! thank you!

      • Hi Caroline, yes the consistency of the teaching no matter who you train with is a real strength of Jikiden Reiki, that’s very true. And so is the respect that is given to the original teachings.
        And like you I believe that changing ourselves we can change the world, with the gokai giving us a wonderful tool and road map for our own development. xx

  4. Nabila, thank you so much for pointing out some of the quality checks in how Jikiden Reiki is passed on. I personally think that the greatest factor in preserving the integrity of what is being taught is community. As you say, we repeat the seminar many times before we teach, and anyone trained in Jikiden Reiki can attend our practice events or repeat the seminar with us. So if on occasion we’ve perhaps misunderstood something or we’re getting it wrong, there’s always someone else to notice and to gently point this out. So Jikiden Reiki teaching can never be about being a wonderful teacher who is always right or better than anyone else, and will always be about being the best instrument that we can be to pass on this beautiful system within a supportive community.

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  6. very interesting article and discussion my first healing work arose from working with young athletes tensions and injuries and i did have to learn to feel where there were problems cos not always what they presented with then i did shiatsu then massage anatamy and physiology and then reiki one few years later two and then few years later again three and did indian head massage i find that often while im trained traditionally because of shiatsu and massage i find myself pulled to a particular area or organ without really knowing why and this makes sense so much more now im retired living in Killybegs Co Donegal small pension so dont travel much but might watch this space and if i win the lotto and when may family no longer draw funding from me ill look into this sounds good Namaste teacher

    • Mary, thank you so much for your comment. I agree with you, knowing which areas to prioritise for treatment can be such an asset. It’s an investment I know, but if you can manage to work toward it for the future, I can highly recommend Jikiden Reiki for the quality of the training. ~ Gisela

    • Hi Christina, yes, I think we can all sometimes overlook the real strength in something so simple, as our minds want things to be more complicated.

      My sense of what’s happened with Reiki is that because it was initially passed on without its Japanese roots simply as tools with applications (without explanations as to their background or nature), then people invariably have started speculating this way or that way, and these speculations have become part of what’s being taught as Reiki, sometimes taking Reiki quite far away from its original form.

  7. Hi Gisela, thanks for sharing that post. I too learnt ‘Western style’ Reiki first, but when I came to teach I found that I couldn’t explain it to others as it didn’t make sense to me. I then studied with Frans Stiene and felt much more congruent with what he was teaching. I really feel that you have to go with what makes sense to you and that will be different to someone else, as we all have our own unique combination of cultural background, education and experiences. It is clear to me that whichever style of Reiki you practice, it will be most effective if you
    a) Practice on yourself
    b) Practice what you preach
    c) Practice what is congruent with your spirit
    love Louise ❤

    • Thanks very much for you comment Louise. Like you, when I look at a Reiki practitioner, and when I look at myself, what I’m looking for first and foremost is congruence and integrity. Daily dedication to integrating the practice more fully and walking the talk (just for today).

      In Jikiden Reiki we tend to emphasise self-treatment a bit less than is often the case in other styles. Of course, if you have these wonderful healing tools, you would use them on yourself, that is common sense.

      However, to learn the subtle perception skills that we encourage practitioners to develop for identifying which areas to prioritise for physical treatment, you really need to practice giving physical treatments on others right from the start.

      This is also more in line with the other corner stone of jikiden practice: developing compassion (which is what the Gokai are driving at). We work on improving ourselves on a daily basis so that we can better serve others. A subtle (but significant) difference in emphasis it seems to me.

  8. Great article! “Mikao Usui prided himself in the simplicity of the method he had created, and to me this is one if its incredible strengths.” – totally agree. and cuts out ego and doing and just invites a state of being (in Reiki) that transforms both the recipient and the transmitter 😉
    thank you!

    • Thanks very much for your positive feedback Maya! And yes of course you can share the article. I would only ask that you acknowledge me as the author and link back to the orginal source, i.e. this website. Thanks very much! Gisela

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  11. Wonderfull explanation ,I would like to know when Is jikedin reiki class in India,I greatly honour your love towards jikedin reiki and respect towards western reiki.

  12. Pingback: How is Jikiden Reiki different from Usui Reiki? | Jikiden Reiki España/Spain 直傳靈氣西班牙 —- Official branch of the Jikiden Reiki Kenkyukai, Kyoto —-

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