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The Life of Mikao Usui

Rita Kapoor

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In 1914 Usui undertook a 21 Day meditation retreat so he might receive an answer to his prayer and vow. Usui went to his favorite meditation spot at Mount Kurama-yama and undertook "Isyu Guo", an intensive practice utilizing some the tantric materials he had studied. During his "satori" experience, he came to the realization of Reiki. Through the distillation of years of study and practice Usui was able to meld together a method for bringing the essence of these Buddhist practices to the masses. He called it Reiki.

He first practiced his newly discovered method on his friends. Then he began to offer this heating method to the residents of the lower class district of Kyoto. Kyoto is a religious center and the people in the streets were taken in and cared for. Usui opened his home to many and for seven years he brought forth the healing power of Reiki to them. This gave him an opportunity to perfect and refine his new healing method. Meanwhile, he continued to hold regular classes for his growing circle of Buddhist followers, and further developed and refined his system.

In 1922, Usui moved to Tokyo where he worked as the secretary to Pei Qotoushin, the Prime Minister of Tokyo. He opened a Reiki clinic in Harajuku, outside of Tokyo. He began to set up classes and teach his system of healing - Reiki. Some of his foremost senior students who received all the teachings, including the esoteric Buddhist healing methods, include Watanabe Kioshi Itami, his long time friend and student from Kyoto. It was Watanabe who inherited all of Usui’s notes and collection of Buddhist tantras when Usui died.

Bo Taketomi, who was a naval officer, Wanami, Takeuchi Sensel, a Buddhist monk, Five Buddhist nuns, whose names are unknown were among his students.

Kozo Ogawa, another of his students opened a Reiki clinic in Shizuoka City. He was very active in the administration of the Reiki Society Usui Kai. He passed on his work to his relative, Fumio Ogawa.

In 1922 Usui founded the Reiki Society, called Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho Kenkykai, and acted as its first director or president. This society was open to those who had studied Usui’s Reiki. This society still exists and there have been several presidents since Usui:

Mr. Jusaburo Ushida, Mr. Kanichi Taketomi, Mr. Yoshiharu Watanabe, Mr. Toyoichi Wanami, Mrs. Kimiko Koyama and Mr. Kondo. This society started a "new" religion, or spiritual organization, which was a common practice in Japan at this time.

On September 1, 1923, Tokyo and surrounding areas were struck by the devastating Kanto earthquake. Most of the central part of Tokyo was leveled and totally destroyed by fire. Over 140,000 people were killed. In one instance, 40,000 people died when a fire tornado swept across an open area where they had actually sought safety. These fires were started when the quake hit at midday, where countless hibachi charcoal grills were ready to cook lunch. The wood houses quickly ignited as they collapsed from the tremors. Three million homes were destroyed leaving countless homeless. Over 50,000 people suffered serious injuries. The public water and sewage systems were destroyed. It took years for the rebuilding to take place.

In response to this catastrophe, Usui and his students offered Reiki to countless victims. His clinic soon became too small to handle the throng of patients, so in February of 1924, he built a new clinic in Nakano - outside of 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. He was awarded a Kun San To, from the Emperor; which is a high award (much like an honorary doctorate) given to those who have done extremely honorable work. His fame soon spread throughout the region and many prominent healers and physicians began requesting teachings from him.

In 1924 Usui began teaching a simplified form of Reiki to the public, in order to meet this demand.
Chujiro Hayashi, studied with Usui in 1925, just a year before Usui’s death. Hayashi was one of the first of Usui’s non-Buddhist students. Hayashi was a Methodist and had very strong beliefs, and was not open to the esoteric nature of what Usui was teaching. Usui eventually sent Hayashi on his way.

Usui quickly became very busy as requests for teachings of Reiki continued to grow. He traveled throughout Japan (not an easy task in those days) to teach and give Reiki Empowerment. This started to take its toll on his health and he began to experience mini-strokes from the stress. He knew that he would soon die. So, one day while in his office in Tokyo, he gathered all of his documents and materials on Reiki (including his class notes), his diary and the collection of sacred Buddhist texts and placed them in a large lacquer box. He gave this to Watanabe, whom he considered his foremost student and dearest friend. He then left for a teaching tour in Western Japan. Finally, on March 9, 1926, while in Fukuyama, he died of a fatal stroke; he was 62 years old.

His body was cremated and his ashes were placed in a Temple in Tokyo. Shortly after his death, students from his Reiki Society in Tokyo erected a memorial stone for him at Saihoji Temple in the Toyatama district of Tokyo.

According to the inscription on his memorial stone Usui taught Reiki to over 2,000 people. Many of these students began their own clinics and found Reiki schools and societies. By the 1940’s there were about 40 Reiki schools spread all over Japan. Most of these schools taught the simplified method of Reiki that Usui had developed. Another, The Reiki Qakkai, continued to maintain the esoteric tradition. These practitioners have not brought their work out to the public and uphold a deeply spiritual basis for their work..

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