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How did Reiki come to the West?

Written by Dawn Mellowship

The founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, taught 2000 students and 16 of these reached the top of his teachings. One of these Reiki masters was Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a retired officer of the Japanese navy and a medical doctor and surgeon. Dr. Hayashi was born on 15th September 1880. He studied with Mikao Usui for around 10 months before Mikao Usui's death in 1926. Dr. Hayashi remained with the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (the society founded by Mikao Usui) until 1931, when he departed to establish his own clinic and school in Tokyo called the Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu Kai (Lit. Hayashi Spiritual Energy Research Society). 

Mikao Usui had tasked Dr. Hayashi with developing Reiki in a more clinical manner and initially they did this together, developing the Reiki Ryoho Hikkei (Lit. Spiritual Energy Healing Method Handbook). This guide demonstrates hand positions for various illnesses and injuries enabling students who are beginners and lack intuitive ability to work in the correct areas with Reiki. Dr. Hayashi also kept treatment records and constructed class manuals for Reiki. 

Dr. Hayashi died on 10th May 1940. Prior to his death he had taught Reiki master level to a total of 13 students, one of them being a lady called Hawayo Takata. Mrs Takata brought Reiki to the West in the 1930s.


Mrs Hawayo Takata 

Mrs Takata was a Japanese immigrant living in Hawaii. She was born on 24th December 1900. Her father worked on a sugar cane plantation as a cutter. Hawayo Takata worked as part of the sugar cane plantation owner's household and eventually became the head housekeeper. It was at this household that she met her future husband, Saichi Takata, the plantation bookkeeper. They married and had two daughters. 

In October 1930 her husband died leaving Hawayo Takata to support two children. Life became very strenuous and after five years Mrs Takata grew very ill and suffered a nervous breakdown. Shortly after she travelled to Japan to receive treatment for her ill health. Whilst in hospital in Japan Hawayo Takata was diagnosed with asthma, appendicitis, gallstones and a tumour. She was due to undergo surgery but sensed that she did not need surgery. As a result, Hawayo Takata asked the hospital if there was another treatment she could have. The hospital dietician referred her to Dr. Chujiro Hayashi's clinic where over a period of four months she received healing daily from two Reiki practitioners. Hawayo Takata made a full recovery and impressed by this feat asked to learn Reiki. Although Dr. Hayashi initially refused, Hawayo Takata demonstrated her commitment to Reiki and Dr. Hayashi taught her the first level.

Over the next few years Mrs Takata graduated to master level, returning to Hawaii to establish her own clinic in Honolulu. Hawayo Takata travelled around Hawaii giving healing treatments and in the 1970s moved to the USA, where she taught Reiki level 1 and 2 courses. It was only in 1976 that she began offering Reiki master training. Hawayo Takata adapted Mikao Usui's teachings to suit the political situation created by World War II, removing some of the spirituality and practical nature of Reiki.

Mrs Takata initiated 22 Reiki masters before her death in 1980. Because Hawayo Takata had introduced some changes to Reiki, such as disallowing students from taking notes or keeping copies of the Reiki symbols, after her death Reiki became very fragmented. The Reiki masters she had trained had different recollections of what they had been taught. Some maintained the more traditional Usui style of teaching Reiki, while others developed and adapted the original teachings into new systems of Reiki. Still, were it not for Hawayo Takata Reiki may have never made it to the Western world.  

Last Updated on 28 April 2010
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