Usui, Mikao (1865-1926)

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Usui, Mikao (1865-1926)

Mikao Usui, the creator of the Reiki system of healing, a Japanese healing discipline that became a global phenomena during the years of the New Age Movement, was born on August 15, 1865, in Yago, Yamgata district, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. As a young man he married Sadako Suzuki, with whom he fathered two children. For a while he was associated with a Japanese Spiritualist group, Rei Jyutsu Kai, whose headquarters was west of Kyoto at the base of Kurama Kai, a holy mountain. However, he spent most of his life as a Buddhist. He completed the study and reflection that led to his creation of Reiki in 1914. Then, following a mystical experience he had while meditating on Kurama, he was led to found an organization, Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, to disseminate the teachings and practice of Reiki.

Reiki, a Japanese word roughly translated as "universal energy," is a healing system based upon the subtle energy system (variously called qi, chi, or ki) within the human body as developed in Taoist China. It is the same system that underlies acupuncture, and pictures energy flowing through the body vertically from the head downward through a set of channels or meridians. The Reiki system teaches a method of attuning to the energy and assisting its flow in the body of the patient.

After developing Reiki, Usui worked in a poorer section of Kyoto for several years, but around 1921 moved to the Harajaju section of Tokyo. There he set up a school/clinic. His students would move into the school and work with Usui until they had learned the system, though occasionally he traveled to other parts of the country to teach. Anticipating a practice later popularized in the New Age Movement, Usui is remembered as using crystals in his healing work. He taught the Reiki system to some 2,000 students, several of whom opened clinics and centers around the country. Usui also wrote a brief handbook which included a description of Reiki healing (though without mentioning any of the particulars of the method), the answers to some frequently asked questions, and some poems composed by the emperor designed to advise people on a worthy life.

Usui died on March 9, 1926, of a stroke. He was buried at Saihoji Temple, a traditional Buddhist temple in a Tokyo suburb. Leadership of Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai was passed to a Mr. Ushida, and continues to the present. Among his last students was Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a retired naval officer. He in turn taught Ms. Hawayo Takata, a Japanese-American who had traveled to Japan in the mid-1930s to seek help for her failing health. Hayashi named her his successor. Toward the end of her life, she initiated the first non-Japanese into Reiki and through the Reiki Masters she initiated, Reiki became a global phenomenon.


Petter, Frank Arjava. Reiki Fire. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Light Publications, 1997.

. Reiki: The Legacy of Dr. Usui. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Light Publications, 1998.