Mikao Usui was the man responsible for developing Reiki in the 20th century in Japan. He was born in 1865 in a village call Taniaimura, now named Miyamachi in Kyoto.
Usui's background was Tendai Buddhism and he was looking for the ultimate life purpose. This drive for discovery led Usui to studying a wide variety of spiritual and healing systems. At this time Japan had opened it gates to the rest of the world, resulting in a flood of new spiritual ideas and healing techniques being developed and Reiki was one of them.
He spent years in search of his ultimate life purpose and how to achieve that. Usui's knowledge of Tendai Buddhism, Shintoism and Shugendo together with his experience of martial arts, kiko and other spiritual and healing systems, enabled Usui to develop a method, which we now call Reiki that meant anyone could work this technique and pass this ability on to others. Usui wanted to share this gift with as many people as he could. Many books will tell you that Usui went up a mountain and did a 21 day fast and meditation which led to a moment of enlightenment. This probably did happen and on more than one occasion. However he did not go up a mountain one day and then come back down with Reiki. His system was developed over a long period of time an although his experiences of enlightenment may have contributed to this development it was not the one off miracle that seems to dominate most accounts of Reiki's history.
Mikao Usui opened a clinic where he taught Reiki to his students, as well as doing healing sessions. Usui had been known to travel all over Japan to help people in need. When Usui died he passed the clinic on to three naval officers who had studied with him. The Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai was set up after Usui's death, by the same three naval officers, as a memorial society that still exists today. However it is a very closed community and obtaining information is not easy.
It is only recently that it has been revealed to the West that the symbols commonly used in Western Reiki were only introduced by Usui to a small number of students that found difficulties in experiencing the different types of energy, using techniques that the majority of Usui's students were using. This mainly applied to the Naval Officers, one of whom being Dr. Hayashi. The rest of his students would have used meditations and the Kotodama (Sacred Sounds). Dr. Hayashi was a member of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai but left early on to set up on his own. Dr. Hayashi's training was quite different to the majority of Usui's students' and this has influenced the modern development of Reiki in the West. He used a fixed training structure and symbols, his connection ritual also involved symbols, which became a longer more complicated 'attunement'. Usui provided ongoing weekly training and gave his students' regular 'empowerments', which were a gentle, simple, more graceful ritual, that didn't use symbols at all. Usui's students would have spent years developing their Reiki practice and focused mainly on their own spiritual development. They would have practiced mindfulness, which means that you control your mind and not the other way round, by monitoring your thoughts and eliminating anything that doesn't serve a positive purpose.
Dr. Hayashi taught Mrs. Takata Reiki and gave her permission to teach it in the West. Mrs. Takata's arrival in the USA wasn't very well timed, with the War and Pearl Harbour still very much in peoples' minds. Japanese ideas weren't easy to sell. For this reason Mrs. Takata made further changes to the techniques taught, as well as changing the history of Reiki. So Mikao Usui was no longer a Tendai Buddhist, but a Christian Theologian. These changes made Reiki more acceptable to her western students. Without the changes that Mrs. Takata made we may not even know of Reiki today, let alone any of the rediscoveries that have been made in the last few years.
With thanks to Taggart King and his friends, who have kindly shared this information. We now have a more accurate history of Reiki, despite the fact that it still written incorrectly in many Reiki books today. A more detailed account of the history of Reiki is given in the First Degree course manual. If you would like to read more about Reiki and its origins please take a look at the 'Resources' section of this web site, for recommended reading.