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Reiki (霊気?, /ˈrk/) is a spiritual practice,[1] now considered to be a form of pseudoscience,[2] developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, has since been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healing as a form of alternative medicine and is sometimes classified as oriental medicine by some professional medical bodies.[3] Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e., reiki) in the form of qi (Japanese: ki) through the palms, which they believe allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.[4] These beliefs have not been verified by modern medical science, and reiki is not considered an effective treatment for any recognized medical condition.[5]

There are two main branches of Reiki, commonly referred to as Traditional Japanese Reiki and Western Reiki. Though differences can be wide and varied between both branches and traditions, the primary difference is that the Westernised forms use systematised hand-placements rather than relying on an intuitive sense of hand-positions (see below), which is commonly used by Japanese Reiki branches. Both branches commonly have a three-tiered hierarchy of degrees, usually referred to as the First, Second, and Master/Teacher level, all of which are associated with different skills and techniques.

Reiki is based on a ki – a supposed life force which is purely hypothetical.[6] Used as a medical treatment, reiki confers no benefit:[6] the American Cancer Society,[7]Cancer Research UK,[8] and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine[9] have found no clinical or scientific evidence supporting claims that Reiki is effective in the treatment of any illness.

English reiki or Reiki is a Japanese loanword reiki (霊気, usually meaning "mysterious atmosphere; miraculous sign"), which in turn, is a Chinese loanword língqì (靈氣, "numinous atmosphere").[10] The earliest recorded English usage dates to 1975.[11] Instead of the standard transliteration, some English-language authors pseudo-translate reiki as "universal life energy".[12]

Japanese reiki is commonly written as レイキ in katakana syllabary or as 霊気 in shinjitai "new character form" kanji.[13] It compounds the words rei (: "spirit, miraculous, divine") and ki (; qi: "gas, vital energy, breath of life, consciousness").[14] The ki (better known as Chinese qi or ch'i) in reiki is understood as meaning "spiritual energy; vital energy; life force; energy of life".[15] Some reiki translation equivalents from Japanese-English dictionaries are: "feeling of mystery",[16] "an atmosphere (feeling) of mystery",[17] and "an ethereal atmosphere (that prevails in the sacred precincts of a shrine); (feel, sense) a spiritual (divine) presence."[18] Besides the usual Sino-Japanese pronunciation reiki, these kanji 霊気 have an alternate Japanese reading, namely ryōge, meaning "demon; ghost" (especially in spirit possession).[19]

Chinese língqì 靈氣 was first recorded in the (ca. 320 BCE) Neiye "Inward Training" section of the Guanzi, describing early Daoist meditation techniques. "That mysterious vital energy within the mind: One moment it arrives, the next it departs. So fine, there is nothing within it; so vast, there is nothing outside it. We lose it because of the harm caused by mental agitation."[20] Modern Standard Chinese língqì is translated by Chinese-English dictionaries as: "(of beautiful mountains) spiritual influence or atmosphere";[21] "1. intelligence; power of understanding; 2. supernatural power or force in fairy tales; miraculous power or force";[22] and "1. spiritual influence (of mountains/etc.); 2. ingeniousness; cleverness".[23]

The system of Reiki was developed by Mikao Usui (臼井甕男) in 1922 while performing Isyu Guo, a twenty-one day Buddhist training course held on Mount Kurama.[24] It is not known for certain what Usui was required to do during this training, though it most likely involved meditation, fasting, chanting, and prayer.[25][26] It is claimed that by a mystical revelation, Usui had gained the knowledge and spiritual power to apply and attune others to what he called Reiki, which entered his body through his crown Chakra.[25] In April 1922, Usui moved to Tokyo and founded the Usui Reiki Ryōhō Gakkai ("" in old style characters, meaning "Usui's Spiritual Energy Therapy Method Society") in order to continue treating people on a large scale with Reiki.[25][27]

According to the inscription on his memorial stone,[28] Usui taught his system of Reiki to over 2000 people during his lifetime, and sixteen of these students continued their training to reach the Shinpiden level, a level equivalent to the Western third, or Master/Teacher, degree.[28][29] While teaching Reiki in Fukuyama (福山市, Fukuyama-shi), Usui suffered a stroke and died on 9 March 1926.[28]

After Usui's death, J. Ushida, a student of Usui, took over as president of the Gakkai.[30] He was also responsible for creating and erecting Usui's memorial stone and for ensuring the maintenance of the grave site.[30] Ushida was followed by Iichi Taketomi, Yoshiharu Watanabe, Kimiko Koyama and the current successor to Usui, Kondo, who became president in 1998.[30] The sixteen masters initiated by Usui include Toshihiro Eguchi, Jusaburo Guida, Ilichi Taketomi, Toyoichi Wanami, Yoshihiru Watanabe, Keizo Ogawa, J. Ushida, and Chujiro Hayashi.[30][31]

Before Usui's death, Chujiro Hayashi (林 忠次郎 Hayashi Chūjirō) approached Usui about developing a different form of Reiki that was much simpler. Usui agreed.[32] After Usui's death, Hayashi left the Usui Reiki Ryōhō Gakkai and formed his own clinic where he gave Reiki treatments, taught, and attuned people to Reiki, and it was to this clinic that Hawayo Takata was directed in the 1930s.[30] Hayashi simplified the Reiki teachings, stressing physical healing and using a more codified and simpler set of Reiki techniques.[33]

After Hawayo Takata received multiple Reiki sessions from Hayashi's trainees at his clinic for illnesses including abdominal pain and asthma, Hayashi initiated and trained Takata to use Reiki,[34][35] and she became a Reiki Master on 21 February 1938.[34][36] Takata established several Reiki clinics throughout Hawaii, one of which was located in Hilo,[34] and then went on to travel throughout the United States, practising Reiki and teaching the first two levels to others,[37] and it was not until 1970 that Takata began initiating Reiki Masters.[38] At this stage, Takata also introduced the term Reiki Master for the Shinpiden level.[39] She stressed the importance of charging money for Reiki treatments and teachings, and fixed a price of $10,000 (roughly £6,500 or 7,400) for the Master training.[38]

Takata died on 11 December 1980,[38][40] by which time she had trained 22 Reiki masters,[41][42] and almost all Reiki taught outside Japan can be attributed to her work.[43]

Usui was an admirer of the literary works of the Emperor Meiji (明治天皇 Meiji tennō). While in the process of developing his Reiki system, Usui summarised some of the emperor's works into a set of ethical principles (called the "Concepts" 概念 Gainen), which later became known as the Five Reiki Precepts (五戒 Gokai, meaning "The Five Commandments", from the Buddhist teachings against killing, thievery, sexual misconduct, lying, and intemperance). It is common for many Reiki teachers and practitioners to abide by these five precepts, or principles.[44]




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