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Friday, September 16, 2011

Honoring the founder

Located near Granite Falls, Washington, Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America is the only Grand Shinto Shrine in North America. Photo courtesy of Graham Neville.

Rev. Koichi Barrish begins Oharae (purification) with Harae Gushi (purification wand). Photo courtesy of Tsubaki Shrine.

Samantha Parrott, “The Reiki Baker” has provided delicious cake for both of the celebrations.
By Marianne StreichOn my first visit to the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America near Granite Falls, Washington, I immediately recognized connections between Reiki and Shinto in the ritual, in the pure, calm energy of the place, in the power of the ceremonies, and in the exquisite beauty of the Shrine and its grounds. A strong intuitive sense told me that Mikao Usui must have practiced Shinto as well as Buddhism,* and since that initial visit I have taken Reiki students for shrine visits and returned myself for seasonal ceremonies. When there, I always feel a stronger connection with Usui Sensei.
Early in 2010, Senior Shinto Priest Rev. Koichi Barrish connected me with another Seattle Reiki practitioner, Kris Klohe, who envisioned a celebration at the Shrine to mark the 145th anniversary of Usui Sensei’s birth. A planning committee was formed and the ceremony took place on August 15, 2010. The event brought Reiki practitioners together from around Puget Sound, and afterwards it was decided to have a yearly celebration to be held on the Sunday closest to Usui’s birth date. The second annual event was held August 14.
The celebration begins with welcoming remarks, followed by repetition of the Gokai (Reiki Precepts) in both English and Japanese, a brief explanation of the ceremony, and then the ceremony itself. In addition to honoring Usui Sensei, the purpose of the ceremony is to raise the vibration of those in attendance. It begins with a preliminary purification and progresses to a final drum song connecting each soul with all that is—a moment that can bring extraordinary clarity to participants (and has for me). Following the ceremony, participants share birthday cake on the Shrine grounds.
Shinto emerged and developed spontaneously as an expression of the deep intuitive connection with Divine Nature enjoyed by human beings in ancient Japan. Shinto as natural spirituality is based on this harmonious primal relationship with the “infinite restless movement of Great Nature,” rather than on the written or revealed teachings of human beings. Important tenets of Shinto are gratitude, purification, raising one’s vibration, and strengthening one’s ki.
No, Reiki is not a religion, but Mikao Usui was a deeply spiritual man, and his practice of Reiki was an outgrowth of this spirituality. The Annual Usui Birthday Celebration is a meaningful way of connecting Reiki practitioners and of exploring a tradition that had great meaning for Usui Sensei, and, I believe, has much to teach Reiki practitioners today. As Reiki Master Lou Orsan of Bellevue, Washington commented, “It was wonderful to experience the energy of that sacred place and to participate in the ceremony…I felt an altered state of consciousness [afterwards]…and feel energized and more connected to Usui Sensei than before the ceremony.”
*My intuitive sense that Usui Sensei practiced Shinto was confirmed when I read Don Beckett’s Reiki, The True Story, an Exploration of Usui Reiki. Beckett reports a statement made by a Buddhist nun closely associated with Usui who said he practiced Shinto as well as Tendai Buddhism and that he also underwent three years of Zen Buddhist training.

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