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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A teacher and her legacy

Margaret Ann Case
Reiki Master Teacher

Margaret Ann Case (2008 photo)

By Janet Dagley Dagley

My first Reiki teacher, Margaret Ann Case, passed away February 18, 2010, after a valiant battle with cancer. Without Margaret Ann, there likely would be no Reiki Digest, so this week we're devoting the entire issue to her and her legacy.

It's a strange feeling to be writing Margaret Ann's obituary, not just because I wish so deeply that this task were not necessary, but because of another obituary I wrote several years ago during my training with her: my own.

The assignment wasn't quite that specific -- my classmates and I in her one-year Reiki master program were supposed to be envisioning our ideal futures, clearly stating our intentions about how we wanted to spend the rest of our lives. For me, that meant a fanciful description of what I hoped to have accomplished by life's end. (To give you an idea of just how fanciful it was, I made it to age 151 in perfect health and ruled a vast healing media empire that helped millions to do the same.)

The whole class, including Margaret Ann, roared with laughter as my classmate Nicholas Sweeney read my obit aloud -- since I was "departed," I couldn't exactly have read it myself. She told me later that she planned to ask her future master students to write their own obituaries, too. I hope that the experience did as much for them as it did for me. My ludicrous auto-obituary not only gave me and the others a good laugh, but it brought me such clear focus that it and the other dreams I envisioned during those long days in the sanctuary of Margaret Ann's classroom have guided me ever since.

As far as I know, Margaret Ann never wrote an obituary for herself, not even after she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer last summer. Even if she had, it would have described a life that lasted many more years and included even more accomplishments than fate allowed. She could not -- would not -- picture herself succumbing.

As founder and director of Reiki Arts Continuum in New York City, as well as director of the Reiki professional training programs at the New York Open Center, Margaret Ann taught the gentle healing art of Reiki to thousands over her 17-year career as a healer and teacher. She was also on the continuing education faculty of the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences in New York, and served as a member of the advisory board of In addition to her work with Reiki, she was also a registered polarity practitioner, interfaith minister, and spiritual counselor and healer.

Like many professional Reiki practitioners and teachers -- as well as Mikao Usui, the founder of this practice -- Margaret Ann had several other careers before she began working with Reiki. She was an opera singer, and she spent many years in the corporate business world. And like Usui, she was a lifelong spiritual seeker. She was also a lifelong student: one of the things I admired most about her was that years after her original Reiki training, when she discovered that newly discovered, more accurate information was available about Reiki history and practice, she went back to the classroom as a student and went through two additional master programs.

Margaret Ann made a point of helping her students get a solid foundation with daily personal practice by requiring them to keep a log of the time they spent doing self-care each day. A record of 21 straight days was necessary to earn a Level 1 certificate from her. If you missed a day, you had to start over, but even if you practiced just five minutes, that counted. Her program had quite a few requirements that were above and beyond those of most other Reiki teachers, and her students sometimes complained about that amongst themselves. Without those extra requirements, however, I would probably not have written that obituary or done so many other things that have benefited me, my family, my clients, my students, and my readers. One Reiki master friend of mine, upon listening to some of Margaret Ann's students complaining about all her extra requirements, interrupted and asked, "Just how does that harm you, exactly?" And he was right: those additional demands only helped us learn.

Margaret Ann believed that within the next decade or so, Reiki would achieve such recognition by the medical system that treatments and classes would eventually be covered by insurance, and she set out to help fill the ensuing demand by training as many professional practitioners as she could, and making them as professional as possible so that they could seamlessly interface with the conventional health-care system. Ironically, as a self-employed business owner, she could not get health insurance herself and was unable to go to a doctor for help when she first began having problems -- when it might have helped most. By the time she went to the emergency room last summer, her cancer had already spread. In one of the last conversations I had with her, she talked about her hopes for health care reform.

She didn't just teach her students Reiki -- she taught us about the ethics of bodywork, about spiritual healing traditions from many cultures, about establishing and nurturing a business, about counseling skills and professional boundaries. Her own rules and boundaries could be very rigid: once during the final examination class for her master training, she closed and locked the door on a student who returned a minute late from the lunch break. And she did not socialize with her students, not even for a quick lunch.

Margaret Ann had no children of her own, but she took on a maternal role early in life. At the age of 12, she had to take responsibility for her younger siblings when her mother was hospitalized, and that feeling of responsibility for nurturing and guiding others stayed with her.

When I began my master training with her, I believed that I was making a transition from one career to another, from journalist to healer. By the time the year was finished, I had realized that I wasn't going from one thing to another. I was gathering up all the parts of myself -- everything I'd ever done, everyone I'd ever been, everything I'd studied or dreamed of, into a far more focused, disciplined whole person.

Many of Margaret Ann's colleagues and students have sent me their remembrances of her as well. We'll keep adding them as they continue to come in.

From E. Arecely Brown, program director at the New York Open Center:

Margaret Ann Case served as faculty member of the New York Open Center for almost a decade, providing the New York metropolitan area with the highest caliber Reiki System of Natural Healing Program available -- unique in its depth not only to the city, but to the Reiki Community at large.

Margaret Ann's integrity, faithfulness to practice and dedication drew hundreds of students to discover Reiki with her foundational courses and many continued on to her Advanced Reiki Practitioner Certificate Program, Reiki Master Program and Teacher Training program.

As a leader in the Reiki teaching community, Margaret Ann developed a system that not only produced a practitioner, it produced a healer, and this was her act of service to us all.

Bronwen and Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki in Sydney, Australia:

Margaret Ann was a delight. A strong, forceful personality that meant a great deal to many people. She taught Reiki with integrity and a strength of conviction.

One word stands out for us when we think of Margaret Ann - Vibrant.

Energy healer and crystal specialist Mika Nelson, founder of the Academy for Healing Arts in Hot Springs, Arkansas, was Margaret Ann's classmate in her first Reiki master training, and a longtime friend:

I have known on a deeper level Margaret ann was getting ready to leave, I have been in Brazil working with John of God, I was going to have a surrogate surgery for her, The entity's declined to do it, they gave her pills instead, I thought at the time she did not need a surgery, now I know why, she was already preparing,
Knowing and working with Margaret Ann since 93, we became close friends although in resent years , our conversations were mostly by phone.
Knowing her held a wealth of spiritual information that she was able to hold and release at any giving time, very few people had that wealth of info at their fingertips.
She has always been a kind person with the ability to be tough when she felt it would be for your highest good. But always Fair. She has dedicated her life to helping and lifting others into a realm so they may assist others.
Now I feel she has decided to do this on a Higher Level, so she can assist all of us in lifting us into Ascension . She has been close to God for a long time. and has chosen to be by his side in these ascending times as she had always planned. Her thoughts, her words and her actions, will live on through many that have studied with her or been involved in a healing with her. or just having a exchange of words and feelings with her. On a more personal level, she loved her family in Oregon, and was close with them, she loved Opera, and sang beautifully , she sang background with someone on this person's CD, but all you could her was her voice, It was angelic, like she.

Heather Alexander, founder of Brooklyn Reiki:

Its hard to know where to start when I try to describe the impact Margaret Ann Case has had on my life. I arrived in New York four years ago and didn't know a single soul but on looking for Reiki friends I found myself talking to Margaret Ann. I was soon regularly going for sessions and each week would lay on the floor at her Reiki circles listening to her wonderful guided meditations, so thankful that I had found somewhere to be peaceful in this crazy city. As the car horns and fire truck sirens blasted on outside - Margaret Ann gave me a haven.

The school that she built, Reiki Arts Continuum, also gave me a launch pad. A piece of solid ground where I could digest my life as it was then and start to turn it into what it is now - a much happier and healthier place. I know there are many, many people who rested on and grew because of Reiki Arts Continuum in the same way. And at the heart of it always was Margaret Ann. I thank her from the bottom of my heart for all her love and teaching - I would not be the person I am today if she had not come into my life. I miss her already but I also know that I will never be without her because she is a part of me.

Jean Bromage of Dancing Light Candles is a 2005 graduate of Reiki Arts Continuum:

As a healer, Margaret Ann showed me how to dance with my inner child and experience the joys of life more deeply. As a teacher, she built the foundation to help many people venture on a beautiful spiritual journey, a journey that helped me to step into my own personal power. As a friend, she offered me grace, compassion and humor. She is sent much love as she transitions to the next life, and the light she left behind for so many will not be forgotten.

Susan da Fonseca was a master student:

I was very sad to hear about Margaret Ann’s death. She and I had a lot in common – we were the same age, we both had studied Buddhism and meditation, and we thought a lot alike in many areas, and we both learned that we had cancer last year.

Margaret Ann was a great teacher for me and a mentor, helping me in various areas of my life – not only with Reiki. I learned a great deal from her and will be forever grateful that our paths crossed.

Claire M. Schwartz, founder of Miriam's Well Healing in Morristown, New Jersey, is a 2006 graduate of Reiki Arts Continuum:

I cannot imagine my life without Margaret Ann and her vision for what Reiki could be. Her commitment to a strong Reiki community and training excellent Teachers and Masters has left its permanent mark on us. She will always be where my Path began, and anything I accomplish in my practice will be because she started me out with strength, with brilliance and with heart. My gratitude to her is unending.

May the Great Spirit she served welcome her.

Nicholas Sweeney of Phoenix Wisdom Healing in New York City was also my classmate in the Reiki master program (he was the one who read my obituary aloud):

No matter how challenging I thought Margaret Ann could be at times, her presence certainly prodded me on to be more, see more and do more in alignment with my own soul-purpose. She was a deeply compassionate and emotional woman who was dedicated to service and teaching. Though I am sure there were depths to her that I will never know, I feel one moment with her gave me a glimpse into her inner private life and perhaps some of her own sense of mission. We were meeting after one of her Reiki 1 classes, and I was receiving mentoring from her about my work as a budding teacher. We were talking about how amazing it was to see the transformation in everyone after only two days of class. Margaret Ann became very emotional as she said to me that it was a gift to be able to watch transformation happening right before our very eyes.

I met Margaret Ann during a time in my life when I truly needed a strong guide over rough waters and into a new and calmer sea. I can't imagine having made that journey without her.

Master student DyAnne Irby, a classmate of mine in New York City:

Even seeing her w/ the illness, it never occurred to me that Margaret Ann would stop being around. In my mind she will always be a solid presence, a quiet strength, a woman of great caring and compassion.

Master student Fernanda Gonzalez in Boston:

Dear Margaret Ann, thank you for midwifing my gift of transformation, and of true healing. I love you and hold you and your teachings in my heart. I am forever changed by your presence and thank you for your continued guidance from the other realms.

Teacher training student Lori Russo:

My heart is very heavy at this moment. I had just seen her in January beginning my Teaching Training. It looked hopeful that she was getting better. I have been out of town for the last 5 weeks and so I am a bit in shock. Margaret Ann was such a huge catalyst for me as well. It was through her Spiritual Teaching and Mentoring that put into perspective and practical application of many Spiritual Ideas, that used to feel intangible. She opened many doors in my mind and heart to explore so many different spiritual possibilities.And have the courage to do so. I feel so much gratitude to have had her in my life.She had such strength, conviction, honor, integrity and deep love for her work and all of her students, I feel deeply honored to have been one of many who were touched by her.

Student Eileen O'Mahoney:

Dearest Margaret Ann,
I see you, confidently and lovingly, stepping forward into the arms of All That Is,
I hear the singing of Angels as you are welcomed home to where you began your great journey,
And I feel joy that you are at peace, having let go and allowed yourself to unite with all that you are.

Margaret Ann's family in Oregon issued this statement today:

Our dear Margaret Ann passed away peacefully Thursday, February 18 at 11pm. Family was by her side.

I know you feel as we do that we were all blessed to have had her loving spirit in our life. The family is finding peace in knowing she is now at ease and her spirit is free from physical pain.

On behalf of the family, we know you are with us in thoughts and prayers of healing.

In touch,
The Elmer Case Family

She may not have written her own obituary, but Margaret Ann did leave us with many of her writings. Many of them are still available on her web site, and this one, which she used as a greeting on her home page, is one of my favorites:

"May the sun radiate the fire of your spirit
May the moon reflect the beauty of your soul
May the earth reveal the vitality of your being
May the sky fill with the vision of your dreams
May the wind whisper the wisdom of your sacred self
May the stars sing the music of your song, and
May the rainbow illumine always with the love of your heart."

A memorial service for Margaret Ann Case will be held later this year in New York City. To send condolences to her family, click here for more information.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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(Heart)breaking news

Just got word overnight that my first Reiki teacher, Margaret Ann Case, passed away last week after a valiant battle with cancer. Without Margaret Ann, there likely would be no Reiki Digest, so this week we'll be devoting an entire issue to her and her legacy.

To accommodate as many comments as possible from Margaret Ann's students and colleagues, we are delaying publication of this week's issue until Wednesday, February 24.

Thanks for your patience and stay tuned for our special tribute tomorrow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Public TV's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly features Reiki and the Catholic Church

Nearly a year after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a surprising denunciation of Reiki, a national television newsmagazine has aired a feature on the controversial guidelines issued last March by the bishops. This week's episode of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly leads with this report:

Correspondent Kim Lawton interviews Sister Madeline Gianforte, a nun who is also a Reiki master, and who continues to practice Reiki despite the bishops' guidelines, and Lauri Lumby Schmidt, a minister and Reiki practitioner who learned Reiki from nuns. She also talks with Father Thomas Weinandy, Executive Director for the Secretariat of Doctrine at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, about the guidelines.

Weinandy's comments indicate his unfamiliarity with Reiki, along with some unfortunate misconceptions. "God is God," Weinandy said, "And human beings are human beings, and we can petition God, but we can’t manipulate him, and we felt that this was what was happening in the context of Reiki...."

If Weinandy believes that Reiki practitioners manipulate God, then as we say in journalism, there's your story, Josephine! It would be headline news indeed if anyone were proved to be manipulating God! If he believes that Reiki practitioners believe they manipulate God, that's an unfortunate misunderstanding that could have been cleared up with even a modicum of research. And it makes us wonder what sort of research on Reiki went into the guidelines in the first place. From here, it looks like a few minutes of Googling, cherry picking the most extreme items that came up to prove a predetermined position. Condemning anything because of what a few people might say about it on the Internet is a troubling precedent.

For the record, Reiki practitioners do not manipulate anything.

Fortunately, the producers of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly did do quite a bit of research, although that kind of television report is by nature a "some say/others say" structure that allows no comments or conclusions.

So please watch for yourself, or read the transcript, and tell us -- and them -- what you think!

A survey on Reiki self-care

By Elaine Grundy
Reiki Master Teacher
The Reiki Centre of Singapore

Over the years Reiki has been subjected to numerous clinical studies to try to prove its efficacy. I have always been surprised by the rather inconclusive results that arise when Reiki is applied to areas such as pain management, depression, healing from operations, etc. I began to wonder if the key ingredient missing from these trials is the act of self-care. In all these studies the patient is given a session by a Reiki practitioner and I have yet to see a study whereby the results reflected the added commitment of self-responsibility. Reiki’s greatest benefit is that it is a self-care modality and people who practice Reiki are committed to taking responsibility for themselves.

I decided to counter this study bias by launching a study on the benefits as reported by Reiki practitioners. This survey is not a clinical trial and is not to be considered medical research; however from a consumer research standpoint the more responses I get the more valid it becomes from a statistical viewpoint. The questions are self-reported and my aim is to study people who decide to attune to Reiki. I am interested in what happens in terms of many different areas of their lives, and I am also measuring it over time to see if the effects are cumulative. The results so far are very interesting and I am excited by the impact that a survey of this size will have on the media and on many people waiting for more definitive ‘proof’ that Reiki works.

Please note this survey is designed for Usui Reiki practitioners and teachers. I hope that many of you will support this survey and fill it out, and pass it on to other Usui Reiki practitioners.

Click here to respond to the survey.

Editor's note: Longtime readers of The Reiki Digest know we emphasize the importance of daily Reiki self-care and personal practice, so we were delighted that Elaine was willing to include us and our readers in this project, and we urge readers to take a few moments to respond to the survey. The more responses, the more valuable the survey will be.

Reiki Roundup

Breaking news: Reiki was found to reduce anxiety and lessen the need for pain medication in colonoscopy patients, according to a study in the February 2010 issue of Gastroenterology Nursing magazine.

Rochester, New York: Women who came for free mammograms on Saturday at Highland Breast Imaging Center also got Reiki sessions.

Colorado Springs, Colorado: Hospital volunteers in the No One Dies Alone program bring human companionship to the dying, and one of them offers some Reiki as well.

Denver, Colorado: Reiki is among the modalities mentioned in a Denver Post article on dealing with back pain.

Portland, Maine: A local television station reports that "Cancer Patients benefit from Reiki Massage." Reiki is NOT massage, it isn't thousands of years old, it isn't from Tibet, and it doesn't involve the practitioner channeling her own energy -- but aside from those all-too-common errors, it's a good report, especially the part where the cancer patient talks about how Reiki has helped her.

Airdrie, Alberta, Canada: A skeptic gets a Reiki session, as well as these wise words, from a local Reiki practitioner: "You don't have to understand how it works for it to work."

After falling twice on runway, Celeb-Reiki sheds spike-heeled shoes

To supermodel and re-Celeb-Reiki Agyness Deyn go the thanks of all womankind for the brave and sensible fashion statement she made this week. After stumbling not once but twice while walking down the runway at a fashion benefit for Haiti in New York, Deyn removed the spike-heeled-platform source of the problem and finished her circuit barefoot. Those things look dangerous! Deyn's Reiki connection: her mother, Lorraine, is a Reiki Master.

Music (and other sounds) we love to practice Reiki by: Relaxing Rainforest at Dawn

Last month we featured thunderstorms, and this week we focus on more peaceful natural sounds: Relaxing Rainforest Ambience at Dawn for Deep Meditation & Reiki. Click on the Natural White Noise: Music for Meditation, Relaxation, Sleep, Massage Therapy - Ultimate Nature Sounds Collection: For Healing, Yoga, Spa - Relaxing Rainforest Ambience At Dawn for Deep Meditation, Reiki button to listen and find out more. And thanks as always to iTunes -- a small percentage of every purchase made via our links goes to help cover some of our costs in bringing you this publication.

The weekly waka

The skunk sprays the dog.
Exasperated, I think
"you will learn from this".
And indeed the dog does learn -
if at first you don't succeed....

(Waka wanted: If you'd like to contribute a waka to our regular series, check out these guidelines, write your waka, and email it to editor @

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Does Reiki Have a Buddhist Origin?

By Oliver Klatt
Reiki Master and editor of the German-language
Reiki Magazin

We often read today that the Usui System of Reiki has a Buddhist origin or that the spiritual roots of the system are in Buddhism. In my book Reiki Systems of the World, I also suggest the possibility of such a correlation because some of the renowned, internationally active Reiki Masters represent this viewpoint. But what is the actual basis of this assumption?

One starting point for considering the Usui System of Reiki within a Buddhist context is that the founder of the system, Mikao Usui, apparently followed a Buddhist practice. With this in mind, it is possible to say that since this system’s founder had a Buddhist orientation defining the core of his spirituality, the origin of the system that he founded was based in Buddhism. Aside from the issue of how extensive the sources are upon which this information is based, the important question is: Is this line of thought actually conclusive? It can obviously be seen in this way. But it is also a fact that when someone creates something new, he must always begin with what is or was there before. Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and became Jesus Christ, which was the beginning of Christianity. Prince Siddhartha was Hindu. He became the Buddha and created Buddhism.

Seen in this light, practitioners of a newly created spiritual path – and this is how I understand the Usui System of Reiki (and Usui apparently also viewed it in this way / see the footnote*) – may be interested in knowing about the historical starting point of this path. However, this is less significant in the spiritual sense. In spiritual terms, the only things that matter are its elements, as well as the inner orientation of this new path – and both prove to be what they are virtually from within. Following this line of thought, it makes sense to now further explore the initial question of this article by taking a closer look at the spiritually significant elements of the Usui System as the first step and examine them to determine if they have a special proximity to Buddhism. Then, in a second step, it appears reasonable to examine the spiritual orientation of the Usui System as a whole and to also scrutinize it for a special closeness to Buddhism. It appears to make sense for both steps to also examine a possible proximity of the Usui System with the other major spiritual traditions and religions of the world. If it turns out that the Usui System actually does have a close proximity to Buddhism but is also close to the other religions and spiritual traditions, then we cannot claim that the system has a “special close relationship” with Buddhism.

Elements of the Usui System

When considering the Usui System on a spiritual level, we notice that the three following elements are primarily significant in the system:

1. the initiations
2. the forms of practice, and
3. the symbols that are used for them.

1. The Initiations

The initiations enable the practitioners of the system to perform its fundamental practice: the laying on of hands. The fact that Tibetan Buddhism also works with initiations, as well as the claim by some that Usui traveled through places like Tibet on his journeys, has given rise to the assumption that there is a close relationship between the Usui System and Tibetan Buddhism. However, this does not take into account that the performance of energy-transmitting initiation rituals is not a unique characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism within the spiritual world. Other spiritual traditions such as Kriya Yoga, which originated in Hinduism, and Sufism, the mystic path of Islam, work with such initiation rituals.

Furthermore, there is no verifiable source for the claim that Usui was in Tibet and/or studied with Tibetan-Buddhist monks. As long as Usui did not have any contact with Tibetan Buddhism, the fact that the Usui System of Reiki includes initiation rituals actually seems to support the assumption that there is no particularly close relationship of the system with Buddhism. In general, all of the lines of Buddhism other than the Tibetan line do not work with initiation rituals and/or the focus is not on energy transmissions.

Another fact in support of Usui not having developed his Reiki System from Tibetan Buddhism is that the seed syllable of hrih, based upon which he probably created the "Mental-Healing Symbol," has less similarity to the "Mental-Healing Symbol" in its Tibetan-Buddhist form than in its Siddham form. (Siddham is a script of Sanskrit that was developed by Buddhist monks in India and later also reached China and Japan – more on this later).

2. The Forms of the Practice

The practice of the First Degree can be described as the core practice of the Usui System. Within the traditional form of the system, it essentially consists of the daily self-treatment with Reiki through the laying on of hands. However, this form of the practice has only developed over the course of decades, especially during the time in which Hawayo Takata, Chujiro Hayashi’s student, shaped what is now the most widespread form of the system, Usui Shiki Ryoho. In addition, the daily practice of this traditional form of the system includes the sincere effort of putting the contents of the five Reiki Principles into action in everyday life. At the time of Mikao Usui’s work in Japan, the core of the practice probably did not yet include self-treatment with Reiki on a regular basis; instead, the primary focus was to recite the five Reiki Principles in the morning and evening, to meditate on their content, and to implement them in everyday life. However, the practice of the system already included elements of the laying on of hands.

The practice of the Second Degree can be considered an advanced practice of the Usui System. The techniques of the Second Degree enable an intensification of the energy flow in working with Reiki, as well as for the practices of mental healing and distant healing. These techniques are made possible through the use of three symbols. In terms of practicing the Second Degree, there are very few differences between Usui Shiki Ryoho, the form of the Usui system shaped by Takata, and the original Japanese-oriented form, Reiki Ryoho.

The practice on the Master level consists of performing initiations. While the initiations at the time of Mikao Usui were apparently still carried out without the use of symbols, the symbols associated with the system have also been used in initiations since Hayashi, one of the masters initiated by Usui, through whom the system reached the West.

Universal Spirituality

If we look at the individual elements of the practice that are described here, the following can be determined with regard to the question raised by this article:

2.1 First Degree

It is apparent that the core practice of the system is the laying on of hands, as well as the spiritual orientation upon the Principles and their best-possible implementation in everyday life; in the original Japanese-influenced form of the system, this also includes the reciting of the Principles and meditation on their contents.

The laying on of hands for the purpose of transmitting spiritual energy or healing powers is not the sole domain of any particular religion or tradition. Instead, this practice can be found in all cultures and religions of the world in one way or another. We read in the Bible that Jesus and his apostles laid on their hands in order to heal. According to reports, kings and saints also healed in the Christian cultures through the laying on of hands. The Koran mentions the healing work of Jesus in many places. It has also been written that Mohammed, as well as many saints of Islam, healed through the laying on of hands. The same has been said of Buddha. There are Buddhist buildings containing reliefs in which the practice of the laying on of hands can be seen. The concept of ki – a vital life force – that can be transmitted through the laying on of hands, among other things, is a basic assumption in Taoism. The same applies to Hinduism, where this force is called prana, for example.

Like the laying on of hands, the contents of the Principles can be found in the writings of almost all cultures and religions. Overcoming anger and worry, a respectful attitude toward fellow human beings that extends to an empathetic attitude, an honest basic orientation in life, both the inner and the outer work in the service of spiritual development, as well as gratitude toward God or a higher power – all of these contents can be found in one form or another in actually every spiritual tradition.

In terms of the practice of reciting and meditating, we can determine that these two forms of spiritual practice can be found in almost every spiritual tradition in one form or another. For example, the Christian culture also has the practice of contemplation, a mental immersion in spiritual topics and relationships that is quite close to the Far Eastern practice of meditation in terms of both its contents and the Principles. In Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, the meditation generally plays a decisive role for progressing in the spiritual sense. The same also applies to the various esoteric teaching systems. Spiritual texts and contents are recited in the rites and ceremonies of all religions.

In terms of the practice of First Degree, no particular proximity of the system to Buddhism can be established. In any case, it is not closer than to all of the other significant spiritual traditions and religions throughout the world.

2.2 Second Degree

On the level of the Second Degree, the practice of mental healing, as well as distance healing, have been determined to be the core elements. Both of these are specifically oriented forms of healing work. The Usui System of Reiki works with symbols in this respect.

The practice of distance healing, which means the transference of healing energy over a distance to a person who is not physically present, is an element of the various healing traditions. It can be found in the healing work by shamans of the indigenous peoples, as well as in the work of most spiritual healers, regardless of the spiritual background in which they work. Within the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish context, this primarily means the prayers that ask for healing through God. Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism, call upon the help of spiritual beings and/or energy forms for distant healing or a spiritual connection with the person to be treated is established by means of a technique or a previously internalized spiritual principle.

The same applies to the practice of mental healing, which means healing effects on the deep layers of human consciousness that are components of various healing traditions. Consequently, it can be observed that this special form of healing work, which is primarily used by spiritual healers who see their spiritual background as primarily based on the Far Eastern cultures. However, many spiritual healers who see their spiritual background as rooted in Western cultures work with this form of healing; this usually includes Western, esoteric teaching systems or methods of positive thinking.

And, finally, the use of symbols in the respective different contexts – whether in rituals, ceremonies, or in forms of spiritual practice – can be found throughout all religions in every spiritual tradition. In order to make a statement about the respective spiritual context, this obviously depends ultimately on a) the precise form of the symbols used, as well as b) on their precise contents – two points that will be examined more closely in the following section with regard to the symbols used in the Usui System.

Preliminary conclusion: For the practice on the level of the Second Degree, no special proximity of the Usui System to Buddhism can be determined so far. The same applies to the practice on the Master level: As already mentioned above, the performance of initiations is a component of various spiritual traditions.

The Form of the Symbols

3. The Symbols

The symbols of the Usui System are elements of the practice on two levels: On the level of the Second Degree and the Master level. There are three symbols in the Usui System of Reiki. These are the three symbols of the Second Degree. Their use enables an intensification of the energy flow, as well as the practice of mental healing and distant healing.

What is generally known as the "Reiki Symbol" is not a symbol in the narrower sense of the word but simply two Japanese characters. One of them represents the term rei and the other stands for the word ki. Both terms of rei and ki are part of the Japanese language, just like the words “universal“ and “life energy“ are part of the English language. The writing of the two terms rei and ki in Japanese as one word, Reiki, has no special symbolic power to the same extent that writing the two words “universal” and “life energy” in English as one term has no special symbolic power.

The same applies to the so-called “Master Symbol.“ It merely consists of three Japanese characters that connect three terms of the Japanese language with each other and/or make them into a sentence. Even if this combination of words may have a specific meaning within the spirituality and culture of Japan, this is no reason to assume that this meaning continues to exist beyond the Japanese context. For example, when an American says: “So help me God,“ then this sentence is usually understood within America – where Christianity is the dominating religion – as referring to the Christian god. But, for example, if this same English sentence is spoken within the scope of a Hindu ceremony in India by a Hindu, then it certainly does not refer to the Christian god.

This same fundamental consideration also applies to the terms or names of the three symbols of the Second Degree, whose contents can also be seen as independent of the specific context that they have within the Japanese culture. From a rational perspective and contrary to many opposing claims, the designations for the symbols are not mantras. Their sound does not contain any special mystic, spiritual energy or vibration; they are simply the names of the three symbols.

The following section is a reflection on the three symbols of the Usui System of Reiki and their names. However, in keeping with both the traditional and the original Japanese school of thought, neither the forms nor the names of the symbols will be revealed in the process since this only appears to be appropriate for initiates of the Second Degree. But anyone who has been initiated into the Second Degree of the Usui System will know what is meant in each case. For all others, the following text sections will probably have little meaning.

3.1 The “Power Symbol”

The essential part of the “Power Symbol” that basically determines its form can be found in the spirituality and culture of all the peoples of the world. It is also omnipresent in nature, in all life on the earth, and in the universe.

The name of the “Power Symbol” is a specific Japanese expression that has a cultural context within the history and culture life of Japan. However, what it defines in terms of the content, as well as the nature of its relationship, can be found in the same manner in other significant, larger cultures of the world.

3.2 The “Mental-Healing Symbol”

In order to explain the spiritual context of the “Mental-Healing Symbol,” we have to expand our perspective. We can assume that Mikao Usui created this symbol as a further development of one of the so-called seed syllables that is formed from several characters of the Siddham script. As a result, two questions arise initially: What is a seed syllable? What is the Siddham script?

Siddham is a script with which Sanskrit, the sacred language of the Indians, can be written down. Sanskrit, also called the “original language of the gods,“ has no individual script associated with it. Originally, Sanskrit was just a spoken language. In the beginnings of civilization in India, as well as in other places, everything was just expressed and handed down orally; nothing was written down. A script, which was used by the Indian spiritual teachers so they could write down Sanskrit, only developed at a later point in time. This script is called Brahmi. This developed into other, simpler scripts that also served to write down the Sanskrit, including the Gupta script from which the Siddham and the Devanagari scripts developed. Devanagari is now the most important script in India. In earlier times, it was Siddham.

During the time when Siddham was the most important script in India, it was also used by Buddhist monks to record Buddhist contents in writing. Due to the Sanskrit origin of the Siddham script, the individual characters – according to their pronunciation in Sanskrit – were considered sacred and therefore used as objects of meditation and contemplation. Furthermore, several of the total of 51 Siddham script characters were combined to form each of the so-called seed syllables.

Each of these seed syllables represents the essence of a specific Buddha or Bodhisattva. This is how each important Buddhist entity received its own seed syllable, also called bija, which consists of a combination of several letters of the Siddham script. The combinations were created according to the nature of the respective entity on the basis of the original meaning of the individual characters that composed the combination, derived from their original pronunciation in Sanskrit.

Mystic Identification

A seed syllable serves the mystic identification of a spiritual practitioner with a spiritual entity or a divine principle. In a certain sense, a seed syllable is concentrated energy, a “seed of the absolute“ and simultaneously the principle and origin of being. It enables the direct manifestation of the corresponding spiritual entity or energy form. In meditating on such seed syllables, as well as in the drawing of such syllables, the associated energy or entity manifests directly in the practitioner. Seed syllables exist in various forms within different spiritual traditions; for example, in the Jewish Kabbala, where Hebrew – the sacred language of the Jews – plays a role similar to that of Sanskrit for the forms of spirituality established in India.

As Buddhism spread beyond the borders of India, the Siddham script became the bearer of Buddhist contents in a certain sense – especially in relation to the emigration of Indian-Buddhist monks to China. In this process, the pronunciation of the individual characters, words, and seed syllables – which were based on the Sanskrit – increasingly lost their meaning due to the foreign cultural context and the fact that the Chinese had a language of their own, which they considered highly developed. From their perspective, they saw no necessity for adopting another language. So the pictorial design of the Siddham characters and seed syllables became increasingly important outside of India, especially in China, from that time on.

Centuries later, on one of his trips to China (as mentioned on the Usui memorial stone and by Frank Arjava Petter in the book Reiki Fire), Mikao Usui may have met with Buddhist monks who taught him the Siddham script. Perhaps he also encountered this script in Japan because the Siddham script had also been spread as far as Japan with Buddhism in the course of the centuries. (Japan is now even considered the country in which the Siddham script has been preserved. Even today, it is still used by the Shingon Buddhists to write down mantras and copy sutras, for example.) In any case, it is relatively certain that Usui was familiar with the Siddham script and therefore also the seed syllables associated with it. And one of these seed syllables apparently served him as the basis for creating the “Mental-Healing Symbol”: the seed syllable hrih.

The seed syllable hrih, which is kiriku in Japanese, represents a specific Buddha within the Siddham script: the Buddha Amida Nyorai (Amithaba Tathagata). This is the Buddha of infinite light and eternal life. We can read the following about what defines his nature at its core: “He promised to bring anyone who invokes his name with a sincere heart to his pure land. His merits are so great that he can transfer it freely to weak and foolish people who have no other hope for salvation. He is our great friend who will never abandon us. Those who follow him will be freed of all evils.” This seed syllable is considered one of the most propitious signs. It ensures good luck.

The seed syllable hrih is formed from four individual characters of the Siddham script. (In the original notation, the “i” has a horizontal line instead of dot; the last “h“ is a different “h“ than the first because it has a dot beneath it.) In a nutshell, these four letters can be translated as follows: h - karma/cause, r - passions, i - calamity, h - remove, take away. This describes what the Buddha Amida Nyorai does.

In earlier times, this seed syllable was found on the helmets of some Japanese samurai as a lucky charm in the battle. This seed syllable is still present everywhere in Japan as a kind of spiritual lucky charm. For example, t-shirts and bracelets that have this seed syllable depicted on them are sold in tourist destinations.

For the categorization of these relationships with respect to the question asked by this article, it is important to see that although Usui apparently used this seed syllable as the basis for the “Mental Healing Symbol,” the “Mental Healing Symbol” itself is something completely different and new; it is not identical with the described seed syllable. So even if there are parallels in terms of content between the above-described Buddhist meaning of the seed syllable and the statements by Hawayo Takata and Chujiro Hayashi on the concrete application of the “Mental-Healing Symbol,” for example, we can still ascertain that the corresponding statements on the part of Takata and Hayashi have been made from a completely different perspective than it has in the Buddhist interpretation. (For example, it has been reported that Takata sometimes spoke to the course participants of the Second Degree with the following emphatic words on the use of the “Mental-Healing Symbol”: “Think very carefully about the bad habit, and then think: No more of this! No more of this!”)

The fact that the “Mental-Healing Symbol” is independent of the seed syllable hrih that inspired Usui to create it is also demonstrated in the fact that the name of the symbol is not hrih or kiriku, but something completely different. The name or designation of this symbol is quite simply two Japanese words that, taken together, actually express a behaviour pattern that must be overcome in order to progress on the spiritual path in any form of authentic spiritual development.

A Japanese Reiki teacher with whom I am friends once told me that, in her experience, Siddham scholars in Japan did not recognize the Siddham seed syllable as the origin of the Reiki “Mental-Healing Symbol.” Seen from this perspective, we probably cannot speak of a direct, contemporary influence of the seed syllable hrih on the Reiki “Mental-Healing Symbol.” This means that the form of the Reiki “Mental-Healing Symbol” stands on its own. It draws its power from within itself and not from another form that has inspired its creation.

In addition: Even if we wanted to create a spiritual relationship between the Reiki “Mental-Healing Symbol” and the Siddham seed syllable hrih through the above-described historic context, this would obviously not only exist with the Siddham script; consequently, this would also apply to its foundation, which is namely Sanskrit – the ancient Indian sacred language from which all forms of religiousness and spirituality that were established in India, especially Hinduism, have developed.

3.3 The “Distant-Healing Symbol”

The form of the "Distant-Healing Symbol" was developed from the Japanese script. However, unlike the form of the so-called Reiki Symbol and Master Symbol, it doesn’t consist of complete, individual Japanese characters, but is made of parts (!) of them. In the composition of the symbol, Usui supposedly made use of a Taoist combination technique. Is this an indication that Usui also came into closer contact with Taoism during his journeys through China? This can be presumed because the central meaning of chi – which is ki in Japanese – is an energy form within Taoism.

The name of the Reiki “Distant-Healing Symbol” consists of several Japanese words and includes various (spiritual) meanings that ultimately remain a mystery in their totality. As a result, the translation of these words into Western languages has probably been simplified a bit or reduced to a simple “formula.” When written together, two of the five Japanese words that stand for the “Distant-Healing Symbol” can form a specialized Buddhist term. However, this does not have to be seen as a Buddhist context; not least because the two respective words are not written together in the name of the symbol.

The following can be asserted in general with regard to the nature of Japanese culture in the past and present, and therefore also in relation to the nature of the Japanese language: In addition to a multitude of other influences, it was or still is also obviously subject to Buddhist influences. However, so many other influences of a secular and spiritual nature have had an effect on Japanese culture that it is very difficult to identify a main influence. According to the scholars, a considerable portion of Japan’s mythological writings are based on Indian influences. Within this context, Shintoism – the nature religion of Japan – is also called the Japanese version of Hinduism.

The only possible conclusion here is that even a closer analysis of the precise forms and names of the three symbols of the Usui system does not reveal any particular proximity to Buddhism, except that these forms and names primarily have various correlations with Japanese culture. In turn, this was also influenced by Buddhism. However, it was possible to determine a historical relationship with a Buddhist meditation object in terms of the “Mental-Healing Symbol.” But upon closer inspection, this historical proximity extends beyond the Buddhist context to the origins of all Indian spiritual traditions and religions.

Healing and Spiritual Development

Now that we have examined the spiritually significant components of the Usui System in relation to their proximity to Buddhism, as well as to other spiritual traditions, this last section will consider the spiritual orientation of the Usui System as a whole and with the same question.

When considering the practice of the Usui System of Reiki with regard to its inner orientation, we can also determine that its core consists of two aspects:

1. The attainment of both physical and mental healing and
2. The spiritual development of the practitioner.

In addition, the system can also be considered a path of personal development for the practitioner (although this is certainly not independent of the two first aspects). On the one hand, this means that the system is a method of energetic healing; on the other hand, it is a spiritual discipline. Both of these elements are inseparably linked with each other.

It is probably unnecessary to demonstrate the individual details of why – as is common knowledge – the two aspects of mental and physical healing and spiritual development are components of every authentic spiritual path.


In summary, no special relationship between the Usui System of Reiki and Buddhism is discernible; in any case, no closer proximity than it also has to other religions or spiritual traditions. So the conclusion drawn by this article is perhaps that the Usui System of Reiki has a closer proximity to the Eastern religions and spiritual traditions as a whole than to the Western religions and spiritual traditions as a whole. This applies especially to the practice on the level of the Second Degree, as well as to the Master level.

© 2009-2010 Oliver Klatt
Translation: Christine Grimm

Click here for more articles in English by Oliver Klatt

* In a formal declaration by Mikao Usui as to why he publicly teaches the Reiki method of healing, which is right at the beginning of the Reiki Method of Healing Handbook (Reiki Ryoho Hikkei), Usui writes: “Our Reiki Ryoho is something absolutely original and cannot be compared with any other (spiritual) path in the world.“ (Quote from: Reiki - The Legacy of Dr. Usui, F. A. Petter, Lotus Light 1999)


Books: Sacred Calligraphy of the East, John Stevens, Boulder & London, 1981 / Siddham. An Essay on the History of Sanskrit Studies in China and Japan, R. H. van Gulik, International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1956 (reprint 2001) / Das Buch der Schrift (The Book of Script), Carl Faulmann, Druck und Verlag der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Vienna, 1880 (reprint Eichborn Verlag) / Sanskrit, Jutta Marie Zimmermann, Stuttgart, 2003 / Erlebnis: Sanskrit-Sprache (Experience: Sanskrit Language), Wilfried Huchzermeyer (editor), Karlsruhe, 2005 / Die heiligen Schriften Indiens (The Sacred Writings of India), Wilfried Huchzermeyer, Karslruhe, 2005 / The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, Inner Traditions, 1998 / Glaubensheilungen in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Faith Healings in History and the Present), Klaus-Dietrich Stumpfe, Self-published by Stumpfe, Cologne, 2007 / The Bible, Herder, Freiburg, Basel, Vienna, 1991 / The Koran, Acacia Publishing, 2008 / The Power of the Kabbalah, Yehuda Berg, Kabbalah Publishing, 2004 / Bhagavad Gita, Nilgiri Press, 2007 / Tao Te Ching, Lao Tse, Wilder Publications, 2009 / Das Tao-Handbuch (The Tao Handbook) Gérard Edde, Windpferd, 2006 / The Healing Buddha, Raoul Birnbaum, Shambhala, 2003 / The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Graham Coleman, Penguin Classics, 2007 / Reiki. Tao Tö Qi. Les Secrets du Reiki, Idris Lahore, Paris, 2008 / The Big Book of Reiki Symbols, Mark Hosak & Walter Lübeck, Lotus Press, 2007 / Reiki - The Legacy of Dr. Usui, Frank Arjava Petter, Lotus Light, 1999 / Das Reiki-Meister Buch (The Reiki Master Book) Frank Doerr (editor), Windpferd, 2007 / Reiki Systems of the World, Oliver Klatt, Lotus Press, 2006

Articles: “Siddham in China and Japan,” Saroj Kumar Chaudhuri, Sino-Platonic Papers, 88, Dec. 1998, / “Bija, Seed Syllables,” / “Japan,” Kshatriya Dharam, / “Understanding Byosen Scanning,” Frank Arjava Petter, Reiki News Magazine, Spring 2007, / “Bildwerdung durch Wandlung,” Dr. Helmut Brinker, unimagazin, Zeitschrift der Universität Zürich, 2/97 edition,

Audio: Hawayo Takata Teaching the Second Degree, audio cassette, produced by

Oliver Klatt is the author of the book Reiki Systems of the World. This is his first article for The Reiki Digest.

Gimme Reiki!

By Beth Lowell

On Saturday, January 30, I participated in the Wellness Gala held at the Unitarian Fellowship, in Morristown, New Jersey. I heard about it through the Holistic Mentorship Network, an organization located in New Jersey but whose members come from around the world. Debbie Peterson started the Wellness Gala a few years ago. Her son had healed from a debilitating disease after she sought help from a practitioner whom Debbie describes as an energy healer. Debbie was so grateful that her son had found relief that she started the gala to bring public awareness to the wide variety of integrative healing modalities that exist. I’d heard she got a good crowd, so I thought I’d try it.

Attending practitioners are required to don gala-caliber garb. There’s live music and healthy gourmet refreshments for the public. It sounded like a low key and relaxing day. As I got settled into my space, I imagined people strolling around to the sound of violin music, sampling the hors d’oeuvres and chatting to the practitioners whose expertise ranged from massage and the Bowen technique to Feng Shui and aromatherapy, to homeopaths and intuitive readers and sellers of salt lamps and crystal jewelry. I sat next to another Reiki practitioner and a shaman. I envisioned talking to people about Reiki for animals, perhaps doing a demo on one of the stuffed animals I brought, and of course, offering Reiki treatments so that people could see first hand how good it would feel to their pets.

I was not at all prepared for what happened next when the doors opened at one o’clock. A flood of people stampeded into the room. I watched as they grabbed my clipboard and started signing themselves up for Reiki treatments. Before two o’clock, my dance card was full.

There were the few who had never heard of Reiki but wanted to try it, and there were those who’d had Reiki treatments in the past. There were practitioners of all levels. There was the woman who had grown used to her hour-long Reiki session at the spa only to be left feeling high and dry when her practitioner left. The spa had hired replacements, but they just weren’t the same. (Having gone through the same thing with many a hairdresser, I could relate to this poor woman’s dilemma.) I handed her my card and noted on the back the address for the editor of The Reiki Digest – surely there was a Reiki practitioner in Manalapan, NJ, who might be able to help! There was the Reiki Master who had been attuned via the Internet and longed for human contact, and then there was the Reiki 1 practitioner who noticed how in tune her cats became when she meditated and practiced Reiki. I didn’t quite understand what she was saying about the massage part, though, and there wasn’t time to get into it as people were lined up so I moved on.

Some of the questions I got were:

Did you channel the energy from my knee into the ground?
Whose energy am I feeling?
Will you tell me stuff about what you’re sensing?
Do you work on birds?
Can you make my dog nice?
Can you get rid of my headache?

By four o’clock, some of the people who had signed up earlier had to leave for the day and would not be keeping their appointments. But it didn’t matter; other people showed up and filled their slots. Finally, I was winding down with the last two appointments of the day. Practitioners had strict orders to finish up by 5:50. It was 5:45.

I heard a woman who had been waiting patiently for the last ten minutes ask the practitioner next to me for a treatment, but the practitioner had blocked out the last appointment of the day so she could get ready to leave. The woman turned to me.

I told the woman that I was sorry and that we were out of time. But the woman persisted. She was one of the hired musicians and had been playing the cello all day. She had a sinus headache and her arms were sore. I couldn’t turn her down. I had little to pack up and so we started. At six o’clock, I put my hand on the woman’s shoulder and apologized that we didn’t have more time, and I told her I hoped I had helped at least in some small way. She gave me a big smile and asked for my card.

It was rewarding to hear from so many people how much they appreciated what I did – but equally or more gratifying was to learn how many people not only know about Reiki, but recognize its importance in their lives. It was really nothing short of amazing.

You can learn more about the Wellness Gala by visiting

Reiki Master Teacher Beth Lowell is an animal Reiki specialist based in Morristown, New Jersey, and a frequent contributor to The Reiki Digest.

Music we love to practice Reiki by: Tingstad & Rumbel

He plays fingerstyle acoustic guitar, she plays the flute*, and they're celebrating their 25th year as a musical combo this year. We love listening to the music of Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel while working with a client, practicing Reiki self-care, or doing most anything else, for that matter. Click on the Eric Tingstad & Nancy Rumbel button to listen for yourself. And many thanks to iTunes -- a share of each purchase you make via our links goes to help cover some of the cost of bringing you this publication.

*Correction: Nancy Rumbel plays the ocarina, oboe and English horn, not the flute. Thanks, Nancy, for enlightening us, and apologies for the error! (see comment)

Celeb-Reiki Dexter-Jones turns her energy to jewelrymaking

She's been a Celeb-Reiki more times than we can recall, but this week socialite, celebrity mom, freelance writer and Reiki Master Ann Dexter-Jones gets the distinction once again, this time for her Reiki-infused bracelets, now available at a few select boutiques. Turns out she's been a jewelry designer for several years now in addition to her many other activities.

The weekly waka

Like gentle sunshine
emanating from the hands
bathed in love and light
Reiki energy healing
Connecting heaven and earth

By Julie Romanko

(Waka wanted: If you'd like to contribute a waka to our regular series, check out these guidelines, write your waka, and email it to editor @

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