Thoughts on the Origins of the Reiki Story

A lot of teachers still teach the Reiki Story – or the Traditional History of Reiki, in their Reiki 1 classes. And while the Reiki Story teaches many lessons, I don’t think we can describe it as history any longer.

The Reiki Story came from a telephone interview given by Hawayo Takata many years ago. Many people have assumed that she made the changes to the history of Reiki to make it more acceptable to the West. In post-World War 2 America, Japanese systems and ideas were not popular. So the Japanese Buddhist monk becomes a Christian scholar and teacher.

Something always bothered me about that idea. This thought made her seem a little devious and calculating. As a teacher, I understand that sometimes you have to simplify things for students. To many facts at the beginning can be confusing. Changing the story to make Reiki more acceptable in the West is not some great sin by any means. A teacher’s job is to give students what they need at the time to get them to the next level.

But something troubled me.

Then I read Reiki: Hawayo Takata’s Story by Helen Haberly. This was a well written story about Hawayo’s life, both before and after Reiki. The story captivated me, but when I got to a part, my whole perception of Reiki changed.

In 1940,  Chujiro Hayashi called Hawayo Takata to Japan. Hayashi-sensei sensed he was going to be called back to active duty for the coming war with the US, and he did not wish to serve. So he chose to take his own life, in a Japanese traditional manner. He invited his students together, including Takata, to have one final gathering.

During this, he took Takata aside and asked her to take over his school after he was gone. This immediately stuck me as odd. Takata was only half-Japanese, and a war with the US would be hard on her if she stayed in Japan. Takata also had two children she was raising on her own. Moving them to Japan would be difficult. And she had many responsibilities back home. Regretfully, she turned him down.

Hayashi-sensei was an intuitive man. He had to know she could not accept. So why ask? Maybe there is something about tradition or Japanese etiquette that I am unfamiliar with. I got a different insight. Hayashi asked her for us.

Let me explain. If Takata came back to the US as just another student of Hayashi, she would lack authority. Many of her students would immediately question whether this was the “right” way or not. Others would choose not learn Reiki from her at all.

But Takata came back as Hayashi’s chosen successor. This makes her the authority. Whatever she teaches is the the official version. Hayashi chose her to move Reiki forward after his passing.

As soon as I had this thought, my mind immediately flashed to the Reiki Story. Everyone assumes Takata changed the Reiki History to make it more acceptable to the West. But what if that was the story she was taught?

If Hayashi was clever enough to ask Takata to lead his school knowing it would give her credibility in the West, then he was clever enough to teach her a history of Reiki that would be more acceptable to the West. In this way, Hayashi also frees her from any guilt. She did not lie; she simply told the story that she was taught.

Now, I wasn’t there, so I do not know what happened. I have no facts, no witnesses, no evidence of any kind to back up this claim. I just have my feelings. What do your feelings tell you?

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    • D
    • September 2, 2015

    Thank you for this post. Thinking that Takata had intentionally changed some of the history for Western consumption has never sat well with me. So, I appreciate this viewpoint.

      • Randall Hall
      • September 2, 2015

      Thanks for leaving a comment. Like I mentioned, something felt off about the story when I first heard it, and everyone always assumed the Takata-sensei changed it to make it more acceptable to Western ears. Reading that book gave me a whole new insight and the idea just popped into my head.

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