This history of Dr. Usui comes from Mrs. Takata as told to her students, Helen Haberly and Fran Brown, as well as the information passed down to my Reiki teacher, Mary Mooney, from her Reiki teachers. All of the versions that I have read have told the same story. The version I am writing here is quite brief.
Dr. Usui, as a young adult, was a teacher in a Christian school in Japan. He was devout, and one day some of his students asked him if he believed in the Bible fully. He said he did, and then they asked him if he could heal in the way it was said that Jesus healed. He said that he could not, but he promised to study more to find out how Jesus was able to heal in the way that he did.
He left Japan to come to Chicago to study in a university that had a deeper Christian background. He studied the ancient texts, modern theology, and even learned Sanskrit. Still, he had not found the secret.
Next, he came back to Japan to live at a monastery and meditate upon the mystery of the healing miracles. He was not finding the answer through the monastic life, so one day he told the head monk that he was going to go to the mountaintop to fast and meditate until he found the answer. He chose a 21 day fast, and he took 21 rocks so that he could keep track of the days. Each day he would take another rock from the pile.
For 21 days he had no great insights. On the 21st day, when it seemed the fast was to no avail, he looked up and saw a great light coming at him. It scared him as he realized that this light was supernaturally powerful, and to look at this light could mean death or blindness. However, he also realized that this was the reason he had come, so, he looked. He went into a sort of trance, and during this trance he saw sacred symbols while he heard explanations of how the symbols were to be used. It was as if the symbols were coming at him in bubbles out of the great light. He did his best to memorize the symbols and the meanings behind them.
Later, when he awoke, he knew he had realized the great secret for which he had been seeking for so long. He came down from the mountaintop and came across a man who offered him porridge. The man said that his daughter was sick, and Dr. Usui was able to heal her. Dr. Usui then went back to the monastery and told the head monk that he had found what he was looking for, and that he was going to go heal the people living in the poorest section of the city.
He went to the area where beggars lived, and he began healing them. He asked for nothing but food and lodging. After some time, he went away, but when he came back some months later, many, if not all, of the beggars were back, in the same condition he had found them in previously! He asked why, knowing that he had healed them and sent them away from this life. Many told him that begging was an easier life and that they chose to come back.
After that, he vowed not to heal others unless they had gratitude and desire for the healing, and he made the decision to charge for his healing so that he knew that it would be worth something to the one who was healed. Additionally, he came up with his precepts that he strove to live by:
Just for today, do not worry.
Just for today, do not anger.
Honor thy elders, and thy parents.
Earn your living honestly.
Be kind to every living thing.
One of the great teachers in Usui’s lineage was Dr. Hayashi, and in the clinic Dr. Hayashi set up, they formally called Reiki the “Usui system of natural healing.” The healing techniques and the symbols that Dr. Usui saw in his trance are passed down through this lineage.
Dr. Hayashi opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo which was successful for years and year. This is where Mrs. Takata came to be healed from her life-threatening illness in 1935.
In sum, traditional Reiki is based on the knowledge and wisdom that Dr. Usui passed down to his students, ultimately through Dr. Hayashi and his practitioners and then to Mrs. Takata who, through her many years of experience, added to the body of knowledge about this healing technique and brought it to the West. Each successive Reiki master adds to the body of knowledge through his/her experiences, but the foundation remains in the Usui System of Natural Healing, and the energy passed on, from teacher to student, can be traced back to that that Dr. Usui passed on to his first students.