According to Jim Pathfinder Ewing in his book, Reiki Shamanism, (Findhorn Press, 2008), Dr. Usui’s story is a bit different from that told by Hawayo Takata.
Dr. Mikao Usui, Ewing says, “was born on August 15, 1865, in the Kyoto district of Japan, in the province of Gifu. He began his practice around 1920, opening a clinic in Tokyo in 1921. He apparently trained about 2,000 people in Reiki and his fame spread, enough so that he moved to a larger house in 1925, and he died March 9, 1926” (33).
Ewing also says that Dr. Usui was clearly not Christian, “and certainly not a Christian missionary; he did not teach at Doshisha University in Kyoto and no document has ever been found that supports the claim that he attended the University of Chicago” (33). Ewing posits that perhaps Hawayo
Takata, in the days after the antagonism of WWII, hoped to distance Reiki from its Japanese roots and make it more palatable to the Christian West.
It is hard to know the truth, but I do appreciate Ewing’s analysis. For one thing, he says that Dr. Usui, in his notebooks, described Reiki as an “original therapy built upon the power of the universe…it is a path of spirit, kokoro, which means mind and heart blended as one” (34).
Dr. Usui did fast on a mountaintop for 21 days, Ewing says, and he used stones to keep track of the days. At the end of the fast, according to Usui’s notebook, he says simply, “I was inspired” (35). He felt an energy come down from the top of his crown (35), and he understood Reiki (42). It was after the fasting meditation, when he came down from the mountain and was able to heal others, that he realized the significance of what he had learned.
One other interesting point that Ewing makes is that Dr. Usui’s grave has the Kanji emblem representing Reiki carved upon it. Ewing goes through each line, piece by piece, to show that, in essence, it means “shaman who makes rain” (42). Ewing’s argument is that Dr. Usui used shamanic techniquese in his healing. Shamanism, Ewing says, and Reiki, go hand in hand.
As I am an avid student of shamanic techniques, I enjoyed Jim Pathfinder Ewing’s points. I agree that Reiki and Shamanic techniques are complimentary and powerful when used together. These two versions of the story are not necessarily dissonant; I think each complements the other, and we get a decent understanding of Dr. Usui, how he came to Reiki, and the work he did. One wishes for a detailed, step by step story written in Dr. Usui’s own hand, but we have to rely on what we have available.