Who Is Mikao Usui And The 3 Things You Have To Know About Him
He was born on August 15, 1865, in the Yamagata region in Japan. His family was of Buddhist traditions and lived there for 11 generations.
Mikao Usui was sent to a Buddhist monastery to start his education from a very young age (around 4 years old). There he took quite a lot of interest in psychology, medicine and various religions from around the world.
Before Japan’s rough period of isolation from the western world, Mikao Usui managed to travel to Europe, America, and China and learned about western cultures and civilizations.
After spending his years in the turmoil of Japanese society, Mikao Usui went for higher education. It is believed he became fluent in English, Chinese and Sanskrit, took an interest in philosophy, western medicine, and theology. He also became a doctor in Japanese literature.
During his life, he had many professions such as Private Secretary, Postmaster General, missionary, reporter, office worker, and others.
Mikao Usui married Sadako Suzuki and had two children: Fuji and Toshiko.
Usui had 3 siblings: two brothers, Sanya who became a doctor, and Kuniji who became a policeman, and a sister, Tsuru.
The whole family’s ashes are buried at the Saihoji Temple in Kyoto.
The Spiritual Path
The story goes that around the year 1900, Mikao Usui had a near-death experience becoming very ill during an epidemic. This had a life-changing effect and made him reflect upon his life.
He started studying esoteric Buddhist holistic healing and he became interested in the teachings of spiritual healers.
Later on, he became a Shingon Buddhist at the advice of a priest, who saw in him the immense potential and accepted him as a student.
Unfortunately, this led to his expulsion from his family as they would not agree with this new path.
But this didn’t stop Mikao Usui from pursuing his dream in finding a higher spiritual path.
Contrary to some beliefs that Mrs. Hawayo Takata constructed a story that Mikao Usui desired to find the Christic healing ways and that he was inspired by the Bible, Dr. Usui wanted to find and understand the higher stage of consciousness that we are all able to achieve.
Therefore, at the advice of his teacher and fellow monks he went on a spiritual quest on Mount Kurama, a place of significant spiritual past, for the Japanese people.
The 21 Days on Kurama Mountain
His purpose was to achieve ”Satori” – which translates as “enlightenment”. Usui was aware that such a quest is not going to be easy, so he started a long ritual of fasting, meditation, and prayer.
After a long and tiring 21 days, he fell into a deep meditative state. It was then when he received a strong beam of bright, white light, shining directly on his head. He also had a vision of the Reiki symbols and how to channel the light through them.
He started having a sudden feeling of awakening and excitement and went down the mountain. He was eager to share his experience with his teacher and fellow priests.
The story goes that while ascending from the mountain, he stubbed his toe on a rock and fell. He placed his hand over his toe and the healing energy began flowing from his hands. (read more about Reiki hand positions)
The pain went away and he was healed.
Usui was amazed by this and he realized that apart from the strong “enlightenment” feeling, he gained the ability to heal.
That is when he had an epiphany: his life purpose was achieved; he now had to heal others and teach them what he has learned.
Spreading The Word
He went to help people in need from the nearby villages, all the way up to Tokyo. There he eventually started a healing society named: Usui Reiki Rhoyo Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Society).
In 1923 there was a great earthquake that struck Tokyo and Yokohama with a 7.9 on the Richter Scale. Unfortunately, over 140.000 people died. Many were killed in the fires that started due to the massive earthquake.
Mikao Usui and his students gave as much healing as possible during that time. Usui Sensei received an honorary award from the Emperor for his great help.
Because of the consequences of this disaster, Usui opened at one point an even larger clinic in Nakano, Tokyo. Having amazing results, his reputation spread all over the country. This led to initiating more than 2000 students in his lifetime.
Out of these, 20 were considered “Shihan” – Masters/Teachers of Reiki. Cujiro Hayashi was one of them. He would later become Grand Master. This is different from the Reiki Grand Master system which emerged later as an extension of Usui.
The 5 Reiki Principles Developed by Usui Sensei
During this time Mikao Usui developed the Reiki levels (Shoden, Okuden, and Shinpiden) and helping techniques such as “Byosen” – Scanning, “Gassho” – praying position and others.
These provided the student with a gradual, secure and linear progress, without overflowing one’s mind and life.
For Reiki Masters to pass on initiations (attunements) easier, Usui Sensei developed a formal practice called “Reiju Kai” through which the student receives a full Reiki level.
He cultivated the five admonitions recommended by Emperor Meiji, which later became known as the Reiki principles:
- Just for today, I am grateful;
- Just for today, I am happy;
- Just for today, I am at peace;
- Just for today, I work honestly;
- Just for today, I respect and I’m kind to all life;
The 3 Things You Have To Remember About Mikao Usui
Even if Reiki has its history before Usui, he still remains the most important figure and is considered the father of Reiki as we know it today.
There are many things to say about him and so much has been given to us through his legacy.
But if there were 3 things to remember about Mikao Usui, I believe these are the ones:
- He is the father of Reiki;
- Usui Sensei initiated Chujiro Hayashi, who in turn trained Hawayo Takata who eventually brought Reiki to the West;
- The most important of them all: Mikao Usui dedicated his life to spirituality and found Reiki because of his near-death experience. So did Mrs. Takata. This shows that he was no that different from us. The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t wait for an unfortunate event to decide to take care of yourself, with or without Reiki. Start today and enjoy living healthy and happy.
About Mikao Usui’s Death, Where He Is Buried And The Inscription On His Memorial Stone
On March 9, 1926, Mikao Usui was in Fukuyama and suffered a stroke which led to his death at 62 years old. His body was burnt and his ashes placed next to where his family is buried, in Saihoji Temple, Tokyo.
His students placed a memorial stone in 1927 with the title “Memorial of Usui Sensei’s Virtue.” This follows with Usui Sensei’s story from their perspective engraved on the stone.
The first paragraph from the text on Mikao Usui’s gravestone:
What you can naturally realize through cultivation and training is called “VIRTUE” and it is called “MERIT” to spread a method of leadership and relief and practice it. It is people of many merits and a good deal of virtue that can be eventually called a great founder. People who started a new learning and founded a fresh sect among sages, philosophers, geniuses etc., named from the ancient times, were all those as mentioned above. We can say that Usui-Sensei is also one of those people.
As a side note, you should know that there are many versions of Mikao Usui’s story out there. The one in this post has the generally known data as well as information I have gathered from Reiki Teachers who studied under Hiroshi Doi, one of Reiki’s iconic names.
But the numerous versions are not important…
What is important is his legacy and what he left behind after his passing.
Mikao Usui’s teachings and the fact that we have access to such an amazing and beautiful way of making our lives better is what we should remember.
Reiki teaches us how to place our body in a state of healing, a way of life and also a form of spiritual evolution.
Mikao Usui Pronunciation
This is how you pronounce Miako Usui: me ka o u shu e [mi kɑ oʊ ju ʃu i]
The “u” from “Usui” should be pronounces as a double-“o” (Google) and not “You”.
A Few Of Mikao Usui’s Quotes That Inspired Me
Mikao Usui’s quotes are very inspirational and full of wisdom. Like any other person who has lived a century ago, we should not take everything word by word.
Obviously, that’s not important.
What matters is the message behind Usui Sensei’s Quotes, and how they can help you find peace when you are down, and become wiser when you lack inspiration.
“Reiki is wisdom combined with energy; it connects us to the universal source of light, it stimulates growth, it balances us from a physical, mental and spiritual point of view, it can heal the deepest wounds and it can bring to the surface the unknown potentials of our being.”
“Reiki is optimum health support. It is like a vehicle to our interior truth, which guides us to happiness. Happiness is the path to healing ourselves.”
“Reiki does not belong to one person or one community, but it is the spiritual heritage of all humanity.”
“Each and every being has an innate ability to heal as a gift from the gods.”
“Reiki is love. Love is wholeness. Wholeness is balance. Balance is well-being. Well-being is freedom from disease.”
Be kind to yourself and every living thing.
I can’t stress enough that the important thing to take from all of this is Mikao Usui’s legacy.
Reiki is not only a gift for us who practice it but a gift to the world.
Let’s embrace the spiritual meaning of his journey through life, and worry less about exact facts.
• Our Reiki For Beginners guide is the perfect place to start if you want a complete introduction to this beautiful art-form.
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About Vlad and ReikiScoop
Vlad is a Usui Reiki Grand Master/Teacher who has also gained the Master/Teacher Level in Karuna, Shamballa MDH, and Gendai Reiki, with 15+ years of experience. He now shares his knowledge through ReikiScoop. You can always read more about Vlad and ReikiScoop in the about section.
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Usui Mikao was born on the 15th of August 1865 in the village of Taniai (now called Miyama cho) in the Yamagata county of the Gifu Prefecture in Japan.
Japan was just opening up in 1865 after a self-imposed exile which had left it culturally prosperous though far behind the Western world technologically and militarily. Kyoto was the capital of Japan and remained so until 1868 when the advent of the Meiji Restoration moved it Tokyo.
Today in Miyamo cho, Usui Mikao’s name can be found carved on a large torii gate at the Amataka shrine close to where his home once stood. The three Usui brothers donated the stone torii in April 1923. Usui Mikao’s brothers, Sanya and Kuniji, grew up to become a doctor and a policeman respectively. He also had an older sister called Tsuru. Usui Mikao’s father’s name was Uzaemon and his mother was from the Kawai family.
Usui Mikao was born into a society based on a class system. There was the privileged class to which he belonged and then there were the common people. Common people were not even permitted the luxury of surnames until 1870. Usui Mikao’s family was hatamoto samurai – a high level within the ranks of samurai. The hatamoto were the shogun’s personal guard. Due to the major changes that were happening in Japan from the 1860s onwards, the samurai class were no longer required.
The memorial stones states that the famous samurai, Tsunetane Chiba (1118 to 1201) was Usui Mikao’s ancestor. Recently Hiroshi Doi noted that this was incorrect and that it was in fact Toshitane Chiba, a famous samurai warlord from the 1500s. In 1551 he conquered the city Usui and thereafter all family members acquired that name. Whether the ancestor was Tsunetane or Toshitane or both is inconsequential, both were from the Chiba clan, as was Usui Mikao.
The Chiba clan was once an influential samurai family in Japan according to Chiba family records. The Usui family crest, otherwise known as the Chiba crest, is designed as a circle with a dot at the top. The circle represents the universe, and the dot (a Japanese representation for a star) represents the North Star. The North Star never moves while the universe must move around it. You can see this crest here above at the right from a photo taken at Usui’s gravesite in Tokyo.
Usui Mikao was born a Tendai Buddhist and as a young child studied in a Tendai monastery according to recent researchers. In the West, it was once believed that he was born a Christian. Hawayo Takata probably added this information as a reaction to the anti-Japanese sentiment in America during and after World War II. Christianity was actually outlawed in Japan at the time Usui Mikao was born.
Martial Arts and Career
According to the teachings of Suzuki san, Usui Mikao began with the practice of a martial arts called aiki jutsu at the age of 12. He also studied an early form of Daito ryu and gained Menkyo Kaiden (the highest license of proficiency) in weaponry and grappling in 1889.
From his youth he surpassed his fellows in hard work and endeavor. When he grew up he visited Europe and America, and studied in China.
He was by nature versatile and loved to read books. He engaged himself in history books, medical books, Buddhist scriptures, Christian scriptures and was well versed in psychology, Taoism, even in the art of divination, incantation, and physiognomy.
Due to the fact that he travelled greatly through Japan and overseas his career was also varied. At one point, according to Frank Arjava Petter, he was a private secretary to a politician called Shinpei Goto who, amongst other positions, was Governor of the Standard of Railways. In 1920 Shinpei Goto became the Mayor of Tokyo.
At the turn of the century hands-on-healing or teate was very popular in Japan. Eguchi Toshihiro was a friend of Usui Mikao and studied with him in the 1920s. Eguchi created the Tenohira Ryoji Kenkyu kai (Hand Healing Research Center).
Men of Usui Mikao’s social class were trained well in the arts. Funakoshi Gichin, the modern founder of Karate, wrote that he went to a ‘moon viewing party’ when he was a young karateka. This consisted of martial artists sitting around, chatting about karate and reciting poetry under the moon. Chris Marsh states that Funakoshi, Kano Jigoro (founder of judo) and Ueshiba Morihei (founder of aikido) knew Usui Mikao.
Usui Mikao has shown his leaning toward poetry by his inclusion of 125 waka, or poems, into his teachings. During Japan’s ‘national isolation’ there had been a great focus on the arts including classical Chinese works. In a book from 1933, a student of Usui Mikao describes a technique called hatsurei ho. Here waka is recited silently to one’s self in an attempt to become One with it.
In Mochizuki Toshitaka’s book there is a group photo in which Usui Mikao, friends, family and students are gathered together on the 16th of January 1926. Dave King claims that Tenon-in has told him that Kano is seen standing at the furthest right hand side of the picture. Though there is a slight resemblance this has been denied by every martial arts source contacted (This includes respected authorities such as the Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan, Stanley Pranin of the Aikido Journal, and Miek Skoss of Koryu Books).
Usui Mikao was never a doctor as professed in the West but did become a lay Tendai priest called a zaike according to students of Suzuki san. This meant that he could remain in his own home with his family, without having to reside in a temple as is commonly expected of priests At the time that Usui Mikao became a zaike some say he took the Buddhist name of Gyoho, Gyohan or Gyotse.
It’s also believed that Usui Mikao included techniques as well as jumon (jumon means spell or incantation) in his teachings that are based on Shinto and Tendai practices.
Usui Mikao married Suzuki Sadako and they had two children, a boy and a girl called Fuji and Toshiko. Fuji (1908 – 1946) went on to teach at Tokyo University and Toshiko lived a short life, dying at the age of 22 in 1935. The entire family’s ashes are buried at the grave site at the Saihoji Temple in Tokyo.
It is impossible to offer a commencement date for Usui Mikao’s teachings. He was 35 years old at the turn of the century and, as stated by students of Suzuki san (who claim to have seen his Menkyo Kaiden certificate) was proficient in martial arts from his mid-20s. Suzuki san had been aware of Usui Mikao her whole life as she was his wife’s cousin. Her formal training with him is said to have begun in 1915 when she was 20 years old and her relationship with him continued on a less formal basis until his death in 1926. It’s understood that Suzuki san and the other 11 living students have preserved a collection of papers including the precepts, waka, meditations, and teachings.
In a translated 1928 article a student of Chujiro Hayashi states that the system was founded ‘decades ago’.
For these reasons it is believed the teachings of Usui Mikao began long before 1922 when the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai claims to have been created.
Usui Do and Usui Teate
What Usui Mikao taught was called ‘Usui do’ – ‘the way of Usui’, and what he practiced on people would most likely have been called ‘Usui teate’- meaning ‘hands-on’. Early students had never heard of the word Reiki in relation to the entirety of Usui Mikao’s teachings. It was also often used in conjunction with Usui Mikao’s teachings but not as the name of them merely in its literal form meaning ‘spiritual energy’. Only once it came to the West was the word ‘Reiki’ turned into the name for a system. The creation of this name can be seen in Alice Takata’s Gray Book.
It is believed that the aim of these teachings was to provide a method for students to achieve enlightenment. Unlike religion, though, there was no belief system attached. Though enlightenment was the aim, the healing that was taking place for students was a wonderful ‘side effect’. What sets Usui Mikao’s teachings apart from other hands-on healing methods is his use of reiju or attunement to remind students of their spiritual connection. It seems that all students of Usui Mikao received reiju and the 5 precepts and those with a further interest in the teachings became dedicated students. There does not appear to have been a distinction between clients and students in the beginning though this changed in 1917. People began coming to Usui Mikao for different purposes – some for healing and others for the spiritual teachings. Right is a photo from the book of a student of Usui’s called Tomita Kaiji from 1933.
Mantras, Meditations and Symbols
Usui Mikao is said, by students of Suzuki san, to initially have given mantras to students as a device for tapping into specific elements of energy. As each individual learns in his/her own unique manner just one device was impractical to serve the whole of mankind. Meditations too, became integrated into the teachings.
Once the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai was formed the teachings became more formalized. Hand positions were taught to those who found working intuitively difficult. Symbols were also added to the mantra recitations as a helpful tool to evoke specific energy. The introduction of symbols was useful for those whose experiences with spiritual work had previously been limited or those who had difficulty sensing the energy.
Whether mantras, meditations or mantras and symbols together were practiced it did not matter as all were focused on working with the same energy.
Kurama Yama and Hiei Zan
According to the memorial stone Usui Mikao’s teachings were developed, almost miraculously, during a meditation in 1922.
One day, he climbed kurama yama and after 21 days of a severe discipline without eating, he suddenly felt One Great Reiki over his head and attained enlightenment and he obtained Reiki Ryoho. Then, he tried it on himself and experimented on his family members. The efficacy was immediate.
Usui Mikao’s 21-day practice on kurama yama was called kushu shinren, (which is a form of shugyo, or discipline or training) according to the memorial stone’s translator, Hyakuten Inamoto.
As hiei zan is the main Tendai complex in Japan, and is very close to Kyoto it has been surmised that Usui Mikao would also have practiced there if he was a lay priest. A Tendai meditation practice called zazen shikan taza (according to Suzuki san’s students) may well have inspired him and his teachings either on hiei zan or kurama yama.
The Spread of Usui Teate
Sensei thought that it would be far better to offer it widely to the general public and share its benefits than just to improve the well-being of his own family members. In April of the 11th year of Taisho (1922 A.D.) he settled in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo and set up the Gakkai to teach Reiki Ryoho and give treatments. Even outside of the building it was full of pairs of shoes of the visitors who had come from far and near.
In September of the 12th year (1923 A.D.) there was a great earthquake and a conflagration broke out. Everywhere there were groans of pains from the wounded. Sensei, feeling pity for them, went out every morning to go around the town, and he cured and saved an innumerable number of people. This is just a broad outline of his relief activities during such an emergency.
This earthquake may well have been the background inspiration for Hawayo Takata’s well-known ‘beggar story’. There was a great deal of poverty in Japan at that time due to the depression. After the earthquake Usui Mikao moved his home and place of teaching to Nakano ku, outside of Tokyo, in 1925. He was often invited to travel throughout Japan treating people and teaching students. Usui Mikao had over 2000 students in total (according to the memorial stone), and 21 teacher students who reached shinpiden (according to Hiroshi Doi).
Sensei’s personality was gentle and modest and he never behaved ostentatiously. His physique was large and sturdy. He always wore a contented smile.
Due to his respected and far-reaching reputation many people from local districts wished to invite him. Sensei, accepting the invitations, went to Kure and then to Hiroshima and Saga, and reached Fukuyama. Unexpectedly he became ill and passed away there. It was March 9 of the 15th year of Taisho (1926 A.D.), aged 62.
Usui Mikao died of a stroke.
These are truly great teachings for cultivation and discipline that agree with those great teachings of the ancient sages and the wise. Sensei named these teachings ‘Secret Method to Invite Happiness’ and ‘Miraculous Medicine to Cure All Diseases’; notice the outstanding features of the teachings. Furthermore, when it comes to teaching, it should be as easy and common as possible, nothing lofty. Another noted feature is that during sitting in silent meditation with Gassho and reciting the Five Precepts mornings and evenings, the pure and healthy minds can be cultivated and put into practice in one’s daily routine. This is the reason why Reiho is easily obtained by anyone.
Mikao Usui was born in Taniai, Japan, in 1865. He was a self-taught seeker. After many years of searching he found the inner path leading to the state of Anshin Ritsumei or absolute mental stillness. He did so after meditating and fasting for 21 days on Mount Kurama. As a result of this he also attained the power to heal in resonance with Reiki.
After that he devised a simple system for teaching and passing on this energy so that everyone, independent of status, could access and manage the universal energy and help others, making great strides along the way in their own spiritual development. Usui Sensei set up the structure of the Usui Reiki Ryoho as a pathway towards health and happiness. He declared that “The purpose of human life is to be happy.” With the laying on of hands as the “portal” he taught the path towards spiritual evolution.
CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY OF THE USUI REIKI RYOHO 1922-2022
The year 2022 will mark 100 years since Mikao Usui established the Usui Reiki Ryoho. This is a key date for Reiki practitioners and for humanity in general as, thanks to the generosity of a humble man, a seeker after knowledge, the energy of love began to spread. Aware of the importance of this legacy, the Madrid chapter of the Gendai Reiki Ho Association, AGRHM, together with colleagues in Japan and across the world, wishes to celebrate this event with all interested people whether they are Reiki practitioners or not.
The event will take place between April 7, 8 & 9, 2023 at the ICC in Kyoto, Japan. All Reiki practitioners from any school are invited to join. We want this to be a twinning event, a nexus of union, to be lived from the heart and, above all, with gratitude towards Mikao Usui.
Therefore, we will have Japanese guests linked to the Usui Reiki Ryoho. We shall also invite the most reputed international representatives of the world of western Reiki, as well as researchers and personalities from the world of science with experience in the application of this energy in the hospital and therapeutic context. It is important to showcase all the areas in which Reiki has a practical application.
We estimate that there will be many participants from the five continents who will be able to enjoy a programme full of knowledge and also fun, because there will be performances related to the culture of the host country such as a concert of Japanese percussion music, etc. The venue offers every facility. In fact, the Kyoto ICC is the prestigious convention centre where the famous protocol on climate change was signed.
We want this to be a testimony for Reiki as a way of life, a pathway to personal and spiritual development as well as a method of improving the health of living beings. Reiki takes on meaning and reveals its potential when it is applied in day to day life. It is crucial that we raise our vibration in these times of uncertainty in order to bring about a change in human awareness.
Reiki practitioners of the world, come and celebrate with us!
In April 2023 we will celebrate the new century of Reiki, the great legacy of Mikao Usui. A historic, unique, global event, very close to where the master reached the state of Anshin Ritsumei. We want to share together the energy of universal love from the truth of the heart, from the unity that we are, and get closer to Usui sensei’s desire to spread the seed of Reiki in humanity. We are looking forward to sharing this experience with you.
Come celebrate with us!
if you are still undecided, you can get more information here
if you need any further information, we will provide the information you need