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Reiki, But Not As We Know It:
The Spiritual Densei of Juzo Hamada
Part Two)
Copyright © 2003 by Darragh MacMahon

I hardly slept that night, and the morning seemed to crawl by at a snail's pace.

Morning eased into early afternoon and Sergei's phone rang. It was Yoshiki. He had had a flat tyre and would be at least another half-hour.

I was like an impatient child.
When Yoshiki eventually turned up I was waiting out side Sergei's apartment, and the car had hardly stopped moving before I was in the passenger seat.

We somehow managed to arrive on time, and received the same warm greeting we had the day before.

Once again Mizuki brought tea, then left, only to return a few moments later with a small envelope and a good-sized old, black, box-like case both of which she handed to her father. Then she was gone again.

In the 21 hours or so since I had left Mr. Izumi's home I had been going over the revised questions I wanted to ask him, even to the point of making a list which ran on for a couple of pages in my notebook.
I was eager to begin my questioning, however Mr. Izumi seemed to have other ideas.

He sat there, sipping his tea thoughtfully.
Yoshiki indicated that I should be respectfully patient.

After a couple of very long minutes, Mr. Izumi held up the envelope Mizuki had brought him, saying he would like to show me some photographs of his teachers.

The day before, I had seen the two formal portrait photographs of Juzo Hamada and Takanobu Shirasu on the wall of Mr. Izumi's treatment room. The photographs he now took from the envelope were much smaller, and also much more informal ones.

In most of them I recognised a young Mr. Izumi with Teacher Shirasu, there were a number of photographs of Shirasu on his own and the rest, about four or five quite badly damaged, and seemingly tobacco-stained, were of Shirasu and his teacher, Hamada, who had been born in 1881.

Mr. Izumi talked around the photographs as he showed each one to me, recounting little incidental details which, particularly in my state of impatience, seemed to be of little importance.

Later I realised that perhaps I had missed the point, perhaps Mr. Izumi was attempting to form an emotional link in my mind with his honoured teacher and his teacher's teacher.

He explained that Juzo Hamada, as well as learning the traditional ways of healing had been a man open to new ideas, and had always been willing to experiment with practices in the hope they might augment his healing work.

Mr. Izumi gestured to the black case which he had set down on the couch beside him.

This had belonged to Teacher Hamada, he said.

Moving the case, which had definitely seen better days, onto the small magazine table to his right, he opened the clasp to reveal an ancient electrical device, which I believe, was known as an electrovitaliser, among other names.

The electrical device built into the case, which Mr. Izumi said, Teacher Hamada had ordered (sometime around 1910-2) at considerable cost from Europe, had a number of leads and glass attachments.

According to the instructions, written in French and still pasted to the inside of the case lid, the device was used to run a harmless (!) electric charge through affected areas of the patients body with the intent of stimulating the 'nervous humours'.

It was powered by a hand-turned magneto, and had various dials and knobs for adjusting the level of charge it produced.

According to Mr. Izumi, Hamada had only experimented with the device for a few months after purchasing it. While it still functioned (Mr. Izumi offered to let me try it for myself, but I politely declined), he said neither he nor Teacher Shirasu, in whose possession it had been for many years, had ever considered using it in their practice.

Although Mr. Izumi had only spent three years as an assistant in Takanobu Shirasu's clinic before Shirasu considered him ready to set up his own independent practice, he explained that Shirasu had remained his mentor for many more years.

We talked for a while longer about Takanobu Shirasu, but mainly about Juzo Hamada, particularly about the people and forms of spiritual and healing practice which had influenced his methods.

Mr. Izumi said that Teacher Shirasu had always talked with great reverence about Teacher Hamada.

* * * * *

I began to see if I could steer the conversation around to the topic of Mikao Usui and the densei Mr. Izumi had mentioned the previous day, and gradually achieved my objective.

Mr. Izumi was by this time smoking again.

Did he know if Hamada had been a member of the society created by Usui's students?
"No, it was different then." He said.

Mr. Izumi was aware there had been such a society. Not that he'd given it any real thought but he seemed to think that it had probably been disbanded by the Americans after the war. Then (in one of the magazine articles he had mentioned the day before) he had read about how this society was supposed to still exist today. But he had never met anyone or even knew of anyone who had been a member of it

As far as Mr. Izumi was aware, when Hamada had studied with Usui there wasn't a gakkai: a Society, as such. Hamada had studied with Usui and a couple of other healers who worked with him at the time. Mr. Izumi seemed to be of the opinion that these others taught a somewhat different style of healing than Usui, but he couldn't be certain.

I asked about the densei, the Spiritual Transmission.

The previous day, he had said that Hamada learnt how to make the densei from Mikao Usui.

Yes, Mr. Izumi said, Teacher Hamada had made the shi densei for Teacher Shirasu, and Teacher Shirasu had made the shi densei for him in turn.

So he had received the densei himself?

Yes, of course.

"Making densei is like transmitting a 'memory' of experience from one person to another" he explained.

Mr. Izumi had used the phrase 'shi densei'. Even with my limited tourist vocabulary, I knew shi meant four.

There are four densei - four transmissions?


I explained that Reiki, certainly as we knew it in the west, often involved four levels of training.

"Does he mean, four levels of densei?" I asked Yoshiki.

"No", came the reply. They were not levels as such, but simply for different purposes.

The four densei were:

Jishin.....   to enhance Compassion
Nenshin   to enhance Mindfulness
Seiryoku   to enhance Vital Force
Kaigen   to enhance Wisdom / Spiritual Awakening

To my mind at least, this seemed to suggest a connection with the Reiki symbols.

There is of course one symbol referred to as the Power Symbol which could relate to vital force, and I knew that the name of another of the symbols was actually a phrase about the importance of Mindfulness. Could there be a connection between the so-called mental/emotional symbol and Compassion, perhaps the Master Symbol was the Light of Wisdom… or perhaps I was, in my enthusiasm, simply grasping at straws.

I stopped trying to make connections, and continued with my questions

Which transmission did a student receive first? I asked

That all depended on which was more beneficial to them at the time. The jishin, seiryoku and nenshin transmissions could be made in any order, but the kaigen transmission was only ever made after all the others.

Personally, he had found that the student usually benefited by receiving jishin first.
"Maybe you think", he said, "seiryoku power should automatically be made first; give the healer much force, make him a strong healer?" Mr. Izumi held his palms out flat in front of him, eyes closed, his arms shaking, face straining; pretending to be working with some tremendously powerful energy "oouuuhhh" he intoned resonantly. "Or maybe you think nenshin should be first; help him be mindful of his skills?"

"It is not great skill, or great force of ki that makes a great healer", he said, "these are important, yes, but what really makes a great healer is great Compassion."

Densei was not something to be taken lightly.

"It is a sacred process" Yoshiki translated.

Mr. Izumi said Teacher Shirasu had asked that he only make densei for worthy students.
In all he had only made densei for three people; for two apprentices he had had over his forty years of practice, and for his daughter Mizuki.

While he had eventually made all four transmissions for the two students, he had only made two for Mizuki.
This was not, Mr. Izumi was at pains to point out, because Mizuki was a woman, but because it was not her destiny to become a healer.

Densei was made by the meditation of the teacher. (Perhaps I should mention here that the word, which Yoshiki had consistently translated as Teacher throughout the interview with Mr. Izumi, that is: Sensei, is something also meaning Instructor, and is a title of respect.)

The Teacher and the student/apprentice would perform a meditation together involving, as Yoshiki phrased it "the three secrets". (He later clarified this by saying it was something from Buddhist practice using ritualistic visualisations, gestures and mantras)

I asked if there was a specific length of time that a student/apprentice was expected to wait between receiving one transmission and the next.

Mr. Izumi frowned slightly, as if the question had no meaning.

I explained how in Reiki there were differing opinions concerning required waiting times between a student receiving the various initiations/attunements; how, for example, some people considered it acceptable for the student to receive the first and second levels with in a day or so of each other, while others believed there should be a gap of several months so as to let the student 'grow into' the attunement.

Yes, Mr. Izumi had heard about this. "Like your MacDonald's" he commented via Yoshiki "Today people want everything now, now; instant."

Densei was not the same as what I spoke of as Reiki. I must stop thinking of it in terms of this Reiki or I would only remain confused.

The transmission was not to give the student healing abilities. It was a Spiritual Enhancement to help someone who was already a healer be an even better one.

Mr. Izumi explained that a student (or more properly, apprentice) might only receive a transmission after a couple of years of training. They were not considered substitutes for training.

While Mr. Izumi had said densei was not Reiki in the sense that we know it, the concept of the transmission, which he was attempting to explain (while at the same time avoiding discussing the precise details), certainly seemed to be a variant on the Reiki initiation/attunements.

I became even more sure of this as he went on to explain that each of the four transmissions involved a symbol (in the case of each of the first three, visualised in a shining sphere or bubble of light) being generated by the teacher and placed in the students body.

The symbol for each densei was put in a different place.

Did he mean in different chakras? I asked

Mr. Izumi said he had heard of chakras, but didn't really know about them, they were not part of traditional healing. No. Not in chakras.

He was not going to elaborate. He did not have to say so, I just felt it, and decided not to pursue it any further.

I explained a little to him about Reiki and how, after attunements, students often went through a period of catharsis or as it was called 'Healing Crisis'. Did healers who received the transmissions experience anything similar?

No. Mr. Izumi said that if they did, then they hadn't been properly prepared before the teacher made the densei. "In your Reiki, you get initiation (denju) and then your hidden problems get driven out for you deal with, yes?" he asked. "Our way, the student deals with his problems first. Gets lots and lots of healing, learns his art; gets lots and lots more healing; then perhaps, and only then, he is ready for densei.

I asked about the symbols used in the transmissions. I did not expect that Mr. Izumi would explain the actual nature of the symbols, and respected this fact. But could he say how they were used in healing?

I was thinking with my 'Reiki Head' again.

The symbols were only placed in the body, during the transmissions.

They were not drawn or visualised on the hands or in the air, etc., as in Reiki, for healing.

Mr. Izumi explained that the power or influence of each transmission once it had been made, was always there with the healer.
Like a beacon, radiating from its place within. If the healer wished to 'turn up the volume' [my words] of a particular power, he simply focussed on the symbol encased in a bubble of brilliant light, within his own body.

He also mentioned that there was a particular meditative practice connected to each of the symbols to enable the healer to deepen the quality of the particular power within him.

* * * * *

Mr. Izumi tactfully pointed out that we had probably talked enough about densei. Though a sacred process, densei was only one of several important practices which were part of the healer's ongoing development.

While Teacher Hamada had studied with Mikao Usui and learned how to make densei, he had also (as Mr. Izumi had pointed out the previous day) studied with many other people including physical therapists, faith healers, yamabushi (Mountain Priests) and other gyoja (ascetic practitioners); and learned many therapeutic and spiritual practices of great value from them too.

For example, from the faith healer Yugaku Hamaguchi he had studied the 'Pah-pah' breath healing method.

He had trained in the art of senrigan: 'thousand ri eye' or 'long-distance eye' (Yoshiki explained this as the art of seeing into the past or seeing events at a distance. That is, what in the west we would call clairvoyance.)

And had undergone byoki na oshi no gyo: religious healing training, as a member of several spiritual groups.

He went on to say that Hamada, while he had had the deepest respect for those who shared their teachings with him, would only adopt practices which he found to work well for him, combining the various practices and teachings and developing them in ways he felt to produce the most effective therapeutic results.

In keeping with Mr. Izumi's wishes, I moved on from the topic of densei to other issues, and talked around some of the other practices that were part of the healer's development process.

Chinkon or meditation, also known as mitama-shizume, "calming & settling the spirit & collecting the mind" of course also played an important part in the healer's life, Mr. Izumi said.

There was a term chinkon kishin, meaning 'to repose in the Divine - in the holiness of life'. This was the true purpose of meditation.

Mr. Izumi also spoke about something called furutama, 'the shaking of the soul'.
Furutama is a practice involving strong physical movement, aimed at generating a sense of heightened spirituality. Mr. Izumi explained that furutama nourishes and revitalises the spirit/soul, which just like the body can become tired or weakened. Furutama freshens up the soul, makes it fully 'awake'.

He also spoke of the importance of misogi or ritualised purification of body and soul. I commented how I had heard that this bathing ritual had to be performed under running water. Yes, he said, it was usually performed in a stream or at a waterfall; sometimes in the sea. Lakes and pools were no good as the water was still. You could even perform misogi under a cold shower at home.

"But this washing the body is only the external expression of misogi", Mr. Izumi said. Misogi also involved purifying the organs and the blood through deep breathing and dietary practice. "This is the internal expression." He explained.

"There is also a spiritual expression" Yoshiki translated, "cleansing the heart. Purging the soul of evils".

Yoshiki explained that by the word 'evils', Mr. Izumi was speaking of maliciousness, prejudice, fear, selfishness, anger, insecurity, envy and all manner of other negative attitudes, thought patterns and emotions.

"The concept of misogi also extends to the purification of the environment", Mr. Izumi continued.
He said this involved physical cleansing and tidying. It also involved the intentional use of sudden, sharp sounds or noises, like hand-clapping, and kiai (spontaneous utterances) to disperse stagnation or negative vibrations form the immediate environment or from objects.

This aspect of misogi also called for the individual to be conscious of the thoughts and feelings they express in the world. How it is important to use 'bright and 'luminous' words, while avoiding using dark, discouraging words; that we should look for the good in life, and make space in our lives for helping and serving others.

* * * * *

I had been keeping a check on the time. Though eager to continue talking with Mr. Izumi, I did not wish to encroach on his preparation time before his evening patients began to arrive.

As we got up to leave, Mr. Izumi said he would like to do something for me if I would permit him to. Would I let him fix my shoulder for me?

I was confused by this and looked at Yoshiki. "But there's nothing wrong with my shoulder", I insisted.

The reply was something to the effect of "Yes, it is a very old injury, many years old." Mr. Izumi indicated to my left shoulder.

I was momentarily speechless. I hadn't thought about it in ages. I had injured the shoulder in a motorcycle accident more than twenty years earlier!

Hardly believing he had picked up on it, I could only agree to Mr. Izumi's offer.

And so, holding my left wrist in his left hand, his right hand on the back of my neck, Mr. Izumi gently began manipulating and rotating my arm, testing the mobility of my shoulder.

He said something to my interpreter, Yoshiki, who made a brief reply, nodded, and glanced briefly at me. Yoshiki made no effort to translate what had been said and I was about to ask when suddenly, with surprising force, Mr. Izumi yanked on my arm.

The pain was intense and I cried out explicitly.

Yoshiki smiled at me and said, "Oh, Mr. Izumi said 'this is going to hurt like hell'… "

Meanwhile, Mr. Izumi had cupped his left hand over my collarbone and his right on my shoulderblade. Accompanied by a deep guttural "hudddss" noise, he blew forcefully along my shoulder from the top of my arm to my neck. For a few moments there was an incredible heat from his hands, far hotter than I had felt from 'Reiki Hands', and a sensation as if his hands were actually inside my shoulder.

After a short while, he patted my shoulder quite hard. The heat subsided and I realised that all the pain was gone. I rolled my shoulder and stretched my arm and was aware of a freedom of movement I hadn't known for many years - for so long in fact that I actually forgotten that I had ever had that degree of flexibility in the first place.

I thanked Mr. Izumi profusely for both freeing up my shoulder and for the amount of his time he had afforded me over the two days.

We said our good-byes, and as we left I felt reasonably sure that I had not said or done anything over the two days which would cause my friend Sergei or his Instructor to suffer any 'loss of face'.

The next morning I would be making the 350 kilometre or so journey southwest to Matsumae, to meet with a Tasmanian-educated Buddhist Priest who practised a form of spiritual healing called kaji



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Darragh MacMahon

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