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Copyright © 2006 James Deacon
[Latest addition: May.15 2007]


# Which came first - symbols or kotodama?

Some versions of the 'new' history of Reiki would have us believe that the four symbols were not part of Usui-sensei's system in the early days - and that the functions within the Reiki system now ascribed to the four symbols, were originally ascribed to four mantra-like utterances derived form the practice known as kotodama.
But how plausable is this theory?
Let us consider, for example, the symbols HSZSN and DKM.
We must remember that the distance and master symbols are not 'symbols' in the abstract sense ( i.e.'glyphs'), but are rather, are actual phrases written in Japanese calligraphy, and these particular pieces of calligraphy read, respectively, as the words hon sha ze sho nen and dai ko myo.
Now in the kotodama-derived practice, which it has been claimed predated the introduction of the symbols, the 'phonomes' or sylables uttered with the intent of producing the effects more commonly associated with the distance and master 'calligraphy-symbols' are actually modifications of the phrases HSZSN and DKM themselves [hon sha ze sho nen has been 'deconstructed'/reduced to 'ho a ze ho ne', and dai ko myo to 'ai ku yo']
Thus, can we not infer from this that, the HSZSN and DKM 'symbols' must have come first (- in order that the phrases could later be modified in order to produce the forms used in the kotodama-style practice)?

# Symbols only introduced to help people feel the 'energy'

Some other versions of the 'new' history of Reiki, would also have us believe that the four symbols were not part of Usui-sensei's system in the early days (- no mention of kotodama here!)
This time, we are asked to believe that the symbols were supposedly introduced at a later date simply as a medium through which to assist people - primarily the Naval contingent who had joined (and to all intents and purposes, taken over) Usui-sensei's dojo - who were apparently having difficulty feeling the 'energy' .
But how likely is this?
Three of the Reiki symbols are derived from Buddhist symbols.
So just how well would this have gone down with the Imperial Navy - Usui-sensei utalising a set of essentially Buddhist symbols to aid the Navy - an instrument of an overtly Shinto-centred state - to practice healing?

# On not keeping the symbols and their mantras/names secret

The four Usui Reiki symbols are indeed considered Sacred by many of us - but sacred is not the same as secret.

And, I feel, it is important to remember that while many westerners tend to think of the Reiki 'symbols' as being four arcane, mystical 'glyphs', two of the four are simply words written in Japanese kanji (Chinese Characters)
There are many thousands of kanji characters - some highly obscure & only very rarely used; however every Second Grade student in Japan is expected to be familiar with the three kanji: dai, ko and myo.
So if every Second Grader is familiar with the kanji for 'DKM' - how can we claim DKM is secret?
And every Fourth Grade student in Japan is expected to be familiar with all the kanji used to write HSZSN

In a similar vein, the suggestion that the symbol's Japanese 'names' should not be spoken out loud in public is a bit like suggesting, for example, that English-speakers should not be permitted to speak the everyday words 'great bright light' (DKM).
In fact, some years back the phrase 'DKM' (- a big/great bright light) was apparently used as part of an advertising slogan for a Japanese company selling Flashlights!

Further, I feel we also have to remember that the symbols/their names are not exclusively the 'property' of Reiki

For example:
It is generally accepted that the SHK symbol is essentially a poorly rendered version of the Buddhist 'seed symbol' Kiriku (pronounced somewhere between K'rik and K'lik in Japanese)
Now while Kiriku is a Sacred symbol (being the 'spiritual emblem' of both Amida Butsu and Senju Kannon Bosatsu) and has secret significance to those initiated in the Mikkyo (esoteric) traditions within Buddhism, the symbol itself is not secret. In fact it is to be found on public display all over Japan.

The DKM also has central significance within the religious group known as Shumei (founded by Mokichi Okada - originator of the healing practice called Johrei ). As a sacred Shumei symbol, is openly on display in Shumei centres.
DKM is also of great importance in the practice of Johrei itself - particularly in relation to the ohikari or 'focussing pendant' used at the third level of this healing practice.

The term Choku rei [though perhaps not the symbol itself] is an important concept in the beliefs of both the Byakkõ Shinkõkai and the Omoto kyo spiritual groups [though the Omoto kyo primarily use the alternative 'reading' of the Choku rei kanji: Nao Hi]

And as for the HSZSN - a version of it even crops up in historical 'magical charms' used by the Ninja !

# CKR - a Buddhist Symbol?

I have heard several people asserting that the CKR is a Buddhist symbol, however I have never found any evidence to suggest that the CHR symbol has ever been used in Buddhism (yes of course, there are variations on the spiral pattern that is part of CKR used in Buddhist symbolism, but not the complete CKR itself)

# The Symbols and the Initiation process

In the initiations as used and taught by Takata-sensei, the symbols were used oh so sparingly compared to the way many people use them today.

For whatever reasons, many people - including several of the '22' - have felt the need to modify Takata-sensei's initiation process.
Many versions of initiation/attunement process now call for all four symbols to be used in passing each level of Reiki.
However Takata-sensei taught that only certain symbols were used at each level. Most importantly, the DKM was only written during the level 3 attunement. Only its mantra was used in passing the level 1 and 2 initiations.

I personally feel it is down to issues of insecurity on the part of several early post-Takata 'masters' (not trusting in the inherent power of each symbol and the need only to use it as Takata-sensei had taught) that we've ended up with people using all the symbols at all the levels. A case of 'Belt and Braces' gone mad!

# The Symbols and different 'energies within Reiki'?

In Takata-sensei's day the symbols had very specific proposes:
There was one symbol to focus, concentrate and intensify the effect of Reiki; another, to facilitate the healing of psychological issues; yet another, to form a temporary meditative connection between Practitioner and Client at a distance; and finally, one solely for use in initiating Reiki Masters.
Reiki was understood as a single, unified, integrated energy. There was never any talk - never any concept - of the symbols either representing, or connecting the Practitioner or Client to, different 'energies within Reiki' or - as it is sometimes expressed - different aspects or qualities of the Reiki energy.
This idea of the symbols being linked to different energies, or different aspects or qualities of the energy, was one of the many new perceptions which developed within western Reiki in the years after Takata-sensei's passing.
And gradually, as various forms of western Reiki were imported into Japan, this thoroughly modern, western 'New Age' perception of the symbols also found its way into the newly-evolving Japanese Reiki, and it was not long before we were being asked to believe that not only was this in fact an original Japanese perception, but that this was the primary reason why Usui-sensei had introduced the symbols into Reiki in the first place: to assist certain students in differentiating between the various different aspects or qualities - the various 'energies within Reiki' ...!!

# 'Symbol 1', 'Symbol 2', etc...?

Hiroshi Doi received his initial western-style Reiki training from Mieko Mitsui (though apparently later, he 'remembered' that he had actually received Japanese Reiki training - albeit by a different name - from a Japanese practitioner some years prior to meeting Mitsui!)

Due to the nature of the teaching structure in the form of Reiki taught and practiced by Mieko Mitsui (variously known as Authentic Reiki, Real Reiki or The Radiance Technique), she herself was only qualified to teach levels 1 and 2 in the art.
In this particular form of Reiki, at level 2 the student was taught the standard three symbols, however, unlike in the more familiar Usui Shiki Ryoho, at this level, the symbol's names/mantras were not taught (this being something reserved for a higher level in the system). Instead, the symbols which were referred to as 'cosmic patterns' were simply identified by numbers. Quite probably, none of Mitsui's level 2 students (including Hiroshi Doi) would have even been aware that the symbols had names/mantras.

Is it mere coincidence then, that later, when Hiroshi Doi claimed to have made contact with the 'original' Usui Reiki Society, he also claimed (for a while at least) that in this 'secret' Reiki organisation, the symbols were referred to, not by names, but simply as 'Symbol 1', 'Symbol 2', etc...?


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