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'REIKI' = 'GHOST'...?
Copyright © 2007 James Deacon
[Additional info: Mar. 24 2007]

 


Reiki?

Until the mid 1980's in Japan, it is unlikely that anyone you mentioned the term Reiki to would have recognised it as signifying the healing practice we know by that name.

[Though, had you mentioned the term: Usui Ryoho or Reiki Ryoho, well - even if the person you asked wasn't knowledgeable of alternative therapies per se - simply from the word 'ryoho' they would at least have grasped that you were referring to some form of 'obscure' healing or treatment practice]

It seems that the shortening of Usui Reiki Ryoho [i.e. Usui 'Spirit-energy' (or 'Spiritual') Healing Method] to the one word Reiki was something that happened in the west.

As a term for Usui-sensei's healing practice, it was (almost*) completely unknown in Japan until western-lineage masters (starting with Mieko Mitsui in 1985) went to Japan and began teaching and referring to the art under that name.

And while, over the past 20 years, Usui-sensei's healing method - under this shortened name, Reiki - has become quite popular in Japan (particularly amongst the younger generation) there are of course a great many Japanese people today who are completely unaware of it.


Reiki and ghosts?

Within the Reiki Community, there is an often-quoted notion that in general usage, the word Reiki [1] means a ghost.

[However, in the past, the word Reiki, it seems, was something that never really found its way into 'general usage'!]

In Japan even now, 'Reiki' is not a word often used as part of everyday mundane conversation (unless you happen to be a Reiki Ryoho practitioner of course!)

And I find it interesting that none of the native Japanese speakers (Reiki Ryoho practitioners and otherwise) I've discussed this matter with, have personally been aware of the term Reiki as having the meaning of 'ghost'.

Certainly on its own, the word Rei can refer to a ghost, yet the term Yurei is more commonly used; and there are also several other words indicating a ghost which are in general usage

[Though one person did suggest that - the ki part of the compound word Reiki implying 'influence' - the word could conceivably be used to denote the sensation (ki) or presence of a ghost (rei)]

However, it would seem that if Reiki is used by some to indicate a ghost, this would be, at best, a rather indirect or obscure usage of the word.

This notion that Reiki referred to a ghost seems to originate in the mid, or even early, 1990's.

And I can't help wondering, was it originally a case of someone (presumably an inquiring, and possibly somewhat over-enthusiastic, western Reiki Ryoho practitioner!), actually being told that Reiki meant ghost per se?

Or was it perhaps a case of simple misunderstanding due to language difficulties?
Was it perhaps simply that the person asked had attempted to express that, as far as they were aware, the word Reiki had "something to do with the supernatural - ghosts and all that sort of thing"?

After all, in isolation, the term Reiki [i.e. 'spirit-energy', or simply 'spiritual'] is rather vague [2]; and unless qualified by association with another term - e.g. 'ryoho' ('healing method'), could theoretically refer to a number of 'strange' things (and many people might not feel comfortable talking about such - to them at least - 'esoteric' matters)

Then again, it must be said that, in the early 1990's in Japan, there were quite literally thousands of Japanese citizens - some juvenile, some adult - who had their own very clear understanding of what the term Reiki meant, and also the context in which it was most frequently used…

They knew that the word Reiki did not mean a ghost per se, but also knew that (in the context with which they were familiar with the term) it did indeed have strong significance in relation to the world of ghosts, spirits and demons...

They would tell you that Reiki was at once an 'energy' and a 'power' (i.e. an ability) possessed by humans (an ability more developed in some than in others) - a force, emanating from the human spirit...

These people knew all about the famous Reiki master - that diminutive, elderly Japanese lady, and how she could pass on her Reiki ability to others…

They could tell you all about Kurama

And about numerous Reiki techniques that, at the time, nobody in the West had heard of.
Techniques such as the:
Rei Gan (the 'Spirit Sphere'),
Rei Ko Hado ('Spirit Light Wave'),
and
Rei Ko Kyu - or what we would describe as a 'Reiki ball' …


So, who were these people? Members of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, perhaps?

Or students of some other 'long lost' Japanese Reiki Ryoho lineage?

Well, no. They were simply fans of the 19 volume manga (Japanese comic book):

Yu Yu Hakusho ("Ghost Files")

Created by Yoshihiro Togashi and published between 1991-1994 [and also turned into a 112 episode animation (anime) series], Yu Yu Hakusho was quite possibly the place where a great many people came across the term Reiki for the very first time...


But before you go rushing off to order either the manga or the anime:

I suppose I should tell you that the name of the famous, elderly, female Reiki Master in Yu Yu Hakusho is not Mrs. Takata, but Genkai …

Oh, and the 'Kurama' referred to, is not the sacred mountain where Usui-sensei first experienced the Reiki phenomenon, but rather, is a 'reformed' fox-demon...

And even though Reiki Master Genkai (and some of the other characters), can use their power to heal, Yu Yu Hakusho is not a tale about Usui Reiki Ryoho.

In fact, the Reiki energy-power of Yu Yu Hakusho, while indeed seen to emanate from the human spirit, is not primarily about healing at all.

And as for the Reiki techniques mentioned - well you really wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of any of them.

You see, Yu Yu Hakusho is actually a story about a 'spirit detective' and his comrades whose task it is to fight against evil (in the form of demons and other bad guys), and protect the human race.

 

And the weapon-of-choice with which most of the fighting against evil is carried out?

Well, it's a very special 'offensive' or 'martial' energy-power

- an ability emanating from the human spirit


- an ability called:


....
Reiki …

 

__________________

NOTES:

* [ see: Reiki in Japan before 1985 - a New Perspective]

[1]

While there are several Japanese words (written using different kanji-pairs and having very different meanings) which transliterate as 'Reiki', here I am of course referring to the particular 'Reiki' as used in the context of Usui Reiki Ryoho.

[2]

Sidetracking slightly

- a bit of Japanese-Westerner role-reversal:
Just imagine for a moment that you're a Japanese person who has learnt a somewhat obscure American therapeutic practice - we'll call it the "Gibbs spirit-energy healing method" (aka Gibbs-style Healing Method) - which had been imported into Japan several years ago.
On a trip to America, you decide to ask an "Average Joe" what they know about this obscure practice. Would you imagine that, potential language-barrier aside, the response would be a full and informative one? No of course not. Most likely you would receive, at best, a simple (or perhaps non-committal) response; at worst, some comment about you being some kind of New Age weirdo.
Now, let's throw in an additional complication:
Let's say that, sometime over the years in Japan, the name of the healing method had been shortened for simplicity's sake. But rather than calling it, e.g. "Gibbs Healing", it had become known simply as: "Spiritual-energy".
So, there you, are a Japanese person, struggling slightly with an unfamiliar language, attempting to ask an American "Joe Average" about the concept of "spiritual energy", when really what you want to know about is Mr. Gibbs method of healing…
- allowing that the response you got was not completely dismissive (or worse!) just how confusing and (albeit unintentionally) misleading might the information you receive actually be?
__________________

 

 

Additional Info: Mar, 24, 2007

As mentioned above, there are several Japanese words which, when written usng the Latin (English) alphabet appear as 'Reiki'.

It seems that the notion that 'Reiki' meant 'ghost', may well have something to do with a simple confusion as to which particular 'Reiki' was being enquired about.

For example, recently, while doing some research with regards to the Konjaku monogatari-shu ("Tales of times past") - a collection of stories from the Heian period - I discovered that, in volume 27 of this collection, there is indeed talk of Reiki as directly indicating 'ghosts and demons'.
However the 'Reiki' in question is not 'our' Reiki.
While the first kanji (rei) is the same as the rei in 'our' Reiki (and as mentioned above this rei can in isolation mean ghost), the second kanji is different - being one that may be read as either ki or oni - and having the meaning of 'demon'.



Reiki:
Ghosts & Demons

 



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