My whole understanding of Reiki has changed after I attended a Shinpiden class (Traditional Japanese Reiki Master Training).
At that point I was already teaching Reiki for 4 years and I thought I was already approaching Reiki as a spiritual modality. I guess I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.  The Shinpiden training allowed me to have a deeper understanding of Reiki not only as a method of healing but also as a spiritual path.
The Shinpiden class has made me realize how different pieces of Reiki, once seemed separate pieces (precepts, symbols, mantras, hands on healing, meditations, attunements) all come together to complete the puzzle and were all steps for the same purpose: leading to “Dai Komyo”, “Great Bright Light”, “Enlightenment”, “Satori” or as I call “Self-realization”. Here I’d like to explore what I’ve learned in Japanese Reiki teachings that were different from Reiki as I’ve learned in the Western traditions. I must say that these are my interpretations and I can’t generalize this as “Traditional Japanese Reiki” as I can’t generalize “Western Reiki” teachings. Here is just my take:

Western Reiki Traditional Japanese Reiki
Universal Life force Energy Spiritual Energy
Hands-on healing modality Healing is a side effect of the practice
Reiki is channeled The source of Reiki is inside and it’s invoked within
Pillars are thoughts as separate practices Pillars of the system are coherent
Precepts are not center of practice, hand-positions are Precepts are foundation of the practice
Symbols are used as magic wands Symbols are tools to invoke inherent energies.
Meditation is not part of the practice There are different types of meditations as one progresses
Attunements are associated with level (Level 1,2,3,4) Attunements are given continuously
Attunements are perceived as power of the Reiki Master Reiki Master is an instrument to make student “remember” Reiki

Definition of Reiki:

Reiki in West translated in to English as “Universal Life Force Energy”. That’s not wrong but missing a piece. Rei, as we all know, usually translated as something not known, something under mist or ghost, it’s something that comes from spirit. In this context ”Rei” can be defined as “Spiritual”. “Ki” is the universal life force energy that runs through and all around us, it’s the energy that animates us. So, Reiki in short can be translated as “Spiritual Energy”. No wonder the ‘Spiritual” part is dropped in Western translations as Reiki is typically practiced as a hands-on healing modality and typically the spiritual aspect of it is undermined. The biggest and far most difference of Traditional Japanese Reiki for me was that Reiki is a “Spiritual” practice for self-improvement.

Purpose of Reiki:

In Traditional Japanese Reiki practice, Reiki is a system of spiritual healing and self-improvement practice. It’s a system, with a set of practices, that ultimately connects the individual to higher realities and activates our own ability to become whole at all levels; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. In Western Reiki practice “healing” is the goal, in Japanese practice “healing” comes as a side effect of the practice of the system.

Source of Reiki:

In Western Reiki traditions, it’s typically referred Reiki as “channeled”. In Traditional Japanese Reiki, the source of Reiki is not outside, it’s in us, we need to tap into ourselves to reach into it. Question is: How far can we go in?  By keeping attunement to this energy, via various tools (precepts, symbols, mantras, meditations), we can actually become this energy; and in fact that’s the purpose of the practice “To be Reiki”.

Pillars of Reiki

In Traditional Japanese Reiki, there are 5 pillars of the Reiki system and they are all coherent:
1- Attunement: purpose of attunement is for the student to “remember” connection to this high frequency healing energy whose source is within.
2- Precepts are guidelines and foundations of how to bring Reiki into daily life
3- Meditation techniques are to build internal energy and quiet the mind.
4- Hand positions on self and others helps clean energy channels, tune into the energy and self-healing as well as helping others heal themselves.
5- Symbols and mantras are to deepen the connection to energy and invoke deeper connections at physical, mental/emotional and spiritual levels.
In Western Reiki traditions, the pillars are thought as separate practices and not .


Mikao Usui has started his spiritual teachings in 1915, 7 years prior to receiving Reiki in Mount Kurama in 1922. This makes sense since it’s very unusual for someone to be Enlightened and acquire an energy like Reiki unless the person has already been practicing spirituality. Mikao Usui’s earlier students state that, in his earlier years as a spiritual teacher, Mikao Usui was primarily teaching what we know today as Reiki precepts. No wonder Usui Sensei has made precepts the foundation of the Reiki practice after he acquired Reiki. I don’t think we, Western Reiki teachers, including myself, give enough prime time to Reiki precepts during Reiki classes. Whereas in Traditional Japanese Reiki practice precepts are the foundation of the daily practice.


Mikao Usui has introduced symbols into the Reiki system in 1923 as he started having more lay students who have difficulties in connecting to the energies the symbols represent. Symbols are used as tools to invoke the energies of Japanese cosmology. The symbols are to be used as training wheels and dropped after one becomes the energy that the symbols represent.
In Western Reiki, symbols are practiced as “magic wands”. When I first learned Reiki, I was told to draw the symbols and that they have the inherent power within and they’ll work on their own once you’re initiated into them. Guess what: It worked! It’s only that it helps to understand what symbols are for and what they represent especially if one is willing to understand how the symbols relate to universal manifestation of energy.


In Western Reiki traditions, typically there are no regular meditation practices. However Reiki meditation techniques are thought as part of Traditional Japanese Reiki. The techniques start with building internal energy in Hara center and progresses to moving internal energy between hara and heart center. Different meditation techniques are introduced depending on student’s level of progress.


In Western Reiki practices, attunements represent levels of Reiki (Reiki 1,2,3, etc.), attunement is also perceived as power of the Reiki Master. In Traditional Japanese Reiki, the student continuously receives Reiju, or Spiritual blessings. The student receives whatever he/she needs at that time, at the level they can absorb it.
In West, Reiki masters adapted use of different tools and rituals for Reiki attunements and rituals differ a great deal from tradition to tradition. It really doesn’t matter what ritual a Reiki Master follows, as ritual is only a tool to get Reiki Master to energetically connect to Reiki and share it with the student.

Hands-on Healing:

In Western Reiki traditions, there are different sets of Reiki hand positions. Some Masters use hand positions very strictly, some encourage students listen more to their intuition. Mikao Usui have used 5-7 hand positions originally and a set of hand positions targeting specific ailments believed to be developed by Dr. Hayashi.  Dr. Hayashi since he was a medical doctor, had more interests in hands-on healing. As most Western traditions stem from Dr. Hayashi and Mrs. Takata lineage, there are more importance in hand positions in Western Reiki. I personally believe that it’s very important to give students a structure and hand positions are very helpful in that sense. However one should develop intuition and be flexible to change positions as necessary.
Having said all this, I’m grateful I’ve learned Reiki in Western traditions, and then had a chance to expand and deepen my knowledge with Traditional Japanese Reiki practices. There is no right or wrong way to learn and practice Reiki. Reiki is such a flexible energy, it comes to you the way you are ready for it. It’s just that we should be open to possibilities and willing to take it deeper. Reiki has endless possibilities, it’s just a question how deep we are ready to take it.

Zeynep Premdasi Yilmaz