Mrs Takata – the founder of Western Reiki – is without doubt a controversial character. On the one hand her teachings appear full of untruths and megalomania; on the other, they are the foundation upon which over 99% of Reiki students build their practice today.
So how are we to remember her? Should we condmenn and dismiss her for her short-comings? Or do we honor her for the tremendous work she has done in teaching and disseminating Reiki?
For a long time everyone took Mrs Takata on her word every time she spoke. If she said that Mikao Usui was a Christian minister or that he studied at the University of Chicago, people simply believed her.
As time passed, however, researchers – beginning with Frank Arjava Petter – started to unearth more and more historical evidence that questioned what she taught.
Let us look first at some of Mrs Takata’s historical untruths, then at the more objectionable things she forced upon her students.
On Mikao Usui
Mrs Takata claimed that Usui received a PhD from the University of Chicago. She also claimed he was the Principal of Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan), where he was also supposed to be the Christian minister (see The Spirit of Reiki, Lübeck, Petter and Rand, p. 28).
Fact: There is no record of Usui being the Principal of Doshisha University, a Christian minister, or ever having attended the University of Chicago. What is more, Usui was a Buddhist for his entire life.
2. Mrs Takaka claimed she was the world’s only surviving Reiki Master and that all Reiki lineages in Japan had been wiped out during the Second World War.
Fact: There are many Reiki practitioners in Japan today – and there have always been since the time of Usui. In fact, Mrs Takata herself apparently had contact with them!
On Teaching Reiki
1. Teachers must charge $10,000 for the Master Level.
Fact: Usui often taught for free or a small charge. There is absolutely nothing at all in the history of Reiki to suggest that such an enormous figure needs to be charged (and remember, back in 1970 when the Master Level was first taught, $10,000 was worth a lot more than it is today).
2. Reiki symbols must be drawn exactly as Mrs Takata taught them or they won’t work.
Fact: There are many variations on the different Reiki symbols. What students and teachers have found over the years is that they all work! What counts is the ‚intent‘ behind a symbol, not the precision with which it has been drawn.
Historical note: After Mrs Takata died, many of her Master Level students got together to compare notes. To their amazement they found that the symbols Mrs Takata herself taught them varied! Since they all worked, this proved that the ‚intent‘ behind the symbols was the most important thing.
3. Reiki must be taught in exactly the same way as Mrs Takata taught it.
Fact: Mrs Takata made her students swear they would teach Reiki in exactly the same way she did. The implication was that if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be any where near as effective.
From the time Iris Ishikura (one of Takata’s Master Level students) went back on her promise and taught in keeping with her own intuition, however, practitioners soon discovered that the world of Reiki wasn’t black and white. Many different techniques and styles all work well.
The Mitigating Circumstances
It would be easy to get frustrated with Mrs Takata and see her as a megalomaniac with an overly fertile imagination. It would even be easy to shy away from everything she taught.
To some extent this might be justified, but it would also be a mistake.
Mrs Takata may have been a megalomaniac; she may have hindered the free flow of Reiki information from Japan to the West by telling the world she was the sole living Master; she may even have prevented thousands of people from learning Reiki by insisting on a $10,000 Master Level fee; but what she taught also had – and still has – a good deal of substance.
Indeed, so worthy was the Reiki she taught, it has now spread all around the world and made a positive impact on millions of people.
So before we become too critical, let us remind ourselves that the Reiki we practice is almost certainly a product of what Mrs Takata taught. Sure, it is unlikely to be identical, but its substance will be 99% hers.
Next, we ought to remember another important point: Mrs Takata was a pragmatist. In other words, she did what she considered best for the development / dissemination of Reiki. And if this meant sometimes bending the truth then she was happy to do so.
A good example of this ‚bending of the truth‘ is the false Christian history of Usui. Given the time she first started to practice healing in the States (Late 1930s to early 1940s), and given that Reiki was a Japanese healing method, it made sense to Westernize it. After all, anti-Japanese sentiment was very strong at the time.
Finally, we should remember that very few – if any – teachers are perfect. As a rule, we tend to make the mistake of idolizing our favourites and then disowning them the moment they show the usual human foibles.
A better strategy is to simply test what they say and see if it works. If it does, we needn’t worry whether they are ‚perfect‘ or not. As far as our life is concerned that makes no difference.
Also, we might remember that we don’t need to embrace everything within a system. If we are deeply involved with it, it might be a good idea to test everything; but if we find that it doesn’t serve us, we can happily put aside that part of the teachings and use the rest.
If we can do that, we will benefit from many great teachers. If we uphold our teachers to a standard of ‚perfection‘, then it is unlikely we will find any who can help us.
So before we grow too critical of Mrs Takata, let us first appreciate the tremendous service she has done to the world of Reiki. She wasn’t perfect, for sure. In fact, she had many frustrating sides to her. But without her, I wouldn’t be writing this article today – and you wouldn’t be reading it!