The Chi Book by Sarah Luczaj

Hand healing, or 'teate' had been traditionally present in Japanese culture since ancient times, and in Usui's understanding, it was the cultivation of spiritual insight, through energy practices and ethics, that instigated it. Healing was understood to take place essentially through intuition and intention. Usui is said to have empowered his students simply by looking at them. In Taoist terms, chi (life energy) plus yi (intention) equals shi — oneness with the momentum of the universe, seamless manifestation. Intention equals result.

What Usui called 'My System' was a combination of hand healing, precepts with a strong Buddhist flavour, some specially chosen Waka poems (by Emporer Meiji), empowerments known as Reiju, also reminiscent of Buddhist empowerments and blessings, mantras known as kotodama in traditional Japanese practices, or represented by symbols (to be chanted or visualised, respectively), and meditations and chi-cultivating techniques.

The combination of these elements, and their common presence each in the others, produced a uniquely powerful blend, simple in delivery and deep in resonance, and composed of the deepest insight and experience (insight and experience being essentially the same, rather than divided as they are in the Western philosophical tradition).

Divorced from such deep and consistent spiritual practice, Reiki in the Western world can present as a shallow mishmash of new age components chosen at random, a well-intentioned feel-good placebo, based on a kind of blind faith, with not much skill involved. Placebo of course is the most powerful healing effect there is, and that comes down to the power of the subconscious mind, aka the Tao. But that's for another time.

In fact, at the root, what we call Reiki is a spontaneous culmination of spiritual practices, and more particularly of the dedication, focus and concentration of one individual, who scooped them into one system. Within this particular vibration of the life energy that everything is composed of, there are four specifically distinguished, distinct flavours.

The first is the flavour of earth, a raw, material power; the second is sky/ heaven, the breath of spirit; the third is the subtle energy of connection between the earth and sky, or to be more precise, the sense in which they are nondivisible; the fourth flavour is the key, a total condensation of all the kinds of energy — total illumination, as understood by Mahayana Buddhists and encapsulated in one of their foundational texts, the Heart Sutra — 'form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form'. This realisation of the actual state of reality is associated with groundlessness and bright light.

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