Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reiki Newsletter-September 2012

Reiki is like the sun. It shines upon regardless. We give it labels, names and make it our own practice; pretty much like everything else. We call it Japanese Reiki, Western Reiki, Komyo Reiki, etc. Please first recognize that what I write here is my own impressions of Komyo Reiki, with my limited human mind and thru my own filters of experiences. Also, no one style is better or worse than another. If I give any impressions otherwise, I give you a free pass to kick me.

Having said that, few of us from Cincinnati went to a Komyo Reiki retreat in Catskill mountains in Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery with Hyakuten Sensei, founder of Komyo Reiki.

Hyakuten Sensei is a 72 years old independent Japanese Buddhist monk who often comes to US to teach Komyo reiki, his style and interpretation of Reiki. He really doesn’t show his age at all. It must be his practice! I found him truly genuine, humble and unifying. He is very informal, easy going, funny but keeps the personal boundaries well (we’re deeply grateful for him sharing some insights of his personal life).

Going there with friends from Cincinnati and especially meeting there with old friends from my first Reiki Master class made the experience extra fun. The drive up to Catskills and the location ROCKED !

Old friends, organizer of Komyo Reiki class Thin Thin, Zeynep and Rupan together. Kudos to Thin thin this would not be possible without her efforts.

We had a Zen monastery experience within the Reiki retreat which I’d like to talk little bit, because it was totally an AWESOME experience. Again, here beware of the duality. It might be an awesome experience for me but for some, I’m sure it might quite be painful, waking up at 5 am and having to sit thru Zazen and eating formal breakfast at the monastery. By the way, if you’re ever invited to a formal meal at a Zen Monastery; think twice before accepting it :-) We took a 1 hour orientation and training on how to behave and eat a breakfast. I’m telling you, it’s quite an ordeal. You need to learn how to enter the temple, how to bow and prostrate, how to sit down properly, how to handle your prayer books (book is not bound and you might create quite a mess if you don’t hold it properly) and after Zazen, how to grab your jihatsu bowls (breakfast bowls) and walk to dining hall.

We all waited in a single line, the way we sat at the monastery, waiting for the gongs and bells to indicate we can go in. Once all sits down at the dining hall, we started with prayers, properly removed the bowls from the folded cloth, properly handle the sticks (if placed on the table, the pointed tips at a 30 degree angle, facing the south east corner of the table). Did I mention sitting at Seiza (sitting on knees) during this whole time? We all took it very seriously and tried our best but I’m sure we all had some accidents. I forgot to donate 7 grains before I started eating the food. At some point I saw a pair of chopsticks flying but we all hold our laughs. I never tried eating a rice soup with chopsticks before and there were people who never used chopsticks at all. We were all good sports. I was so relieved when I saw the monks gulping the soup down, so I did the same. Otherwise, it could take half day to eat every rice grain in the bowl. Yet the most stressful part was to wash our bowls with the tea offered, and trying to remember how to wash each bowl (pour tea to 1st bowl and pour half of it to the second and then wash the 3rd bowl in 2nd bowl, dry with the towel and wash the second bowl in 1st, dry with the towel, drink and clean tour 1st bowl). After all, wish that all bowls are clean for the next day! We were all stressed the first day but I think we loosened up the second day. I bet we’d be experts the 3rd day but it was the day for informal breakfast. The lunch and dinners were outstanding. It was informal where we dig ourselves to truly amazing vegetarian food.

I deeply bow to the monks and residents for embracing us and their patience and enthusiasm to share their beautiful space, monastery and surroundings with us.

As for the Reiki section of the experience… Ahh expectations….Apparently I went there with some expectations (too bad): It was finding out perspective of a Buddhist monk and deepening connections between Reiki and Japanese culture, Buddhist teachings and practices.

I expected to find links to Japanese spiritual practices and how they impacted Reiki pillars. I was disappointed when Hyakuten-san said upfront the first day that the only connection he could find between Reiki and Buddhism was the similarity of 2nd symbol (which represents Amitahba Buddha). It took me a while to set my expectations aside and listen to what he has to say.

If I want to summarize Hyakuten-san’s style; it’s "simplicity". Komyo Reiki motto is: “Place your hands, Surrender to Universe, Smile”. Hyakuten-san emphasized “simplicity of practice” many times during the class. He says “Reiki is art of Surrendering”. I also liked his analogy of “two wheels”. physical healing and spiritual practice go hand in hand. If you don’t develop both wheels equally, the cart won’t go. He also said upfront that, this is “his style of Reiki”.

He learned Reiki from Yamaguchi-san, who passed away in 2003. She was one of the Reiki Masters who learned Reiki directly from Hayashi-san. Hyakuten-san uses symbols as he learned from Mrs. Yamaguchi. Well the story gets little confusing here. Hayashi-san thought different symbols to Yamaguchi-san and yet gave different symbols to Ms. Takata. There is a little conspiracy there that Hayashi-san didn’t want to give the real symbols to Mrs. Takata. As I said, don’t worry about catching the story and honestly it really doesn’t matter. After all, the shape of symbols doesn’t matter either (that’s what Hyakuten-san writes in his manual as well), for me it’s all about what they represent and what energies they invoke. However Hyakuten-san interpreted symbols just as in Western Reiki, as external tools. I couldn’t find any interpretation on what personal transformation practicing the symbols brings in one’s spiritual path (especially as the way I learned and practice now). That was little disappointing (ahhh expectations again!). However, having said that, it’s not fully fair because I didn’t meditate on his symbols yet. I should probably play with them little bit and feel the difference between his and Ms. Takata’s symbols. Yet, his explanation of the function of each symbol was exactly the same as the Takata (Western) symbols.

Hyakuten-san shared some interesting facts about Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai and history of Reiki.

- Mikao Usui was not Tendai but a Pure land Buddhist and was buried in a Pure Land Buddhist cemetery. He said it’s not common for families to change sects in Japan (if people believe his family changed from Tendai to Pure Land).

- There are no records for Hayashi-san being a medical doctor. It’s true that he was a Naval officer though. It’s true that he committed suicide. Nobody knows why.

- The 3rd symbol was originally intended for transcending distance not time, however it works to heal past and to send energy to future too.

- Feeling Byosen (the sick line) was the criteria to move to next level in Reiki traditionally.

- 21 day self-healing practice is useful, but there is no such official practice in URRG.

- The correct way of pronouncing 3rd symbol is Hon Ja Ze Sho Nen (Ja not Sha).

- Hyakuten-san gave a nice refresher on Japanese techniques, and demo on patting technique.

Even though he is not a member, Hyakuten-san was invited to one of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai meetings. I completely agree with Hyakuten-san that, today’s Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, is not acting in spirit of Usui Sensei. Usui-san wanted to share this gift with everyone. He trained over 2000 students and shared Reiki in every way he could. What’s the reason for this secrecy today? If URRG believe they have the original teachings, why don’t they train new practitioners? Oh well, I’m sure they have their own reasons.

Coming back to Komyo Reiki; Hyakuten-san teaches Reiki in 4 levels: Shoden, Chuden, Okuden, Shinpiden. Despite his emphasize on simplicity, his attunement process is quite elaborate. There is a long attunement, a short attunement and an open Reiju (a shorter version of what we currently practice). We didn’t have time to practice all attunements and the Reiju. That’s OK because I’m not intending to change the way I pass attunements anyway. I think the ritual is a way to get the Reiki Master to the non-duality space, to be the Reiki, and the ritual itself doesn’t matter much. My personal goal (when I grow up!) is to be able to share Reiki with all my being without needing any ritual at all, that’s why I don’t want to hang up to much on the ritual itself and continue to use what works for me now.

Hyakuten-san sees Reiki as a spiritual practice. His focus and time spent on discussing the importance of spiritual practice makes it very clear. However the links of a clear path for practitioners to walk on and especially the practices on how to bring the spirituality into our practice was missing for me. The direction he was giving totally makes sense: simplicity and surrendering; but for those of us, lay practitioners, it’s so hard. Especially if you’re like me, a very analytical minded person who needs a step by step process; it’s hard to just "surrender". I need to understand how the pillars of Reiki system come together and support the spiritual practice that takes us to non-duality. Having said that, I felt ever more grateful for having a clear Reiki path for my practice.

On the other hand, I’m sure Hyakuten-san dives deeply when he teaches Shinpiden level one-on-one. This was a taste of Komyo Reiki, all levels together, during a weekend, and he had a mixed level of Reiki Master practitioners to accommodate. That’s probably why there was great emphasize on spirituality but in practicality I didn’t feel getting any deeper in practice.

Now back to practice!


  1. Hi Zeynep,

    Thanks for sharing your story, it sounds like you had a great time.
    I love Hyakuten-san's style of teaching, he has a good sense of humor :-)
    The monastery looks fantastic and of course it is a wonderful experience to participate in the monks/nuns daily routine, like breakfast.

    For me it is very important to make sure there is a path to follow, if there is no path how do we get from feeling angry, worried, fearful to a place of surrender. It is easy to say, just surrender, yet very hard to do.

    Unfortunately I see that the path is missing in other Japanese Reiki schools as well, this is not a bad thing, as you say at the beginning of the article, but for me personally I need a path. If there is no path, I know that I will get lost, that is the way I work, others might be happy with no path at all, but for me that just doesn't work.


  2. Hi Zeynep,

    Thank you for sharing your experience at Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery with my teacher, Hyakuten-san. I wasn't able to attend, but was thrilled that Thin Thin was able to organize a successful retreat. I also appreciated your details on the Zen monastery experience. I've sat zazen for years, and it is a rigorous, formal, and beautiful practice, which is reflected in everything Zen Buddhist practitioners do. Having that experience alone gives a taste of what spiritual practices may have influenced Usui-san in the development of Reiki Ryoho.

    That said, I wanted to respectfully address some of the points you raised here about the Komyo Reiki training, as well as Frans's statements. It is true that presenting an entire system of practice in two days poses some challenges. However, Hyakuten-san assumes that participants are experienced and engaged in Reiki practice (since it is only open to Reiki Masters) so to some degree, he focuses on explaining the differences between Japanese-style Reiki and Western-style Reiki. He assumes you're already walking the path, so to speak, and emphasizes the spiritual aspect of Reiki since many Western systems place so much importance on tenohira (hands-on healing) as being the practice itself.

    I agree that two days may not be enough to delve deeply into the concepts and understanding Hyakuten-san has. However, I originally took his training in NYC in 2010, and then hosted him in Atlanta earlier this year, and found the two classes to be very different. The class in NYC was larger, which meant that we couldn't delve as deeply in certain discussions, and he had to spend more time giving reiju. In Atlanta, the class size was smaller, and at least half the students were ones I've trained. We were actually able to spend more time talking about spiritual practice and Reiki, which was wonderful. It was less of a step-by-step training than it was a dharma retreat, but it resonated deeply with everyone present.

    Remember, Hyakuten-san is a monk; he lives a spiritual life to a degree that most of us don't. And he doesn't naturally have the Western analytical mindset, but he understands in his bones - and emanates - what this practice is about.

    Now, I'd like to address this issue that keeps popping up with regard to Japanese Reiki practice and a "path." I'm increasingly disappointed in this trend of criticism towards the supposed lack of "path" in Japanese Reiki practice. There *is* a path. It involves living by the Gokai (Reiki Principles), daily self-practice and regular hands-on practice on others, meditation, breathwork, and working with symbols and mantra (shirushi and jumon.) It can also involve deeper exploration of other spiritual practices or philosophy unique to Japan, but that is not necessary for most practitioners as long as they understand the basics.

    And part of the path also requires the personal commitment of the practitioner to take responsibility for their own spiritual development, rather than assuming a teacher will give you all the answers. A teacher can guide you to some degree, but ultimately, you have to let go of your dependence on answers. A good teacher is a mirror for your own nature; they help you see the truth of the universe that is already inside you. Perhaps Hyakuten-san was not that teacher for you, but maybe your existing Reiki Master, or another teacher in the future (maybe not even a Reiki teacher!) will be that.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience, and I'm glad you enjoyed the retreat.

  3. Thanks for sharing inspiration & enthusiasm Zeynep.
    Write ON!

  4. Hi Dana,

    You raise some interesting points. We all see a "path" as something different depending on who we are and where we want to go to.
    A path can be looking at a map, walking a zig zag track, going straight ahead, one step forward - one step backwards, so many different "paths". I don't think one path is better then the other, just a different path. Each person needs to find their own path.

    However my idea of a path might be different then an other person, my personal idea of a path is like this: the teacher teaches you a practice, you go home and apply the technique, then you explain your experiences with the teacher who, if she finds you are in the right state of mind, teaches you the next technique which will refine your previous experience. And I personally do not see this kind of path in Japanese Reiki school, at least the ones which I have explored myself. This is the path I talk about, if that makes sense.

    I am personally not a person who could just chant one mantra for the rest of his life, maybe some might but that is not for me.

    On my recent study in Japan I noticed that my teacher was also teaching from this kind of path, you learn a few things, go home, apply it, practice it and then you will learn the next step when you are ready.

    I practice, since 1999 Qi Gong with a Chinese lady and she teaches the path that way too. You only learn the next step when your mind/energy/body is ready for that. I know different students off her and even that some students have worked with her for more then 10 years some might practice different techniques depending on their understanding, their mind/body/spirit. However this doesn't mean that one person is better or worse, just a different understanding, that is all.

    When we lived in Darjeeling, India, I saw the same in Tibetan Buddhist teachings, you are never given all the practices at once, you have to make sure your energy/mind/body are ready for the next step. This is therefore a life long journey.

    Which means that long after you have done a shoden, okuden or shinpiden class there are different methods/techniques to help you to go deeper and deeper, this is what I do not see in the Japanese Reiki schools which I have practiced. Maybe it is just me, maybe I have a block and therefore I can not see it, who knows.

    I am not a Yoga person but I have seen the same kind of path being taught by some Yoga teachers too.

    Personally I think it all depends on what we want to get out of the path, our intent so to speak.

    Having said all of this, I love Hyakuten-san, he is the best Japanese Reiki teacher around.

    Hope this all makes sense.

    I am not trying to be-little other paths, what I am saying is that the path they teach is not my path, that is all. We have many students who love Hyakuten-san's path which is fine too. I don't really care, we all have our own path to walk on, this is not up to the teacher, someone else, but only ourselves.


  5. Hi Dana,
    Thank you so much for taking time and leaving your feedback. I’m deeply grateful to Thin thin for organizing this retreat and having us experience Komyo Reiki with Hyakuten Sensei.

    Yeayyy for a “dharma retreat”. I’d love that.

    A friend of mine who took Hyakuten-san’s training in 2005 wished me before we departed “ to enjoy his presence”. He said “His presence is the lesson. His presence is the training. His presence is the outcome we seek, since it is so much farther on the journey we are pursuing. I agree with him that everything else can be caught up in this drama of judging.

    I truly enjoyed his presence, my only disappointment was the disconnect between his message of surrendering and the teachings which reflected much of Western Reiki teachings and not being able to deeply practice in line with his essence. I’m sure his one-on-one students enjoy this more than the weekend-retreat attendees.
    I think Frans addressed your question of “path”. I’m grateful to be one of those lucky ones who get “tailored” instructions and practices on my path :-)

    Love & Light,