DR. MIKAO USUI
August 15, 1865 - March 9, 1926
Legend, Fact, and Personality
Reiki's founder was Dr. Mikao Usui, also known as Usui Sensei in Japan. Until the mid-1990s little was known of the historical man, not even the dates of his birth and death.
For several decades the sole knowledge of Dr. Usui in the West came from the late Hawayo Takata who brought Reiki from Japan to Hawaii in the late 1930s.
She freely admitted her knowledge of Dr. Usui was hearsay as he had made his transition (Reiki jargon for passing on or dying) several years prior to Mrs. Takata's first trip to Japan in the mid-1930s.
Nature and story-tellers abhor a vacuum, and in the absence of any direct knowledge of Dr. Usui's life the myths and legends were born. And some are quite amazing. I have a photocopied set of notes from another Reiki master in which Dr. Usui's healing miracles from the 1830s are sombrely and reverently recorded. The only problem with this is that we now know Dr. Usui was born in 1865.
For years the only story known in the West of Dr. Usui's life was the oral story told over and over by Mrs. Takata to her students. There is even a tape recording (made in 1979) of Mrs. Takata telling the story in detail. It takes her about 45 minutes to do so. Briefly, here is a summary of some of the high points of Mrs. Takata's story of Dr. Usui's life:
Dr. Usui was the principal of the Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan,
and also a Christian preacher and missionary. One day one of his students
asked him if he could duplicate the healing by laying on of hands which
the Bible describes was done by Christ.
Dr. Usui replied he could not, and thereupon resigned his position at the
university to travel to the United States to receive further Christian
training at the University of Chicago in the hope of learning this
healing skill described in the Bible.
After studying seven years in the U.S. and discovering American Christians
had no idea about Christ's healing by hands either, he began studying
other philosophies and religions, including Hinduism, Zoroastrianism,
and Buddhism. He read a passage in the Buddhists texts about the Buddha
healing by laying on hands and decided to return to Japan and see what
the Buddhists there might know.
After a few years of studying in a Japanese Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto,
where he was befriended by the wise head monk who became his mentor, Dr. Usui
had not found his answer. He then moved on to study in China with the
Chinese Buddhists, but came to the same conclusion as he had in Japan, that
they did not have the answers he sought either.
Realizing many original Buddhist text were written in Sanskrit,
the ancient language of India, he decided to learn that language so
that he might study those ancient Buddhist Sanskrit writings (some
versions of the story have him in India for this).
After diligent study of Sanskrit, Dr. Usui eventually found an
inscription in Sanskrit which explained how to do the laying on of
hands, although the inscription did not contain instructions as to how
to activate the energy. (A citation for this inscription is never
included in any version the story, by the way.)
Dr. Usui was inspired to return to the Zen temple in Kyoto and talk to
his mentor, the senior monk, about what to do about activating the energy.
The two of them decided Dr. Usui would be best to meditate at the top of
a mountain outside of Kyoto for 21 days. On the last day of the meditation
Dr. Usui had a spectacular epiphany experience during which he was shown
how to activate the energy and give the gift of Reiki, the healing by
laying on of hands.
He then came down the mountain performing miraculous healings. After
consulting with his mentor, he later set off into the world doing good works,
teaching Reiki, and healing the infirm with his newly-given gift, all
the while learning many important lessons about human nature.
Parts of this story surely are myth. Significant efforts by western Reiki masters in the 1990s were made to verify Dr. Usui's Christian connection. No verification of his Christian teaching position in Japan or his theological studies in Chicago in the United States has been unearthed. However his membership in a Kyoto Zen temple has been verified, and the photograph above (one of the very few photographs of Dr. Usui anyone has found) apparently shows him wearing either a Zen or Taoist robe. Whether he was a full-time or part-time monk is still debated amongst Western researchers. It is known he was involved in a family business of some sort, but the exact nature of the enterprise is as yet unknown.
By the end of the 20th Century a memorial stone next to his grave in Tokyo was discovered by Westerners although it has been known to Japanese Reiki people for some time. Miraculously, the graveyard survived the bombings of Tokyo in World War II. Apparently the Americans felt no need to bomb a cemetary. The inscription on the memorial stone is now known to have been written by a close friend of Dr. Usui's shortly after Dr. Usui's passing in 1926.
The memorial stone makes no reference to Dr. Usui's Christian connection, but does speak of his scholarly abilities. Enigmatically the stone states "he travelled to several Western countries and China to study." The inscription mentions the 21-day mountain-top fast and epiphany experience without getting into detail about it.
The stone notes Dr. Usui opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo in 1922 and performed fine healing works the following year when many people were injured in a serious earthquake. By 1925, the stone's inscription tells us, the clinic was so busy it expanded to a new location on the outskirts of Tokyo. The next year Dr. Usui died of a stroke at age 62. He was survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter.
He apparently trained about 2,000 people in Reiki, and left behind a group of Reiki instructors (masters). A non-profit organization he founded to promote Reiki in Japan is active to this day, although so far the organization has shown little interest in having close contact with Reiki people outside of Japan.
Even with this factual knowledge of the historical Dr. Usui, the human being Dr. Usui remains almost unknown. Here is where astrology can be helpful in getting to know the person we remember as Dr. Usui.
While we do not have complete birth data for Dr. Usui, we have enough data from his tombstone memorial (date and place of birth) that we can erect a solar chart for him. Click here to see his solar chart.
It only has about half the information that a full chart with an accurate time of birth would have. But that's better than nothing. It gives us a glimpse into his pyche which up to now we have not had.
While computer reports have their limits, and elsewhere on this website I discuss that, there are specific, albeit limited, circumstances where they are useful, and this is one of them. The excerpts below are taken from the Indra Report produced by Cosmic Patterns for their Kepler software, one of the few good computer reports around. It gives us a fascinating glimpse into Dr. Usui, the human being.
Just for openers, Dr. Usui had Sun in Leo and Moon in Gemini, something you'd never guess from the legends.
Now let's meet Dr. Usui, the personality:
"...You must have some self-expression in life and you will look at
any activity as a chance to create. Although you are somewhat theatrical and
flamboyant, you inspire others who often get some vicarious enjoyment through
"...Your overly self-secure mode of interacting disguises some deep
distrust of your own foundations. Behind your flamboyance and manipulative
assertions are some profound insecurities. When you come to terms with your
own weaknesses and see them as not so profound or bad, you will simultaneously
become more open and acknowledging of other people's values and points of view.
This lays the foundation to use your vast insight and expanse of vision in a
"...Concentrating on the concerns of others punctures the myth of
isolation which is the real cause of your false sense of self-dissatisfaction.
You are prone to petty vanities and extravagant spending when you are feeling
"...You love home, the past, food, and warm romantic notions. You
are nurturing and affectionate. You are a truly gentle lover. Your affections
are very sentimental and devoted. You can bend over backwards to make someone
else feel good...
"...You are easily led by your feelings. You are an idealist and a
sensitive soul that is having a tough time getting your values to manifest.
People take advantage of you at times because you empathize with others' pain.
You have artistic talent but this is not meant to be a life as an artist.
Consequently, you will have difficulties in youth getting reinforced for
your aesthetic efforts...
"...Enthusiasm, energy, optimism and luck carry you a long way in
life. However, hypocrisy, misappraisals, tactlessness, and bombasticness
cause you trouble...
"...your supply of energy is almost limitless although it is well
regulated and doesn't appear ostentatiously. You are powerful but gentle by
temperament and have economy of effort down to a fine art. You can out
manoeuvre or outmanipulate almost anyone, but you aren't inclined to use
this skill in a mean or self-aggrandizing way. You are a good organizer and
a good leader...
"...You have an aspect from Jupiter to the Sun showing a deep
connection between your values and your ego. As a consequence of this you
have a stronger faith in your beliefs than most people and you are more
likely to act on them. You have the potential for being quite an inspiration
"...You have a rashness and anger to your personality that never
quite expresses itself correctly. Too much ego involvement with your
assertive instincts or lack of ownership of your directness can impede
positive self-expression. As you get older you learn to channel your feelings
"...High minded ideals prompt you to act without sufficient back up
or forethought, but, still you are lucky and will see a number of your
spontaneous actions come to a great conclusion. Your hunches are accurate
a great much of the time, and your picture of what life can be at it best
is progressive and uncannily accurate. Still, you need a good deal of
patience and hard work to bring your higher ideals down to earth."
A zip file with the full report in ASCII format of Dr.
Usui's natal solar chart is available for free
download. It's worth the read to learn a
fair bit more about the personality of the man who brought us Reiki. This
information is unique as so far no accounts of Dr. Usui as a person have
His natal chart shows he was a mixture of sometimes conflicting and
sometimes harmonizing personality traits, as we all are. This is reassuring
to those of us active in Reiki for it turns out that Dr. Usui was a human
being, too, just like all the rest of us.