Reiki and Buddhism
By Rebecca Holton
When I think about Reiki and Buddhism I find that, for me now, they are irretrievably linked. In my practice they are so close that these days they have become the same thing. This wasn't something that I started off with and I found it very surprising when it happened. Discovering it felt a bit like walking into my garden and suddenly noticing for the first time a huge elephant that had always been there. It wasn't something that could easily be ignored. So, there it was and I'm not going to fight something that seems so solid and substantial. After all, how many times have you successfully coaxed a gigantic quadruped into pretending it doesn't exist?
I came to Reiki as a wide eyed, hungry seeker. My background was in very traditional Western spirituality; the sort of spirituality that your grandmother would approve of if she was a "teapots and lace tablecloths" kind of person. The laying-on of hands for healing was something that happened regularly in my life and it was seen as a gift, something that special people did at special times. I felt very comforted by it. Reiki started for me when I read about it somewhere and found myself intrigued. The idea would not leave me alone. There was a connection here and the beginning of an unknown journey.
Moving forward several personal spiritual eons, I find myself in a very different landscape. Here there is no feeling of separateness requiring outer searching, no need to reach outwards towards a place of peace and stillness. Instead, I find a sense of Oneness, no barriers, right here. Peace and stillness are things to be found within me. This change means that I now find spiritual fulfilment inside my own being. It is profound. I am no longer a hungry seeker. Here's how Reiki and Buddhism work for me.
Reiki and Buddhism can both be practised as a spiritual path. For Buddhists, their path has been blindingly obvious for a very long time. The teachings are easy to find. Help, support and information are abundant. For Reiki practitioners in the Western world, practising Reiki as a spiritual path has not been so easy, although many of us have continued struggling to do it because we felt deeply that it is possible. The teachings have been obscured and difficult to find till quite recently. The tools and guidance that enable us to walk this way have not been so easily available. Even now they can take some ferreting out. A new breed of Reiki practitioner has found in the last few years that the ancient way has opened up for them. Classical practices are being taught, learnt and practised in the West.
For people who openheartedly embrace Reiki or Buddhism as a serious spiritual path the ultimate goal is the same - true self knowledge at the very deepest level. This is the sincere recognition and realization of ourselves, here, now, in this physical body as a complete being - a creature free from attachment and suffering - one whose essence is compassion, bliss and wisdom - an enlightened being - in a nutshell, a Buddha. If we practice Mikao Usui's path with dedication and patience this is where it leads.
Meditation is a central practice of Reiki and Buddhism. Meditation practised purely is an ever deepening journey into the mind. Human beings are fascinated by the infinite. What is the universe? How did it begin? How does it work? These are directions that science can take us. For meditators, the infinite we learn about is not separate from ourselves. What am I? What is the mind? Is it possible to experience these things and know them directly? Both Buddhism and Reiki help us walk this route.
Because meditation works directly with the mind, Reiki and Buddhism can operate in a very similar way with this kind of practice. Buddhist meditation, particularly in the esoteric traditions has many similarities with Reiki meditation.
-Setting our intention whilst practising active openness combined with a lack of expectation.
-Observing and working directly with energy and states of being.
-Directly experiencing things that cannot be explained by other means.
-Using every part of our human selves as tools for our development.
-Continuously deepening our practice, as the levels of mind we work with become increasingly subtle.
Symbols appear as practice tools in Reiki and Buddhism. The first 2 Reiki symbols work in a similar way to seed syllables in Buddhism. Seed syllables are Sanskrit letters that represent concepts, such as Emptiness, or a Buddha, etc... The Sanskrit letter "Ah" represents several things in Buddhism including a particular Buddha. If we are an experienced practitioner, then when we are in meditation, our subtle mind recognises that the "Ah", the Buddha and Emptiness are the same thing. They are not separate. The syllable, the Buddha and Emptiness can turn into each other very easily in the mind. They arise effortlessly from each other and can dissolve into each other just as simply. Each Buddha has a seed syllable that the subtle mind can recognise as the same essence as the Buddha.
The second Reiki symbol possibly originated from the Kiriku symbol which comes from the seed syllable "hrih". This seed syllable can represent Compassion, Amida Nyorai (Amitaba Buddha) or Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. In Buddhism these things are not fixed or separate. They are explanations of how things arise in our mind. This means that they can be the same thing and also different, all at the same time. This is how the subtle mind works. So, we could say that the seed syllables are thumbnail sketches of Buddhas or concepts and that our subtle mind can recognise them as fully formed Buddhas and concepts.
The first 2 Reiki symbols work in the same way, in our mind. They are thumbnail sketches of 2 types of energy, Earth and Heaven. Once we are deeply familiar with these 2 energies the symbols and the energies become the same thing to our subtle mind. The symbols are seeds that the energy can arise from. They are not separate. We experience these 2 energies and find that they are part of ourselves.
The 3rd and 4th Reiki symbols represent fundamental concepts in Reiki and Buddhism. Oneness and Emptiness are states of being that are predominant in both paths.
Oneness is central to the teachings of Buddhism. This is rooted in the concepts of interdependence and impermanence. No single thing exists without everything else and everything is changing all the time. When we experience Oneness in Reiki or Buddhist practice we no longer feel any separation from the things that surround us. Meditators feel that their minds and surroundings have melted into each other. Our physical cells and minds occupy the same space as the cells and minds of our fellow practitioners. There is peace, stillness and joy. We know who we are, where we are and what we are made of. This state of being is represented by the 3rd Reiki symbol and it is formed when the energies of Earth and Heaven merge into One.
The concept represented by the 4th Reiki symbol can also be found in Buddhism and in both paths it is central. Emptiness, when combined with clarity or wisdom, is the origin of everything in such a way that it pervades all existence and is its true essence. Everything arises from Emptiness and Emptiness is the true nature of everything that has arisen. Emptiness is a state that cannot be described using words. It is beyond intellectual definition. To learn about Emptiness we need to experience it directly.
The 4th symbol represents the state of being that is not separate from Emptiness - enlightenment. It means the same thing in both Reiki and Buddhism. Enlightenment is the ultimate state of being that a human can achieve.
Mantras are tools used in both paths. In esoteric Buddhism mantras are recited, chanted or repeated in the mind as a kind of rolling meditation to create connection and Oneness between our own mind and the mind of a particular Buddha. Each repetition of the mantra is like one turn of a wheel. The practitioner turns the wheel over and over again until the repetition causes the mind to be still within the rolling mantra and find that it is One with the Buddha.
The jumon which we practice in Reiki work in a similar way. We chant the jumon repeatedly to cause a particular energy or state of being to arise naturally within us. The jumon represent the same things as the Reiki symbols, Earth, Heaven, Oneness and Emptiness, along with all the associated things that those complex energies and concepts imply. The Reiki symbols and jumon work in the same way as the seed syllables and mantras in Buddhism. They are seeds for the things they represent. They are One with them.
The attunement in Reiki corresponds directly to the empowerment in Buddhism. When we are learning and practising the attunement ritual as beginner level 3 Reiki practitioners, this is not immediately apparent. It is not till we experience a suble, high level attunement with a practitioner who has progressed enough in their practice to be able to let go of ritual that things start to become clearer.
In esoteric Buddhism, empowerments are events which help us to progress in our practice. When empowerments are given, they are directly related to a particular practice, Buddha or usually both. The teachers who give empowerments have integrated the specific practices or the energy of that Buddha so fundamentally with their own mind that, during the empowerment, they can move into their mind-space and become that energy very purely and clearly. The minds of the students recognise the energy and take from the empowerment subtle mind signposts that work like seed syllables. The energy or Buddha can then arise from these seeds in the mind of the student when they do their own practice.
After empowerment the students do their own meditation practice and a connection with the practice, or Buddha, can arise easily because they have already experienced what it is. They know it very deeply. What they have taken from the empowerment is a subtle knowledge which they can use to progress, using their own practice as the means of progression.
Attunements in Reiki work in exactly the same way. During the attunement the teacher becomes the energies of Earth and Heaven and moves into the states of Oneness and Emptiness. The student has set their intent to receive what they need from the attunement and is actively open to receive. The student does not need to do anything to make their subtle mind work correctly or know what to do. It is naturally clear, like an ocean. In the attunement the subtle minds of the teacher and student connect and become One. The student's mind recognises the clear energy spaces of Earth and Heaven, the states of Oneness and Emptiness within the mind of the teacher, and takes as much of that deep knowing from them as it is able to, at that time.
The Reiki attunement, Reiju, and the Buddhist empowerment all work in exactly the same way. They rely on the teacher being able to become the energies and states of being in their own mindspace for the student to become One with, and the student being receptive to recognising them and taking what they can. For beginner level 3 teachers, the attunement ritual is a step-by-step method that helps us to do this. Each part of the ritual is there to help us. We follow it with care and respect. We use it to become the energies and states, and become One with the student so they can take what they need.
Reiju works in a slightly more subtle way. In Reiju, the teacher becomes Emptiness and, as Emptiness is the origin of everything, Oneness, Heaven and Earth automatically exist within it for the student's mind to recognise, connect to and become One with, again taking what they need.
Reiki and Buddhism have both integrated into my spiritual practice. They are currently my complete practice. With Reiki, this has been what I intended. When I began with Reiki, I always intended to do Reiki practice. With Buddhism, it has been a completely different story. Buddhism is not where I started off from or where I intended to go. It appeared suddenly and by surprise, like an elephant in the garden. It has taught me many things. I have learnt that the spiritual path can be a free thing with its own direction that can't be anticipated. I have learnt that it works best when I do not try to define it, hang onto it, contain or control it. Openness helps; expectation does not. Working in this way is very freeing, but it requires patience and trust. It's wide open like the sky.