Hawayo Takata

Hawayo Takata was born on the 24 December 1900, on an island of Kauai, Hawaii, called Hanamaulu. She worked as both an assistant teacher and shop assistant before working in the household of a wealthy sugar cane plantation owner. She became head housekeeper and had 21 staff under her. Her husband died at the age of 34, leaving her with two daughters.

In 1935 her health deteriorated and she decided to return to her family in Tokyo. She was diagnosed as having a tumour, gallstones and other physical problems. While she was lying on the operating table a voice came into her head, telling her that the operation was not necessary. She consulted with the surgeon and asked if there was another way she could be treated. Enquiries were made and she was directed to Chujiro Hayashi's clinic. She stayed at the clinic for six months and was successfully treated. During this time she enquired about enrolling as a student. Dr Hayashi did not teach foreigners, but he eventually relented and taught Hawayo Takata as an honorary member.

In 1936 she volunteered to work at the clinic and lived at the Hayashi family home. She practised and studied for a year and progressed to Okudan - the second level of Reiki training. Hawayo Takata finished her training in 1937 and returned to Hawaii. Chujiro Hayashi and his daughter followed her and stayed for six months, helping her set up a Reiki practice in Honolulu. Before leaving he announced that Hawayo Takata had become a Master of the Usui System of Natural Healing. In 1938 she took classes in anatomy and other therapies before continuing her practice.

In 1939 she set up a successful practice in Hilo. Her treatments would take as long as two hours and continue for one or two days, or up to a year. She was a renowned practitioner of great experience. Takata never called herself a Grand Master. Her fees were flexible according to clients' means.

On 1 January 1940 she had a dream about Chujiro Hayashi. She settled her affairs and went to Japan. There she discovered that Dr Hayashi had decided to end his life. He did not wish to take the lives of others in the coming war against America. On 10 May 1940 he passed away from a self-induced stroke, with his friends and family around him. Hawayo Takata had been left the Hayashi practice and home in Tokyo. She returned to America, leaving it in the hands of Hayashi's widow, Chie Hayashi. Returning to Japan 14 years later she officially handed the house and clinic back to Chie Hayashi.

For thirty years Hawayo Takata worked in Honolulu, travelling regularly around the islands teaching. In 1973 she began teaching on the mainland of America and Canada. She taught level one and two until l976, when, at the age of seventy six, she taught her first Reiki Master student.

In 1975 she suffered a heart attack and made preparations for her retirement. This was not to be, for she went on to teach twenty two Reiki Masters. Students did not have a waiting period between levels, so each level could be reached fairly quickly. She taught in what is known as the oral tradition. From knowledge gathered from her students, it seems her teachings were often at variance with one another. She taught what she felt was appropriate for each class and no two teachings were identical. Symbols and mantras passed on to students were not always the same. The Five Principles were taught to all her students and 12 hand positions known as the Foundation Treatment.

Hawayo Takata gave four attunements for Level One, two or three for Level Two and one for Level Three. She did not teach the chakra system, but worked from the Hara. She gave her own version of the history of Reiki, some people believe, to make it more acceptable to the Western mind. Hawayo Takata died of a heart attack on 11 December 1980. She did not officially name her successor. After her death a group called the Reiki Alliance was formed. Her granddaughter, Phyllis Lei Furumoto, was elected as the lineage bearer of the system of Reiki called Usui Shiki Ryoho. It was the first time this term had ever been used in Reiki.

Since then Reiki has grown in diversity and become a worldwide organisation. There are many different streams of Reiki being taught that have evolved from individual Reiki Master Teachers channelling new ways and techniques of working with the energy system. If Mikao Usui were alive today, he probably wouldn't recognise our Western system of Reiki, as it has grown and developed to meet the needs of different cultures today. I would like to think that he would smile at the ingenuity and training techniques that continue to have at their heart, the unlocking of the potential within each one of us that is relevant for each stage of development within our personal psyche.