Usui Reiki Simplified Symbols

Reiki ... the study and practice of ethically harnessing and applying universal life energy for the purposes of improving our lives ... is fairly easy to learn. Legend tells that Master Usui uncovered ancient symbols which accessed the energies. The symbols, once considered secret and esoteric, have become part of mainstream new age culture.

Reiki symbolReiki symbolReiki symbolReiki symbol

These symbols, although available to the general public, are typically not taught until the second course; the first course being a study of the history of Reiki, the people who developed and shared the system, and the ethics underscoring the practice. Before Reiki became popularized, it's highly unlikely that these symbols would have been given so much attention...

Where did these symbols come from? Most Reiki courses explain that Master Usui discovered the symbols after years of searching through ancient documents, and received enlightenment on what they meant and how to use them through a personal spiritual epiphany.

Most students of Usui Reiki accept and memorize the symbols as provided in the coursework, often becoming practitioners, Reiki Masters and teachers. Many other students of Usui Reiki move beyond the traditional system and create their own versions of Reiki. These new versions of Reiki often address the treatment of various natural issues, incorporation of many different spiritual paths, and the pure enjoyment of sharing wonderful ideas and well as often including simpler, easy-to-understand, new symbols.

The simplicity of the newer symbols, along with the distinctly Japanese flavor of some of the original symbols, leads me to return to traditional Usui Reiki with new eyes. What do these symbols communicate to us, on a global level, and how may the more complex among these symbols be simplified?

In my opinion, the first symbol is very evocative of ancient artwork, invoking the spirals of labyrinths and crop circles. Indeed, the symbol is of the universal life energy; an energy known to ancient and contemporary people. The essential element of this graphic is the spiral; a form known in nature and well expressed in the shells of snails and creatures of the sea. This form has also been used in contemporary Goddess iconography to symbolize the feminine womb and possibility of conception.

This is the symbol of the origin, possibility, and the unexplainable life force that is given by divine sources. It is a gift from a higher power, and it is the primordial symbol of Reiki; that which is invoked as Reiki is "turned on" and thanked for its presence as Reiki is "turned off" during any session.

Reiki ChoKuRei Symbol

The second symbol, apparently less ancient in form, is an abstraction of the belly and breasts of a pregnant female filled with prenatal life. This symbol of a healthy baby growing and lovingly cared for in the womb symbolizes a protective emotional environment, and the soothing care of an expectant mother.  This symbol speaks regarding incubation and protection of emotional needs of the living; love, hope, dreams, disappointments and aspirations.

Reiki SeiHeiKi Symbol

After these two symbols come two very stylized symbols which, to my American eyes, seem very Japanese in flavor. Memorizing these symbols was a labor of love, rather than one of cultural appropriation. However; their form is not intuitive at first glance. The first of these symbols is an extremely helpful series of forms which symbolize dimensions of traversing distance; the ability for connection despite global separation, time travel to the past and the future, and perhaps space travel for those so inclined. Like any complicated machinery, the symbol is complex.

Reiki HonShaZeiShoNen Symbol

This symbol, so strongly styled as Japanese in my opinion, speaks volumes of complexity to a global culture...and, again in my opinion, may be even more accessible and useful globally were we to simplify the image to its most basic form.

As an Architect, trained in graphic arts, I look for a repeated pattern that tells the story...and I find two pointers looking in the same direction. In effect, it's the opposite of a yin/yang symbol in which we typically see a balance of opposites. Here we see a duplication of uni-directional travel. The traditional Reiki symbol is on the left. On the right are the two pointers derived from the symbol. Can you see the pointers in the original symbol?

Reiki HonShaZeShoNen Symbol and Simplified Graphic

Our complicated Japanese symbol about distance becomes a simple representation of two pointers in alignment, similarly directing a focus toward a different location. This becomes a more global communication symbol, of similarly global ancient origins. It speaks to us of being in one place and looking in alignment toward another specific place or point in time; in alignment, perhaps, with a higher power. Here is my suggestion for a simplified graphic representing distance.

Reiki Symbol Simplification

And the final symbol; a symbol of supreme power, is also highly stylized and, in my opinion, appears as a very Japanese style graphic within the traditional Usui Reiki system. This symbol, although not quite as flexible and useful as the previous symbol, is intended to evoke the supernal divine higher powers of spirituality within its imagery. It speaks, in a grand way, of power descending from above, and gently filtering down to us here on earth.

Reiki DaiKoMyo Symbol

What the two boxes at the base symbolize is not entirely clear to me, as a person with some knowledge of Germanic runes, because the orientation of what appear to be letter figures within the boxes is not necessarily the most auspicious. This symbol, fortunately, lends itself easily to simplification. Again, I look for hints repeated patterns and I see several repeated motifs. On the right is my suggestion for a simplified version of this traditional symbol. Looking above the two boxes, do you see this pattern?

Reiki DaiKyoMo Symbol with Simplification

The simplified symbol I am suggesting appears to resemble a simple ancient Celtic icon which symbolized the rays of the sun as a divine force of nature; the sun has represented divine power since time immemorial. Similar symbols of sun rays may also exist within other ancient cultures too. Here is my suggestion for a simplified Reiki symbol to the left, alongside a traditional Celtic symbol for the sun's rays to the right. Can you see the similarity?

Simplified Reiki symbol and Celtic symbol

If these simplified symbols resonate strongly with the Universal Life Force Energies, as well as the original Reiki ethics and teachings, it may be appropriate to simplify the complicated Japanese style traditional Usui graphics, creating more globally understandable images. This may assist us to release any fears of cultural appropriation and open the path to more easily understand and globally unify in our understanding of the underlying ethical intention included in traditional Usui Reiki teachings. In my opinion, memorizing esoteric graphics has far less value than learning how to put divine life energies to work in ways that are beneficial to us all.

The graphic below shows two simple traditional Usui Reiki symbols, and two simplified symbols derived directly from the illustrated teachings of Usui Reiki. The simpler symbols are shared with the intention of being very easy to learn and relating fairly to the ethical and effective international practice of Usui Reiki by those who have studied and attuned globally to traditional methods.

Traditional and Simplified Usui Reiki Symbols