Updated: Sep 7
Buddhist monks won’t talk about Reiki, at least the Tibetan variety. A couple of years ago, I was visiting Samye Ling monastery in Scotland with one of my Reiki students. The monastery had an established programme of various workshops and training courses that monks or members of the public could attend for their own personal advancement. Their training courses are high calibre, expert-led affairs that have good standing in the Buddhist community and elsewhere.
There was no Reiki on offer, so my student and I thought to offer it. Given the extensive Buddhist connections with Reiki, they would, we assumed, quite naturally, be interested in hosting such a workshop.
The dismissive smiles and the monk’s refusal to engage in any meaningful explanation for their lack of interest in Reiki puzzled both of us. Why wouldn’t a Buddhist monastery, that routinely hosted Qi Gong workshops and the like, not want to be associated with the practice of Reiki? After all, it’s another energy healing discipline that is not so far removed from the practice of Qi Gong. There was no answer forthcoming, and we couldn’t even guess at a plausible explanation.
Fast forward to February 2020. I was about six chapters into my new book, Mindfulness Meditation and The Art of Reiki, and, in following up on my publisher’s suggestion to try and get some endorsements, I approached Gelong Thubten. Thubten is a Buddhist monk, author of the hugely successful, A Monk’s Guide to Happiness, and a well-known teacher of secular meditation for business and other organisations around the world.
His reply to me was “I’m so sorry, but reiki is a topic I would rather not comment on.”
WHY? Why on earth do Buddhist monks refuse to engage in this conversation or comment on the practice of Reiki? I didn’t get it.
Now I do. I think.
Fast forward again to September 2020. Whilst continuing to conduct research for my book, then up to about chapter 9, I came across another book with a completely cringe-worthy title: Reiki Transmissions of Light, Volume 1, by Robert Fueston. The awful title notwithstanding, it is one of the best Reiki books to have been published in some time. Fueston’s research and presentation of his findings is impeccable and in-depth.
Buried on page 117, there is an interesting little story that Fueston tells of a meeting with a Qi Gong teacher and his students. Fueston, it seems, taught them Reiki. Their reaction to that training was extremely interesting.
The Qi Gong teacher commented that, following the Reiki initiation, it felt as if his Qi Gong practice had advanced by several years all in one go. Another teacher commented that Reiki is just ‘lazy person’s Qi Gong’. Another interesting comment.
What to make of these comments in the light of Buddhist monk’s refusal to engage on the topic of Reiki?
An Interesting Theory
For me, Reiki has always been a personal spiritual development tool and not so much a method of hands-on healing. Frankly, you can throw this aspect of the practice in the bin, and you still have a worthwhile set of spiritual tools.
Any good spiritual practice (and we can certainly count Qi Gong in that light), will, over time lead the practitioner to the realisation and arising of two critical qualities: wisdom and compassion. These two qualities, which go hand-in-hand, are so important to the spiritual advancement of us all. They arise due to a steadfast and committed spiritual practice over many years.
In the case of esoteric Buddhist practices, often accompanied by energetic empowerments that have clear and obvious similarities to the Reiki attunements or initiations, the realisation of the state of enlightenment is possible through a deep commitment to those empowered practices. According to Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, enlightenment is “… a state of perfect knowledge or wisdom, combined with infinite compassion.” It can also be defined as our true nature and our home. It is the realisation of the true nature of everything, the entire universe and beyond, stripped of conditioned perceptions and attachments. With such realisations, such connections to the true nature of what we in Reiki call ‘the universal energy field’, profound abilities can develop. Such an ability manifested for Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki.
Enlightenment and the attainment of what we might call ‘special abilities’ such as the ability to bring healing to those in need through the laying on of hands, is the birth-right of us all. Such abilities, in the normal course of things, take time to develop. There is a need to commit to the practice. Wisdom and compassion can’t simply be given to each student during a weekend workshop. Yet in Reiki, with the arising of nothing, powerful abilities to channel the energy of enlightenment, to awaken the recipient of Reiki to their innate state of perfection, are given with a simple attunement or initiation process. Each Reiki treatment is, in essence, an opening of the door to the Absolute.
Lazy Person’s Qi Gong
Is it any wonder that a Qi Gong teacher, committed to his life-long study of his chosen discipline, should call Reiki ‘Lazy Person’s Qi Gong’? With the giving of an esoteric empowerment Reiki practitioners leapfrog many years of commitment to gain something they would otherwise have to work hard to achieve, just like the Qi Gong teacher in Robert Fueston’s book was in the process of doing.
Wisdom and compassion might arise of course during the journey that a Reiki practitioner takes with their practice following their attunement, assuming they are committed to their own spiritual advancement. But isn’t this putting the horse before the cart? Aren’t wisdom and compassion supposed to be simultaneous companions of the slow revelation of our own true nature? Isn’t enlightenment predicated on the arising of these two qualities, which then leads to the attainment of spiritual abilities such as healing which can be used through the lens of wisdom and compassion?
It’s interesting to look back at some of the earlier texts that discuss the history of Reiki. Over and over again there are references to Mikao Usui being a Qi Gong master (Ki Ko in Japanese). He knew exactly what he was doing in drawing on the esoteric Buddhist Qi Gong understanding of the nature of subtle energy in the formulation of his system.
Usui did not give his students a one-hit instant enlightenment experience as we do today in the Reiki initiations. His students had to put in the hard work and commit to their practice over time, working with the tools within the method. His reiju, the precursor of the modern Western attunement/initiation, certainly pushed his students in the required direction but also allowed for the simultaneous arising of wisdom and compassion. Reiki without these twin qualities can be, quite frankly, a completely ego-driven or juvenile practice. Hence the bad name that Reiki has gotten in so many quarters because of its hijacking by the New Age and all the Angels, Spirit Guides, Ascended Masters, and other delusional attachments to the practice that have happened. Wisdom in these instances, is a far and distant goal. It’s interesting to note how many Reiki practitioners refer to themselves as healers. That says it all right there.
Why Buddhist Monks Won't Talk About Reiki
Reiki gives people instant abilities that require no work or commitment from them at all. Without long-term commitment, there is no and can be no, arising of deep and profound qualities such as wisdom and compassion that naturally arise with the slow evolution into a spiritual practice. Such practitioners find themselves in situations where the well-being and health and healing of another human being can be in their hands. Wisdom and compassion as well as a connection to the universal energy field are absolute requirements in this context. So often I read of Reiki practitioners trying to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ or ‘make this happen’ in terms of another person’s journey into healing. This is all ego and attachment.
Yes, lazy person’s Qi Gong, but where does that leave us as teachers of Reiki? Are we meddling with energies and people that we should not be? Esoteric Buddhists would say yes and, quite rightly, will not touch this practice. They see beyond the ‘my practice is better than your practice’ and the hostility and sarcasm that dominates so much discourse and social media commentary within many parts of the Reiki community. Perhaps they also see the lack of understanding of the nature of the thing that we work with, which is so easily taken for granted following an attunement.
If we are going to continue to teach this system, we must commit to our students fully and support them on their journey. We must explore the system deeply for ourselves. We must be wary of our own ego’s and look for the signs when we start to imagine we are ‘connecting to higher beings’ or receiving ‘lost or new or deeper or secret teachings’ or having ‘more powerful symbols’ revealed to us.
Supporting our students should go hand in hand with our life-long commitment to developing ourselves spiritually. It doesn’t end. It shouldn’t be the case of simply attuning someone to Reiki and leaving them to get on with it.
Conversations with the Monks
For me, I would love to have a conversation of some depth with some Buddhist monks about their refusal to engage with Reiki. I am not and never have been in the game of blindly defending this practice. I would love to gather, explore, and reflect on different perspectives and I am certainly open to the views and ideas that are not only dismissive of Reiki but also view it as a potentially harmful practice. Being open to what the universe can bring through my engagement with the Reiki teachings is what I have learned so far through many years of working with the system. I want to learn more, but I feel that knowledge and that wisdom is not held within the Reiki community, so I don’t look there for it. It’s held in the much older and wiser spiritual traditions that led to Reiki’s birth in the first place. If you want to understand the system of Reiki, look outside of Reiki, because that’s where you will find the answers.