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Was Mikao Usui a Shugenja?

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Article by Shibumi International Reiki Association

Was Mikao Usui, the founder of the system of Reiki, a Shugenja?

Some sources say that Mikao Usui was not only a Tendai practitioner but was also practicing Shugendo. A person who practices Shugendo is called a Shugenja or Yamabushi.

Shugendo is an ancient Japanese practice which focuses on reaching enlightenment in this lifetime through ascetic mountain practices.  Shugendo is a mix of esoteric Buddhism, Japanese shamanic practices, Shinto, Chinese Yin/Yang philosophy and Japanese folk beliefs. After 1868 however, the Mejii government ordered a seperation of Buddhist and Shinto elements and outlawed Shugendo because of its mix of Buddhism and Shinto. Some Shugendo temples found protection within both individual Tendai and Shingon Buddhist schools.

Shugendo was also the platform for the many “new religions”  (Jap. Shinko shukyo) in Japan which started up in the late 1800s. And in recent times there is a renewed interest in Shugendo practices.

The founder of Shugendo is the legendary En No Gyoja who is known to have written a specific text called “The Sutra on the Unlimited Life of the Threefold Body”. This sutra was chanted in Shugendo alongside the Heart Sutra. According to researcher and writer Paul Swanson this sutra reassures shugenjas that they can realize the same mind of enlightenment as that of the Buddha through entering the concentrated trance of meditation.

Is this concept of enlightenment connected to the system of Reiki?

Mikao Usui is thought to have been a Tendai practitioner who studied the shugendo path. Confirming this, his memorial stone states that he performed some of the trademark Shugendo practices such as “divination”, “incantation”, “Taoism” and “Shugyo” (deep mind body training). In fact, in Shugendo there is a traditional 21 day fasting meditation called Mizudachi no Gyo.

Did Mikao Usui adapt these teachings to create the formative understandings of the system of Reiki? Will we ever know?

Do you feel that Mikao Usui might have been a Shugenja?

More information on En No Gyoja
More information on Japanese new religions

15 Jul 2011

Article/Information supplied by Shibumi International Reiki Association

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.