When I was first learning about reiki from my brother, I was surprised and disappointed to find out that reiki is like any other system or school or practice. After it started, people started created their own variations, and because conflict is part of human nature, people from the various systems of reiki can criticize each other and fight with each other, which is … not really the point of reiki. But those are humans for you.
In most Western systems of reiki, the teachings are divided into three levels: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 (in Japanese traditional teaching, these are called okuden, shoden and shinpiden). Generally, after doing Level 3 or shinpiden, reiki practitioners are considered able to teach others reiki, though some of us don’t teach, and just use our practice to treat others and ourselves (and as a personal spiritual practice).
It is also after this level that generally, around the world, people refer to themselves as reiki masters. I’ve always been uncomfortable with this term. I think the reason why is that the word is often said with a mocking tone by people who think reiki or the idea of a reiki master is a bit silly.
The thing is: I agree that the phrase sounds silly. The word ‘master’, in common usage, means that someone possesses particular skills or experiences that give them mastery in an area. But my problem, when this is applied to reiki, is that it is not that difficult to simply do the classes. While you should do one level at a time, with time for the teachings to settle in between, these days I’ve heard of people who do the levels very quickly, or all at the same time. There are no particular tests to prove that someone has absorbed the knowledge. As long as you have the money for the courses, and take the time to do them, you too can become a ‘reiki master’.
But what I’ve learned from my teacher, Frans Stiene, and from practising reiki for over twenty years, is that reiki is a spiritual practice and a daily practice that includes meditation and chanting and trying to live a life according to the reiki precepts, to ‘just for today, not to worry or be angry, to be compassionate to ourselves and others, and be true to our way and being.’
Some people who do reiki courses do not continue to practice reiki regularly, so in this case, I’m not sure that the title of ‘reiki master’ is very meaningful.
Most importantly, to me, the title ‘reiki master’ can interfere with a reiki treatment. Used in the wrong way, or said in the wrong way, the term implies a superiority, a wise guru and expert who has masterful powers. But my role as a reiki practitioner during a treatment is not to DO something to my client, and not to wield magical powers, but to open a healing space in which both practitioner and client work together. The aim is not for me to be superior to my client.
For these reasons, I prefer using the term ‘reiki practitioner’, which is kind of a mouthful to say, but it suits me best. I’ve heard people use the term ‘reiki therapist’ but to me, therapy is associated more closely with clinical treatments and counselling. The term ‘reiki healer’ is not too bad, but I read too many fantasy novels in my younger years and tend to think of ‘healers’ as wearing long white robes using an arsenal of potions and a magic wand. So, for now, reiki practitioner it is … and that’s why I’m not a reiki master!
(As an addendum, which is somewhat related but I don’t want to do a separate blog on, a LOT of people seem to find my website while searching for ‘spiritual healing‘ or a ‘spiritual healer‘. While reiki works at an energetic level that is tied to a particular philosophy and sense of spirituality, I don’t define what I do as spiritual healing. A quick search on Google and I’m still confused. I know there are spiritualist churches (where people talk to the dead) and I have heard the expression before, ‘spiritual healing’, but I’m not sure, when someone calls themselves a spiritual healer in Sydney, what they actually do or offer.)