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What It Means To Be A Reiki Shihan (Master)

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Last Updated: April 16, 2014
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This page is one of a series where I give my ideas on aspects of Reiki.  They are intended to give some "food for thought" and some are only my viewpoint.  While a number of Reiki facts are included, you should decide for yourself how much (if any) of the content feels right to you.

While a seasoned Reiki Master may find they have little need of the thoughts here, perhaps there is something that the new or upcoming Reiki teacher will find helpful.

In the past 2 decades I have found that some Reiki Masters are uncomfortable using the term "master".  In original Japanese Reiki, there were 2 important terms used in the higher forms of Usui Reiki Ryoho.  One was “Shinpiden” which implied you had received the complete set of teaching from one of Usui Sensei's students.  Another was “Shihan” (teacher or model) which implied you were allowed to have your own students.  Not very many Reiki practitioners achieved both states. In the old society, Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, few were raised to Shihan as there was only one teacher in a given area (usually a city and it's surrounding area).  Others, like several current members of the URR Gakkai, achieved “Shinpiden” but did not wish to become a Shihan. 

The term “Reiki Master” was not used, and the method of teaching would have depended upon how long and how deeply you studied with Usui Sensei. Only Dr. Hayashi and Mr. Eguchi actually completed the 13 step training (to shichidan).   Sensei’s focus was ultimately that of spiritual growth, while his students Hayashi, Eguchi and Admiral Ushida preferred to add in a healing side to their teachings, calling it Usui Reiki Ryoho.  This is the side that was brought to the West by Takata-sensei.

The term “Reiki Master”
was not used in old Reiki

While a traditional Japanese Shihan might be considered as a role model for students, the Master level in Western Reiki is not the same concept as in other oriental teachings.  Usually a Master of an oriental discipline implies that the individual is spiritually enlightened (or close) and without flaw.  In Reiki, a Master is simply someone who has the ability and knowledge to give a Reiki transformation (attunement) to another, and to assist them to the shihan level.  This holds true regardless of the individual's spiritual growth or personal beliefs.

Most non-Reiki people are not aware of this and so they may stereotype Reiki Masters along with other spiritual discipline Masters.  Indeed they will assume that the Reiki Master is an expert in the area of Reiki, in knowledge, and in power. 

The reality is that the expertise of a Reiki Master is a very individual measure.  Personally, I feel it depends on a combination of several traits, among them: 

a) a desire to seek out all information about Usui Reiki Ryoho and Mikao Usui

b) experience in giving Reiki sessions to self and to others, and in teaching Reiki

c) a desire to learn other techniques in energy transmission

d) personal abilities to hold and transmit Reiki and ohter healing energies

e) the amount of time and effort spent on personal development and spiritual growth

and most important

f) their level of growth in displaying understanding, compassion and Love for others.

The expertise of a Reiki Master
is a very individual measure.

Depending upon the needs of the student, all, some, or none of the above will be a requirement for their own satisfaction in working with the Reiki Master. Therefore, it stands to reason that you, as a Reiki Master, will always have the knowledge and abilities to satisfy the needs of some student or other at any time of your life. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the master appears.

Being honest about your background and sources of information with those who approach you and those you share with will always serve to benefit you.  For example, there are some Reiki Masters on the internet who do not give credit to the source of their own information, leading the reader to believe that they are the source. Some may copy entire web pages onto their site, or they may skip credit to their immediate source and give credit to the origin.  This may indicate either a lack of awareness on the master's part or even a lack of self worth and honesty – areas the person may require much growth in. 

I've found that when I need growth in an area I usually draw to me a student who will mirror that need for change and improvement – a challenging experience to say the least. On that note, I also find that it helps to visualize attracting the right students and/or clients to you at all times. 

Having learned all the techniques of the master level and the previous Reiki levels, you can now decide how you will apply them.  Regardless of the teachings of your current and former teachers, you should probably follow your own inner guidance as to which methods and techniques will be part of your own Reiki practice.  If you decide to teach, you must select which knowledge you will pass on. 

Having learned all the techniques of the master level and the previous Reiki levels, you can now decide how you will apply them. 

My Reiki Master manual, and the manuals and handouts from my other Reiki levels are my attempt to pass on to the new Reiki Master much of the useful information I have received from my teachers.  I've tried to give credit to the source of each piece of information, so that the new shihan can research further and decide if it is useful.  Also, I've noted where I have made changes to a process, as in the attunements. 

Students may decide to use or create a different attunement process than the ones taught in class, which is why I guide my master students in working with several Western and Japanese versions, giving them a wide variety of experience.  I feel it helps to think about what you intend to offer your students, to understand that you are simply a conduit for the energy and knowledge you share, with a higher part of the student deciding the outcome.

As a teacher you may acquire students from other schools of Reiki.  Some teachers require such students to retake their previous levels with the new teacher, but personally I don’t feel this is required.  It is probably easier to work with the student in advance of class and at that time give them some updated information (symbols, concepts, etc.) and even give them a re-attunement, for example to Reiki 2, so they get a connection to any additional symbols and to your own Reiki energy. 

You may also have students who decide to try out other Reiki Masters after learning from you.  Please do not allow this to get in the way of your ego.  It is natural for people to be inquisitive and to want to try out other teachers.  If you are the right Master for them, they will be there for you to teach.  In no way should you ever attempt to control or dominate your students, as this will most likely return as a karmic issue. 

You are simply a conduit for the energy and knowledge you share

As for your own personal and spiritual growth, realize that the attainment of the Shihan or Master's level is just another step along the way.  In the URR Gakkai, once you completed a level it was simply an indication that now you were in the process of integrating it and learning how to become this particular level.  Usui Sensei reportedly studied many disciplines before coming upon a way to share his ideals.  In the process he had a tremendous energy experience connecting him strongly to his own highest qi or energy, one strong enough to impress greatly upon his own students 

You too may find more wondrous energies and opportunities coming your way.  You may also experience a lot of cleansing as unwanted blockages are finally released from your aura.  In some cases you may find yourself discontinuing old ways, habits, foods, relationships and being attracted to new ones.  This is all a very natural process as you become more aligned with the Reiki energy and your life path.  Ultimately, you may access your own version of Reiki, your own Highest Qi (Ki) just like Usui Sensei, and the creators of other energy systems like Seichim and Magnified Healing.

The future is a Threshold of opportunity waiting to be crossed.

The attainment of the Shihan 
or Master level is just another
step along the way.

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