Reiki was first created in the 20th century by Mikao Usui, who was a Tendai Buddhist. He spent a large amount of time meditating and fasting, and it was during these activities that he discovered Reiki. He wrote that he had learned of the practice through a mystical experience. The knowledge that he gained would allow him to harness and apply the powers that are attributed to Reiki. By using initiations, he would be able to help people gain access to energy. When patients participate in these initiations, they may become a more powerful channel for the energy, and this can help them receive better treatments.
Some of the ideas for Reiki are quite similar to the concept of "qi." Usui also studies subjects such as Yoga, Ayurveda, and classic Chinese medicines. Mikao Usui would go on to train a number of students, who went on to become his disciples. One of his most prominent disciples was Chujiro Hayashi, who went on to teach and spread the Reiki techniques. The variation that he taught was much more simple than the techniques that had been promoted by Mikao Usui. It was Hayashi who first developed a collection of specific hand positions. This was a sharp contrast to Usui, who preferred more mystical methods for treatment.
Hayashi trained Hawayo Takata, and she would go on to introduce the practice in the United States. While she claimed to be a Grandmaster, the term is not used in Japan. As the practice of Reiki spread throughout the world, the practice became split into two categories, and these are independent school and traditional school. The traditional schools were devoted to teaching Reiki in the same manner that it was taught by the founder Mikao Usui. In contrast, the independent schools teach Reiki in a way that differs greatly from that which was used by Usui.
Ironically, Reiki is rare in Japan, the country from which it originated. It is much more popular in the West, and has become popular in a number of hospitals. One notable example of Reiki being used by the healthcare industry is the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. In recent years, a number of changes have occurred with Reiki schools. Many of them are now moving towards independent forms that can allow the treatment to be more widely available to a larger segment of the population. Some have even begun merging Reiki with a number of New Age practices or beliefs such as channeling and Wicca. A number of symbols and new procedures have been added.
The vast majority of changes that have been made in Reiki are a result of the harm that adherents believe Hawayo Takata brought to the practice. While her methods were strict, the methods that are used for Reiki today are much more loose. One element that some schools have added to the practice of Reiki is called Seichim energy, and will alter the experience and practice of channeling. The independent Reiki movement has made it popular with a larger segment of the population.