Reiki is considered a spiritual practice that was developed by Mikao Usui. Mikao Usui was born in 1865. He died of a stroke in 1926. It was he who founded the practice of Reiki. He created it as a spiritual healing practice for treating physical, emotional and mental illnesses. On Usui's memorial stone there is an inscription stating that he taught Reiki to over 2000 people in his lifetime. Out of the 2000 people, 16 of his students continued to become Shinpinden level. This level is equivalent to the third degree level in Western practice of Master/teacher level.
Shintoism influenced Usui, which is a traditional Japanese faith that was influenced by the Chinese prior to its inception in Japan. Shintoism focuses on the Kami or gods in forms of birds, animals, mountains, trees and people. Motoori Norinaga one of the great Shintoists of his time (1730-1801) stated, “according to ancient usage, whatever seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence or inspired the feeling of awe is Kami.” Usui himself used “Jumon” which are spells and incantations in his teachings that derived from both Shintoism and Taoism.
In addition to being a Tendai Buddhist, it was said that Usui also practiced Shugendo. Shugendo is referred to as a Japanese ascetic shamanistic practice incorporating elements of both Shintoism and Buddhisim. Shugendo practitioners practice divination, channeling, prayer and exorcisms. Family clans to ward of disease and misfortune often used Shugendo.
Usui studied at temple school and continued his Buddhist education until he became a zaike or lay Tendai priest. This allowed him to remain at home with his family without having to reside in a temple with the other monks. He continued to study his whole life and his other studies included; history, medicine, Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism and psychology. Because of his ancestry Usui was also raised samurai specifically aiki jutsu. His ancestor clan were Hatamoto samurai. These were samurai that were in direct service of Tokugawa shogunate of Feudal Japan.
The Japanese word Reiki in Shinjitai Japanese or Katana means mysterious atmosphere/spiritual power which is borrowed from the Chinese word lingqi meaning spiritual influence (of things such as mountains). The Japanese compound words “rei” meaning ghost, spirit, soul, supernatural, divine or ethereal body combines with “ki” meaning air, gas, breath, energy, force. The word “qi” translates as life force, vital energy, spiritual energy or energy of life. Regardless of the synonyms associated with the word Reiki it boils down to life force and universal energy, which is spiritual in nature.