The Spiritual Journey of The Reiki Teacher’s Teacher. ~ Frans Stiene

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Journaling my spiritual practice in Japan.

As some of you might know I recently went to Japan to train with a Japanese Shingon priest, Takeda Hakusai Ajari, who was once a Tendai monk as a disciple of the great Sakai Dai Ajari, to learn about Shinto, Shugendo, Tendai and Shingon practices. My interest in pursuing this training is to find out more about the heritage of the system of Reiki’s teachings. And, naturally to expand my own spiritual practice.

The founder of the system of Reiki (Usui Mikao) was a Buddhist practitioner said to have studied different forms such as Tendai, Pure Land, Shinto and Shugendo. I have a special interest in understanding, both intellectually and experientially, how these practices have been incorporated into the system of Reiki.


What can I say about the training? I could use many words, but at this moment, only 3 days into the training, I would sum it up like this: many things changing, practice changing, insights changing. Finally, I have a few moments of time to write some thoughts down about this intensive training.

It started Monday with a 13 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns to Japan, landing at 7pm. That same evening I met my teacher at a hotel close to the airport where I went into the onsen, a hot Japanese bath, to refresh myself, then to dinner, and then straight away into a teaching pattern until about 11pm.

I awoke at 4.30am to get in a little time in the wonderful onsen before heading off early for a day in the mountains for waterfall practice explanations.

First, we went to a specific shugendo temple in the mountains near Osaka where my teacher practiced waterfall takigyo. Then off to Kurama Yama for a climb up the mountain. I’ve been here twice before but this time was certainly unique. During the climb I was told to practice the mantra which I had been taught the previous night, and as it was all new to me I found it really difficult to do. Walking and trying to remember a long mantra is far more difficult than it sounds.

My teacher makes me sit on the many benches during our climb to hear if I am reciting the mantra correctly. Not correct? Then no lunch, keep walking! And off to the next bench, until I perform it exactly how he wants me to chant it. Starving!

That night we stay in a small hotel at the foot of Mt Hiei (the famous Tendai mountain), and after dinner we drive around to have a look at some well known temples of prominent Tendai Buddhist teachers. I am learning so much about the Japanese culture, philosophy, religion and ways. This journey is so much more than I could have hoped for.

Back at the hotel we start with more practice and teaching. My teacher seems to only need about 3 hours sleep a night, but luckily for me he lets me sleep a little longer. After a long drive, during which we discuss Usui-san’s teachings and more mantra practice, we arrive at the temple in which I am to stay for the rest of the teachings.

Even though we have just driven through japanese traffic for almost four hours, the Ajari starts to teach straight away. There is no stopping him. After dinner I am sent to my room to review the practice and teachings, he knocks on the door at around 9:30 and sits down, waiting for me to do the practices for him in order to correct any mistakes I am making. I finally get to lie down on my mat around 11pm.


I wake up after a strange dream at 3:30am and decide to review my practices, only to discover that it was actually 2:30am. My phone alarm was still on Sydney time! At 6am I learn a water cleansing ritual and perform this with some cold buckets of water. Brrrr. Then off to the main hall for the morning ceremony, followed by a review of my practice in which the Ajari corrects my mistakes again. I am actually very happy that he takes the time to help me with this as I want to do it as correctly as possible.

He is strict, yet very gentle and he slowly nudges me, gently helping me to push my own boundaries. Finally we have breakfast, and—you guessed it—after breakfast we go straight back into it again. This time focussing on Mahayana Buddhist teachings.

Interestingly, I am starting to see links to Usui’s teachings through the Ajari’s teachings, some of which he points out himself. One time he said, “Frans, this is like the Reiki precepts” or “This is like Usui-san’s enlightenment”.

We continue with this training till about 1pm when we have lunch. All the meals at the temple are based on these staples: rice, pickles, vegetables, miso, noodles—lovely fresh, healthy food. I am feeling great.

After lunch there are more Mahayana teachings. During the day my teacher sometimes stops and says, “Frans, show your practice”. And I think, “Oops, how did it go again?”, as my thoughts were so busy with understanding the other teachings.

Eventually I get to take a walk outside at around 6pm for 30 minutes. When I get back, dinner is ready. Then I have just 30 minutes to have a shower, after which he will review the teachings and practices again, by now it is 9.30pm. What a day! The Ajari still has to visit another temple tonight so I am advised to go to my room and review the teachings and practices by myself.

I am told to be ready by 6am. By now it is 11pm so I had better get some practice in before I go to sleep. Tomorrow is a brand new day and I am really excited by everything I am learning.


This morning was intense. I head off to the main temple hall at around 6am for the daily morning ceremony. After breakfast we have Mahayana teachings, and by 11 am I am chanting again. If I make a mistake my teacher stops me and I have to start from the beginning again until he is completely satisfied. This turned out to take one and a half hours of solid chanting practice!

It feels like my whole body is shaking inside, and by the time lunch comes around I certainly need it. There is a small break after lunch and then we start again with chanting, followed by Mahayana teachings. Before dinner I have some time to walk around and get some fresh air.

Dinner is noodles which we dip into a miso soup and slurp up, there are also some nice rice balls and a couple of corn fritters with a refreshing cup of green tea. I am satisfied and full. The Ajari shows me an addition to one of the practices and then I am free for the evening, as he is traveling to another local temple again tonight.

I perform some of the practices in my room again so that I will remember them. It is unbelievably hot here—unlike home where it is winter—and after a while I feel the sweat dripping off my body. I take a nice refreshing shower and write some more. Tomorrow is another day.


4:30am and I am wide awake, ready to start my practice. I shower, drink green tea and practice by myself. Before the daily morning ceremony, we do a water practice with buckets of cold water, which I find very clearing and empowering. After breakfast I begin to learn sutra copying, which is a very meditative practice.

In the afternoon, we travel to an old temple, established around 750 AD. Here I perform some of the practices I have been taught. This evening I did a hands-on healing session on the Ajari. After about 40 minutes of the session I felt I was finished.

I snuck out of the main temple hall where we did the session, and about 45 minutes later my teacher comes to find me, asking, “How long did you do that session for?” I answered, “40 minutes”. He looks at the clock and says, “Well I know it is now almost an hour and a half later since you started the session, and even though you left the hall I felt you still sitting there with me, holding the space until I got up.”

A couple of days ago I proposed to perform a reiju/attunement on my teacher. I found out that he had recently experienced a reiju/attunement with another Japanese Reiki teacher in Kyoto. In fact, before Takeda Ajari accepted my joining him for this spiritual practice in Japan, he had never had any interest in the system of Reiki at all. It was only after deciding to accept me as a student of Mahayana Buddhism for this retreat that he decided to find out what Reiki was.

He went to Kyoto and received a reiju/attunement from a Japanese Reiki teacher who insisted he is directly transmitting the most traditional form of Reiki in Japan. Unfortunately, Takeda Ajari didn’t like it as he felt it was just some kind of tapping and movement with the hands. He felt that the reiju/attunement that he received there was devoid of a ‘great mind’.


This morning at 5:30am I snuck into the main temple hall where there is a wonderful statue of Fudo Myo—plus many other statues as well—and did my practice. It is so empowering to do your practice in such a sacred space. At 7am we performed the morning ceremony and now I am taking it easy as my teacher and his student are preparing the shrine for a Goma (fire) ritual.

There will be just the three of us and it is said to take about an hour and a half. It is 10am and the Goma ritual begins. First we recite certain prayers and then the Ajari starts performing the Goma. Flames are rising higher and it is getting hot in the room—not just from the fire, but also from all the inner Goma/fire which is being stirred up by this ritual. At the end the Ajari blesses some objects which I will take home to Australia.

This was a moving experience, it felt as if I was watching an ancient ritual being performed that I could not only see, but that I could also feel deep inside. After the Goma we decided to take it easy (can you believe that?) and go to a local castle and museum, have some lunch and get some fresh air.

When we get back to the Temple, the Ajari wants to review all the practices we have done in the last week to ensure that I practice them correctly at home. After reviewing the practices, he performed another ritual for/on me which completely blew my mind. That is all I can say!


It is two days later, and I am waiting for my plane at Kansai Airport. I am Still feeling the effects of Sunday’s ritual. Somehow I feel this is going to have a long lasting effect on me. Not only on my practice, but also on how I lead my life. I certainly hope to go back soon for some more training.

Before my flight back to Sydney I had another day and a half in which I visited some interesting temples, went again to Mt Hiei and meditated at my favorite temple—Shoren In—where there is a very quiet garden that is beautiful to meditate in. What a place to end my journey.

Other Links of Interest

New York Reiki Conference 2012:

New York Shinpiden Reiki Level III: 

Testing Reiki Brainwaves:

What I am discovering from my Japanese Shugendo Training in Japan:

Here is some more info about Sakai Dai Ajari:


Often called “The Reiki Teacher’s Teacher”, Frans Stiene is co-founder of the International House of Reiki and Shibumi International Reiki Association. Along with his wife, Bronwen, he has co-authored critically acclaimed Reiki books such as The Reiki Sourcebook and The Japanese Art of Reiki. Based in Australia, Frans teaches regularly in North America, Europe and Asia. International House of Reiki teachings are informed by the Japanese culture and philosophy and their influence upon the founder of the system of Reiki. These teachings focus on physical and energy enhancing exercises to help practitioners delve deeper into their Reiki practice. These more traditional teachings consider the system not just to be a hands-on-healing practice, but one that also focuses on a student’s spiritual path. In September, Frans is the Keynote Speaker for the New York Reiki Conference 2012 and teaching Shinpiden Reiki Level III.


Editor: Carolyn Gilligan

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anonymous Jul 25, 2013 9:05pm

Thank you for sharing interesting read

anonymous Aug 24, 2012 4:21pm

Hi Shiv,
I think as teachers we need to realize that we will always be students as well, else we don't grow.

anonymous Aug 24, 2012 8:00am

Any spiritual practice is like mountain climbing. There are many signposts in our spiritual journey. Obviously it is for us to observe and act accordingly. Frans has demonstrated this very aspect clearly by sharing his experience as a student. I believe one does not cease to be a student till the end of his days. To learn one must unlearn. Thank you Frans.

anonymous Aug 18, 2012 9:26pm

Thank you for sharing your experience as a student Frans! The teacher who has stopped learning is not an inspiration to me. This is why I value you as my teacher. You continue to grow, encouraging me to do so as well.

anonymous Aug 18, 2012 4:55am

Hi Frans, I am so glad that you are so generous. Sofar my practices are lagging but when I read what you do I feel inspired and who knows what I might do yet. I know I am loved and love, Reiki is thee carrier for this. I trust that Bronwen and Bella still know you. Thank you for your dedication Frans.

anonymous Aug 17, 2012 2:55pm

As Japan encountered traumatic shifts in the 20th century, the gift of the system of Reiki nearly disappeared from this world. Modern / Western Reiki has done a great deal of good in keeping the system of Reiki alive and breathing and thriving, but disconnected from its roots, it has floundered and has gone sideways with its myriad variations and adaptations in the past 30+ years. Continually returning to the roots of Reiki, as Frans has, time and again, we see the profundity of a system that is rooted in ancient practices for realizing one's true nature, a spiritual practice, if you will, and one that has been masterfully rendered into utter simplicity and coherence by the enlightened genius, Usui-san. Frans' continued journey into the roots of Reiki is a huge benefit for Reiki practitioners one and all, and a wake up call as well to embrace the system of Reiki, practice it and teach it in the form it was originally intended and delivered in Japan by Usui-san, as a spiritual practice.

anonymous Aug 17, 2012 12:45pm

I really enjoyed Fran's article about his trip to Japan and seeing the link among Tendai, Shugendo, Shinto and Pure Land andReiki as we practice it today. Getting that sense of connection and continuity really does cut through the many diiferent "types" of Reiki we hear about today. That sense of oneness, of different ways of expressing the same, timeless thought really struck me and once again gives me new eyes in which to view my practice.
I look forward to learning more about Fran's trip, observations and applications to practicing and teaching the system of Reiki. Thank you so much for sharing this.

anonymous Aug 17, 2012 9:02am

[…] […]

anonymous Aug 17, 2012 8:42am

I am so thankful to have Frans as my Reiki teacher. He is a great example of how I approach teaching and practicing the system of Reiki. I am so grateful to have a teacher who keeps searching and delving deeper into the depths of the system. I love how through him I have learned many insights into the system of Reiki. Most importantly is that it is a Spiritual practice with many layers to be uncovered as we commit to a daily personal practice in a spiritual way. Frans has helped me to connect deeper to my true self. The commitment to bringing the system as it was clearly meant to be used/practiced to the greater community is inspiring. I am so grateful that Frans was able to go to Japan and share his experiences and insight with the rest of us!I have seen his classes change since the trip and it's incredible to witness. My hope is that the Reiki community as a whole, especially Reiki teachers start seeing/practicing/teaching/utilizing the system as a spiritual practice. Imagine where that will take us! Thank you Frans for all you do!

anonymous Aug 17, 2012 1:09am

Really enjoyed this summary of Frans' recent trip to Japan.. very interesting! Thanks for sharing. It's rare to find someone like Frans who is so dedicated to the practice and tradition of Reiki.

anonymous Aug 16, 2012 8:16pm

Frans is my Reiki Teacher, and… I’m a Reiki Teacher:) His own personal dedication to uncovering the different Japanese practices, philosophies and techniques that have influenced the system of Reiki shines through in his classes. For me, these ancient spiritual origins of our modern Reiki system is what gives it breath and life. In applying his teachings, I have learned firsthand how important our own spiritual development and personal meditation practice is as the foundation for everything we do in the system of Reiki. I am very excited to experience his classes now to see how he has grown and changed from his recent visit to Japan! Thanks for sharing your light in the world, Frans:)

anonymous Aug 16, 2012 6:19pm

Thank you Bob, I hope to go back again next year and do some more training with Takeda-san. The whole training helped me to gain a deeper connection to the Japanese way of practicing plus a broader and deeper understanding of the more traditional way of the system of Reiki.

Bob Weisenberg Aug 16, 2012 4:28pm

Very interesting, Frans. Thank you.

Bob W. Associate Publisher
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