What’s the Difference Between Usui Reiki Ryôhô and Komyo Reiki?

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
A photo of me giving Reiki at the Auburn Reiki Center Circle/Share, Oct 28, 2013.

Despite being trained in both Western and Japanese styles of Reiki, I now teach only traditional Japanese Reiki—Usui Reiki Ryôhô (as taught by the International House of Reiki) and Komyo Reiki (as taught by Komyo Reiki Kai Founder Hyakuten Inamoto). Both are based in spiritual development, keeping the practices simple and traditional, honoring the Japanese roots of the system, and allowing the healing aspect of Reiki to arise from the spiritual practice—not the other way around.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to discover just what the difference is between the systems. To me they have more in common than not, but nevertheless each has distinct and unique qualities. I’ve been teaching URR for three years, and only taught my first Komyo class this past year. But I think I have started to fine-tune my understanding of each. It’s true that I do teach them differently!

To use a tarot analogy, Usui Reiki Ryôhô is the Hierophant and Komyo Reiki is the Hermit. To understand this analogy clearly, it’s important to have clarity into the meaning of these cards. The Hierophant is sometimes associated with dogma, but that’s not quite accurate. He’s often seen as performing ritual without being connected to Spirit. This is true, but in a more profound way than people often give the archetype credit for. The Hierophant believes that connection to Spirit will arise from the dedicated performance of ritual. He does his rituals even when he is not feeling the energy flowing, knowing that the ritual provides an empty space which in turn invites the influx of Spirit.

The Hermit is the perpetual student, the Hierophant is the teacher. The Hermit wanders off on his own, climbing the mountain heights or meditating in a cave for years. Eventually he returns from his lonely and ascetic practice and must become the Hierophant, sharing with others what he has learned on his own. Hermit and Hierophant are one and the same, ever cycling through the process of learning through isolation, then sharing in community.

In terms of the Jewish mysticism known as Qabalah, the Hierophant is the letter V (vav) and the Hermit is the letter Y (yod)–two of the three letters that compose the Name of G-d, YHVH. These letters and their permutations form different tenses of the verb, “to be.” We derive our being from our breath. The Hierophant is the in-breath, the breath of incarnation. The Hermit is the out-breath, the release of self and return to source. Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido and a contemporary of Reiki Ryôhô founder Mikao Usui, described this phenomenon as the Breath of Life:

Now and again, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life. Breathe in and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe out and bring the cosmos back inside. Next, breathe up all fecundity and vibrancy of the earth. Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with your own, becoming the Breath of Life itself.

Usui Reiki Ryôhô
To me, Usui Reiki Ryôhô is a very nuts-and-bolts system. I find it very structured, which I appreciate—it gives me easy-to-follow guidelines to start out with, and then encourages relaxing into more intuitive work at higher levels. IHR’s curriculum is very similar to the archetype of the Hierophant. It provides a strict set of exercises—the precepts, meditations, hands-on healing, and journaling—that the student practices every day. This regular practice creates the open space that invites the energy to enter. A greater variety of techniques are taught in URR than in Komyo, although all the basic techniques are the same.

Because the focus in this system is on regular and structured practice, I teach this style of Reiki slowly over time, meeting for classes and practice groups four times a month over six months to complete Levels 1 & 2. Level 3, which is teacher level in this system, can be continued right after Levels 1 and 2 are completed for those students who have made a sincere commitment to their personal practice and to their ongoing spiritual growth.

Komyo Reiki
Komyo Reiki is like the Hermit. Komyo Reiki asks students to learn on their own. The goal is to cultivate absolute inner peace, known as Ashin Ritsumei. Students are encouraged to keep their practices very simple, to develop themselves through use of the precepts, to meditate on the Komyo Reiki motto (“Go placidly in the midst of praise or blame”), and to seek the calm and peacefulness that arises when we transcend the world of opposites. There is less structure, which means more personal freedom, but less guidance. It is more philosophical, which might for some mean more abstract and less practical. Its pragmatism lies in its simplicity.

In keeping with this philosophy, I teach this style of Reiki as a weekend class, with just basic guidance but homework that must be completed on your own in order to receive your certificate. Fewer techniques are taught because this is a keep-it-simple system. Because this system relies heavily on the student’s own self-work towards spiritual growth, it is a very slow process to rise to the highest level. Levels 1, 2, and 3 must be repeated multiple times before the student is allowed to advance to teacher level (Level 4 in this system).

How do I Decide What Reiki Class to Take?
I learned URR first, and Komyo later. To me this was perfect. I recommend learning them in this order if you want to learn both. I think the more structured URR style suits beginning students and fills in a lot of the blanks more advanced students missed in their previous training. I would recommend Komyo Reiki for people who are simply not available for the schedule of classes needed to complete URR and who have the personal discipline to complete the homework necessary to receive their certificate. I also recommend Komyo for those who originally learned an overly structured form of Reiki and need the freedom to explore on their own, simply, and free from rules and regulations.

Support in the form of a monthly meditation group that meets in the morning on the second Saturday and a monthly practice group that meets in the evening on the third Sunday are also provided to students of either tradition. Reiju is offered at both these groups. I am always trying to provide more and more ongoing support for students so that they have easy access to the resources that I had to work hard to locate.

If you’re not sure about whether Reiki is right for you and want a taste to see if it suits you, I highly recommend coming to the Reiki Shares group. You can learn about Reiki, receive reiju from a Reiki teacher, receive a short Reiki session from experienced Reiki practitioners, and learn the basic Reiki meditation—this is probably more than you will learn in a lot of Reiki classes and instead of spending tons of money, you get all of this for just a small free-will donation. If this is right for you, you will know, and then if you want to make the commitment to learning the system, you can sign up for a class. I try to encourage potential students to attend Reiki Shares at least once and preferably several times befo
re they take a class with me. I think a lot of people take a short class to see if Reiki is right for them, and they just end up wasting their money. Some people are truly suited to short classes—I took Reiki 1 as a full-day class and Reiki 2 the following day as a full-day class—but I also worked hard on my own and had difficulty finding support after my classes were over. But many people who take short classes are just seeking, with no real destination in mind. Why spend the money when a group like Reiki Shares can give you the info you need to make your decision as to whether this is right for you?

Find the next Reiki Shares and my upcoming classes at the Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup.

Download my Breath of Life meditation as an 8-minute or 20-minute recorded meditation.


Joy Vernon specializes in Traditional Japanese Reiki and is a certified Komyo Reiki Shihan (Teacher). She studied with Komyo Reiki Kai Founder Hyakuten Inamoto in 2011 and 2013. She is also a Reiki Practitioner and Teacher in the Usui Reiki Ryôhô lineage through IHR. Joy was first trained in Usui Shiki Ryôhô/Usui Tibetan Reiki in 2003 and started teaching Western Reiki in 2007, but has been teaching the more spiritually focused traditional Japanese Reiki since 2008. She is the Organizer of the Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup and is a member of Shibumi International Reiki Association and the Healing Touch Professional Association. Learn more at JoyVernon.com.

© 2014 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

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