Reiki is a holistic Japanese healing method. It channels ki, a word that translates to life energy, into the practitioner's palms where it is used to heal a willing recipient. There are three or four different Reiki levels, depending on which tradition is being adhered to. Each level brings new training and abilities for the Reiki student until he reaches the level of Reiki Master.
There are four levels in traditional Japanese Reiki,. There are only three Reiki levels in the adapted Western tradition. Except for of final levels, the levels of each tradition are nearly the same. The first of the Reiki levels, or Reiki 1, begins with the initiation of the new students. This stage is referred to as Shoden in the Japanese tradition. By the end of the first level the practitioner will be certified to treat himself and others. The initiates are taught how to attune themselves to ki by learning hand positions.
Reiki 1 is followed by a traditional ceremony, performed in the same fashion as it was for the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui. This ceremony is thought to enhance or boost the practitioner's natural ki. It is the first step in what is referred to as Reiju, a multi-stage attunement process.
The second of the Reiki levels is said to give the students the ability to practice Reiki over long distances. This process begins by introducing the first three Reiki symbols. With the mastery of each symbol comes an additional Reiju, further attuning the student with ki.
This second level is referred to as Okuden in traditional Japanese Reiki. Under Master Usui, this level was only offered to students who were able to keenly sense ki. From what is known about traditional Japanese Reiki, most students who showed such promise were only able to master this level after decades of practice and tutelage.
Reiki 3, the last of the Reiki levels in the Western tradition, allows the student to attain the rank of Master. In the Western tradition this means that the student has learned the fourth symbol and is able to teach Reiki to others. This does not mean that the Master has achieved a state of enlightenment, only that the Master has become fully attuned with ki.
The most significant difference between Japanese Reiki and Western Reiki lies within the last of the Reiki levels. In Japanese tradition very few people are allowed to pursue Reiki beyond the second level. Graduation from the third level of Reiki means that the student has mastered the fourth symbol, the Usui master symbol, and has attained the rank of Master Practitioner. The rank of Master Teacher is then conferred only on completion of an additional level of Reiki, which will allow the Master Practitioner to fully understand ki and be able to attune others to Reiki. This stage is called Shinpiden.
Each stage of the Western version can be taught in three to four hours over the course of a weekend for a fee, which increases with each level. The traditional Japanese version is much more selective in who it initiates. It requires a significant amount of time and devotion in order to advance from one level to the next. A Reiki student who follows the Japanese tradition may take 30 to 50 years or more to reach the rank of Master Teacher, if allowed to progress that far.