An image of a woman receiving Reiki from a practitioner is used to illustrate the concept of Reiki, a form of energy work that reduces stress and promotes relaxation.

Reiki is a technique to reduce stress and promote relaxation, which supports the body’s systems to function more efficiently. Reiki practice is regarded as both a healing and spiritual practice with benefits parallel to meditation. Included in this practice are Reiki hand placements and Reiki symbols.

The statements made in this article regarding Reiki’s methodology and benefits are based on many years’ anecdotal evidence gathered by practitioners and instructors, and my own experience giving and receiving Reiki for more than 20 years. To read the research on Reiki, visit the National Library of Medicine’s research site and search for Reiki.

Life Force Energy

Reiki is based on the concept that a universal life energy (also referred to as ki) is common to all living things. When this energy flows in and around a person in a balanced and natural way, they generally feel well and at ease.

However, stress and traumas of everyday life often cause this healthy flow of life force energy to shift into an unbalanced pattern. Over time and if not reversed, this may lead to issues manifesting with symptoms physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Reiki practitioners learn how to tap into the external source of life force energy and use hand placements and additional techniques to replenish the recipient’s body and biofield with this natural energy. Through these techniques offered in Reiki sessions, balance and feelings of well-being may be re-established in the individual, and symptoms alleviated.

An aspect of Reiki practice that supports these results is the use of Reiki symbols. Practitioners learn how to use each Reiki symbol like a key to unlock specific subsets of universal life energy with purpose. This ensures that each Reiki session may help the individual wholly and completely and address issues on all levels.

This holistic approach is illustrated by the meanings and effects of the four primary Reiki symbols. The first three symbols are traditionally introduced to the student in the second level of Reiki training. The fourth symbol is taught later in the third, or master, level of Reiki training.

This demonstrates that it is not necessary to use symbols to offer Reiki as a level-one practitioner; however, the symbols add value and effectiveness to the Reiki provided as the student progresses.

Four Primary Reiki Symbols

The set of four Reiki symbols most widely taught is from the style of Reiki known as Usui Reiki Ryoho. This style of Reiki originated in Japan and was first developed by Mikao Usui in 1922.

All Reiki symbols are graphic representations of specific aspects of universal life energy. And like Reiki itself, the symbols are not religious or tied to any belief system. The first two Reiki symbols have Japanese names and are from Buddhist or Shinto traditions. The third and fourth Reiki symbols are Japanese kanji—Japanese symbols representing entire words—with differing but similar translations.

1. Choku Rei: The first Reiki symbol is called Choku Rei, commonly called the power symbol. It is often used at the beginning of a Reiki treatment to help the practitioner connect with Reiki energy and at the end of the session to seal in the Reiki energy for more lasting benefit. However, it may also be used to increase the flow of Reiki energy at any time in a session and to focus the energy associated with this symbol on a specific area or issue.

The effect of Choku Rei is purifying and grounding and also provides stronger energy in the aura or biofield. This results in one feeling less impacted by the personal energy of others and often lasts well after a Reiki treatment is concluded. Therefore, Choku Rei is recognized as a symbol that provides energetic protection.

2. Sei Heiki: The second symbol is Sei Heki, commonly called the harmony symbol. It is used to address mental and emotional issues. It is believed to help balance the brain’s left and right sides and promote inner peace and harmony.

The effect of Sei Heki may be generally described as release. It assists in releasing repetitive thoughts and mental patterns, attachments, and habits and instills feelings of peace and harmony. It soothes strong emotions and helps people with anxiety, depression, and trauma simply by being used in session by the practitioner.

Reiki’s noninvasive, gentle nature, including the use of the symbols, means that these positive effects may be realized without talking to the recipient about what is bothering them or requiring them to recount traumatic experiences.

3. Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen: The third symbol is called Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, which means “the origin of all is pure consciousness” and is commonly referred to as the connection symbol or distance symbol. It is used to send Reiki energy over distance to people who are not physically present and to bridge time so that Reiki may be sent to the past or future.

The distance symbol reminds us of our connection and oneness to each other and all of life. When utilized, Reiki practice is without limitation in its application. It has the potential to address issues currently affecting a person regardless of when the original cause was created or where the person is located during a Reiki treatment session.

4. Dai Ko Myo: The fourth Reiki symbol is called Dai Ko Myo and is given to the student in the third (or master) level of training. It means “great enlightenment” and represents the highest level of spiritual consciousness.

A Reiki master often intends to activate the universal life energy associated with Dai Ko Myo before the previous three symbols to empower them further. This creates a more robust flow of Reiki to the recipient which may bring more significant healing and transformation opportunities.

Intensify Energy

By its very nature, Reiki energy addresses each person on all levels of being—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. However, by utilizing these four Reiki symbols, the practitioner may intensify certain aspects of the Reiki energy available to the recipient. Therefore, the quality of the session and the results may be improved.

As stated, the four symbols offered here are those associated with Usui Reiki Ryoho. However, there are many other styles of Reiki taught and practiced today. Some styles use these symbols, while others have variations or have introduced entirely new symbols with separate meanings and characteristics. The “best” or “right” Reiki symbols are those a student learns in their particular Reiki class with their Reiki master teacher.

During training, the Reiki master teacher offers what is called an attunement or, in some styles, a placement to the student. This required part of training creates beneficial changes in the student’s energy system to allow them to access the higher vibration of Reiki energy and links them to the energy each symbol represents.

As a result, the student can effectively channel Reiki energy and utilize the symbols. It is important to note that the symbols do not do much on their own without this essential step included in Reiki training.

While the symbols may be used in Reiki sessions for others and for self-Reiki, they are also powerful tools for spiritual growth and development. Students are encouraged to experiment with the symbols beyond their use in Reiki sessions.

Many find value in utilizing the symbols in conjunction with other practices, modalities and everyday life. The energy of the symbols may be used to enhance manifestation work, empower affirmations and goals, and create more harmony in a space where they are placed.

The Reiki symbols are a valuable part of the system of Reiki, even allowing sessions to be held over distance. Through their use, each Reiki session holistically addresses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual issues from causes rooted in the past or present.

In addition, these tools help practitioners become more effective and make accessing Reiki energy easier for anyone who wishes to learn this complementary healing modality.

Andrea Kennedy

About the Author

Andrea Kennedy is a full-time Reiki Master Teacher and owner of Mainstream Reiki. Her focus is to bring Reiki further into the mainstream and help others confidently practice this modality for better living. She teaches all levels of Usui/Holy Fire® III Reiki and ICRT Animal Reiki, offers mentoring sessions, and shares her knowledge through her Mainstream Reiki YouTube Channel, her podcast, ’Beyond the Reiki Gateway’ and in her new Mainstream Reiki Community opening in July 2023.