What Is Karuna Reiki? And How Is It Different?

As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said, “The only constant in life is change”. Though traditions and cultural beliefs persist, we as humans tend to change them over time.

We just can’t leave things alone, can we? Even when something works well, we like to add aspects or alter others. And Reiki is not immune to this phenomenon.

Reiki has experienced a number of developments and alterations, especially in the west, where it has enjoyed a huge increase in popularity in recent years.

One of these developments is the practice of Karuna Reiki. But what is Karuna Reiki all about, and how is it any different?

‘Reiki of compassion’

In a nutshell, Karuna Reiki means “an action that is taken to diminish the suffering of others,†it can also be defined as the Reiki of Compassion.

But to properly answer the question ‘what is karuna reiki’, we need to understand the word ‘karuna’.

And to do this we have to look at Buddhist philosophy. In Buddhist teaching, they recognize that suffering is an accepted part of life.

They strive, through their lifestyle and actions, to alleviate this suffering. Two words that form part of their teaching are Metta and Karuna. 

Both are connected with the feeling of compassion for all living things. However, there are subtle differences;

Metta relates to the desire for all beings to be happy, whereas Karuna is described as ‘any action taken to diminish the suffering of others’.

The two are closely linked, but in terms of Reiki the stress is on the awakening of ‘universal compassion’.

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This, in theory, allows the practitioner to offer a more intensive, deeper Reiki energy experience, tapping into the inner wisdom of their soul.

By focusing on this compassion and combining it with the Reiki energy being drawn within them, they offer an enhanced transformational experience to the recipient.

How is it different?

The use of symbols in Reiki is optional. Some people find them useful, adding focus and power to their sessions.

Others prefer a simpler approach, viewing the symbols as an unnecessary distraction. In truth, both are right. Whatever works for the practitioner and the client – within the accepted ethical framework – is good.

In Karuna Reiki, extra symbols have been added. Some of these may be familiar, closely resembling those already used in other forms of Reiki.

But the intention and attunement behind these newer symbols are very different, being aimed at energies unique to this new form of Reiki.

Karuna Reiki involves a higher vibrational experience. This is achieved through meditation that encourages connection with sources such as angels, Archangels, and Ascended Masters.

The key to answering ‘what is Karuna Reiki’ lies in acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness. Although these three aspects exist in other types of Reiki, this form puts more emphasis on this.

How old is Karuna Reiki?

Master William Lee Rand has been a prominent figure in the world of Reiki for almost forty years. After receiving Reiki I in 1981, he became a Reiki Master eight years later.

He has devoted his life to the study of Reiki ever since, producing several books on the subject.

His impressive background in the study of metaphysics, hypnotherapy, past-life regression therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programing added weight to his suitability for the task.

He is now the President of the International Center for Reiki Training, as well as the Reiki Membership Association, and the Center for Reiki Research.

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Over the years, he has formed several new variations of Reiki as a result of his studies, with the aid of students. In 1995 he introduced Karuna Reiki as an ‘advanced’ method for an evolving world.

Is Karuna Reiki better than other forms?

In a word, no. There are many newer forms of Reiki, all based on the same fundamental principles.

The need for change is a basic human trait – we constantly seek improvement.

And when it comes to spiritual matters, especially when connected with our health, we strive even more to find ways of furthering our knowledge or seeking new ways of doing things. This is often regarded as part of our ‘spiritual evolution’.

But when it comes to things like Reiki, these changes are not necessarily ‘improvements’, they are simply ways of facilitating a better understanding or a more powerful way to connect with those sources and energies that will help us reach our spiritual goals.

It is a well-known fact that we are all different. Where one form of Reiki appeals to me, you may find another form works best for you. And that’s just as it should be.

Who can use Karuna Reiki?

Most Reiki Masters recommend that you fulfil all levels of Usui Reiki training before progressing to Karuna Reiki.

This essential grounding provides an ideal platform to launch into the newer method. This is mostly as Karuna Reiki offers a more intense experience.

Those who have been attuned to Karuna Reiki often speak of this, describing how it has transformed them.

They find that their clairvoyance is heightened, that they feel transported to a place ‘beyond time’ and the physical world we recognize. Some get the sense that they are able to perform greater feats of healing, allowing them to direct it towards the very land in which they live.

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Others tell of how their whole family felt the benefits of their attunement, becoming closer, being healed of emotional and physical problems.

The teaching is divided into three levels:

  • Beginner – a basic course to introduce you to the feel of Karuna, though you will receive a few sacred symbols
  • Intermediate – here you are given access to symbols of a higher vibration and guided how to use these energies
  • Advanced – the Master Level, where you receive all the meditations along with the Master symbol


Though Karuna Reiki is viewed by some as a natural progression for those on the Reiki path, it isn’t compulsory by any means.

Never feel forced to take this step, or rushed into making a decision. You’ll know when the time is right.

However, the benefits of Karuna Reiki are obvious, offering an excellent way to bring healing to a world that is sorely in need of it right now.

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