Happy Science, which boasts millions of followers, is led by a man who channels Buddha (and Jesus and Freddie Mercury) and says he can defeat the coronavirus. For a fee.
Within the Fringe Japanese Religion Happy Science Claims to Cure Covid-19
When New York went into lockdown last month, emissaries of a religious group called Happy Science showed up in a ghostly Times Square to deliver a peculiar end-of-day gospel. They wore ritual golden sashes and huddled in a semicircle.
“Doomsday may seem to be coming,” a young minister said. “But the greatest savior,” he continued, “our master, is here on earth.” One or two passers-by lingered, taking in the gloomy scene. Of the few people who were on the street, most rushed past.
Everything wasn’t as random as it appeared to be.
Enormous and strong organization
Happy Science claims millions of followers and tens of thousands of missionary outposts all over the world. They are sometimes referred to be Tokyo’s version of Scientology because they are secrecy-oriented, hostile to the media and based on a tiered, pay-to-progress membership system.
According to The Japan Times, “the Happies smell eerily like a cult to many.”
The esoteric beliefs and apocalyptic motifs of the faith have proven to be the ideal vehicle for the coronavirus outbreak. Its numerous pieces of literature, which previously discussed UFOs, lost continents and demonic conflict, now explains the virus’s paranormal and extraterrestrial origins.
And Happy Science is selling “spiritual vaccinations” as well as new DVDs, CDs and books. For a charge, devotees can receive a blessing with a ritual prayer to prevent and treat illness.
The minister finished his remarks in Times Square with a unique incantation. He shouted as he raised his arms and moved them back and forth. His followers applauded and waved homemade signs.
“Happy Science Knows the Truth,” read one.
Ryuho Okawa, a former Wall Street trader, is the exalted star at the center of the Happy Science world. His adherents, astonishingly, believe that he is the manifestation of a supreme entity from Venus.
Additionally, he asserts to be able to communicate with the ghosts of numerous people, both living and dead, including Steve Jobs, Barack Obama and Freddie Mercury. Mr. Okawa seldom ever speaks to the press and has turned down invitations to do so via his assistants.
Mr. Okawa was originally born Takashi Nakagawa in 1956 on Japan’s southern island of Shikoku, before embarking on his grandiose reinvention.
In Japan, new and innovative religions that combined ancient Japanese traditions with imported New Age materials proliferated during the postwar decades. Mr. Okawa grew up in this complex, soul-searching environment.
He studied at Tokyo University and appeared to be headed toward the corporate world. He joined one of the biggest trading companies in the nation in the early 1980s and he claimed to have spent a year working there.
But Mr. Okawa planned to switch careers
At this point, he started to think he was in touch with ancient wise individuals like Buddha and Jesus. They informed him that he had been chosen to spiritually restore the desolate and broken earth. Who could he be to refuse?
He subsequently reflected, “It was up to me to bring all the peoples of the world into this new faith.
When Mr. Okawa eventually settled back in Tokyo, he took advantage of the growing metaphysical community there and developed a following. He self-published several tracts with such titles as “The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus” and “The Great Warnings of Allah,” playing on the economic unease of the early 1990s.
They were bestsellers. The stories become spectacular as more and more are poured out. Mr. Okawa was first only a conduit for distant spirits. Then he assumed the form of a Buddha. He eventually proclaimed himself to be this world’s top deity. Surprisingly, his supporters concurred.
The earth’s life was created millions of years ago by El Cantare, a Venusian creator god who had previously taken the forms of Hermes, Thoth from Atlantis, Odin, Buddha and an Incan king named Rient Arl Croud, among other gods and enlightened figures. El Cantare’s most recent incarnation was, of course, Mr. Okawa.
Soon, ceremonies by Happy Science that combined theatrical costumes with what appeared to be revelation would pack stadiums. Mr. Okawa might jump from a spoof UFO while donning feathered angel wings and a cloud of smoke.
Mr. Okawa’s endeavor made him extraordinarily wealthy between fees and gifts, the expanding media empire and other factors. According to some estimates, Happy Science made $45 million annually.
But there was always a dark side, always present.
Aum Shinrikyo and Happy Science developed a bitter rivalry in the middle of the 1990s. Following an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Mr. Okawa, Aum used sarin gas to assault the Tokyo subway, killing 13 people and wounding thousands more.
But Mr. Okawa persisted where other tenacious messiahs gave up. Since then, Happy Science has established private schools in Japan. In 2009, the organization entered politics with a right-wing agenda, which has had only little success in local elections.
Over 2,000 publications have already been published by Mr. Okawa, the majority of which are lecture transcriptions. Additionally, a film division produces full-length animation.
Numerous unhappy members have been left in Happy Science’s wake. The organization is accused by critics of engaging in what they call a pyramid system to fleece followers. Much to Mr. Okawa’s dismay, his son Hiroshi, who was once tipped to succeed him, is now one of Happy Science’s most outspoken detractors.
Lied to his followers
In a statement, Hiroshi Okawa described his father as having “constantly lied to his followers” despite claiming to have received “messages from God.”
“I think what my father does is total rubbish,” he continued.
The assertion that Happy Science has 11 million subscribers also seems improbable. When Mr. Okawa’s first wife, Kyoko, left the organization in 2011, she thought there were 30,000 actual members. Mr. Okawa, for his part, referred to his estranged family as evil. He afterward wed again.
Happy Science moved its North American
So, disturbed at home, the Happies have turned their attention to America, where they have discovered a welcoming, though humble, reception.
Happy Science moved its North American headquarters from a modest office in New Jersey to a Manhattan townhouse in 2008 after investing in renovations. Mr. Okawa flew in with his entourage to give the inaugural lecture, which was attended by a full sanctuary and an additional room downstairs.
The structure is on a shady TriBeCa alley and is oddly squeezed between designer shops and coffee shops. On a big screen facing the street, looped videos of Mr. Okawa’s lectures are playing.
The city’s top minister, Yushi Hagimoto, was cleaning up items in the foyer one afternoon before the closure in New York. There were shiny jewels and amulets for sale. At the central altar, which was dimly lit, was a golden figure of El Cantare, whose visage was based on Mr. Okawa’s.
With titles like “Alien Invasion,” “7 Future Predictions,” “Spiritual Message From the Guardian Spirit of Donald Trump,” and others, hundreds of Happy Science books dotted the shelves. Mr. Hagimoto stated that “the literature concerning demons is quite popular.”
This year, as word of a fatal virus originating in China started to circulate, Happy Science quickly shifted its focus to this brand-new catastrophe.
Beginning in January, Mr. Okawa claimed to have been in contact with three unknown extraterrestrials known as R.A. Goal, Metatron and Yaidron as well as the ghosts of prominent Chinese officials, including Xi Jinping. (Boris Johnson, John Lennon and Angela Merkel’s guardian angels also sent messages.)
According to Happy Science, the virus was developed by the Chinese government in Wuhan as a bioweapon before being unexpectedly released by a UFO to punish the communists for their atheistic practices. It has extended to nations lacking true faith.
Three booklets containing this information were promptly published in Japanese and this month it was translated into English as “Spiritual Reading of Novel Coronavirus Infection Originated in China.”
The Happies claim that there is still hope for the devout.
They now sell DVDs and CDs of Mr. Okawa talking about the coronavirus in addition to the book series; just the sound of his voice is thought to have immune-boosting properties. In one video clip, Mr. Okawa gave the following advice: “You must use your El Cantare belief to kill out the coronavirus.”
It will be like, “Out with the devils, in with the good fortune,” according to another.
The sacred text of a brand-new ceremony
Additionally, Mr. Okawa presented the sacred text of a brand-new ceremony that is said to miraculously cure the illness. It takes place in secret at temples in return for donations. Prices for virus-related blessings listed in Japanese advertisements range from $100 to more than $400.
The coronavirus prayer has been requested by a large number of people in the TriBeCa congregation.
It’s incredible, said Mr. Hagimoto. “We are witnessing the healing of people.”
Happy Science had proudly kept its Manhattan doors open for business in the early days of the epidemic, despite some churches closing. But when the number of diseases in the city increased, the temple made a lock-up announcement. Happy Science will start remotely delivering spiritual vaccines this month.
With information from The New York Times Company