Mahikari Exposed

Mahikari's Crumbling Foundations

by Steve Allerton

This article examines the Mahikari claim that Yoshikazu Okada, its founder, is the saviour of human kind.

Mahikari claim that on February 27, 1959 at 5am, Yoshikazu Okada woke up after being in an unconscious state with a high fever for five days. During this delirious state he said that God came to him, and gave him the mission to be the saviour of human kind. Since he was engaged in activities entirely different from religion, it is said that he did not take this experience seriously, but when he started to give Light with his hand up-raised, a crippled person started to walk and a blind person could see. As he continued, more of these 'miracles' occurred. As more messages were given to him from God, Okada set out on the path of being the saviour of human kind.

The time in Japan was ripe for the emergence of cults and sects: Japan was reconstructing itself after a debilitating defeat after the Second World War. The state religion, which controlled generations of Japanese called State Shintoism, was outlawed; the Emperor who had been a central figure as a living god was relegated to being a mere human. Okada was one of many sect leaders at the time who viewed themselves with a divine role to fill the spiritual gap. So, in February 1959, a religion was born which would go on to become a multi-million dollar business spanning the world.

It is clear that outside agencies were brought into play to give Okada a credibility for his claims.

In the first instance, Mahikari says that Shinto priests in Japan used a method called 'Tenjo' (the heavenly stick), a type of oracle, and endorsed Okada as the reincarnation or the physical form of a Japanese god call Yonimasu Oamatsukamisama. The Tenjo is a form of automatic writing - a priest goes into a trance holding a pen or brush and writes. The result is deemed to be of divine origin. Automatic writing is the process of allowing Spirit Guides or God to use the hand and arm, while in an altered state of consciousness, to write answers to questions.

This endorsement of Okada as a Japanese god is based on an occult or shamanistic practice. It is interesting to note that if the 'revelation' given by this method had merit, why wasn't Okada embraced by the Shinto religion immediately, and venerated as the reincarnation of the Japanese god? Surely this would have been a major event in the Shinto calendar. Then again, which branch of Shinto was involved? Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion. Starting around 500 BCE (or earlier), it was originally an amorphous mix of nature worship, fertility cults, divination techniques, hero worship, and shamanism. Its name was derived from the Chinese words "shin tao" (The Way of the Gods) in the 8th Century CE.

Approximately 100 years ago, Shinto was divided into:

  • Jinja (Shrine Shinto)
    This is the largest Shinto group. It was the original form of the religion; its roots date back into pre-history. Until the end of World War II, it was closely aligned with State Shinto. The Emperor of Japan was worshipped as a living God. Almost all shrines are members of Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto Shrines.
  • Kyoha (Sectarian Shinto)
    This consists of 13 sects which were founded by individuals since the start of the 19th century.
  • Folk Shinto
    This is not a Shinto sect; it has no formal central organization or creed. It is seen in local practices and rituals, e.g. small images by the side of the road, agriculture rituals practiced by individual families, etc.

There is no doubt that Mahikari is deeply rooted in a Shinto culture, adopting many of its practices and relying on an endorsement by one of the Shinto sects for its existence.

The god who Okada claimed to be is supposed to have the role to synthesize the teachings of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, and Taoism, in fact, all religions, into just one. Using this claim as a base, every opportunity is used by Mahikari to interpret references from the writings of these religions to support this view. Whole pages of Mahikari text books are devoted to quotes from the Bible and Buddhist teachings, using generous interpretation to focus on Yoshikazu Okada and his 'divine role as the messiah and Japan as the pivotal point in mankind's spiritual renaissance'. In fact, Mahikari states without reserve that to compare Okada with Jesus and Buddha would be a rudeness to God - he is the First Messiah who has been given a greater role than both of them.

One of the difficulties when religions make claims about the divinity of their founder is to be able to assess the claims with a degree of objectivity. When pressed, the adherents of the religion inevitably fall back on the 'act of faith' scenario. 'I believe, therefore it is true'.

It is in the interest of a religion's or cult's survival and expansion to continually reinforce 'the act of faith' and provide tangible 'proof' based on a concept of their 'truth'. Whether or not the proof can stand up under close investigation becomes irrelevant as long as the members keep their 'faith'.

Mahikari is no exception to this process, although 'the act of faith' based on the belief of members that Yoshikazu Okada is a god has been severely shaken by research undertaken over several years. This research has lead members to take a fresh look at their faith in the 'truth' of Mahikari. Many have felt betrayed, become disillusioned, and walked away from it, only to find that their involvement with the sect has left them ill prepared to deal with life outside the sect. Others have looked at the research, decided that it is 'spirit disturbance' or untrue and chosen to remain wrapped in a comfortable cocoon of denial. Still others have felt their feelings of unease with Mahikari have been confirmed and are relieved, happy not to be members any longer.

One of the central pillars, on which Mahikari has placed the weight of it's spiritual legitimacy, is a prediction they say was made by Buddha; "The man who preaches the true spiritual path will appear from among laymen 3000 years after my death." This is expanded in Mahikari lectures and portrays Okada as that person, a man who was given a mission from God having no prior religious experience. In other words, Buddha predicted that this man would be chosen not from among the ranks of religious professionals but from the ordinary people. Mahikari also gave Jesus credit in predicting Okada as the messiah by saying "When He, the spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the all the truth". These claims are the lynch pin of the Mahikari faith.

It came as a profound shock to Mahikari members to learn that Okada was a spiritual professional for ten years before starting his own sect in 1957. The central pillar started to crumble, and doubt was cast on Okada's credibility in all areas. He was hardly the layman who is attributed in Buddha's prediction and as the evidence suggests, basic truth is hard to recognize as well.

It is documented in the 1993 Sukyo Mahikari publication 'Daiseishu - Great and Holy Master' written by Kentaro Shibata that Okada had serious health problems when he was in his early 40s due to a condition called caries of the thoracic vertebrae, and suffered from constant indigestion and a nervous debility caused by stress. He was given three years to live by a Dr. Nakmurura, head of the surgical department at Kyushu University.

From his diary notes he writes, "I had been told that my bones would degenerate within three years, but far from that, when I went again to the hospital for tests, it was discovered that every thing had healed naturally." No mention is made in his biography that he was a long time member of a Japanese sect called The Jorei Organisation or Sekai Kyusei Kyo (SKK). According to Rev. J Tatewatsu, a minister of SKK who knew Okada in the 1950s, Okada was healed of his caries through practicing SKK, using energy radiated from the hands. Okada was the minister of the SKK center to which Rev. J. Tatewatsu was a member.

Added weight to the statement made by Rev. Tatewatsu comes from another Minister, the Rev. Ajiki, from the teaching department of SKK. He knew Okada and was photographed with him with a group of SKK ministers in around 1949. He was genuinely amused that a person like Okada could be called a Saint. Although the SKK ministers state they are not permitted to criticize other religions, fact are facts!

Okada joined SKK in the Nagoya area around 1947 and became a very enthusiastic member. In 1949 he became a full time paid minister assigned to the Hauai church in its branch church located in Nishiogikobo Tokyo. Rev.Ajiki, was appointed assistant minister to Okada in Nishiogikobo for one year. Okada was known as Chudo Okada and then began calling himself Rev.Kotama. Rev.Kiyoko Higuchi pictured in the photo was his boss. Okada often had differences of opinion concerning certain aspects of the SKK teachings with the founder of SKK Meishusama also called Okada(no relation).

He was often warned over his interest in spirits and warned that it would lead to trouble in the future. In 1953 he was sacked as a minister of SKK for unacceptable behavior, although he maintained a close affiliation with SKK until 1957. Around this time he also divorced his wife. A young woman called Koko Inoue, a devoted SKK member from a respectable SKK family, followed Okada out of SKK and was later adopted by him. She became known as Keishu Okada and now, approaching 70 years of age, is the Leader of Sukyo Mahikari.

Group photo of SKK ministers taken between 1949 and 1951, who were members of the SKK Hakuai Church of Tokyo.

Okada as a minister of SKK
1)Rev.C (Yoshikazu) Okada, 2) Rev.H. Ajiki, 3) Rev.T.Ajiki, 4) Rev.Y.Suzki, 5) Rev. Kiyoko Higuchi.
Okada as a youth A detail of Okada as a minister of Johrei Okada as the Leader of Mahikari sect

The ears have it! These three photos taken of Yoshikazu Okada at different ages clearly show that the person in the SKK photo is Okada.

When the above information was uncovered an explanation was sought from the Mahikari Secretariat in Japan because of the apparent contradiction with Mahikari doctrine.

The response from Secretariat was a complete denial of Okada's involvement in SKK. Why does Keishu Okada, through her Chief of the Secretariat Mr.Kazumi Tomita, deny the fact that Okada was a minister of SKK for 10 years or so?

It is clear from evidence that the fragile claim that Okada is the man from the Buddhist prediction "The man who preaches the true spiritual path will appear from among laymen 3000 years after my death." has been shattered. It is obvious that he is not the layman.

It seems that on February 27, 1959 a unique new religion was not born, but variations of Okada's past experience were formulated with tried and proven cult techniques to form a religious movement, deeply influenced by sharmanistic or occult practices. No amount of induced sophistication can erase the superstitious roots of Mahikari.

By comparing the teachings and practices of Mahikari and SKK it becomes very clear that Okada formed the basic construction of his sect on SKK and Shinto practices. To give credit where credit is due, he was very successful and must have had major support from powerful sponsors, as is the custom in Japan. Unfortunately, in human terms, to hear the experiences of people who were attracted to Mahikari, so many lives have been ruined by his 'success'.

The foundation on which Okada built his spiritual empire has become very unstable.

Last Modified: 16 June 2010