This article examines the Mahikari claim that Yoshikazu Okada, its founder, is the saviour of
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
- 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
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.
1)Rev.C (Yoshikazu) Okada,
2) Rev.H. Ajiki, 3) Rev.T.Ajiki, 4) Rev.Y.Suzki, 5) Rev. Kiyoko
The ears have it! These three photos taken of Yoshikazu Okada
at different ages clearly show that the person in the SKK photo
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.