Mahikari Exposed

An Open Letter to Kamikumite (Mahikari members)

by Anne

The teachings of Sukyo Mahikari tell us that divine wisdom is superior to human wisdom, and I'm sure you have all heard Mahikari kanbu (leaders) say things like, "Don't think. Just give okiyome (purification) and you will eventually understand."

Lately I've been doing an awful lot of thinking.

Think back to when you first heard about Mahikari and were deciding whether or not you wanted to attend primary kenshu (introductory 3-day course). Can you remember what convinced you to join Mahikari? You probably did an awful lot of careful thinking at that time. After all, for newcomers, okiyome (giving and receiving purification) is rather mysterious and many of the teachings seem pretty weird... they may not seem weird to you now, but if you're honest and think back carefully, you probably can remember your first reactions to Mahikari.

At first you may not have believed all the teachings, but there must have been something that you felt was really worthwhile... something that convinced you to devote a lot of your time and energy to Mahikari activities.

Later, you probably also did a fair bit of thinking about what was important to you and how to be as persuasive as possible whenever you were telling outsiders about Mahikari. In my case, I saw okiyome as being the most important thing. I would start with something like, "Okiyome is primarily spiritual purification, but spiritual purification automatically also purifies on a mental and physical level...", then I'd quickly move on to mention various examples of people who had been cured of physical illnesses by receiving okiyome. I didn't mention much about other teachings, even though I did believe them myself by that stage, because I remembered how doubtful I'd been about many of them when I first heard Mahikari teachings.

Over the years, there were other times too when I thought a fair bit. Perhaps you too have had moments when you've taken a step back... perhaps even tried to look at Mahikari from the perspective of your "old self" (who you were before becoming a kumite)... and asked yourself really basic things like, "Do I really believe the teachings about...", "Does okiyome really work?", etc.

In my case, after joining Mahikari, I quickly became a very dedicated and active member, and so I didn't often have this sort of doubt session. I do remember, though, having a rather major doubt session several years after I joined. I systematically looked at all the teachings in turn and asked myself, "How do I know this is true?", about all of them.

Karma is just one example. Mahikari teachings say that giving okiyome erases negative karma, and that if we regularly practice okiyome we will elevate spiritually and not experience as much misfortune. When we do experience misfortune, we are told that we must have a lot of negative karma from a previous life, and that we should apologize for those misdeeds and be grateful for the misfortune (because experiencing misfortune is another way of erasing negative karma). So, whatever happens, we have no way of proving or disproving that giving okiyome erases negative karma... especially since the only evidence we have to indicate how much negative karma we have is the amount of misfortune we experience. Am I missing something here, or is this a circular argument?

Similarly, if things are going well, we are taught to have gratitude for God's protection, which we receive when we have sincere God-centered attitudes (sonen). If things don't go so well, we are taught to reflect on our attitudes (and we always do manage to find some reason to blame ourselves...after all, none of us are perfect) and try to change them. Now, this may in fact be how the spiritual world works, but since we can't physically see the spiritual world, how do we know if this is true? It seems that whatever happens, there is a teaching to explain it.

You can probably think of other similar examples...if X happens, then it is explained by one teaching, and if the opposite happens, a different teaching can explain that. Since most of the teachings concern the unseen world, I quickly realized that I could neither prove nor disprove them on the basis of my own experiences.

The above realization almost made me leave Mahikari, but the bottom line for me was my belief that okiyome "works"...I'd seen many cases and heard of others (as I'm sure you have) where health problems seemed to miraculously disappear as a result of receiving okiyome.

This period of doubt was quite a turning-point for me. Since I felt that okiyome itself was very worthwhile, I decided to just practice okiyome and not think....exactly what kanbu had been saying all along! This was quite an odd decision for someone like me to make. Before joining Mahikari, I had always prided myself on my ability for independent thought and objective analysis, and had always attempted to evaluate myself and everything else as honestly as possible.

From then on, I became even more dedicated. I spent hour after hour giving okiyome and all my free time was taken up by Mahikari activities. I started living at a Mahikari center and eventually took on various leadership roles.

In addition to okiyome, I began to see sonen as being one of the most fundamental aspects of Mahikari. I began to think that our attitudes affect what happens to us almost as much (or maybe even more) than okiyome does. For me personally, Items 5 and 6 of Shinga no Ware (The I of True Self), which say how to become fearless and overcome self-limitation, seemed like the key to freedom. It is a fairly common notion that, in many cases, there is "nothing to fear except fear itself".

I began to see fear as being the single thing that limits us the most. For example, "If I don't have to fear being hungry or homeless, then I can devote all my time and energy and money to serving God and helping other people without ever thinking about myself." Or, "If I don't fear the pain in my legs... or at least, I use my sonen to overcome it... then I can happily spend all day sitting on my knees giving okiyome." Or, "If I don't worry about being overly tired tomorrow, I can stay up really late giving okiyome, studying teachings, etc." (By that time, as you may have gathered, I was believing all the teachings again.)

Perhaps you think I focused overly much on this "becoming fearless" aspect of sonen, and perhaps I did. Even so, over the ensuing years, I did manage to reduce my sense of personal needs to the point where I was reasonably comfortable with almost no personal time or space. I needed very little money, and was fairly flexible about what I ate and when I ate it. I didn't ever manage to become as fearless as I would have liked. However, each time I recognised a fear and refused to let it control me, I grew stronger.

Let me now skip over quite a number of years... during which time I began doubting again and in fact left Mahikari... to something that happened a few months ago.

Quite by chance, I read a short story called "The Gamblers' Club", by Ellery Queen. There is an interesting twist to this story and some clever detective work, but the plot revolves around a fail-safe stock market scam.

In this story, the con-man selects stock that is fluctuating wildly in value and sends anonymous tips to 16 members of the gamblers' club. Half the tips say the stock will rise, and half say that it will fall....the con-man himself has no idea which will happen. The 8 members who happened to receive the correct tip make an awful lot of money. A week later, the con-man again selects volatile stock and sends tips to only the 8 men who received the correct tip the week before. This time he tips a rise in 4 of the letters, and a fall in the other 4. The 4 men with the correct tip again make a lot of money. The pattern is repeated in the third week, so this time there are only 2 "winners". These 2 men have now cleaned up three weeks in a row and have come to assume that the person supplying the tips has extremely reliable inside information.

Next, the con-man writes to these 2 men saying that something new has come up that looks like being even better, but he says it has to be secret and he has to handle it all personally. He tells them that, if they want to gamble $25,000 with a hot chance of doubling that within a week, they should deliver the cash to a specified spot that night. In this story, the con-man gets sprung at the last minute, but he very nearly gets away with $50,000 in cash.

When I read this story, the first thing I thought was, "That's just what happened to me with Mahikari!". Because I had satisfied myself that okiyome "works" (that the teachings concerning okiyome seemed to be true), I began to assume that Sukuinushisama (the founder of Mahikari) must have had inside information about all aspects of the spiritual world.

Before you get upset at me, let me stress that I'm not trying to imply that Sukuinushisama was a con-man. Some people may think he was, but for the purposes of this analogy, it doesn't matter much whether he was sincere or not. The thing that matters is whether or not his teachings are correct.

In the above story, the victims of the con were initially sceptical, but decided to tentatively believe the anonymous tips just in case the tipster knew something they themselves didn't know...after all, there was a lot to gain if the tipster was correct. Once the con-man gained his victims' trust by repeatedly coming up with the correct tip, he, in effect, had "proved" that he had crucial inside information.

Then, when the con-man said he needed $25,000... and needed it that night... the victims were aware that this might be a trick but, even so, they were quite eager to participate. They only had a matter of hours to think about it, and they were reluctant to let their slight suspicions get in the way of this chance to make a very large sum of money.

Mahikari teachings don't offer us the chance to double $25,000. They offer us a chance to become spiritually purified, and to help purify others, so that as many people as possible can survive the Baptism by Fire (Mahikari's version of Armageddon). We are told that we must be dedicated members of Mahikari and make every effort possible, as a matter of extreme urgency, because the teachings say that the Baptism of Fire is already beginning. We don't have the luxury of thinking about it later... we must act now in order to save ourselves and as much of the world as possible. That's more important than $25,000!

But is it true? That's for you to decide. I've already admitted that I can neither prove nor disprove any of the teachings of Mahikari.

I never donated $25,000 to Mahikari, although I might have done at one stage if I'd had that sort of money. Probably most of you haven't either. In our cases, it's more a question of how many years of our lives we have wasted... if the teachings are not true.

As you've no doubt already noticed, the above analogy between the con story and our belief in Mahikari teachings is not a perfect analogy. In the story, the con victims would have realized they'd been conned as soon as the perpetrator disappeared with their money. What happens in Mahikari? Why do we keep on believing the teachings year after year?

Sure, okiyome does continue to "work"... for some of the population at least. We've all come across people who insist, "I didn't feel a thing!", after receiving okiyome and, as in the above analogy, we tend to leave those people alone and just concentrate on nurturing the people who do experience a favourable result from receiving okiyome. Presumably, we're all in the group of people for whom okiyome does "work", but I think we should still ask what it is and why it works. Is it actually the Light of God, as the teachings say? After all, there are a variety of other apparently miraculous healing techniques (yogic-type self-healing, healing that results from hypnotic suggestion, faith healing, etc., etc.) that achieve very real physical effects (such as feelings of warmth, sweating, shaking, discharge, etc.) and that achieve verifiable cures. Our minds are very powerful things. Perhaps one such mechanism makes okiyome "work" for some people, and other mechanisms make it "work" for others. This is a fascinating area... I would love to know exactly what is going on here.

Also, we probably continue to experience how much our own sonen (attitudes) affect our lives. Does anything else make us continue to believe?

Some critics suggest that members of Mahikari are victims of mind control. I know for a fact that I never attempted to control anyone's mind when I was in leadership roles during my Mahikari years. I'm equally sure that none of you - regardless of whether you are a kamikumite, a group leader, a Doshi (teacher), or even a Dojo Cho (head of a Mahikari center) - have ever tried to practice mind control over anyone. Sure, we might have tried to be as persuasive as possible (in ordinary ways) when giving advice to other members or telling outsiders about Mahikari, but I don't think ordinary persuasion counts as mind control.

However, even though I believe no-one ever deliberately practiced mind control techniques on me, I've come to think that my day-to-day activities in Mahikari may well have produced a mind control effect. I've started to wonder, for example, if the intense concentration involved in giving and receiving okiyome might produce an altered mental state (some sort of shallow trance) in which the teachings become implanted in our subconscious. This is just speculation, but if okiyome, chanting, attending kenshu, and so on, do have this effect, then this may have been the most crucial factor that kept me believing Mahikari teachings for years, despite all my logic and careful thinking. This would also put a new perspective on the fact that we are often told that if we don't receive okiyome regularly, or reattend kenshu, we might "drift away" from Mahikari.

Influence at a subconscious level could explain why we fear that something dreadful will happen to us if we ever leave Mahikari (nothing dreadful has happened to me yet!). It could explain why we come to believe all those teachings about world history and Japanese supremacy, the astral world, the spiritual world, the Baptism of Fire, male and female roles, etc. It could explain how people who used to be atheists can fairly quickly adjust to bowing and praying in front of what originally seemed to be a quite alien sort of altar.

Have you ever read any studies of mind control and how it works? There's lots of information out there on how it is used in advertising and marketing, in scams, in religious and other types of cults, in politics, etc. Just look at your library or search the Internet. It seems that a lot of what has been written on mind control focuses on deliberate deception in cults such as the Moonies, Children of God, etc. Even so, books such as Steve Hassan's "Combatting Cult Mind Control", and "Recovery from Cults", edited by Michael D. Langone, make interesting reading.

If you do get a chance to read any of this material, I'd be very interested to hear what you think. Indeed, I'd be very interested to hear from any of you about which teachings you may have found hard to accept, and why you have now come to believe them. (If any ex-members are reading this, I'd of course also be interested in hearing your views.)

In closing, I feel I must state the obvious. If all the teachings of Mahikari are correct, then the above comments are just the result of influence by attaching spirits, and should be ignored. However, if the teachings are regarded as at all questionable, then the notion of spirit disturbance must also be questioned and, if that is the case, some careful thinking might be in order.

(To read more, visit Anne's blog)

Last Modified: 30 June 2010