Court family cuts Asian cult links
by Leeroy Betti Saturday October 18 1997
PREMIER Richard Court and his wife Jo have cut
themselves off from a controversial Japanese
religious cult which Mrs Court followed for more
than 10 years.
In the early 1980s Jo Court joined the
Sukyo Mahikari organization, since found to be
dangerous by the Belgian Parliament and under
investigation in several other European countries,
but left some time this year.
Mr Court says he has never been a member
of the cult, but has made many visits to the cult's
Perth headquarters in Mount Lawley. This week he
defended the sect, saying his wife had very good
experiences with it.
Cult members believe that they can radiate the creator god's light from their hands with the help of a divine pendant, called omitama.
They claim that holding their hands towards another persons body can heal cancers and other illnesses, improve marriage, mental faculties and financial well being. They also believe that this light can be used to fix inanimate objects such as cars.
Disgruntled ex-members of the cult say Mr Court received the light in visits to the center. Ex-members say about 60 of the cults 300 estimated Perth members have abandoned the group this year following the discovery that the group which preaches unity of all world religions, is a break away from an earlier Mahikari cult.
The West Australian has been told that Mrs Court defended the sect at a meeting about its future in January. Informants say Mr Court attended.
Sukyo Mahikari former Australian second-in-command, Garry Greenwood, a friend of Mrs Court in the early 1980s when they were both members in Canberra, said last week he had failed to persuade Mrs Court to leave the cult in 1994.
Mr Greenwood said that after writing to Mrs Court to ask her to leave the sect, she had told him that she was fine. He believed Mr and Mrs Court had been conned.
"She (Mrs Court) is a nice person. I see Richard and Jo as victims of this sect like myself and all these others that are in there," he said.
He believed the cult used respectable middle-class people such as the Courts to give itself credibility. He has published a damning book on his 10 years within the organization.
Another cult opponent, Steve Allerton, also friendly with Mrs Court in the early 1980s said he had spoken to ex-members who said Mr Court had received light at the centre.
Mr Court said his wife's religious beliefs were her private business. "She is a devout practising Christian, as am I," he said.
Asked about reports that he had attended the centre with Mrs Court, the Premier said, "Of course I attend things with my wife and I am proud of that. " Mr Court said he had never belonged to the organization. "I am a member of another church and that is something that I have been publicly and proudly involved with for many many years."
"So quite frankly I don't see why you should start questioning me ... I've told you what sort of church I belong to, if you want me to answer questions about that I will."
Asked if he had seen the practice of radiating light and believed it, he said: "Do you want to know what time I have a shower? I mean you are starting to ask questions about...next you will want to ask questions about my private life behind closed doors or whatever." His wife was sensitive because so much nonsense had been written about the sect.
A Belgian parliamentary commission aiming to develop ways to protect people against cults found that Sukyo Mahikari was one of the most dangerous sects in Belgium, according to the office of the commission's vice chairman Antoine Duquesne.
THE MAHIKARI CULT
The religion that uses divine light to purify
THE COURT family's association with the Sukyo Mahikari cult brought them into contact with the teachings of a Japanese Imperial Guard lieutenant colonel who claimed to have received revelations from God in 1957.
Yoshikazu Okada, known to cult members as Kotama and Sukuinushisama, is described in Sukyo Mahikari texts as the 'heralding messiah' mentioned in the Judaic-Christian Bible.
Cult members believe that they can radiate God's light from their hands with the help of a divine pendant, called omitama.
The sect's regional director Dr Andris Tebecis told the West Australian that after discovering Mahikari during a trip to Japan in 1975 he tested the pendant on plants and mould in controlled scientific tests and found it worked.
To give the light, people must pay more than $150 to undergo a three-day seminar. Later they might undergo intermediate and advanced training, and many were required to travel to Japan.
Dr Tebecis said it would take a long time to explain fully Sukyo Mahikari's philosophy, but it included that Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed were great masters sent by God.
Claims that Jesus Christ did not die on the cross, but in Japan at the age of 106, were not part of the cult's beliefs, he said.
The Jesus claim was an incidental one known to many members, and he had visited the claimed grave site in the Japanese village of Herai.
"Whether Jesus Christ came to Japan or not has nothing to do with the Mahikari organization," he said. "It exists because of the revelation the founder received from God."
Dr Tebecis' book, Mahikari - Thank God for the Answers, dedicates 11 pages to discussion about theories that Christ died in Japan.
The book is described, in a pamphlet given to The West Australian at Sukyo Mahikari's Perth headquarters last week, as the world's best introduction to Mahikari.
Former cult members say the cult teaches that the Japanese are the world's superior race. Members learn at primary level that they are the new Levites, as mentioned in the Christian Bible, they say. A sect text, Goseigen, quotes Mr Okada as saying that Japan is the land of spirit's origin and God placed O-Bito (the king race) here and dispatched and spread all five races throughout the world as branch races.
It goes on to quote Mr Okada saying that "this place was a great paradise full of love and harmony and called the Garden of Eden."
An introductory text refers to ultra-ancient times when people knew their parent was God and there existed a heavenly state, a Garden of Eden, which Shintoism called Kannagara.
Dr Tebecis said Sukyo Mahikari teachings were not nationalistic but were theories on the history of the world, including the former existence of continents which had sunk. Sukyo Mahikari texts also taught that the Earth was undergoing god's baptism of fire. This involved increasing the energy of fire to purify everything that had become polluted since the divine age. "The Creator's plan is to purify the completely polluted mankind by means of the baptism of fire and to establish a new civilization," reads an introductory Sukyo Mahikari book.
The book says God had given Mr Okada the mission of manifesting the holy plan.
Sukyo Mahikari texts describe Mr Okada as founder and first spiritual leader of the Mahikari organization.
Former members of the cult complain that they took that to mean Mr Okada founded Sukyo Mahikari.
But this is not the case.
Mr Okada left a Shinto-based religion called Sekai Kyusei Kyo and founded Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyodan in 1959.
He died in 1974 and was succeeded by Reverend Sekiguchi, according to the transcripts of a long court battle between himself and Ms okada for control of the organisation.
Mr.Okada's adoptive daughter Keishu Okada formed Sukyo Mahikari four years after Mr.Okada's death in June 1978, taking with her many of the organisations members.
Sukyo Mahikari is one of five factions of an overall organisation, SMBK.
Sukyo Mahikari members are taught that Ms Okada is God's representative on Earth.
These facts, brought to prominence by Sukyo Mahikari's former Australian second-in-command Garry Greenwood and fellow ex-member Steve Allerton, challenged the faith of other members, since Sukyo Mahikari texts do not mention the earlier cult or other off-shoots.
Dr Tebecis said last week that the court battle was nothing new and had been misrepresented.
Both Sukyo Mahikari and SMBK have built rival shrines - Sukyo Mahikari's Suza shrine opened in 1984 and SMBK's greater Su-Za shrine several years later.
"The reason they (members) left was because Mr Greenwood has been waging a campaign to smear the organisation and has been looking for weak points," he said.
"One of them could be that these people (members) did not know about the breakaway."
Dr Tebecis said yesterday that he had only said Mr Okada founded Mahikari.
But Dr Tebecis' book lists Mr Okada as 'the Founder of Sukyo Mahikari' on one of its first pages.
Dr Tebecis also protested last week against a raft of allegations levelled against Sukyo Mahikari in recent years.
He explained that Sukyo Mahikari was an international, apolitical, non-denominational organisation originating in Japan that was helping to establish a better world. This was done by improving quality of life through purification with the light, and practising of Sukyo Mahikari teachings.
Sukyo Mahikari texts show that giving of the light is called Mahikari no waza and also okiyome. Dr Tebecis confirmed that the light could not be given unless a person wore a divine pendant.
"This is something rather special because you can not radiate this true light without the divine pendant," he said.
"The one who wears this pendant can channel the light of the creator god." He said.
Dr Tebecis said that Keishu Okada, also known as Oshienushi-sama, transmitted teachings revealed by God to help people create a high-quality civilization, which would develop in the 21st century.
"She makes the spiritual connection between God and the pendant so that the wearer is connected or becomes a channel for the light of God," he said.
ACT planned as world centre
ANDRIS TEBECIS cannot understand what all the fuss is about.
The highly qualified scientist, who has worked at the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the psychology department at the Australian National University, says he is the Australian leader of a religious, educational and community organisation that helps to create a peaceful and harmonious world.
He complains that Australian publications have unfairly carried claims the group had been a cover for a right-wing political movement and is even linked with the Aum Supreme Truth movement, which was accused of the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attacks.
"These things have been dropped or left in the air," Dr Tebecis said.
Pressure has followed a Belgian parliamentary commission inquiry in to 189 cult groups, sparked in part by the December 1995 mass suicides in France of members of the Order of the Solar Temple.
Sukyo Mahikari claims to be one of the fastest growing Japanese religious movements on Earth.
It has about 2000 members in Australia and an estimated two million in almost 100 countries.
Australian Securities Commission returns for Sukyo Mahikari Australia Ltd show $90,242 was sent to Japan in 1995 and $196,882 in 1994.
But the Australian Government's grant of tax-free status remains and the ACT has subsidized a lease of a one hectare plot in Holder, Canberra, where the cult plans to build a shrine.
"One of the things we are striving to achieve is to make an international headquarters in Canberra, the ACT," Dr Tebecis said.
"We've got a block of land given by the Government for this and that is recognized as a non-denominational religious institution. It is also an educational institution and also a community organisation."
Catholic and Anglican ministers and a Jewish rabbi in Melbourne were members, he said.
The group had also helped to change the curriculum in some Australian and New Zealand schools.
"One of our members there (in New Zealand) has implemented or helped implement a spiritual aspect in the curriculum for schools and also universities nationwide," Dr Tebecis said.
Brainwashing tactics 'used on members'
GARRY GREENWOOD was Sukyo Mahikari's second-in-command in Australia until he resigned in 1988.
He left the cult after five of the most promising young members, wearing pendants meant to protect them, died in a car accident returning home from a Canberra Mahikari centre.
His faith was shaken when the accident was blamed on the members.
Mr Greenwood, 49, said it took several years to realize his thinking had been gradually conditioned.
"At first they say come and go as you like," he said. "You don't need to believe everything."
Then pressure was exerted to censor members' reading material and they were encouraged to do more for the cult.
"They start saying, you have such severe karma, if you don't erase it you will die a terrible way," he said.
"You become more involved and it becomes more severe until every waking moment is amounting to 'What can I do for the organization?'."
The cult believes that all people are possessed by spirits and demonstrates this by performing what is called a spirit investigation.
The person investigated, by receiving light to the forehead, often writhes and the minister giving light talks to the spirit.
The person can sometimes babble in an unknown language, similar to what occurs in various Pentecostal churches in the Christian world.
"I feel when you get involved in this cult, they instill incredible fear and guilt into you. 'You will get possessed by nasty spirits'," he said.
Mr Greenwood, who lives in rural NSW, said the people who joined Sukyo Mahikari were all nice people who wanted to do something good for the world.
Many members did not know the full teachings because they were revealed slowly and many had not been translated from Japanese.
Mr Greenwood had made many trips to Japan as a cult member, and was taken to the village where Jesus Christ is said to have died.
He returned to Japan where he discovered that Sukyo Mahikari was only an off-shoot of the cult that Mr Okada had founded.
He researched Mr Okada and discovered that he had been a strategist in the Rape of Nanking during WWII, in which it is estimated 200,000 Chinese were killed and 20,000 women were raped.
Mr Greenwood has written a damning book, All the Emperor's Men, in which he claims that the people behind the cult aim to create a Japanese global theocracy.
"At an advanced and intermediate level, it starts to take on a Shinto flavour," he said.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 23 1997
THE MAHIKARI CULT
Mrs Jo Court replies;
Our spiritual path, like life, is a choice
PREMIER Richard Court's wife, Jo Court, writes to say she will continue to embrace people from all religions.
I was saddened by your front-page article in the Saturday edition of your paper. I write this letter now our of loyalty to the people of this great State, the community organizations I work for and the people who don't know me.
I have no intention of attempting to correct the nonsense that was printed. This media interest, however, compels me to share publicly what I feel is rightfully a private matter.
Some 15 years ago I attended a seminar and joined the Mahikari organisation with an open mind. This has never been a secret.
At teachers college I studied comparative religion and came to have a better understanding and tolerance of the many different religions in our world. I have personally always tried to grow in love and harmony and be of service to God. I believe a spiritual journey should be a personal and dynamic set of life's experiences.
Richard and I have the privilege of visiting churches of many different religions as we travel around this wonderful State. The kindness and hospitality shown to us is something we treasure dearly.
Throughout my life I will remain open minded and tolerant and not miss the wonderful opportunity to appreciate the rich tapestry of faith and love as practised in many religions. I remain devoted, steadfast and tolerant in my Christian faith. Two years ago I was confirmed in my faith at St Andrew's Church, my childhood church and the place of my marriage.
It is my belief that we must unite people and look for similarities between people, countries and religions rather than focusing on differences. I believe that in doing this in my daily life I can cultivate an attitude of understanding, tolerance and an ability to learn from others.
Life is a choice. Our relationship with God is a choice. Our spiritual path is a choice. My deepest prayer is to grow in love and faith towards God and be of service to others. At the end of the day, I believe we will be judged on the love in our hearts, not what 'category' we belong to.
My own personal experiences with the Mahikari organisation have always been positive. I have friends who are current and past members.
It is my choice to grow as a Christian, however, I will continue to embrace people from all religions. I do not judge others 'right' or 'wrong'. I merely embrace their love and service in whatever form it takes. I feel at peace with my choices in life and particularly my strong belief that goodness will always win out in the end.
I will pray for those promoting negativity, untruth and misinformation that they will turn their attention to more truthful and positive pursuits and allow me a small degree of privacy in what is otherwise a very public life. I thank God I have a wonderful husband who loves and supports me in all that I do. In adversity we grow closer and stronger and this is true of our relationship with God. What appear to be negative times, give us great strength.
May God bless all the staff at The West Australian newspaper.
World rule is sect's hidden aim
A CHIDOLOW woman, who does not wish to be named, writes of her experiences in the sect, following reports in The West Australian about the involvement of the Premier's wife, Jo Court.
IT is about time Sukyo Mahikari was exposed to limit its growth.
I was a devoted member for more than 10 years and have been out of it now for one year. The longer I've been out of it, the more my eyes have been opened to how influenced I was over that period of time.
At the lower levels, the organization was not evil or negative at all. It gave me many positive life experiences, similar to any learnt in a Christian religion.
However, the main emphasis was on Japan. God's representative on Earth was Sukuinushi sama and then Oshienushi sama. From that, everything followed that anything Japanese was divine as well.
The big shock for me was realizing we were being influenced to obey and worship Japan and the Emperor, thus leading to world domination by the Japanese. This is still my biggest concern about this organization and all cults coming out of Japan.
Millions upon millions of dollars are pouring into Japan each year from all around the world and little is reciprocated. The organization does not assist local communities financially or materially at all.
We were told your problems and suffering are due to your deep sins and impurities and you had to make greater efforts to erase these. This involved making more monetary donations to Mahikari and putting more time into 'serving God' by giving Light and leading people to Mahikari. One scored 'spiritual points' by getting more people to be members of the sect.
The biggest problem with questioning members is that they are still influenced and will see the world with distorted eyes.
Last year I was vigorously defending the organization, the people and Japan one day; on the next I was on the 'other side' and could see Mahikari from outside for the first time. The suddenness of change, due to reading Garry Greenwood's book, sent me into a state of shock from which it took more than two weeks to recover.
Andris Tebecis will spout the 'party line' no matter what is said or done. He is a smooth talker with answers for all occasions. He will defend his position in the organization because he is treated like royalty wherever he goes. He is waited on hand and foot. All his travel fares, food and accommodation are supplied by people in the organization as they believe he is also a representative of God on Earth and by serving him they are also serving God.
I was completely convinced that I was being protected by God while wearing omitama and giving Light to people, protected from all the evil and revengeful spirits that were out to get me due to activities in my past lives. This was 'proved' to me through 'spirit investigations' where spirits spoke and told of my past misdemeanors. This walled me insomuch that I was filled with fear and was never able to even contemplate leaving Mahikari as I believed I would cease to exist in the normal human form if I wasn't wearing omitama. I have since discovered that life goes on without it, and it is even better.
Guilt is another remnant of the strong influence of the organization. I felt guilty at my lack of efforts for God, no matter how much I was doing. It got to a stage where, if I read about an unfortunate person in the paper, I would feel responsible for their predicament because I hadn't gone to give them Light and Salvation.
I felt guilty that I hadn't brought my family to Mahikari or any of the people had contact with. This greatly hindered normal socializing for me.
We were influenced in areas of health. We didn't immunize our babies as it was injecting them with toxins and poisons. We regarded doctors and medicine as obsolete as Mahikari had all the answers and Light would solve all problems. We were told not to have mercury fillings in our teeth as it poisoned the brain, and so on.
I had a dim view of Western medicine, education, religion and political systems due to the indoctrination I had received. The 'Teachings' were worded so that everything that was not Japanese was inferior and Mahikari had come to save the world just in time before the 'Baptism of Fire' (Armageddon).
WE were told priests would burn in hell because they were teaching the 'back-to-front' way and had not awakened to God's new revelations. It was out duty to convert priests and people in positions of power to Mahikari in order to save the world.
My years in Mahikari have left me with a variety of experiences, many of them positive. However, life outside it has a sense of freedom which I am enjoying.
I extend a warning to the people of WA to be wary of the Mahikari organization and others that are like it. It has no outward signs of indoctrination or brainwashing, but they must be there, as my view of everything was distorted while I was a member of the organization.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 25 1997
THE MAHIKARI CULT
Experts warn: Cult uses mind control
A SHINTO-BASED religious cult which has been accused by ex-members of brainwashing, uses mind control and teaches anti-Christian beliefs, according to WA cult experts.
People who left Sukyo Mahikari (True Light Supra-Religious organisation) six months to a year ago, complain that they are still influenced by its teachings, including that they would lose God's protection if they left the cult.
The cult, which teaches that personal troubles stem from spiritual impurity and which encourages donations to erase sins, has sent almost $2 million from its estimated 2000 Australian members to Japan in the past six years.
An investigation by The West Australian has found that the Premier Richard Court attended introductory training sessions for the cult about three years ago.
President and former members confirm that Mr. Court attended two of the three days of lectures, which are usually closed to anyone not intending to join the cult. Witnesses saw him take notes during the 'primary kenshu'. He never joined the cult.A cult leader told one of the witness that Mr.Court had been allowed to sit in on the training on the condition he later undertook full primary kenshu to become a member. The former member expected Mr.Court to join the cult last year after the Premier had a 30-minute meeting with the Perth cult center chief, Suresh Thambipillai, during preparation for training.
In primary training, people are taught:
Medicine is poison, and that people should apologize to God if it has been used.
People gain 'spiritual points' for recruiting new members and making monetary donations.
They should make donations to express gratitude in good times, and erase sins and impurities in bad times.
Members are the 'chosen ones' for the next civilization.
Sukyo Mahikari is the only way
Former Japanese Lt Col Yoshikazu Okada was the heralding messiah mentioned in the Bible.
Direct divine intervention occurs only through the cult's present leader, Keishu Okada.
People are controlled by disturbing attaching spirits.
The solution is to increase donations and divine service.
A divine pendant protects members and allows them to radiate light from their hands to heal illness, improve finances, fix cars and electrical appliances.
A global theocracy approaches in the 21st century.
Mr Court is also said to have acceded to spirit investigation - during which a leader talks to the spirit inside a person. Former members believe the practice is dangerous and used to instil fear and guilt and discourage them from leaving.
Witnesses have said Mr Court received the light many times at the centre, including from the cult's Australia-Oceania regional director, Dr Andris Tebecis, and Mr Thambipillai.
Mrs Jo Court, a member of the cult for almost 15 years, left it some months ago.
But Dr Tebecis claimed Mrs Court was a member as recently as August 29, when he also claimed to know Mr Court personally.
Mr Court has stated repeatedly both to The West Australian and on radio that he is willing to answer questions about his religious beliefs.
For the past eight days, he has refused to answer faxed questions about his involvement with the cult and about his beliefs.
The cult's teachings are based on 'revelations' Yoshikazu Okada, a former Japanese Imperial Guard member, claimed to have received from God in 1957. He was involved in the Rape of Nanking during World War II.
The teachings parallel those of Japanese sect Sekai Kyusei Kyo, which Yoshikazu Okada left in 1944.
Opponents of the cult, including its former Australian deputy Garry Greenwood and former Canberra member Steve Allerton, say the cult targets wealthy, middle-class people to give it credibility.
Former cult members, who paid anything from $70 to many hundreds of dollars a month, complain that they were brainwashed and made to feel guilt and fear due to spiritual impurity.
They were strongly advised to re attend kenshu each year as 'spiritual nutrition' but they now consider it was psychological conditioning.
They also complain that repeated advice to be humble was in fact a form of control and the cult demanded more of their time the longer they remained.
Some sold their homes or borrowed big sums of money to make pilgrimages to Japan - undertaken every few years.
Sukyo Mahikari Australia Pty Ltd annual returns show that $1,822,973 has been remitted to Japan in the past six years - nearly $304,000 a year.
Former members calculate that at least $167,310 and up to $500,000 in donations was harvested through the Perth centre each year, based on a conservative figure of 250 members.
Financial records for just four of a long list of donations show that the Perth membership contributed between $12,000 and $13,000 per month. Former cult members question where the money went.
Sukyo Mahikari Japan is the ultimate controlling entity of the cult's Australian trust funds.
Dr Tebecis and his wife Yasumi have earned as much as $132,000 a year as directors.
WA cult experts Rick Larsen and Adrian van leen believe Sukyo Mahikari manipulates people.
Mr Larsen, a member of the Australian Psychological Association and a consultant on cult education, said the group used excessive prayer and control of members' time as forms of mind control.
Its claim to be the only path to salvation and to have a living divine leader, and its discouragement of questions as spirit disturbance were serious concerns. Lay-membership was not told the organisation's complete belief system.
"According to a growing number of ex-members, doubts have been raised about the organisation's agenda," Mr Larsen said.
"There are complaints of deception, manipulation and hidden Japanese supremacy."
Mr van Leen said the cult falsely claimed its teachings were compatible with Christianity.
The Concerned Christians Growth Ministry reverend said the cult taught that if something went wrong, it was not because the teachings were wrong or the organisation had made a mistake.
"It is because you, the member, have not been faithful enough, or only you have done something wrong and deserve it," he said.
In June, the Belgian Government unanimously accepted the report of a parliamentary commission which found the sect was dangerous.
Dr Tebecis maintains the report made no conclusions.
A French parliamentary commission report, dated December 1995, found Sukyo Mahikari was a sect with possible dangers.
The Singapore Government has undertaken a review of the cult's status under the Charities Act.
Pendant connects and protects
EVERYONE needs a divine pendant to have a spiritual connection to God, according to Sukyo Mahikari teachings.
People can have the pendant (omitama) only after paying up to $175 for a three-day lecture to become a cult member.
The spiritual connection, or cord, to the Su God will break if members do not make their monthly omitama donation - tied to the value of the Japanese yen.
The pendant, containing a piece of paper with a spiritual inscription, allows members to radiate the light of Su God from their hands as far as they want to send it.
Members are taught that their pendants are more precious than their lives.
They do not have Su God's protection without it and they are not to take it off unless it is essential.
"One can never know when an earthquake will occur or a fire break out," the cult textbook says.
To deliberately wet the pendant, drop it, open it or allow it to touch bedding or be X-rayed will sever the spiritual cord with Su God. Dropping the pendant is a sign of impending danger, an attack by evil spirits or wavering faith in Sukyo Mahikari. Allowing it to touch an impure place, such as below the navel, is the same as dropping it.
Members are taught to sew an 'omitama pocket' inside bras or singlets so the pendant does not drop to the ground if its chain breaks.
It must be wrapped in layers of plastic and paper, changed every four weeks, and a cloth bag to protect it from water or perspiration. Members must wash their hands and rinse their mouth before re-wrapping it.
The pendant should be removed when a member takes a shower, bath, swim, plays vigorous sport or has an X-ray.
Any breaches must be reported to cult leaders, whose advice should be accepted.
The price of faith
SUKYO MAHIKARI teaches that there are many ways to offer gratitude to God. One way is money. Others are to give light or recruit new members.
Ex-members calculate that at least $167,000 and as much as $500,000 was harvested through the Perth centre each year.
One Perth leader used to say: "You pay to pray".
Members are taught that receiving light without making a donation is like stealing from Su God.
Primary training and pendant (omitama): about $150 to $175 depending on the value of the yen. Visiting leaders (Kanbu) conduct sessions in local centres.
Intermediate training and new pendant: about $750 and two recruits; undertaken in Canberra
Advanced training and new pendant: about $1000 and five recruits; undertaken at a shrine in Japan.
A scroll inscribed with Japanese words and a symbol (Goshintai) housed in an altar for the home: average cost $2000.
Ancestor's tablets placed in home altars (women are encouraged to have a second altar for maiden name): $50 each.
Members are taught that sums reflect their gratitude (sonen), but ex-members say peer pressure dictates average amounts. Asking questions suggests 'spirit disturbance'
Omitama:$6 a month or $3 for children, linked to the exchange rate value of the Yen.
Headquarters: $10-$100 a month goes toward construction of regional headquarters in Canberra.
County maintenance: suggested $20 monthly for rent and other expenses.
Sukuinushisama commemorative hall: average $5-$10 for construction of hall in Japan.
Okiyome; average $1-$10, strongly encouraged every time a member gives or receives light.
Otamagushi: average $2-$10 made when asking for Su God's help, apologizing for sins, expressing gratitude or 'cleansing financial impurities'.
Goshugo Onrei: sum varies according to seriousness of incident. It accompanies a letter of gratitude to Su God after receiving protection. Eg: a safe birth, escaping an accident. Usually made once a month.
Goshugo Onegai: average $20-$50, a special request for protection.
Re attending Kenshu: average $20 once a year.
Home Goshintai: $20 a month basic donation; for a miniature altar in the homes of advanced Kensu members (about 12 in Perth).
Onenji: large sums paid for phone calls to local centre chief for prayers to counter emergencies or serious situations.
Oharahisai: average $10-$50 once a year for a special prayer which leader Keishu Okada would offer personally to Su God on your behalf.
What they say
"WITHIN our organisation, however, the principle of democracy is not acceptable. Nowhere in this universe, neither on Earth nor in heaven, is there any actual democracy. It is absolutely impermissible to God. The principle of the universe is none other than theocracy, divinity as the leading principle." (Sunkyo, page 21)
"THERE is no need for observance and support of the religious teachings found in the various established religions which exist merely for the sake of protecting their own profits." (Sunkyo, pages 25-26).
"He (God) placed O-BITO (the King race) here (Japan) and dispatched and spread all five races throughout the world as branch races. It is the peerless (Fuji) place in which God placed the ones with the role to unite (Suberu), called Sumeria, as His Deputies to govern the world." (Goseigenshu, page 275)
"He (Mr Okada) insisted that the Emperor was a direct descendant of a god who descended to a physical world. He said that the Emperor had a divine character and was fulfilling God's divine plan." (From the biography on Yoshikazu Okada)
Dr Tebecis' Mahikari - Thank God for the Answers;
"Sukuinushisama (Mr Okada) taught that Moses did not write the Old Testament, but that it was the product of the Zend Avesta which was written by the great Persian Master, Zoroaster (a leader of the Sumerians), who had based it on his studies of Ancient Shintoism." (page 346)
"In kenshu Sukuinushi sama clearly taught that Jesus did not die on the cross, but that his younger brother died in his place." (page 360)
"Sukuinushi sama said that the bad karma of the Jewish people for failing this mission (to worship God alone at King Solomon's Temple) is the very reason why they have been persecuted to this day." (page 416)
"It is no wonder then that the Jewish race is still being persecuted." (page 416)
"I can now understand why the Japanese people have held the long-held belief that their Emperor is divine." (page 396)
My family was destroyed by sect influence: mother
HELENA has no doubt that Sukyo Mahikari's influence can destroy families.
Her husband of 13 years walked out on her and their four children 18 months after joining the cult.
He tried repeatedly to impress the cult's beliefs on his family, despite Helena's wish not to be involved.
"He continually placed (the cult's) priorities before his family," she said.
Helena's husband sometimes slept at the cult's Mt Lawley centre to guard it. He even suggested selling their house to raise money for the cult.
He also opposed conventional medicine, favouring the healing power he believed his cult pendant (omitama) gave him.
"One of our children came down with tonsillitis and needed treatment. My husband strongly objected to seeking medical advice, or using antibiotics," Helena said.
"When the boys wanted to go to the beach, he said he would not be able to rescue them if anything happened because he could not get this omitama wet.
"He gave me that book (Mahikari, Thank God for the Answers). I never read it. I said: "You've got four gods here, our children."
"The last straw was when he would come home he would do all this bowing and clapping and the kids were laughing and mimicking him. I said: 'I've had enough."
After relationship counselling, she asked him to leave and make a choice "for everybody's sake".
"I'm angry not one of them (other cult members) showed concern for the little gods he left behind," she said.
Helena said her husband's behaviour continued to affect the family's lives after the split. It happened when one of the children was taken to hospital with a broken arm.
"He turned up to casualty and did his clapping and his prayers," she said. "Our son turned his head to me and said: "Oh, no, not here. Here we go again.
"I said: 'Either you have come to be with your son or take your religion and leave."
Helena, whose children asked her not to use her full name, did not want to apportion blame. She wanted to share her concerns.
The right to know must prevail
PERTH SATURDAY OCTOBER 25 1997
THE RIGHT to privacy of people in the public eye and the way that conflicts with the right of people to know the workings of their society has become one of the most vexed issues of the latter stages of the 1990s.
Mass communications technology has made the media far more pervasive than at any time in history. Information technology means that much more is known and recorded about individuals than ever before. The combination of the two is a potent brew.
Politicians are among the most skilful at using both technologies. Media manipulation has become a daily fact of political life, at least as important as policy development as MPs respond more to opinion polls than ideology. Every political opportunity is weighed for the best method of gaining an advantage through the media.
Similarly, the various forms of media are confronted daily with a variety of opportunities which can allow them to stray over the line from legitimate public interest to mere prurient snooping.
Last weekend The West Australian told its readers of the involvement of the wife of Premier Richard Court in a controversial Japanese religious sect. The propriety of the newspaper's decision to publish there details has been debated throughout the week. It should be noted that the veracity of the reports has not been seriously questioned.
Premier Court maintains he is open to questions about his beliefs, but asserts that The West Australian went too far by probing his wife's. Despite this, Mr Court has declined to answer questions about his involvement.
An inquiry by The West Australian has uncovered a mass of evidence which proves that Sukyo Mahikari is not a benign cult whose beliefs are basically Christian. It has carried reports during the week from former cult members who attest to its dangerous nature.
The newspaper was alerted to the controversy over Sukyo Mahikari last month when the cult made complaints to the Australian Press Council about reports in the Canberra Times and Women's Day. Those reports mentioned the role of Mrs Court in the cult and that WA members were leaving.
The West Australian holds the view that any involvement by the Premier in a controversial cult which follows teachings far divorced from mainstream Australian ideals is worthy of inquiry. Our attempts to talk to Mr Court about his involvement have been deflected.
Mr Court's entreaty that his wife is a private person is dubious. Mrs Court door-knocks for the Liberal Party, attends party meetings, travels overseas on official business and regularly partakes in 'photographic opportunities to support her husband's political aims. The privacy of her religious beliefs was not an issue when the Premier's office invited the media to film and photograph Mr and Mrs Court in church when the Premier was in election mode.
Political spouses who are not part of the game can fairly claim privacy. Mr Court's claim for his wife strains credulity. Apart from that, the invasive nature of Sukyo Mahikari teachings on families made it necessary to pursue the depth of Mrs Court's commitment.
Readers now know that Mr Court took instruction in the sect's beliefs at its Perth centre. The West Australian also believes that Mr and Mrs Court visited the sect's main shrine while on a State visit to Japan. Until Mr Court sees fit to speak openly, many West Australians will be concerned about his involvement in what is a disturbing organization.
PERTH WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 29 1997
Sect Linked to gas cult
BY TAMARA HUNTER
THE controversial Sukyo Mahikari organization - followed by Premier Richard Court's wife, Jo, for 15 years - has been linked with the cult blamed for poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway two years ago.
The ABC's 7.30 Report was told last night that Mahikari literature endorsed the attacks, in which 12 people died.
The program also revealed that the Mahikari and Aum Supreme Truth sects shared a right-wing political patron in Japan and each had ties to Yasuko Shimada, who helped Aum buy a property in the north-eastern gold fields. Aum used the property to test a deadly gas.
Former member Garry Greenwood, reading from Mahikari literature, told the ABC: "We have an awesome plan which will terrify the bravest hero. It is a subway. Before long, the capital of every country in the world will have a subway and we will be able to destroy all the government institutions and the important papers of these governments at the same time."
Australian cult expert and Uniting Church Minister David Milliken said there was a shadow hanging over the Mahikari sect.
"Certainly we know that an ex-Mahikari person bought the farm property in Western Australia where the Aum Supreme Truth later went on to develop some of their poisonous gas," Dr Milliken said. He agreed that Mahikari and Aum were both sponsored by a Japanese politician, who wrote a book advocating a Japanese-Russian alliance against western democracy.
Sukyo Mahikari regional director Dr Andris Tebecis denied any links with Aum.
He said Ms Shimada had been a member of Mahikari 15 years ago, before Aum was founded, but had broken all ties with Mahikari.
He also revealed that Mrs Court and the Premier, who attended meetings of the group, were not the only high-profile people connected to it.
"There are ones from government circles, there are public servants, high-profile diplomats, university professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers," he said.
Mrs Court is no longer connected with the Mahikari sect and The 7.30 Report did not suggest that she or Mr Court had any knowledge of the claims relating to Aum.
Six find new life after leaving Mahikari
BY LEEROY BETTI
SIX former members of the Sukyo Mahikari organization have defied teachings that disaster would beset them if they failed to pay monthly fees, left or opened pendants that protected them from negative spirits.
Now, says Rose Pritchard, "We feel so free of all the guilt and fear they put on you.
"It just affected the family life so much, it always took back seat to serving Mahikari."
Ms Pritchard clutched one of the self-help books the three were advised against reading but now consume with a passion to blaze their own unique paths to God.
Six months after leaving the controversial cult, they meet weekly to help each other put aside teachings that sect experts say lead to mind control.
They were taught that their divine pendants were more important than life itself.
Dorothy Wright, 58, shunned medicine after she became convinced that organization's communion of receiving divine light helped her recover from a spinal operation.
"When I finally got to a doctor, he said, 'You've got cancer'," she said.
"I thought that diarrhoea I had suffered for a year was 'beautiful cleansing', but, of course, it wasn't."
Ines Hedger, who also suffered from cancer, said cult leaders taught that the disease resulted from a family's deep sins and impurities, and that needing surgery meant they had committed a "sin of the blade".
Standing in what was once a $3000 shrine room, recently converted to the chatter of a sewing machine, Jessie Gibbs recalled how regional cult leaders Dr Andris Tebecis and Paul Taylor once rushed from interstate to find out what spiritual calamity had caused her statue of God to fall from a cleaning table.
"I was living alone and thought terrible things would happen to me," Mrs Gibbs said.
The women said Premier Richard Court and his wife, Jo, were nice people always treated with great respect at the organization's headquarters.
"Like we all have been, they are being conned too," Mrs Gibbs said.
June Russell said they were taught that men were 'upstream' and women were 'downstream'.
She left after a leader phoned her one night after hearing that she doubted the teachings or the organization.
"He said, 'So you don't believe in the supremacy of Oshienushi sama (the cult's Japanese leader)?" I said No. He said "Oh well, that's it then." He washed his hands of me.
The women said they had spoken out in the interests of people in the cult and others who might join, warning they were taught that to question the organization's beliefs meant that they were disturbed by spirits.
Meditation, a practice they all embraced now, was dangerous and allowed negative spirits into their bodies, they were taught.
"Did we really believe all that rubbish?" Sandra Mitchinson said.