The Sohonzan (cathedral) Shoshinkan of Happy Science in Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan. Photo by Miyuki Meinaka via Wikimedia Commons.
Founded in 1986 by Ryuho Okawa, Happy Science is a controversial Japanese new religious and spiritual movement frequently considered a cult. Okawa, a former stockbroker, considers himself the incarnation of a supreme being from Venus called El Cantare. He claims this being has also appeared as Buddha, Hermes and other historical figures.
Critics have often pointed out Happy Science’s controversial teachings, political activities and media productions.
Some of the teachings of Happy Science include:
- The existence of reincarnation, angels, demons, heaven and hell, and aliens.
- The belief that only Okawa can communicate with the spirit world and reveal the truth to humanity.
- The practice of the Fourfold Path: love that gives, wisdom, self-reflection, and progress.
- The integration of various religious concepts from Christianity, Buddhism, New Age spirituality, Greek mythology, and the lost continents of Mu and Atlantis.
- The promotion of Japanese nationalism, militarism, and historical revisionism.
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Happy Science also has a political wing called the Happiness Realization Party, which advocates for Japan’s nuclear deterrence, territorial expansion and denial of war crimes.
Happy Science still exists today and claims to have over 10 million followers worldwide, though this claim has been disputed heavily (with one former member saying the actual number is no more than 13,000). It operates schools, publications and media divisions that produce films, anime, music and books based on its doctrines.
A 2020 report by The New York Times also exposed Happy Science’s leader for claiming he could cure COVID-19 “for a fee.”
Some of Happy Science’s recent work includes “The Cherry Bushido,” a movie about a patriotic spiritualist who fights against an evil country that represents China; and “The Laws of the Universe: Part 0,” an anime film about a group of students who discover the secrets of ancient civilizations and aliens.
Happy Science is one of the most enduring and far-reaching new religious movements in Japan. However, it also faces criticism and controversy for its unconventional beliefs and actions.