The Ideological Clash Between the Young Ryuho Okawa and Kitaro Nishida – What Are the Qualifications of Scholarship?
Comparing Kitaro Nishida's "Inquiry into the Good" and the Basic Teachings of Happy Science "The Principles of Happiness"

Happy Science now boasts people of faith in over 100 nations worldwide. The source of this movement is the over 1,600 texts and countless lectures that its Founder and CEO Ryuho Okawa gave. He attained enlightenment in 1981, allowing him to communicate with the spiritual world, and came to the self-realization that he was “El Cantare”, the supreme God of Earth, whose mission is to create a new civilization. Master Okawa founded Happy Science in 1986, and he has continued to work to save all of humanity.

However, as was noted in the text “The Laws of the Sun”, for the young Master Okawa, ideological struggles littered the road to his enlightenment. Among the philosophers that he encountered during his twenties were Heidegger, Hanna Arendt, Carl Hilty, and Kitaro Nishida.

As seen by the fact that Happy Science Academy is looking forward to the opening of the Happy Science University in 2015, the large number of teachings that Master Okawa has provided for Happy Science also has an academic element to its contents. Today, Master Okawa shared his experiences during his early years, when he was pondering his first steps toward enlightenment while reading Kitaro Nishida’s “Inquiry into the Good”, and offered an ideological comparison between Nishida’s philosophy and the teachings of Happy Science.

The results show clear evidence of the academic nature of the teachings of Happy Science, while providing a keen insight into the relationship between this religious ideology taught for the salvation of man and the pure philosophy taught academically.


Scholars who Claim that a Teaching “Lacks Academic Value Because It Provides no Academic References” is One that Thrives on Imitation

Before entering into his main points, Master Okawa warned of the trappings of “common sense” and “tradition” that pervade the world of academia today. He pointed out that “Inquiry into the Good” was a philosophical text that Kitaro Nishida thought about and created himself, and it did not contain any academic references.

“Those who think that academic papers that don’t contain any academic references lack academic value, are those who believe in imitation as a form of scholarship. Original work typically doesn’t contain references, since the originator conceives of the idea in his own brain and preaches his own ideology, which eventually becomes text.”

Modern scholarship, whether in the humanities or the sciences, puts a significant amount of effort into including references and formatting papers. To include a minimum number of references is to show respect for other researchers, and it may be commendable. However, if an inordinate amount of effort and attention is focused on how a paper “looks”, and the ability to judge the content of the research declines, then it is harmful to the progress of scholarship.

This isn’t simply unwarranted apprehension, as seen by the controversy made over the STAP cell research. Instead of discussing the “matter” of whether STAP cells exist or not, the discussion turned into the “manner” by which the academic paper lacked frivolous formatting, resulting in the media and researchers criticizing the female researcher. This shows how academia falsely perceives, not the contents, but the format to be the essence of scholarship.

If academic papers that didn’t submit to the rigors of modern formatting should be considered unscholarly, then Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideologies couldn’t be thought of as academic. Their ideologies lacked references and end notes. If people applied this idea, the result would be laughable in that the original ideologies of Plato and Aristotle wouldn’t be considered academic, while interpretations by later academics would be considered scholarly. Furthermore, this idea wouldn’t only apply to ancient philosophies, but also to modern ideologies like Nishida’s, which also lacked references. Nishida, however, became a renowned philosopher known around the world.

The same could be said of the teachings of Happy Science. There are those who don’t consider the teachings of Happy Science to be academic, merely because the texts do not contain “references and end notes”, and because members who study the teachings don’t study within the narrow bindings of modern academic formatting. However, it should be pointed out that those who offer these criticisms don’t have the expertise to judge other than based on form itself.

In fact, the teachings of Happy Science, given their enormous size, contain both depth and breadth. In today’s lecture, Master Okawa compared Nishida’s philosophy with the teachings of Happy Science, and he made it clear that he formulated the basic teachings after rigorous ideological confrontations with philosophers like Nishida.

The teachings use simple words for the purpose of facilitating religious salvation and understanding, but the teachings of Happy Science contain within them the rigors of academic inquiry.


“Pure Experience” is a commonality between Master Okawa, Nishida, and Socrates

Perhaps the most well-known key term in Nishida’s philosophy is the idea called “pure experience”. Nishida, in his “Inquiry into the Good”, described “pure experience” as “happening at the very moment one sees the color and hears the sound, before one understands whether it’s an external stimulus, before one acknowledges that one is experiencing that stimulus, before a judgment is made as to what the color or sound is”, and “before there is object or subject, at the moment when one’s knowledge and the object are completely one”.

For example, when one sees an apple, one can either acknowledge it as a subjective figment within one’s consciousness and imagination, or believe that it is an objective object that exists outside of oneself. One can choose to believe either, but the “pure experience” comes before such a choice and judgment are made, when one purely experiences the phenomenon of the “apple”.

At the point when one undergoes a “pure experience”, there is no awareness of the “self” yet. In fact, it’s within “pure experience” from which the recognition of the “self” emerges. Carl Young, who led the field of analytical psychology, stated that beneath an individual’s subconscious lay a collective unconscious that is common to all of humanity, but Nishida’s “pure experience” is also a universal concept, where one’s personal experiences emerge as distillations of a portion of “pure experience”.

Master Okawa summarized Nishida’s philosophy when he said, “In the end, he wanted to say that ‘it isn’t that individuals have experiences’, but rather that ‘experiences make the individual'”. Ordinarily, one might assume that the body, as perceived by the five senses, is the individual, and that individual has undergone a variety of experiences. However, according to Nishida, the essence of being human was not the body, but was in fact the formless and shapeless effect called experience, which in turn connected to the rest of existence at its root.

In his lecture, Master Okawa suggested that Nishida’s philosophy was an extension of Buddhism’s teachings on “egolessness” and “vacuousness”, where “things without shape” are in fact the true nature of the objects. He further elaborated on this “pure experience” from a Buddhist perspective when he said, “According to Buddha, ‘the true nature of man lies detached from the five senses'”, and “The true self, the true spiritual self and its existence, lie beyond the material self.”

At Happy Science, Master Okawa has taught that the true nature of man isn’t the material body, but the spirit, which is in turn connected to other spirits through God. Nishida’s “pure experience” is also a reality that is common to all of humanity, and the fundamental power that is allowing it to exist is God. The idea of oneness between self and others, and between God and the self, are common to both.

This line of thought applies to Socrates as well. Socrates recognized the existence of the spirit, receiving God’s will at the temple of Delphi and conversing with his own guardian spirit called Daimon. Both Socrates and Nishida received inspiration from Heaven when they were formulating their own ideologies. Master Okawa’s over 2,200 lectures are also based on this oneness between God and the self, which are supported by his research into a wide range of academic subjects.

Relating to “pure experience”, Nishida’s philosophy contained difficult concepts such as “absolute nothingness”, “one is all, all is one”, and “self-identity of absolute contradictories”. In his lecture, Master Okawa explained these concepts, which he interpreted through the religious teachings of Happy Science. While these ideas might have been difficult to grasp alone, Master Okawa’s simple explanations may allow many to find their own paths to understanding them.


The Unifications of Good and Happiness and of Love and Wisdom

One of the basic teachings of Happy Science is that “happiness transcends this life and the next”. This is a teaching that directs one to live a life that brings happiness, not in one of these lives, but in both, and necessitates that one should live a good life. According to Master Okawa, Nishida’s philosophy contains ideas that run parallel to this point.

In Nishida’s “Inquiry into the Good”, he wrote, “Not only do Good and Happiness not conflict with each other, but as Aristotle mentioned, being Good is equivalent to being Happy.” Master Okawa focused on the fact that Nishida saw Good and Happiness to be equivalent, and said, “If Happiness is Good, then this ideology in fact is ‘happiness that transcends this life and the next.'” In the short term, the good may end up suffering, but if one were to take a longer view, taking into account the afterlife, the good will always find happiness.

In “Inquiry into the Good”, Good is when individuals realize their wills and ideals, and express their God-given gifts, and this is what he called a state of Happiness. If expressing Man’s God-given gifts is Good, then the nature of Man is fundamentally Good, this means that Man has the “nature of Buddha” within himself, and coincides with a teaching in Happy Science that claims Man has the potential to become Buddha or God.

Master Okawa pointed out another similarity between Nishida’s philosophy and the teachings of Happy Science when he mentioned that “Love and Wisdom are Equivalent”. In the final chapter of “Inquiry into the Good”, Nishida said, “I believe that these two (Love and Wisdom) spiritual effects are not separate things, but are rather equivalent in their origins,” and that “Wisdom is Love, and Love is Wisdom.” Master Okawa showed affinity for Nishida’s philosophy when he said, “If one learns religious truth (wisdom), one will inevitably learn to Love. In this sense, the principles of Love and Wisdom are of equal value.”

Master Okawa has always said, “Understanding someone allows one to love that person. Understanding means that you’ve already loved.” Nishida also said, “To understand something, you must love, and to love something, you must understand it.” Master Okawa internalized Nishida’s philosophy, and further deepened it.
This lecture demonstrated that an aspect of the teachings of Happy Science is its academic background, and how the teachings, which have been taught in simple language, when compared with an analogous philosophy, show that Happy Science has been based on deep evaluations of truth.

The teachings of Happy Science not only have many things in common with ideologies that came before them, but they explain difficult concepts using simple language while also going beyond Nishida’s philosophy in the breadth of its research. For example, while Nishida contemplated the nature of Japanese culture as well as a comparison of civilizations, he did not step into detailed analysis of the social, political, and economic issues of his time. On the other hand, Master Okawa has offered countless opinions on contemporary issues, which have had a significant effect on the world. When Master Okawa said, “I’ve gone beyond Nishida’s philosophy. I have a clear awareness of how I’ve gone beyond it,” that was neither arrogance nor ignorance, but was the honest truth.

In this lecture, Master Okawa suggested a correction to the stereotype that “religious teachings are not academic”, and that “papers, which don’t take the form of an academic paper, aren’t scholarly”. It is odd how prevalent the view has become that religions and philosophies, which have long been researched throughout history, shouldn’t be considered academic but this skewed view must be corrected. Only by creating original academic fields, instead of relying on the scholarship of imitation, will scholars maintain the practicality of academia.

In this lecture, Master Okawa also discussed the following points:

  • After the Meiji Restoration, when everything was becoming westernized, what was on Nishida’s mind as he formulated his philosophy?
  • What does the height of “absolute nothingness” in Nishida’s philosophy mean, which negated both Western and Eastern philosophies?
  • What was the first lecture “The Principles of Happiness”, which foresaw the direction that Happy Science would take over the following 30 years?
  • The universality of “The Principles of Happiness” which can be compared with Nishida’s philosophy as well as the teachings of Christianity.
The Ideological Clash Between the Young Ryuho Okawa and Kitaro Nishida – What Are the Qualifications of Scholarship?
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