NY Times Publishes Critical Piece on Happy Science

The NY Times digital edition published a piece regarding Happy Science on April 16th (Erika Cross / Shutterstock.com).

On April 16, the New York Times published a piece titled, “Inside the Fringe Japanese Religion That Claims It Can Cure Covid-19,” on their digital edition.

This piece featuring Happy Science was also published on the NYT weekend print edition, titled “Battling Viral Demons, But for a fee.”

Happy Science is a religious organization in Japan. Happy Science CEO Ryuho Okawa has given lectures on five continents — these includes four English lectures given during 2011 in Nepal, and India. On the last day in Bodh Gaya, over 40,000 people gathered for the lecture, which was broadcast live on local television; nearly 70 people from over 20 media companies rushed in.

Through these activities, Master Ryuho Okawa has surpassed 3,000 lectures as of last fall. He has published over 2,600 books, mostly based on his lectures, which are translated into 31 languages with several hundred million copies worldwide.

Happy Science members are widespread in over 100 countries – the total membership is 12 million members, with 11 million members located in Japan. There are over 700 locations of shoshinkan and shojas which are main temples, and local temples. There are over 10,000 locations including other places of worship.

At first glance, the NY Times’ reporting seems to be objective. However, the article included slander and libel, which we would like to point out in four categories.


(1) Happy Science Is Neither Secretive Nor Apocalyptic

The NY Times journalist claims, “The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a perfect vehicle for the religion’s apocalyptic themes and esoteric doctrines.”

However, Happy Science is far from esoteric — there is extremely high transparency to the public. Generally, a person has to be a member of the religion to learn its teachings. Contrary to that practice, Happy Science has made almost all current teachings available to the public through 2,600 books sold in bookstores. Happy Science has great transparency, as our activities are shared through YouTube, Facebook and the official home page.

Another notable word used in the NY Times piece was “apocalyptic.” Happy Science does not fall into that classification because it aims for ‘happiness that transcends this world and the spiritual world.’ Happy Science teaches salvation of the soul through “teachings of the mind,” including its core teaching of the Fourfold Path — the principles of love, wisdom, self-reflection and progress. A focus of Happy Science is to ultimately achieve a utopian ideal.


(2) Happy Science Is Saving Those Who Suffer From the Novel Coronavirus.

The NY times reporter also claims, that “in addition to the new DVDs, CDs and books for sale, Happy Science is offering ‘spiritual vaccines’ — for a fee, the faithful can be blessed with a ritual prayer to ward off and cure disease.”

Firstly, Happy Science’s DVDs and CDs are not the equivalent of products sold in grocery stores of malls. It is not a product in that sense. Happy Science members provide donations as part of their religious practice and receive DVDs or CDs to learn the teachings. Prayers are also an important aspect of religious practice.

The international community has thus far been battling the pandemic through materialistic measures such as masks and social distancing.

While Happy Science doesn’t deny the value of medicine and scientific discovery, washing hands or physical exercises, it teaches confronting illness from a spiritual perspective. People are prone to illness when they harbor negative feelings such as fear and anxiety, so Happy Science is promoting the mechanism of “immunity through faith.” It teaches that it is possible to strengthen immunity by using the power of the mind.

Happy Science CEO Ryuho Okawa says the following in his book, “Healing Yourself: The True Relationship Between Mind and Body”:

“Immunity is actually related to the power of believing — the power of faith. Although it is a byproduct of a person’s will or power of thought, a person who continues to live as a bodhisattva with Buddha or God in their mind will have greater immunity. An extremely strong, proactive benevolent thought fills every cell of their body…This power of faith can be transferred to another individual. If you can guide them with strong passion and lead them into the right path, their mind will light up instantly. This creates a strong immune system.”

Many doctors and researchers have also found that religion can boost one’s immune system.

From a religious standpoint, a virus infection is equal to possession, in which a specific spirit constantly influences the person being possessed. According to Happy Science’s teachings, viruses that spread diseases are often a small collective spirit of dead insects. People who are infected are possessed by this collective spirit.

People who harbor negative feelings such as doubt, fear, hatred, jealousy, and laziness are prone to possession from evil spirits — an illness or a disease is a result of their negative thoughts.

Strengthening faith creates greater immunity. Abandoning negative feelings defends people from possession. This is the mechanism for “immunity from faith” that can protect people from the COVID-19 infection.

While there are many cases of miraculous healing through prayers, Happy Science does not encourage members to rely on miracles alone. It teaches that miracles occur based on pure faith and necessity.


(3) Happy Science Stopped Aum Shinrikyo When It Was Going Out of Control.

The third point comes from the NY Times’ statement which says, “In the mid-1990s, Happy Science’s rivalry with another doomsday group, Aum Shinrikyo, took an ugly turn.”

Aum Shinrikyo is a criminal group that disguised themselves as a religion. Around 1995, Aum launched an attack in a Tokyo subway station with sarin nerve gas, killing 27 people in 13 incidents.

The NY Times article puts Happy Science and Aum Shinrikyo in the same category, classifying both as dangerous cults; however, Happy Science was the one that stopped Aum right away.

In February 1995, about one month before the subway sarin nerve gas incident, Aum kidnapped a man. A Happy Science staff member witnessed the incident by coincidence and reported it to the police. Although the police began their investigation of Aum’s crimes, they were conducting it in a conservative manner because they were worried they would be criticized for violating freedom of religion.

Happy Science members held protests throughout Japan to urge mandatory investigation and arrest of Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum.

Aum even had a plan to mass drop sarin nerve gas from the sky above Tokyo to kill one million people. If Happy Science did not urge the police to investigate, the casualties may have been larger. Once the investigation settled down, the police department sent a letter of gratitude to Happy Science in September of that year.

A later investigation revealed that Aum had a plan to murder Master Okawa with a VX nerve agent.

Happy Science was quick on its feet because Master Okawa’s religious insight led to the conclusion that Aum’s doctrine would corrupt people. Despite putting his life in danger, Master Okawa took on the risk because his religious mission is to save people.


(4) Happy Science Is Conservative, Not Right-wing.

And finally, the NY Times says, “Happy Science has since opened private schools in Japan, and in 2009 it branched into politics, with a right-wing platform that has seen limited success in local elections.”

In 2009, the Happy Science group became an organization with political influence after creating the Happiness Realization Party (HRP). However, the HRP is a conservative party, and not right-wing. The word “conservative” refers to being aware of the responsibilities regarding given freedom. In a book titled “National Strategies for the Future,” (Note: Title was translated from the Japanese version) Master Okawa says the following:

“From an individual perspective, a person has a responsibility to live as a proper adult; at the same time, that person has responsibilities toward their family and society. The idea behind ‘conservative progress’ or ‘progressive thought’ comes from one’s awareness of their responsibilities and aiming for greater progress within their given freedom.”

Yushi Hagimoto, the chief minister of Happy Science New York, repeatedly explained to NY Times journalist Sam Kestenbaum that Happy Science is a conservative group. Kestenbaum seemed to have ignored his explanation.

As the world is in the midst of crisis, no media should satirize and mock those who are praying seriously and deepening their pure faith in God. The NY Times should take proper actions to correct their errors and regain their credibility.

Note: There were false statements made, using Mr. Hiroshi Okawa and Miss. Kyoko Okawa as information sources. Please refer to the official Happy Science home page for a rebuttal and an accurate representation of facts.


NY Times Publishes Critical Piece on Happy Science
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