Religious Obedience and Brainwashing: What’s the Difference? Part 1
World Teacher’s Message No. 305


The Question:

People outside of Japan grow up being taught that the growth of the “self” is good, and as such, when I tell them about the necessity of obedience and submissiveness with respect to faith, they often interpret it as religious brainwashing. Please tell us about the difference between submissiveness of faith and a cult, as well as the attitude that believers should take.

From the lecture “My Views, My Ways of Thinking”
August 27, 2017 Happy Science Special Lecture Hall


Master Ryuho Okawa

Master Ryuho Okawa: Yes, people often talk about “establishing a sense of self” and there are some truths in it.

It is an animal instinct in the animal kingdom. After a certain age, parents and offspring separate and it is problematic if they don’t become independent and self-reliant.

For humans, parents and their children spend 20 years together, sometimes even longer, so it is harder to reach adulthood and become self-sustaining. Some parents might go overboard and bind their child with love, and the child cannot be independent. In this aspect, “establishing a sense of self” and “becoming independent” may go hand-in-hand. This is a good thing. I think so.

But, if you consider self-establishment or the development of your ego to be the “highest moral establishment”, if you think this is the “moral way of life,” you are missing something.

This is because if we consider only the establishment of your self or ego as the highest good, the only path you can take is to win in the very principle of a competitive society. There is no other path you can take.

Imagine if you are all aiming to forge your self-identity and establish your ego. It’s as if competition starts at once when a chick is born from an egg. Then, the fastest runner quickly grabs a hold of the best food and grows bigger; once it grows bigger, it will kick other baby birds out of the way and hogs even more food, becoming bigger and bigger. This “survival of the fittest” principle seems to be an animalistic instinct, or put in another way, the natural law.

Human society shouldn’t remain this way.

If you think that “the war of all against all” or a society of competition or the law of the jungle applies to all works of human society, you are wrong. What makes us people lies outside of the competitive principle.

So, it’s important for you to work toward the establishment of the self, to a certain extent, until you become independent. Likewise, I think it’s very important to become independent so that you are not relying on your parents forever. But, there comes a limit in thinking that your self-growth is all that is good, and this tends to attract a “survival of the fittest” way of thinking.

Also, this type of thinking leads to a caste society or racism, a white supremacist kind of thinking in some sense. I feel that there are some aspects of this embedded.

This is why we instead need more “adjustments” in this world. This is a topic that is yet to be studied by people.


Japanese People Who Do Not Express Their Thoughts Clearly

Now, Japanese people have little ego or a sense of self. People from abroad look at them and say the Japanese look like “one collective spirit” so this is another aspect as well. I have no words for this.

For example, North Korea’s missiles and nuclear experiment is a current issue, but when you ask Japanese people what they think, the response is ambiguous and vague.

It’s hard to tell if mainstream media is against it or advocating for it. Journalists might report, “A missile was launched [by North Korea],” but it’s like, “Well, what are we doing? Is that good? Is it bad?” They don’t say any of that. It feels like the media is saying, “We shouldn’t give off a sense that Japan wants to go to war!” “Then, do you like what [North Korea is] doing?” “Well, it seems like a smart decision to avoid thinking about that.” I feel as if we are living in the “sound of silence” where no one thinks about anything, and the people of Japan are becoming a “collective unconscious.”

More people should speak up about this.

With that said, I believe some cultural differences should be tolerated. I think it is okay to have both a society with too much equality and a society with strong freedom. The differences in these societies will influence each other. In fact, people who have gone abroad show such tendencies. It’s hard to say which type of society is preferable because we are in the middle of a “civilization experiment” and putting different societies up against each other to see which is better.



Beware of ‘Timid Totalitarianism’ Where People Can’t Speak Their Minds

When I look at post-WWII Japan, I feel as if Japan has lost some things from the pre-war period, even though Japan had an egalitarian society in both periods.

Let’s say that a small country like North Korea is completely totalitarian. If Kim Jong-un says, “Shoot!”, they will shoot anywhere whether it be toward Hawaii, Guam, or Japan; North Korea is conducting as many nuclear experiments as they want, and they are trying to talk with the United States on equal grounds. Look at this situation with a fresh pair of eyes. If you do, it’s totally natural to question: “How is this okay?”

But everyone is hiding their heads, as if they think it is normal to seal their lips shut and not express, “This is ridiculous.”

In the end the only thing Japan can do is to fire a PAC-3 if North Korea launches a direct missile toward Japan, if the trajectory is fairly low. They are not firing the PAC-3 themselves, but rather, it’s a matter of whether the person-in-charge is shooting or not. The Japanese prime minister cannot do anything else. This is totalitarianism in a different meaning. Perhaps “timid totalitarianism” veils the entirety of Japan.

Or, maybe North Korea became “aggressive totalitarianism.” I believe they have been brainwashed too.



Those With a Strong Self Could Be Brainwashed Too

If that’s the case, are people with a strong sense of “self” free from brainwashing? No, they are brainwashed to think, “Being better than other people means you have won in life; winning equates to joy and happiness.”

All of you get to decide how you think and what kind of philosophy to practice in this world. There certainly may be regional differences at the foundation, but your choices will dictate the spirit world or spirit group where your soul will be assigned to in the afterlife. This is how your spiritual degree or spiritual dimension will be determined too.

So, certain aspects of “equality” will better human beings; similarly, certain aspects of “freedom” will improve human beings while other aspects corrupt people. It’s very important to place yourself in various cultural environments and ask yourself what is the right thing to do. It might be, “What’s the right thing to do from an international standpoint?” or to go beyond this international standpoint and ask, “What is right in God’s eyes? What is the right thing to do from the perspective of the spiritual world as a whole?” It’s truly valuable to possess this kind of thinking. I think so.

For example, it’s true we don’t want to live in a world where many people die in a war. Such a world where millions or tens of millions of people die in a war is not desirable. It’s not a great world and I want to avoid it if possible.

But in most cases, a small group of dictators pull the first trigger for war. The question is how to stop this, and I dare say we need to allow all kinds of people to express their opinions and make it be known that the dictators’ thoughts are not the only thoughts that should be shared by the people.



The Truth Can Set You Free

So, it is possible for everything to be like a biblical tragedy where a herd of pigs possessed by the demon rushes into a lake; and yet, it is also possible for everyone to live an honest, pure life under God’s teachings, living under a set of unified form, but absent of a state of brainwashing. This is indeed possible.

As the saying goes, “The Truth will set you free,” you can be liberated by knowing the Truth. People are easily brainwashed for the very reason that they do not know the Truth.

Religious Obedience and Brainwashing: What’s the Difference? Part 1
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