Religious Obedience and Brainwashing: What’s the Difference? Part 2
World Teacher’s Message No. 306


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

Previously, I talked about the fact that the idea of establishing your own ego has its limits, and it is easy for this idea to turn into a “survival of the fittest” belief. I also stated that people who do not know God’s teachings and the Truth make themselves more vulnerable to brainwashing by certain ideologies.

I think that in many ways, the modern-day Islam-Christianity conflict, a fight between two similar, monolithic religions, reflects how the two parties lack in the understanding of the Truth.

From the Muslim point of view, the Muslims who don’t engage in terrorism will say, “We are different,” “Islam is about ‘peace’ or obedience to God, so we are unrelated to them.” Still, overall, there seems to be a preference for war on the part of Islam. Overall, it appears this way to me.

I feel this way based on how Islam was established.

At the time of Muhammed’s ascension, Muhammed attempted to be tolerant. However, he was attacked by the original tribe who lived in Mecca. When he was cornered, he struck back, demolished them and ended up destroying 360 or so statues of Egyptian and Greek deities.

If you look at this fact alone, you may get an impression that the Islamic State and ISIS may be thinking that they are copying him by arduously fighting against the enemy to build their nation-state. They fight while committing terrorism. This is the impression that I sometimes get.

Therefore, in a way, even Islam has a military-foremost ideology that is slightly similar to that of Mao Zedong and Kim Jong Un. They have the mindset of, “We can’t build a nation without first emerging victorious,” “We can’t protect our faith without military power.”

If they think that these ideas are viewed as abnormal in the modern-day world, then I think they must add some interpretation to make it more moderate.



Is it an Unwavering Spiritual Value or a Result of Cultural Influence?

So, there are occasions when people are not allowed to dress or appear with looks that frighten people.

For instance, when you go to a restaurant, they’re allowed to say, “This is a first-class restaurant, so we have a dress code. We can’t let you enter unless you dress a certain way.” Likewise, people are told, “Muslims need to dress this way. Women need to hide all of their faces and only show their eyes.”

In Western culture, being this strict is extremely difficult. If they wanted to do that, it would be rough unless they live in a place with a lot of Muslim people. If they wanted to go to other places, they should, in some way, follow the local rules and norms.

When Japanese people went to the U.S. during the Meiji Restoration, they were laughed at for wearing top knots during a daimyo procession, so they felt embarrassed, took out swords of all sizes, and cut off their top knots.

In the old days of Japan, a samurai who has lost a battle, the “fallen warriors,” will have their top knots cut off from them. The samurais tried to adapt by changing their hairstyles to that of a fallen warrior. I think that these changes are somewhat necessary.

Religious obedience does exist. However, in religion, the utmost important thing is to adhere to the “universal spiritual values.”

If people think that universality lies in the quirks that were formed due to the specific regional and cultural backgrounds that the religion developed in, then I think they are making a slight mistake.

The kasaya, or the robes that the Buddhist monks wear, is one such example. Chinese monks also wore a black, ink-dyed kasaya, but this attire originates from the sari that ordinary people in India wore.

Wrapping a piece of cloth around their body is nothing out of the ordinary for Indians. Therefore, it is daily wear, and the higher-quality ones can be compared to suits.

In this case, I don’t think it should matter whether people wear suits or dresses when they preach. Even if they wear a monk’s clothing, once you realize, “oh, it’s just an Indian sari that has changed form,” then it seems unnecessary to be particular about this customary.

However, there could be some people who feel the need to follow customs exactly as is. There is a difficult line to draw here, but if you want to travel to a foreign country and be positively accepted there while being exposed to their culture, then I think you need to make an effort to adapt.



Importance of Accepting Diverse Feelings

If religious obedience means, “follow your ancestors’ teaching without a hint of doubt,” then I think it would be the same as living in a society that is unchanging, and in some cases, will lead to setbacks.

There was a time when Islam was more advanced than the Christian world in the Middle Ages. During such times, studying abroad in an Islamic area would often have provided people with higher cultural levels. The Muslim world had more advanced mathematics and architecture; Greek philosophy was also preserved by Muslims, which allowed it to persevere through the years.

In Christian societies, even Greek philosophy was rather destroyed. In this way, there is a relativistic nature between the sacredness of these two religions.

There is a story that Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra fled to Dubai to avoid being convicted by the military government (at time of the lecture). When I went on a mission to Africa, I went through Dubai too, and there were Muslims swimming in the pools of Dubai.

Considering the location, it was alright for Muslims to be around, but when there are women wearing completely black swimsuits, wrapped in black from top to bottom, down to their ankles, with a full hood, they look like black ninjas splashing in the pool. This did not make me feel exactly pleasant, and part of me thought, “Isn’t there anything that could be done about this?”

There are Muslim regions nearby so they cannot complain about it, but I think it is important for them to know that people feel differently, and that they need to accept this wide diversity of feelings.



Insufficient Understanding of Truth Leads to By-The-Book Rules

The idea that “There is only one God” and “You must listen to your religion and shut out the rest” makes it very easy for the tendency to oppress and kill other ideas from emerging I think we should be extremely careful about this.

In particular, Islam teaches, “You shall not kill” and “There shall be no harm.” This is written into the Quran, but there are other teachings that state that it is okay to kill the enemies of God. There is indeed a teaching in the Quran that states that enemies of God can be killed.

But I think that this is the same with Christianity. I think Christians will also say, “The enemies of Christianity are enemies of God, so those people can be killed.”

That’s why the Crusades happened: they probably thought, “We can kill Muslims because they don’t believe in Christianity. They are enemies of God and thus can be murdered.”

Islam, after all, can kill the enemies of God as well. I believe that this has partially led to “jihad” and current terrorism. “God’s enemies can be killed” — however, if we consider the possibility that this “God” might be the same God, then we are left with people who should have been friends who are killing each other.

Understanding the actual Truth will set us free. However, if the understanding of the Truth is insufficient, we tend to make our own interpretations and take teachings word-for-word, leading to by-the-book rules.

Even places like Happy Science where teachings are being preached in the present tense will always have this issue depending on the tendency of its disciples. If someone who understands freedom stands at the top, then you are relatively free, but if there is an unforgiving person, then they will create more and more bans. In short, they try to create people who are like them.

In Islam, caliphs might try to create people who resemble themselves, and Popes will also try to create people like them.

These people will try to put a bound on human beings, and those who fall outside and do not listen to them are difficult so they will preach the importance of “obedience,” the importance of “submissiveness,” in many cases.

Corporate managers, as ordinary human beings, tell their subordinates to “be obedient” so they can make them do their biddings easier. If the clergy, the leaders of Christianity and Islam, tell people to “be obedient” in the same way, so that they can move their people freely like pawns, then I think that there is a bit of self-interest here. I don’t think this is necessarily consistent with the teachings of God.

Religious Obedience and Brainwashing: What’s the Difference? Part 2
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