“The Next Great Awakening” review

The Next Great Awakening? Let’s hope not.

For the love of Buddha, don’t buy this book as your first Okawa book, because in that case it will probably also be your last. That would be a pity, I think. Even if you don’t believe that Ryuho Okawa is a god from Venus, there is still a reason why he is a bestselling author in Japan. Unfortunately for the expansion of his new religion abroad, Japan is a bit different from the West when it comes to UFOs and such. Or perhaps I am different from both Japan and the West, but let us hope not.

For the new reader, Ryuho Okawa is the founder and leader and god of the Japanese new religion Happy Science. Technically Happy Science (Kofuku-no-Kagaku, more literally the Science of Happiness) is clearly a cult, in that the members actually worship their founder as divine. Most of us would not do that. But that said, this is not your average loon. He is clearly extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, and has read several tens of thousands of books during his lifetime, from different cultures and ages in history. From these he has distilled the tenets that everywhere and in every age have led to happiness, harmony and prosperity. Given the quality and quantity of his work, it is kind of understandable that he feels like he belongs not just on another planet, but in a completely different order of being from the usual “expert” who has simply attended a socialist university, read a few hundred books and never reflected much on ultimate reality.

Mr Okawa’s self-help books are quite thoughtful and inspirational, in my opinion. Unfortunately, this latest book reads like something written by a random jobless person who has spent too much time in the dark and refuse-strewn back alleys of the Internet. Or more charitably, as a science fiction novel set in an alternate history where Erich von Däniken’s space gods were not only real, but are still around and messing with people’s heads.

The plot is that Earth (and other backwater planets) are protected by a Galactic Treaty. Eerily similar to the Prime Directive of Star Trek, it forbids spacefaring aliens from interfering with non-spacefaring civilizations, although small-scale research expeditions are allowed, as long as these happen in secret and with as little influence on the planet as possible. There are two exceptions though. One is if the aliens are invited by the local god, in Earth’s case called El Cantare.

The other exception is if the local civilization is in the process of exterminating all intelligent life on the planet, for instance through atomic war or worse. In that case, other civilizations are allowed to intervene to stop the madness and save the species. Ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Earthlings have been on the endangered species list. There are currently two opinions on how to save them.

A minority, but with a heavy local presence, advocates basically bombing us back to the stone age. Using terraforming tools like tsunamis, volcanoes and mass crust movement, looking like natural disasters to the locals, they are thinking of erasing civilization to the ground. If this is not approved, they will punish advanced societies by inducing large-scale mental disorders. (There is no reference to the Tower of Babel episode, strangely enough.)

The larger faction wants to give humans a chance, by encouraging them toward love and tolerance so that they may refrain from actually using their weapons. The tentative plan is to get the world’s religions to cooperate about their shared values, rather than fight over details. Unfortunately, the more warlike aliens are fanning the flames of conflict, currently between Christians and Muslims, conveniently for the more draconian solution.

If this had been a novel, it would actually had been a pretty good one. Unfortunately, there is nothing to imply that Mr Okawa and his followers don’t actually believe it all, and then some. UFOs and various more or less humanoid aliens are already among us, and more are on their way. We have to make haste to create a civilization that is not only found worthy to survive, but is also able to integrate visitors and immigrants from numerous star systems in a galactic melting pot. The plan is to make Earth into a cosmic “Planet of Love”, where aliens from technologically advanced but culturally less refined planets can come and learn religion and politics.

So there you have it. Definitely a break from the usual self-help books. And there is more to come. Okawa is currently studying the Laws of the Universe, and will be back with a book detailing Truth that surpasses this single planet.

Warmly recommended if you actually believe there are UFOs and aliens on Earth now. Otherwise… well, I suppose you may want to read it if you think Happy Science is a crazy cult and you are looking for indications of this. I fear this will be its most common use. Alas for the many years of hard work that Okawa and his followers have put into making an organization based on universal principles of love, wisdom, self-reflection and progress.

Of course, once the aliens show up, I will have to reconsider…

14 thoughts on ““The Next Great Awakening” review

  1. Mr Okawa is not a loon. He is a psychopath and a corrupt business man who swindles Japanese people and steals their money.

    “But that said, this is not your average loon. He is clearly extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, and has read several tens of thousands of books during his lifetime, from different cultures and ages in history. From these he has distilled the tenets that everywhere and in every age have led to happiness, harmony and prosperity. ”

    Any proof that he’s read thousands of books? Any proof of any of this at all?

    He probably steals content from other self help and spiritual books and mixes it up with bs. Half truths are more dangerous than full blown lies… He has literally no credibility AT ALL.

    Why not spend time reading and review other spiritual books?

    Why do you promote them and continue to purchase their books? Why do you spend large amounts of money on his books? Money that will end up in a con man’s pockets or used to swindle more people?

    What the heck is a socialist university? Are you referring to that the fact that people who come out of higher education tend to be more left wing?

    • You have pretty strong opinions about Mr Okawa and his new religion, but you are an anonymous person posting from Thailand. How come you are so knowledgeable about Happy Science? Is this a topic commonly discussed in Thailand, all of a sudden? Feel free to tell, or link to your website where you reveal who you are and what your motivations are.

      As for other books, I fairly recently reviewed Rabbi Steinsaltz’ “The Thirteen-petalled Rose”, and far more favorably than this. But there is no denying that even this approach to Kabbalah, while the most lucid and practical I have seen so far, is a pretty challenging read for the ordinary human. Other books I have bought over the last year or so are far more dense and cryptic. Sri Aurobindo’s “The Life Divine”, for instance, will probably take years to begin to comprehend for the few who ever will. Frithjof Schuon’s “Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism” and “The Transcendent Unity of Religions” (of which I know I have mentioned at least the second one) are also very dense and both deserve and require several reads. A.G. Sertillanges’ “The Intellectual Life” is, as you may guess, written by an intellectual for intellectuals. Not that I consider my readership to be mentally challenged, but these books are challenging for me after two generations of taking interest in matters of the soul.

      In contrast, Mr Okawa’s books are so simple, they can probably be understood by gifted children and certainly by young adults. So basically I can read a dozen of those in the time it takes to get a decent understanding of one of the others.

      There are other books as well, but I think you see what I mean. Happy Science is basically the most accessible religion I can think of. It is like the Esperanto of religion, if you will.

      So, what about you? Do you have anything to tell us?

  2. Or I happen to be an American who’s been working in Southeast Asia and has lived here for a while?

    • If you say so. I don’t begrudge you your American citizenship if that’s what you have. But it makes even less sense for an American to have an opinion on a Buddhist sect from Japan, and which even abroad has Japanese as its core members. Do you REALLY know more about them than I, and if so, from where? Why did you take an interest in this group anyway? Feel free to anonymize any names that you think may be in danger, although I suspect the worst that could happen to them is getting prayed for.

  3. I’ve never heard of them before coming to this blog actually.

    But if someone claims to be from Venus I would have a very hard time taking anything seriously..

    • That’s it? That’s why I say this is bound to backfire in the west. These things are perfectly acceptable in Japan. A recent prime minister was called “the alien” by his friends and wife, and the wife claimed to have been kidnapped by Venusians. I cannot imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama said something like that. Japan is just different. You should watch more anime. ^_^

    • To save the world, from what he says. Good luck with that. (I define Happy Science as a cult merely on the technicality that they worship the founder as divine and obey him in all things. This does not imply a moral judgment on whether he is worth obeying. That is something people must decide on their own.)

    • Whether he swindles other people, I know not. But I am fairly sure his books have made me a better worker, a better man and (strangely enough) a better Christian.

      Not bad for a heathen, I’d say.

  4. Well …. I’m not writing from Thailand and I do know quite a bit about Okawa-san, having lived with one of his followers for a number of years now. He is basically a con-artist, although I don’t think a particularly dangerous one (unless you’re fooish enough to part with your money for his books). He tends to prey on people who are quite intelligent, even well educated, but for whatever reason, feel they have not had the success in life they deserve.

    Most of his stuff is just the usual new-age advice, peppered with bits and pieces of various philosophies he knows about. But as a philosopher myself (a real one, with the academic credentials to prove it), I can assure you his understanding of most serious philosophy is very slight indeed. His one gift seems to be in dumbing down the heavier philosophical tracts to make them easier to understand, though I suspect he doesn’t even do much of that. Some of the stuff about Western philosophy is almost word-for-word taken from Wikipedia – at least in the English language versions.

    Even his understanding of Buddhism is pretty shallow, especially for someone who grew up surrounded by it Japanese manifestations. I minored in Buddhist studies at Uni and I seem to know a lot more about it than he does.

    A lot of the historical/predcition stuff is lifted straight out of the writings of people like Edgar Cayce and Madam Blavatsky. As for all the writings about ‘ancient civilisations’; most of that was debunked before he was even born. All that stuff about continental landmasses rising and falling over 250,000 years like so many express elevators is just silly. Geophysical movements like that take hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years to occur and they don’t just happen without leaving a mark of any kind; if they had occured as he claims they did, there would be ample evidence of it. There is none. This is not to mention the fact that highly evolved, technologically advanced civilisations such as those he claims existed in the past on earth do not just disappear without trace. This might happen once – might! But multiple times? That’s just absurd.

    His books are mostly the same stuff rehashed over and over, and the films I’ve seen are just ridiculous – even as anime, they are pretty light-on and you’d have to be incredibly gullible (or desperate) to take them in any way seriously. I’m not saying he doesn’t give good advice; but none of the stuff I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a bit, living with a follower) is new, or even his orginal idea. You can get the same advice from much earlier sources within the new-age movement without having to pay as much for it or having to call this man a god – which is what he’s telling everyone he is.

    Like I said; I think he’s relatively harmless, although his calls for a first-strike nuclear attack on South Korea are concerning for someone who claims to be the Buddha reborn – a man who was known for his promotion of non-violence. His Japanese-language sermons are apparently much more aggressive than the watered-down versions relased in English translation. However, the published ‘membership’ of 12 million followers is a complete phuphy; I have it on good authority that that number includes all the people who have just signed on for the monthly newsletter or even have just put down their names as ‘interested’ at a booth at one of the festivals where Hppy Science is promoted. the actual membership is more like 50-60,000 world-wide.

    If you want to spend your money on his books – well … it’s your money. But I think you’d be better off spending it on a nice bottle of wine or a session at a health spa.

  5. Hello HelenM, and thank you for the long and detailed reply. We are clearly talking about the same person, only from different perspectives. His books are not particularly expensive by Norwegian standards at least, costing about as much as a full meal or two at the local McDonalds, and lasting longer. Of course, since I don’t actually read Japanese, I can’t buy all 700 of them. I am sure that would have added up.

    But then again I am one of those intelligent people who feel they have never done as much as they should to make the world a happier place, so I would be the target audience. ^_^

  6. I was interested to read some criticism of Ryuho Okawa on a few posts on this page. Just wanted to give another perspective.

    Firstly, I don’t see how you come to the conclusion he is a con artist? He stands by what he believes and has dedicated his life to persuing it. Millions of people practise his teachings and are better off because of them. Happiness continues to be cultivated and people are finding great wisdom and peace as a result. The evidence is in the outcomes of the practice, or to quote the bible “by the fruits you will know”. How is this a con? Families are intact, people are holding down jobs and are productive members of society, and most importantly – respect and value other religions and advocate compassion and harmony, or “love that gives”.

    This to my mind are the prerequisites of a genuine worthwhile religion. Frankly, I don’t see any “con” in these outcomes, and they are leading the way in religious diversity and tolerance.

    Secondly, all religion requires an element of faith, it is exploring a world that we do not have access to. It is reaching to the unknown. Ryuho Okawa’s teachings may at times cross into the realm of the bizarre (aliens, sunken lands, possession etc) but that is the very nature of religion, and in this modern age we seek answers to questions that didn’t exist when ancient religions developed. Remember when the Earth was flat and Cigerettes didn’t give you Cancer? For example, reference to money and wealth creation. We live in a prosperous age, that’s part of our daily lives. Wealth isn’t a bad thing, it’s what you do with it that counts. A current religious leader has an obligation to talk about such topics as it effects us all. And who cares if he has made money? Isnt that just the result of success? The very success he is encouraging all to achieve? His teachings wouldn’t hold water if he was broke and unsuccessful, would they? Money is important if we like it or not, and he uses his wealth to help people. Happy Science provides large amounts of aid to the world, including Japan. The latest earthquake disaster is an example.

    Regarding Aliens, this is a REAL issue in our society, impacting a large amount of people (abductions, trauma, sightings ).The evidence is stacking up on a daily basis, it is all there to see. Skeptics refuse to see the facts. Our governments are unwilling to share this information with the world, Ryuho Okawa provides insight to this and I have no doubt that this will become a crucial topic for our planet in the next decade.

    I was also interested in your assumption that his understanding of Buddhism is quite shallow? I have personally trained under the Theravadan tradition and am also familiar with Mahayanan Buddhism, Ryuho Okawa is in my opinion a world authority on Buddhism. His complete view,( both historically and philosophically) and ability to communicate that in an accessible way, for ALL to understand, (not just university scholars) is in my opinion; masterful. A few books come to mind-The Challenge of Enlightenment and the Essence of Buddha, but also The Laws of the Sun, the list of books goes on and on. I encourage you to look into them. As far as the ghost writer theory? That’s the first I have heard of it, he has explained how he writes his books, they are based on talks he gives, transcripts are then expanded. One of his teachings is on time management, again he practises what he preaches and is prolific as a result. The sheer volume of perspectives and philosophies does in my opinion demonstrate a gift, a skill beyond the average author or religious leader for that matter, backing his claims of enlightenment .

    As you can tell I advocate for his teachings, as I personally have found great benefit to them, so you could call me a believer. It did take a long time and careful consideration to come to this conclusion, the evidence for me was in the path practised. Regarding his declaration that he is Buddha returned, that’s up to each individual to decide. My only point would be, what would the return of Buddha or Jesus actually look like? Are we expecting them to arrive on a golden cloud? Or would they appear as an everyday person with a powerful message, one that devides people and tests belief? I will say this, his books have provided long sought answers, to a degree not seen before. This is my opinion on the matter. Thanks.

    • Hello “Swim”! I am very pleased to see you appear. The followers of Happy Science tend to be very secretive, or perhaps just very Japanese to the point of not writing English if they can avoid it. Apart from the few books, the monthly magazine, and the discontinued radio program “Happy Science on Air”, the silence is deafening. In fact, searching for information on Happy Science is likely to turn up my own pages, which is rather unpleasant given that I am not a member.

      I consider Happy Science an ally when it comes to the topics of Love, Wisdom, Self-reflection and Progress. As far as I am concerned, there are two gospels in the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ: “It is more blessed to give”, and the gospel of Satan: “You deserve better!” Or you may say, the gospel of love and giving, and the gospel of envy and demanding. Mr Okawa argues quite well for the first of these. Whether he also lives by it, I know not; but with the output he has, I think there cannot be much time for him to indulge in whatever luxuries he may have acquired.

      More’s the pity if people come to associate him mainly with UFOs and such. I have no doubt that UFOs are a problem for some people, but is this a problem with extraterrestrials or a problem with the human mind? Before UFOs, similar stories were told about elves or fairies, who were not nearly as cute as they are seen today. They would abduct people, paralyze them and humiliate them in various (and often sexual) ways, much as Greys do today. So I wonder if it is not a part of the human condition, that some people have to experience these things, just as others are unusual in other ways. Whether putting this in a religious perspective is better than a medical perspective, opinions will be divided.

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