Happy Science (Kofuku-No-Kagaku)

A Japanese new religious movement blending Buddhism, Christianity, and New Age spirituality, with a focus on global utopianism.

Religion: New Age
Founder: Ryuho Okawa
Founded: 1986
Location: Japan (headquarters in Tokyo)
Size: Over 12 million members worldwide
Other Names: The Institute for Research in Human Happiness
Website: happy-science.org

Happy Science, also known as Kofuku-no-Kagaku, is a Japanese new religious movement established on October 6, 1986, by Ryuho Okawa. This movement has garnered attention worldwide due to its extensive teachings that blend Eastern and Western religious philosophies, its involvement in various social and political activities, and the charismatic authority of its founder.

Happy Science’s foundational belief is in the achievement of happiness both in this world and the afterlife, emphasizing a path to enlightenment that incorporates teachings from major world religions and philosophies. Its followers are encouraged to study and embrace these teachings to attain spiritual happiness and contribute towards creating a utopian world. The movement claims to be non-denominational, welcoming individuals from all backgrounds, cultures, and faiths, allowing members to retain their original religious beliefs while studying Happy Science teachings.

Ryuho Okawa, the founder, is regarded by his followers as a divine figure and the embodiment of El Cantare, a supreme being. Okawa’s teachings, which are central to Happy Science, are disseminated through a plethora of books, lectures, and even animated films produced by the organization. These materials cover a wide range of topics including spirituality, self-improvement, and the organization’s perspectives on societal and global issues.

Controversially, Happy Science has been criticized for its aggressive recruitment strategies, the commercial aspect of its spiritual teachings (such as selling spiritual goods and services), and its political endeavors, notably the establishment of the Happiness Realization Party in Japan. The organization’s public assertion that North Korea and China are conspiring to destroy Japan with nuclear weapons, without providing credible evidence, has also drawn widespread condemnation. The organization has also been involved in public disputes and legal battles, most notably with the son of Ryuho Okawa, who left the movement and has since become one of its outspoken critics. Furthermore, Happy Science’s sale of “spiritual vaccines” purported to prevent and cure COVID-19, alongside blessings priced up to hundreds of dollars and coronavirus-themed DVDs and CDs containing false immunity-boosting claims, has sparked significant backlash. Critics argue that these practices prey on individuals’ fears and uncertainties, especially during the global pandemic, raising ethical and health concerns.

Nevertheless, Happy Science has managed to establish a global presence, with followers and facilities around the world. The organization operates several educational and cultural establishments, including Happy Science University and various Shoshinkan facilities across different countries. Its activities extend beyond religious teachings to include humanitarian efforts and social contribution initiatives.

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