Saturday, December 10, 2005

Karma and guilt in Sukyo Mahikari

You know, I'd never thought much about karma, and the associated notion of reincarnation, till a few months ago.

At the point when I joined Mahikari, the New Age notions of the 70's had already made the concepts of karma and reincarnation pretty familiar and popular. Even before then, quite mainstream people who had Christian rather than Eastern religion backgrounds would often joke about "coming back as a man next time", for example, or attribute a spate of bad luck to their karma. I don't know that any of those people would actually have claimed to believe in either reincarnation or karma if anyone pressed the point. Still, I guess these concepts did have a certain psychological appeal.

So, when I heard the teachings about karma and reincarnation at primary kenshu, I didn't even blink. If anything, I think I might have been happy to have these concepts, which I'd never known whether to believe or not, confirmed as "fact".

I first started thinking analytically about the Mahikari teachings concerning karma (and guilt) when I was trying to make sense of a debate between former and current kumite on the question of whether or not Mahikari is anti-Semitic. This debate arose out of a bit of a kerfuffle at the Hebrew University in Israel, which was caused by some people there accepting financial sponsorship from Mahikari without due consultation. I don't want to go into details here, but you can read about all this at the Mahikari Project blog site if you like.

It suddenly became startlingly obvious to me that the concept of karma is a handy mechanism for "blaming the victim". I must be slow. It seems so obvious now that I've thought of it! Remember those teachings about the Jews being persecuted throughout the ages, and suffering through the Holocaust, due to the negative karma of not having enshrined God in Solomon's temple? So the Holocaust was the Jews' fault, rather than the Nazis'? I don't think so.

I then proceeded to think about the concept of karma and guilt in Mahikari in more general terms. Okada was pretty big on teaching that we all have enormous amounts of negative karma...from ancestors, from our own previous lives, and from this life...and that we therefore really needed to put all our efforts into serving God (in other words, be diligent in our Mahikari activities) in order to save our own skins. But what evidence do we have, other than Okada's supposed revelations from God, that we and/or our ancestors were so bad?

The main "evidence" that I can see again comes from Mahikari doctrine...from Okada's "holy" words and from the pat statements kumite say to each other to explain their experiences. If we experienced any sort of problems in our health, finances, relationships or whatever, despite the fact that we were busily serving God, then this was taken as evidence that we had severe negative karma and needed to make even more effort. We also needed to apologise for our past sins (admit guilt)...for what?... and be grateful for the "purification". Perhaps, really, we were all good, kind, upstanding citizens in our previous lives (if previous lives exist)!

We could have been using simple commonsense strategies to deal with any problems that arose, rather than living with our problems AND trying to be grateful for them AND feeling guilty.

Supplementary "evidence" also came from spirit investigations. I've just been reading an experience story on the Mahikari Exposed site. Part of it says:

"She [Maria] claims that when she received Light for the first time that she was taken over by a disturbed spirit, which proceeded to speak with the Socho who was giving her okiyome. Maria has no recollection of this, but the Socho told her about it in explicit detail. He also told her that her karma was so bad that she needed to receive Light at least once a day. Heeding his advice, she began making daily trips to the dojo and after spending most of her time there, she decided to become a member herself."

Huh? Weren't we cautioned to not pay much attention to spirit disturbance? Perhaps that doesn't apply when the so-called spirit disturbance can be used to make someone feel that they can't get along without Mahikari. Certainly, I remember kumite talking in hushed tones about the dreadful things they had learnt about their karma during a "spirit investigation".

There's a very thorough analysis of how guilt is used in Mahikari to manipulate kumite's emotions on the Exposed site. I'll leave it to you to read that, rather than repeating that sort of information here.

For weeks, I kept on thinking, if Okada's teachings are nonsense (which I think they are), what on earth made us accept all those unprovable notions about how much bad karma we have?

Then.....[drum-roll].....the penny finally dropped. What evidence do we have that reincarnation and karma even exist?!?

Of course, they might exist. I really don't know. But after being led a merry dance by believing, once upon a time, that Okada knew truths about the unseen world, I'm not about to believe anyone who insists that they know whether or not karma and reincarnation are true. I'd rather be left wondering.


Anonymous KitKat said...

Don't forget the 'general' karma of every country which gets added on top too, to each citizen... I'll see if I can find the text reference.

This book review Reincarnation : A Critical Examination is particularly apt.
This article The Belief Engine is also good.

December 10, 2005  
Blogger Anne said...

Hi kitkat,

Thanks for the references. Reading the book review made me feel that my above post pretty much amounts to "re-inventing the wheel"!

Am I the only ex-kumite who had not yet thought to question the validity of the notions of karma and reincarnation? I wonder what other bits of baggage Mahikari mind control has left in my brain?

I've just been trying to think: if we throw out the notion of karma and reincarnation, doesn't that debunk what?...half? nine-tenths?... of Mahikari doctrine in one blow?

December 10, 2005  
Blogger Jejune said...

I chucked out EVERYTHING when I left - including some possibly helpful concepts - it was like I had to purge myself. I had this weird situation of being 'empty', having rejected all my beliefs of the past 14 years... very unnerving, but liberating too. Eventually I filled the 'spaces' with humanist concepts and skepticism. I feel like I've been immunised against religion for life!

December 13, 2005  
Blogger Anne said...

Hi again KitKat,

I've just been looking again, this time more carefully(!), at the article The Belief Engine, that you recommended a couple of weeks ago.

This article is really quite fascinating and contains a number of key concepts that could help to explain why we believed some of the improbable things we did believe as kumite. The following part, in particular, struck me as highly relevant to the sort of circular arguments we find in Mahikari:

"Beliefs help us to function. They guide our actions and increase or reduce our anxieties. If we operate on the basis of a belief, and if it "works" for us, even though faulty, why would we be inclined to change it? Feedback from the external world reinforces or weakens our beliefs, but since the beliefs themselves influence how that feedback is perceived, beliefs can become very resistant to contrary information and experience." [italics mine]

A simple example would be the belief that receiving okiyome makes kumite healthier. Now, an objective observer might keep statistics that show that kumite are just as likely to experience colds and flu as anyone else. However, since kumite believe that things like colds and flu are "cleansings" that help make them progressively healthier, kumite would be likely to believe they are much healthier than other people.

(In the interests of fairness, perhaps I should state explicitly that this example is hypothetical. I doubt if there have ever been statistical studies on this matter.)

Perhaps I'll keep the above quote in mind and look it it more fully in a future post.

Thanks again for the link!

December 25, 2005  
Anonymous Darcy said...

I am not really sure whether I believe in Karma or not. In many ways I think it is an "easy way out". I mean, think about Christianity they believe in heaven or hell, right? That means you get one shot to prove to God that you are worthy of being in his presence for all eternity. Pretty frightening when you think about all the bad things we as human beings do on a daily basis. Karma, on the other hand, gives people the option of sluffing off and doing a bad job in this life because they are going to have another one coming to them. In a way it makes death not scary at all because you will always come back, your soul recycled. So...I think people who believe in Karma tend to not lead as...strict lives. They are more laid back and easy going because they think that this life doesn't matter. I kind of reject the idea that all the terrible things that have happened to me in my life are due to my own mistakes. For example, say a child is sexually abused or even physically abused...can anyone truly believe that they did something so terrible in the past, that they deserve that. Is it because of Karma? I don't think so. However, there are some Bible verses that could imply reincarnation...
1) Matthew 11,14 and 17,12-13, concerning the identity of John the Baptist;
2) John 9,2, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?";
3) John 3,3, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again";
4) James 3,6, "the wheel of nature";
5) Galatians 6,7, "A man reaps what he sows".
6) Matthew 26,52, ”all who draw the sword will die by the sword”.
7) Revelation 13,10, ”If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.”

Some Christians say reincarnation exsists other not...I really don't know. I am on the fence.

December 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


January 01, 2006  

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