Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sukyo Mahikari's tekazashi – Statistics and teachings

This article examines statistical and anecdotal evidence concerning the effectiveness of Sukyo Mahikari's tekazashi (okiyome or True Light). It discusses the related teachings and the role that tekazashi plays in creating belief in Sukyo Mahikari doctrine.

Yoshikazu Okada's teachings, like many religious doctrines, are explanations of realms, beings, and spiritual forces and laws, all of which are invisible. The main physically observable and potentially verifiable components of Sukyo Mahikari teachings are Okada's claims concerning the effects of his style of tekazashi. He taught that anyone who attends the 3-day primary initiation course (kenshu) and receives a specially prepared amulet (omitama) can perform tekazashi, and thereby perform miracles like a "mini-Buddha or a mini-Christ".[1]

An opened Sukyo Mahikari amulet (omitama), and its contents (unfolded)

Okada taught that giving and receiving tekazashi purifies the spiritual aspect of a person, which automatically results in purification of the mental and physical aspects. Thus, tekazashi not only enables the practitioner to heal illness in others, it also results in the spiritual elevation of the practitioner, which Okada taught would become manifest through visible improvements in the practitioner's level of health, harmony, and prosperity. This suggests that it should be simple to use the physical evidence of the effects of the tekazashi practiced by Sukyo Mahikari members to establish the validity of Okada's teachings.

Tekazashi: The giver radiates a spiritual energy from the palm of the hand, and the recipient sits with hands in prayer position and eyes closed.

Strictly speaking, proof that tekazashi causes healing and other benefits would not prove that Okada's teachings are correct. It would, however, suggest to potential converts that Okada knew significantly more about spiritual matters than ordinary folk. Since people generally have no direct and reliable way of discovering spiritual truth for themselves, proof that even one of Okada's claims is correct carries the strong suggestion that he must have been an expert on spiritual matters. Belief in Sukyo Mahikari often begins, rightly or wrongly, with the belief that tekazashi "works".

The immediate difficulty is finding a way of establishing whether or not tekazashi achieves miracles. Potential members of Sukyo Mahikari are encouraged to take a "try it and see" approach. They are not expected to necessarily believe all, or even any, of Okada's teachings before joining Sukyo Mahikari. They are told that they are free to discover the truth of the teachings for themselves through their own experience of tekazashi, initially as receivers, and after the primary initiation course as givers and receivers of tekazashi.

The "try it and see" approach plants the idea that if tekazashi succeeds, then all of Okada's teachings are true. It also creates a foundation for the member's beliefs that is hard to shake. Members feel that their beliefs are knowledge acquired through their own experience, rather than beliefs accepted on faith, that the organization has persuaded them to believe. Most importantly, it quarantines teachings that many people might find unpalatable and/or almost impossible to believe. Even the fundamental teaching that Okada received revelations from God stretches the credibility of Sukyo Mahikari for many new members. Some former members suggest that the practices of Sukyo Mahikari conform to a mind control model.[2] If mind control mechanisms, or even ordinary persuasive mechanisms, are a factor in creating and maintaining belief in Sukyo Mahikari, the "try it and see" approach provides the advantage of keeping potential recruits and new members within range of influence long enough for such mechanisms to take effect.

To the best of my knowledge, there has been no independent scientific experimentation which would indicate whether or not any sort of energy is radiated from the hand during tekazashi, and there is little objective data on its effectiveness. Corinna Lee[3] mentions that there have been numerous "kitchen" experiments conducted by members, with patchy results. In such experiments, members attempt to test the effects of tekazashi on the rate of seed germination or the rate of decomposition of food. I have only heard of two sets of experiments conducted by trained scientists under laboratory conditions: one set was by Tebecis, the author of two books promoting Sukyo Mahikari, who reported a positive result, and the other by another Sukyo Mahikari member, who reported that tekazashi produced no change.

There are however plenty of experience stories, written by members, which describe a wide variety of major and minor health and other miracles. Several such experience stories are usually included in the monthly journals published by the organization. The first English-language book promoting Sukyo Mahikari, written in 1982 by long-term staff member A.K. Tebecis, contains numerous stories of cures, and some of these are repeated in his 2004 book.[4] The above stories of miraculous cures indicate that members do continue to believe, even after years of experience of performing tekazashi, that it not only "works", but that it is effective in a wide range of circumstances.

According to a survey conducted by Winston Davis, 39% of the 688 Sukyo Mahikari members he questioned reported having experienced some sort of healing miracle that they attributed to tekazashi, including some cases of serious problems being cured (a tumour, asthma, etc.)[5] A much smaller study at an Australian Sukyo Mahikari center indicated that, out of 55 members who reported having health or personal problems at the time they became members, 5 reported a cure, 3 claimed there was no change, and the remaining 47 indicated an improvement.[6] These figures are reasonably consistent with anecdotal evidence that suggests that dramatic cures of serious problems occur very rarely, and significant improvements or cures of long-term problems occur only occasionally. However, relief from less serious conditions (colds, backaches, minor injuries, headaches, burns, etc.) appears to be a more-or-less daily occurrence.

The above figures give the general impression that tekazashi can, and at times does, achieve miracles, but they also suggest a degree of failure, despite the fact that all the interview subjects were Sukyo Mahikari members. There is no statistical data on the frequency of it failing to achieve any observable effect on recipients who are not Sukyo Mahikari members. (Members would argue that tekazashi always "works", in the sense that it is purifying spiritually, regardless of whether or not we observe any result.) It would be useful to know what proportion of potential recruits have not joined Sukyo Mahikari after receiving tekazashi, and to know what proportion of those people rejected Sukyo Mahikari because they observed no benefit from receiving tekazashi.

Extensive anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of Westerners who have joined Sukyo Mahikari after receiving tekazashi is certainly less than 10%, probably less than 5%, and possibly less than 1% of all those who have received tekazashi at least once. Some who do not join do report a beneficial effect from tekazashi, but it is not uncommon for non-members to comment that "nothing happened" as a result of receiving tekazashi. It is also not uncommon for members of Sukyo Mahikari to leave within a year of joining. Tebecis is quoted as acknowledging that, "only 10% of members who do kenshu [attend the primary initiation course] are 'serious enough' to remain" (no time frame is mentioned).[7]

If less than 10% of people who have experienced tekazashi eventually join Sukyo Mahikari, and only 10% of those remain to become long-term members, then over 99% of people who have experienced tekazashi ultimately decide not to practice it. This suggests that the "try it and see" approach to Sukyo Mahikari teachings largely fails. Yet long-term members are apparently convinced that tekazashi is highly effective, and devote many hours daily to it over 10, 20, or even 30 years.

The above suggested (though impossible to confirm from statistics) failure rate of the "try it and see" approach relates to the relatively immediate observable effects of tekazashi, such as the cure of a specific current problem. The other promised benefit mentioned above is that the spiritual purification and elevation achieved by regular tekazashi over an extended period becomes manifest as improved health, harmony, and prosperity. Okada warned to expect ups and downs, but stated that an upward trend would be obvious within five years at the most.[8] Thus, even though spiritual elevation itself is not perceptible, long-term improvements in members' lives would be. So far as I am aware, no objective data concerning this matter exists, but, as Lee notes, most members subjectively evaluate their lives as having improved since joining Sukyo Mahikari.[9]

If Okada's teachings are true, one would expect that those who have been dedicated members for around 20 years would be relatively problem free. In particular, if they had no serious health problems at the time of joining the organization, one would expect a high level of health. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that more than a few long-term members have eventually developed serious and/or chronic health problems, suggesting at least some degree of failure in terms of the promised long-term benefits of tekazashi as well.

Experience of tekazashi does support belief in the teachings of Okada, in that belief would probably not be created if there were never any observable effects from tekazashi. However, Sukyo Mahikari also relies on its teachings to support belief in the effectiveness of tekazashi. The teachings govern the way members interpret their experience of tekazashi, and ensure that the failures to achieve anticipated results are interpreted as being either indicators of success or an irrelevancy.

The most basic teaching that supports tekazashi is passed on to potential recruits almost immediately. They are told that all illnesses are physical "cleansings". Any pain or fever is a sign of "toxins" melting, and any discharge is the elimination of toxins. Thus, feeling better and feeling worse are equally regarded as signs of tekazashi "working". Any improvement in health is attributed to tekazashi, and any illness/cleansing that occurs is an indication that the person is becoming more purified (healthier). Many people naturally experience the onset and disappearance of viruses and minor ailments at least occasionally. A person who receives tekazashi regularly can attribute both the onset of any illness and the cure to tekazashi.

According to Tebecis, "What we mistakenly call diseases or illness are actually cleansing reactions that help to restore the soul-spirit to its original purity", and "The cleansing processes are Divine methods for restoring people to health, peace and material welfare".[10] Okada taught that all illness/cleansing results from our spiritual impurity, as do financial problems, accidents, or any other type of misfortune. All types of misfortune are regarded as "cleansings" which erase spiritual impurities. Okada taught that all people have accumulated spiritual impurities, or negative karma, in our present and past lives and that we have also inherited negative karma from our ancestors. Sukyo Mahikari members are taught to be grateful for any misfortune, since it erases karma/impurities and leads to spiritual elevation, and therefore to improved health, harmony, and prosperity.

However, as mentioned above, in other teachings Okada promised that regular practice of tekazashi would lead to spiritual elevation and improved health, harmony, and prosperity. Tekazashi is presented as being the easier method of erasing impurities, but some misfortune is often also to be expected, particularly for people with a heavy karmic load. Okada taught that, with regular tekazashi, big problems would become medium-sized problems, medium problems would become small problems, and small problems would become no problem. Thus, if a member of Sukyo Mahikari experiences severe ill-health or a lot of misfortune despite regular long-term tekazashi, this is interpreted as evidence of particularly heavy karma, and it is assumed that the person karmically deserved something even worse. In addition, it is often assumed that God, having superior wisdom, has specifically arranged for the person to be "cleansed" by severe or long-term misfortune in order to use that person for some sort of special mission as soon as s/he is sufficiently purified.

In the early days of SMBK and Sukyo Mahikari, promotion of tekazashi as a healing mechanism was quite explicit. In "Gotaidanshu" (Interviews with Okada), Okada is quoted as reporting that God told him to "raise your hand and cure people of diseases".[11] In a 1972 interview quoted in "Daiseishu: Great and Holy Master", a Mahikari spokesperson responded with, "Cancer? Oh yes, we cure cancer. Typhus, cholera? Certainly."[12] However, in teachings attributed to Okada in "Sunkyo", published in English translation by Sukyo Mahikari in 1984, Okada claims that God told him "There are two categories of miracles: those which are given according to merit and those which are given for the sake of encouragement". He explains that some miracles result from spiritual elevation, but many are given by God "for the sake of demonstration to others" even though the recipients of such miracles have not yet been of much service to God.[13]

Increasingly, starting in the 1980s in western countries, Sukyo Mahikari began to stress that the purpose of tekazashi is not primarily healing, but spiritual elevation and service to God. Since the earliest days of the organization, the primary initiation course textbook has included a chart showing the various points of the body to which tekazashi should be directed in order to treat particular diseases. In the 2004 edition of this textbook, a statement has been added above this chart stating that "The purpose of the art of True Light [tekazashi] is not to heal illness".[14]

In his 2004 book, on the topic of evolution of the Sukyo Mahikari group, Tebecis writes that "One misconception was that Mahikari was regarded as an organization for healing and other self-benefit". With time, he writes, "the organization has been enabling people to gain a deeper understanding that benefits are not the aim in themselves but a means towards awakening to the power of God".[15] These quotes accurately reflect the message conveyed by Okada's teachings as a whole, but Tebecis fails to acknowledge that such "misconceptions" are created by the primary initiation course promise that members will experience obvious improvements in health, harmony, and prosperity within 5 years. Within 5 years, members are likely to absorb the message that selflessness and service to God are the main virtues. Might this not deflect attention from whether or not the promised benefits materialize? Or, if noticed, would members dare demonstrate shallow understanding and selfishness by questioning the validity of this promise?

Discussions with devoted members indeed indicate that, once a member believes that tekazashi is effective and comes to believe unconditionally that Okada's teachings are true, the focus of a member's daily life moves to trying to live in accordance with the teachings. This means trying to "think spiritually", "tune in with God" and "put God first". Members are taught that if they sincerely try to serve God in everything that they do, God will protect them and provide whatever they need. If, conversely, they focus on their own selfish needs, they will then be "tuning in" with low-level selfish gods and inviting the influence of negative spirits. Members are taught that their innermost attitudes have a profound effect on what happens in their daily lives. They need to be sincerely grateful for everything that occurs (including misfortune). They need to be humble, obedient, cheerful, and burning with enthusiasm to serve God. Any misfortune that occurs can be interpreted as being an admonition from God brought about by incorrect attitudes or incorrect behaviour. (Or, as stated above, the misfortune may have been caused by the person's bad karma…one never really knows.)

The intertwining of the teachings concerning karma, spiritual purification, and tekazashi make it impossible to know if long-term tekazashi has any effect at all. The amount of karma (if karma exists) cannot be measured, the level and rate of spiritual elevation (if that concept is valid) cannot be measured, and the details of the arrangements that God supposedly makes either to purify people or as "demonstration miracles" are not knowable. In short, it is logically possible that a member of Sukyo Mahikari might experience exactly the same level of ill-health and misfortune without tekazashi as with it.

The numerous online articles and comments written by former members generally do not deny that miracles occasionally occur. Some former members remain convinced that a spiritually purifying/healing energy flows from the hands during tekazashi, but they view this as being a universal energy available to anyone, rather than something that requires membership in Sukyo Mahikari and the wearing of the Sukyo Mahikari amulet.[16] Some such people, after leaving Sukyo Mahikari, have chosen to practice some other form of tekazashi, such as pranic healing, Reiki, or a personal less-formalized variation.

Other former members hold the opinion that spiritual energies do not exist. Another invisible and insufficiently well-know realm, the subconscious, may be responsible for the effects of tekazashi.[17] The slight trance induced by the actions of the recipient of tekazashi…the specific posture, closing the eyes, and focusing on an imaginary stream of healing energy entering through the forehead…may facilitate a self-hypnotically induced physical healing. Or, a simple placebo effect may be responsible for tekazashi sometimes being effective.

In "Spontaneous Remission and the Placebo Effect", Stephen Barrett states:

"Many studies suggest that placebos can relieve a broad range of symptoms. In many disorders, one third or more of patients will get relief from a placebo. Temporary relief has been demonstrated, for example, in arthritis, hay fever, headache, cough, high blood pressure, premenstrual tension, peptic ulcer, and even cancer."[18]

This might explain why the "try it and see" approach is partially successful. Perhaps the people for whom tekazashi is effective all belong to this "one third or more of patients". If so, one would expect that all members of Sukyo Mahikari would regularly observe health benefits from practicing tekazashi, even if nothing at all emanates from the hand during tekazashi. Alternatively, given the rather high failure rates suggested above, statistical chance may be sufficient to explain the occurrence of the miracles that are attributed to tekazashi.

For the above reasons, I suggest that it is not possible to prove whether tekazashi achieves miracles or does nothing at all. In practical terms, this impossibility does not appear to hinder belief in Okada's teachings. Tekazashi does not need to be effective in order to "validate" Okada's teachings. All that is needed is the occurrence of some events that appear to be caused by tekazashi, and a body of theory that explains away any failure to achieve anticipated results.



[1] Mahikari Primary Course Reference Textbook (Takayama, Sukyo Mahikari, 2004) p.5

[2] http://members.ozemail.com.au/~skyaxe/mindcontrol1.htm [Accessed November 2007] This article gives an outline of Steve Hassan's mind control model and applies it to Sukyo Mahikari practices and culture.

[3] Corinna Lee, "The Cloister without Walls" (sociology thesis submitted September 1986, Australian National University).

[4] A.K. Tebecis, Mahikari: Thank God for the Answers at Last (Tokyo: L.H. Yoko Shuppan, 1982), and A.K. Tebecis, Is the future in our hands? (Canberra: Sunrise Press, 2004)

[5] Winston Davis, Dojo: Magic and Exorcism in Modern Japan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1980), p. 201

[6] Lee, p. 37

[7] Lee, p.85

[8] Day 1 of the Primary Kenshu lecture. These lectures are presented orally by different lecturers, but the lecturers are provided with a standard script which they are expected to follow verbatim.

[9] Lee, p. 37

[10] Tebecis, 1982, p.214

[11] Gotaidanshu (Interviews with Okada), published by Sukyo Mahikari, 1985, p. 280-281

[12] Kentaro Shibata, Daiseishu: Great and Holy Master, translated by Sukyo Mahikari Headquarters, (Tokyo: L.H. Yoko Shuppan, 1993) p.194

[13] Okada, Sunkyo; Great Guideposts on the Path of Divine Wisdom, edited by Sukyo Mahikari (Tokyo: L.H. Yoko Shuppan, 1984) p.38

[14] Primary kenshu textbook, 2004, p.56

[15] Tebecis, 2004, p.50-51

[16] Dean and Jean Logan, "Mahikari – Search For The Truth", at http://home.earthlink.net/~delogan/expstory.htm [accessed September 2007]

[17] After Mahikari blog, http://anne987.blogspot.com/2005_12_01_archive.html [accessed January 2008]

[18] Stephen Barrett, "Spontaneous Remission and the Placebo Effect", at http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/placebo.html [accessed September 2007]

6 Comments:

Anonymous KitKat said...

A very well written and researched article, Anne!

Yes, I'd totally agree with your conclusion... when I joined I wasn't at all sure about the teachings, but I felt that the okiyome / tekazashi worked, and I reasoned that if THAT worked, then the rest must be true - very faulty logic!

I do not think that okiyome does anything at all. I can create the same sensation of okiyome 'radiating' from my hand this very instant, by simply holding my hand up and concentrating on my hand. This works for me even though I am not wearing an omitama, and am a staunch atheist.

Putting the mind's focus on any part of the body like that can create all sorts of sensations - especially when people at the Dojo suggest to you how you might experience the giving of okiyome, as well as receiving it. When you're told that you might feel a tingling or a sense of pressure - guess what - you often do!

Longterm failure to achieve anticipated results is also often interpreted as a failure of your attitude / sonen / depth of commitment - so when things aren't going so well, or you don't feel that your life is improving much after 5 years as a kumite, well, any voiced dissatisfaction would be frowned upon, and seen as proof of how low your spiritual level is - so you just don't do it. There is a huge amount of social pressure to conform within the Dojo, brought to bear by both the staff and other members.

As a group leader over many years, one of my duties was to 'report upstream' to the staff about my group members - in other words, tell them about what troubles or doubts my members were having, so they could then deal with them.

If kumite are so convinced of the reality of okiyome, why don't they take up James Randi's million dollar challenge - it's a sure win ... isn't it...?

February 27, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all the years I was a member I never saw a miracle (a positive unexplained event). I know now the human body has a wonderful ability to heal it self - a natural process more often than not. Random events just happen - why need there be a reason for it?
Why attribute the random event to a supernatural over all plan - who really knows anyway. Because Okada/ Jesus/ said so?

I knew a fellow member with cancer once. It was probably chemo and natural mechanisms of their body which put his cancer in remission. There is no definable real test to determine if there any resultant effect of holding a hand over a person body.
Although people were quick to give the 'light' credit for all sorts of things. Grasping for reasons or wishful thinking verses a natural process which probably would have happened anyway with a bit of help from science.

You raise a good point, we can check what Okada said and much of what he said in my view now days is absolute rubbish. You and other researchers have done a pretty good job at pointing out some of the examples.

Even Jesus - well! Do we know if he even existed? There appears to be questionable 'proof' from 2000 years ago. Certainly the 'idea' of Jesus exists. Out of the 14 or so documented people called Jesus around that time - which one, if any, is the real deal?

There is no archaeological evidence of Moses, the flight out of Egypt. A million or so people drifting around the middle east for 40 years would leave a bit of rubbish behind and the Egyptians would surely have mentioned it.
Archaeologists can rebuild a comprehensive knowledge base of communities who lived in the stone age from what they left behind. Where are the middens of the vast empire of Solomon?, where are the statues and the remains of Solomon's buildings? Again no evidence to support the biblical stories.
Which I find hilarious because such a big deal was made about Solomon and his temple in Mahikari.

How embarrassing for them to base their belief structure on something with pretty strong evidence it didn't exist. What does it say about them!, It's all a house of cards really - pull one card out and the lot falls down.

I've noticed, once a person has adopted a belief structure they tend to defend their choice. I did, I became quite protective of the Mahikari organisation when it was put under scrutiny.
Until I started to read the Mahikari literature, sometimes for the first time after being a member for many years. I finally realised the critics had a point, I was defending an organisation I really didn't know much about.

How dumb is that!!!

As a natural progression I started looking at other religions to put my experience of Mahikari into a perspective. Now I feel really dumb! They all feed off one another to boost each other, to prove to themselves that invisible purple dragons live at the bottom of the garden.
If 90 people out of 100 believe that invisible purple dragons live at the bottom of the garden - although no one can see them - it must be true! The majority of people cannot be all be wrong, surely.

The point I am making, Mahikari is based in part on other religions and these religions don't present the basic evidence to give themselves credibility after 100s of years searching. It turns Mahikari into a fragile whiff of smoke somewhat!
I wonder sometimes where the organisation is now, there was no external information about Mahikari when I joined years ago. So much is written about it today and very easy to access.
It doesn't take much to add up, if 100 people join and 99 people leave, the Mahikari Organisation ain't going anywhere soon. By the way, where are all the people lining up at members houses to receive the "light" as predicted by Okada.

Keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your posts they are obviously the result of comprehensive research and knowledge of Mahikari.

February 29, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article, covers a lot of information.

Reading over the article and a few others you have posted, it struck me mahikari is just basic Christian dogma with a Japanese twist.

The karma thing - original sin - everyone is polluted - so must become purified - saved - born again!

A god man appears to save the human race - Okada / Jesus, with a direct link to a 'supreme being'.

Using the hands to flow a 'supernatural power' - evangelical healing touching the forehead.

Three day training to get the power of a god - accept Jesus to be filled with a spiritual power.

A supernatural belief in a cause and effect - raise the hand and become purified - perform miracles / pray for miracles and be forgiven

A group dynamic to re-enforce a belief structure.

A holy book said to be the words of a god - Judaic Christian Bible/ Mahikari Gosaigan.

I am sure there are dozens of parallels, it would make an interesting study in the future. I think just a preliminary review of religions will always find common denominators.

Which brings us to the very basic level - most people have a quest to find out who they are, where they are and how they fit in! Religion attempts to fill the gaps of knowledge with fantasy and people seem to accept the fantasy as fact - fascinating.

March 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your comments and conclusions are indeed on the mark.

One thing worthy of note. There were many "experiments" with seedlings and food decomposing during my decade of involvement with Mahikari. In my later years, there were instances where food receiving okiyome decayed more rapidly and seedlings receiving okiyome didn't sprout as well. The explanation given for this phenomonen to us that the evolution of God's plan was such that the "Light" was, in some instances, "increasing the rate of cleansing."

My God--it scares me sometimes to see how fooled we can become...

March 01, 2008  
Blogger Anne said...

Thanks...I had not heard that explanation. It is consistent with the logic of Okada's teachings. It could be a valid explanation.

This is a good example of the way circular teachings can be used to explain anything and everything. Since they deal with unseen laws and forces, we have no way of knowing for sure whether they are true or complete nonsense.

Even an experiment that showed no improvement and no deterioration could be explained. Perhaps the attitude of the person doing the experiment could be at fault, or perhaps God simply dislikes being the subject of experimentation!

March 01, 2008  
Anonymous butterfly said...

It's interesting that the fundamentalist Christian/kumite has an obligation, or duty, or mission to "save" other people on behalf of Su God or Jesus. Perhaps if they "saved" themselves first in practising self-love then what a wonderful world it would be. Unfortunately the teaching Sukyo Mahikari puts out about "save others then you will be saved", is a great brainwashing tactic.

March 02, 2008  

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