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Sukyo Mahikari is a Japanese new religion with centers in more than 100 countries. Originally founded by Kotama Okada in 1959 under the name L.H. Yokoshi Tomo no Kai, Sukyo Mahikari was registered on 23 June 1978 by Keishu Okada as part of an amicable settlement following the passing of Kotama Okada. In 2013, Sukyo Mahikari announced it had a membership of approximately one million practitioners, though this has not been verified. The religion has been classified as a cult in both France and Belgium.
Beliefs and practices
The stated purpose of the organization is to foster the ability in people to develop a world of true peace by understanding and practicing light energy and the universal principles in all aspects of life. Sukyo Mahikari promotes the practice of and research into natural agriculture. The practice of natural agriculture aims to help people to cultivate respect for nature and restore soil to its pure and fertile condition. Accordingly, the use of chemical fertilizers is discouraged. The organization has helped to create natural farms throughout the world.
The art of True Light
Sukyo Mahikari teaches the transmission of light energy through a practice which they refer to as "the art of True Light (Mahikari)" which is believed to issue from the palm of the hand. In this spiritual practice, practitioners believe that the Light of God is transmitted from the palm of the hand (the giver) to another person (the receiver), allowing them to purify and revitalise the spirit, mind and body, and to nurture the soul. Practitioners believe that the light energy represents the wisdom, love and will of God.
The practice of giving and receiving light typically begins with both the giver and receiver offering a prayer for God's Light and divine guidance. After chanting a prayer that is believed to have a strong purifying power (referred to as the "Amatsu Norigoto Prayer": not to be confused with "Amatsu Norito", a Shinto prayer), the giver then holds his or her hand approximately 12 inches (30 centimeters) from the receiver's body and transmits the Light to various points considered vital, including, it is believed, the receiver's soul. Sessions of Light can last anywhere from 10 to 50 minutes.
The art of True Light is the main activity of Sukyo Mahikari because, it is believed, this practice can help people to restore their original divine nature as children of God. By purifying themselves with God's Light as frequently as possible and by living a way of life that accords with God's principles, practitioners believe they can gradually eliminate their spiritual impurities.
Sukyo Mahikari does not advocate for the use of the art of True Light as a substitute for medical or psychological therapy. Sukyo Mahikari founder Kotama Okada taught that the ultimate purpose of Sukyo Mahikari and the art of True Light is not to heal disease or gain personal benefit, but instead to be of service to society.
Founder Kotama Okada taught that the art of True Light can have a deep impact on the spiritual realm and encouraged members to transmit the Light to anyone or anything at any time. He taught that the Light can not only to be transmitted to human beings, but also to animals, food, buildings, automobiles, and the natural environment, as well as situations of unresolved conflict.
In addition to the practice of light energy, Sukyo Mahikari teaches the concept of universal principles that, when practiced together with light energy, is believed to allow one to more quickly attain spiritual and personal growth.
Sukyo Mahikari encourages people to incorporate the divine principles in their daily life by practicing three virtues: gratitude, humility and acceptance of the will of God. It also encourages the practice of other virtues such as prayer, cultivating a more positive attitude, promoting harmony in families, helping others and being of service to God.
Founder Kotama Okada believed that that if people followed the universal principles, they would naturally use science, technology and other kinds of human knowledge in a more holistic and discerning way, and would find solutions to pressing issues facing humanity.
Sukyo Mahikari made reference to a document owned by the Koso Kotai shrine, claiming that Jesus Christ came to Japan at the age of eighteen in order to study and perform austerities, and that Jesus returned to Japan, where he died at the age of one hundred and eighteen.
Sukyo Mahikari teaches that the Japanese emperor sent emissaries throughout the world to lead civilizations in regions such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India, so that every place on earth was influenced by the ancient Japanese (McVeigh 74).
It teaches that Japan is at the center of original civilization and that the Japanese were the first of God's creatures. Further, it teaches that all languages, cultures, religions, and civilizations originate in Japan.
Some researchers have noticed that the cosmology, values, and rituals of Sukyo Mahikari are similar to those of another new Japanese religion, Sekai Kyūsei Kyõ (which in turn was strongly influenced by Oomoto), Shintoism, Buddhism and Japanese folk religion.
Some studies that have been conducted on the alleged spirit movements and manifestations (Glossolalia and altered state of consciousness) that occur during the transmission of light  conclude that they could be attributed to personality disorders.
For years Sukuinushisama warned people about the dangers of some drugs and surgery used in medical practice, stating that the limitations of medical treatment would be realized, with increasing incidences of incurable diseases and growing numbers of drug resistant illnesses .
Organization and membership
International and regional headquarters
In addition to the world headquarters in Takayama, Japan, Sukyo Mahikari has established regional headquarters in Australia-Oceania, Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and North America, with centers located in over 100 countries.
Within the United States and Canada, Sukyo Mahikari has 21 spiritual development centers.
Sukyo Mahikari currently has approximately one-million practitioners who form its membership, though it is not clear if this includes ex members or dormant practitioners (also called as Yokoshis or Kumites). Outside Japan, the areas with the highest growth rate of membership are in Asia and South America.
Sukyo Mahikari does not ask its members to give up any pre-existing beliefs or accept Sukyo Mahikari as the only path to happiness. Sukyo Mahikari teaches that all religions and spiritual practices have an important mission to accomplish and should work together to establish world peace. Sukyo Mahikari claims that its emphasis on the spiritual unity of humankind has resulted in a membership that reflects a diversity of religions and nationalities.
Sukyo Mahikari does not practice any form of tithe. The sole mandatory contribution for members is the monthly membership fee, which is set at $7 per month in the U.S. and a similar amount in other regions. Cornille writes, "There is the monthly membership fee (reisen hōji onrei ); the daily offering for receiving and giving the light (okiyome onrei); the expression of gratitude for protection (otamagushi), and special gifts for the local dō jōchō, the headquarters in Japan, or the project for building a mausoleum for the founder. In addition, the dojo receives a considerable income from registration fees for courses. For major projects, however, such as the building of a new dojo, funds may come from headquarters in Japan."
Sukyo Mahikari members have been involved in charity and social services around the world, such as in Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal (planting of trees and revival of national parks), in Angola (activities for children, elderly people, and beautify urban areas) and in both New York and Hawaii (for environmental cleanup activities). In August 2004, Los Angeles mayor James Hahn presented Sukyo Mahikari of North America with a proclamation commending the organization for its efforts in helping to create a peaceful and harmonious society; and in September 2009, Mayor Mufi Hannemann of Honolulu presented Sukyo Mahikari with a certificate declaring September 27 as Sukyo Mahikari Day in Honolulu in recognition of beach and park cleanup activities that the organization has conducted there over the past ten years.
In 2000, Sukyo Mahikari co-sponsored the UN Millennium Summit of World Religious Leaders.
On May 6, 2010, the New York Center of Sukyo Mahikari was presented with a High Performance Building Plaque from The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in pursuing a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council. The plaque was given in recognition of energy-efficient measures incorporated into the new center that will help cut its energy costs by $8,400 per year and reduce its carbon footprint in New York City.
Greenwood's All the Emperor's Men created extensive damage to Sukyo Mahikari in Europe and Australia. Members raising questions based on the book were sometimes told that; 1) the movement has a general policy discouraging use of the internet to promote Sukyo Mahikari; and 2) the fact that the member raised the question was evidence that the member was 'weak' and had 'personal problems in need of a spiritual solution'". However, the authors note that it was not known if these were statements made by an individual or if they were approved by headquarters in Japan. The authors further state that: "Sukyo Mahikari lost more than half of its membership in certain western countries."
According to one scholar, the drop-out rate after the 3 day initiation course is over 50%. Dr. Catherine Cornille writes in a research paper that the attrition rate is high. She also states "The emphasis on miracles and magic in Mahikari, on the other hand, accounts for the large turnover of members, ..."
In France, the group was classified as a cult in the 1995 and 1999 parliamentary reports, even if France decided on 27 May in 2005 to stop releasing periodically a comprehensive list of active cults.
In 1997, the Belgian parliamentary commission established a list of 189 movements containing Sukyo Mahikari.
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