Kathmandu, July 25: A controversial four-decade-old Japanese cult, whose first disciples were bar girls, has now found a different kind of following in Nepal – cancer patients.
Sukyo Mahikari is a religious movement started in 1959 by Japanese mystic Okada Yoshikazu, who envisioned bathing the world with a light that would heal believers but destroy non-believers.
Okada, who began his career with the imperial army, turned to spiritual healing after receiving a severe back injury in the Pacific War and subsequently being diagnosed with tuberculosis of the spine.
When Western medicines failed to cure him, Okada became an active member of the Sekai Kyusei Kyo, the Church of Messianity, which taught that sufferings were caused by “dust” accumulating on the soul and could be wiped away through amulets and raising one’s hand over another’s forehead.
When Okada was 58, he claims to have had his first divine revelation, with the “Su God” – the god of fire, light and the sun – appearing before him. He claims to have learnt from the deity that contemporary troubles were created by an imbalance between good and evil and when Okada lifted up his hand, he found that it radiated god’s light and worked miracles.
He gave the first public demonstration of his powers in Tokyo and his first followers were said to have been bar girls. Today the movement has spread to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and North, Central and South America with sect members claiming to number over 400,000.
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In Nepal, the unorthodox healing method is now being used at the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital in Kathmandu Valley to bolster traditional medicines.
Every Thursday, doctors and patients undergo a 30-minute session conducted by Kamikumites, practitioners of Sukyo Mahikari.
It is said that there are 86 such practitioners in Nepal with eight of them associated with the cancer hospital.
The patients are taught to raise their hands and meditate, which is said to transform light energy into heat energy and lessen the pain.
Sukunda Adhikari, who has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer, is one of the regulars at the Thursday sessions.
“It lessens my pain,” she reportedly said. “I get the energy to carry on.”
Like many cults, the Sukyo Mahikari movement too is known to have its share of controversy.
After Okada’s death in 1974, his daughter Sachiko, whom he is said to have appointed heir on his death bed, took over the movement. But her authority was challenged by another disciple, Sekiguchi Sakae, and the dispute was taken to court.
In 1978, after the Supreme Court of Japan named Sekiguchi the legal spiritual leader of Mahikari, Sachiko moved her headquarters to Kanagawa and changed the name of the movement to Sukyo Mahikari.
However, the controversy does not interest the ill, who just want to defeat the disease and try out anything that will help them win the battle.
Belief is a strong medicine. As Ishwor Shrestha, president of the Cancer Relief Society, puts it: “Sukyo Mahikari gives them the power to endure the pain and go on living.”