Formerly known as Kofuku-no-Kagaku or the Institute for Research in Human Happiness, and now operating under the name of Happy Science, a Japanese new religion has been making inroads in Uganda.
Thousands of believers are reported in the country and 10,000 gathered in June in the national stadium in Kampala to hear lectures by the religion’s founder, Ryuho Okawa (b. 1956, actually named Nakagawa Takashi). The group started in Uganda in 2008 and now has a temple in Kampala, which it hopes to use as a spring-board for spreading to other African countries, reports Rodney Muhumuza (Associated Press, July 10). Converts are reported to have been disappointed with other religions.
The emphasis on miracles seems to play a part in the attraction to the movement. Christian groups have warned about the beliefs of the group, especially the elevated status it assigns to its spiritual master.Founded in 1986, Happy Science is one of the most successful recent Japanese new religions. It considers itself as a form of Buddhism, and Okawa is considered as a rebirth of the original Buddha and the incarnation of the “highest God,” El Cantare.
Okawa also acts as a medium and the teachings incorporate an eclectic range of references, some of them borrowing from Western alternative traditions. It has even launched its own political party, the Happiness Realization Party. Happy Science is not the first Japanese new religion to find a following in African countries: missionaries of new religions from various backgrounds have been active on the continent for years.
(Happy Science International, http://www.happy-science.org; Happy Science in Uganda, http://www.happyscience-uganda.org; Happiness Realization Party, http://en.hr-party.jp)