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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Guideposts to Happiness
Prescriptions for a Wonderful Life
Ryuho Okawa
Lantern Books 12/03 Paperback $12.00
ISBN: 1590560566


Ryuho Okawa was born in Japan in 1956. He worked on Wall Street during the 1980's but decided to give up his business career. He founded the Institute for Research in Human Happiness in 1986. It has become one of the most influential religious organizations in Japan. He holds regular lectures and has written more than 300 books, 10 of which have sold more than a million copies each. Okawa has also produced successful feature-length films (including animations) based on his works. This paperback contains a lecture given in 1989 and a selection of other writings on one chance in a million, an indomitable spirit, an incomparably pure spirit, ways to get out of a slump, making time transparent, and life and originality.

Okawa sees himself as a "doctor of soul" and is convinced that many of the mental and physical problems that afflict modern men and women are spiritual in nature. Like many other religious teachers from Norman Vincent Peale to the Dalai Lama, Okawa wants people to achieve happiness and not to be brought down by unhappiness. He states: "There are thousands of ways to explain the nature of the mind, but the simplest is to say that everyone has a blank mental canvas, and draws certain pictures on this canvas every day. It is the pictures that you draw on your mental canvas that determine whether you are happy or unhappy."

Okawa outlines ways to deal with disappointments and failures. He makes a keen assessment of those who have a tendency to love unhappiness. Perhaps the best section of this paperback deals with arrogance and ways to overcome this overweening quality that draws out the ire of others. Okawa puts it this way: "Imagine the growth of trees. When a tree grows tall, it blocks the sunlight from the trees and plants below and their growth is impeded. Much the same happens with people. Each person wants to grow, but if one person grows too tall, that person will cast a shadow over the others, blocking the sunlight."

Although he is talking about individuals here, the description captures the situation in the world today where the rich Western nations have grown big and are hogging all the resources so that the poor countries cannot grow and develop. Okawa suggests that the cure for arrogance is to wholeheartedly help others. Not a bad way to describe the movement of soul that must take place in the twenty-first century to give all people around the world a chance to grow tall and healthy in the global forest.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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