Ryuho Okawa’s The Laws of Happiness represents the “Four Principles of Happiness” which Okawa suggests that all people regardless of their religious or spiritual background should practice in order to pursue true happiness which continues from this world to the next. It is a work in which, as the title suggests, the nature of human happiness is explored at length in a practical and spiritual manner.
Okawa states outright at the beginning of the book that happiness is a decision rather than a quality dependent upon environmental factors. No objective or fixed circumstances can guarantee happiness, and instead happiness is a feeling that is innately generated. Part of the process of learning to be happy exists in accordance with learning from one’s experiences and embracing the reality that each person is given their own “workbook” of problems to which they alone have the answers.
The balance of maintaining happiness along the path of progress in life is explored at length in this work. Okawa states that the seed of unhappiness exists in moments of happiness; in other words, where there are good and successful times, challenging times will inevitably follow as life proceeds onwards. To become aware of this fact during the happy moments is a key to self-improvement whereby one’s weaknesses can be recognized and strengthened in preparation for the future as a means to preventing future unhappiness; all of this requires that one be willing to shed their old self as life progresses. Shortcomings are a positive indication that there is still room for growth all throughout the lifespan.
There are inevitable changes that will occur for all people throughout their life, and adaptations must be made. For example, while younger people benefit from having high energy, they also may suffer from a lack of knowledge and wisdom; as a person ages, they will have less energy but more knowledge, and it is such that changes need not be a source of unhappiness provided one can embrace the opposite strengths that come with ageing. Another example is that a person who is very spiritual benefits from developing practical and worldly insights: whatever the greatest strength a person possesses, they can benefit from developing that which is the opposite of it, and such can be a source of happiness.
Okawa provides a teaching that throughout life each person will gradually see the world through two different eyes: the differentiating eye and the eye of equality. The differentiating eye learns to distinguish the differences between all people and other living things, while the eye of equality learns to see the beauty in that which is common to all things. The former of these allows for the recognition of the individual purposes and roles of all things in the world, while the latter of these allows for the development of compassion and empathy; the continuous development and refinement of these two forms of vision, which Okawa states are the manner in which God views the world, are a key to the path of enlightenment.
There is an extensive discussion in the book concerning finding happiness in work, which is something that many people struggle with. While it is ideal that one works in the area that one is most passionate about, such is not always possible, and when it is not, a change of attitude can bring about happiness even in less than ideal work situations. It is possible, given the limitless potential of humans, to always be working towards improvement in the area of one’s work. Such is accomplished by a combination of factors, and Okawa provides the practical advice of reading to obtain new information, writing one’s thoughts to sort them out, listening to other people in order to learn their thoughts, and thinking in such a manner that one’s thoughts become increasingly developed. Okawa likewise provides several excellent methods for generating and developing new ideas into realities, and emphasizes that ideas which endeavor to contribute toward the collective tend to manifest greater success.
Four Principles of Happiness - "The Fourfold Path"
Okawa presents “The Four Principles of Human Happiness,” which are the practice of overcoming suffering through love, wisdom, self-reflection and progress; these may be understood as a contemporary version of Buddhist teachings on enlightenment that are suitable for all modern people. These are explored at depth and with considerable insight that touches upon a combination of spiritual, psychological and environmental factors that impact all people in some way. Some key points include all people want to be loved, no person is 100% perfect, self-reflection is the easiest method to combat negative spiritual influences, and that because one’s thoughts become one’s reality, it is beneficial to concentrate upon positive thoughts in order to manifest a happy life. Ultimately, it is stated that humans benefit the most from seeking the kind of happiness that leads to the happiness of others.
An extensive introduction to Happy Science is provided toward the end of The Laws of Happiness and provides an overview of the history and progress of this new religion. It may be stated that The Laws of Happiness as a whole is an introduction to the type of limitless, positive and happy thinking that is characteristic of Happy Science. Many of the teachings provided in this work are akin to a modern approach to Buddhist, Christian and other spiritual teachings, and are accessible to all people in the world regardless of their religious background. In a world where all humans desire to be happy and most people struggle to achieve or maintain a state of happiness, The Laws of Happiness provides the answers that many are looking for.