Dear friend, have you accepted Goku as your personal lord and savior? If not, then please listen to my Good News! The Church of Goku can help you increase your power level to Over 9,000 and follow in the sacred footsteps of lord Goku by training with King Kai, hallowed be thy name.
That’s right, there is now a Dragon Ball religion. It is called Gokuism, also known as The Church of Goku.
Gokuism is the belief that the principles of Dragon Ball provide a moral compass for one’s life, and that Goku is an ideal role model and moralistic person. By some definitions, it implies that Goku provides personal, global, and universal salvation, and that his death and resurrections were for our sake.
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With so many religions already existing, why create one based on Dragon Ball?
In today’s blog post you’ll learn where Gokuism came from, what its practitioners believe, and explore some thought-provoking questions about this new faith.
The Roots of Gokuism
For many fans, Dragon Ball has always held a special place in their hearts. It’s more than just a show. Some spiritually inclined fans find moral lessons that align with their own perspectives, or they are inspired by Goku’s actions to improve themselves. This can range from hitting the gym to trying to become more honest and pure.
In Western Europe and North America there are believers in Judeo-Christian tenets that feel their beliefs relate to the principles in Dragon Ball. They see Goku’s actions and are inspired to become closer to God. But such inspirations had always been restrained within the understandable confines of Dragon Ball being a fabricated series, not an actual paradigm of salvation. And they were individually personal, not promulgated to others.
In this college essay from 2009, “cmvitolo” wrote, “He was a role model of a father, a great guy, strong and above all, caring. This one character, named Goku, demonstrated this beautiful personality, and his positive attitude and pure heart affected me. … As a follower of Christ, I was further influenced by Goku’s ability to do exactly what Christ had suggested we do: “Love your enemy.””
Bringing it to others via Gokuism, Dragon Ball fans have taken a story and world that they know is fantastical to begin with, and made a belief system out of it.
This is not an official religion endorsed by the Japanese license holders, nor the creator of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama. It springs from the collective minds of fans.
There does not seem to be a single specific place that Gokuism originated. As a global phenomenon promulgated through the internet, Gokuism could have first appeared anywhere and then gained popularity. Although it has a somewhat larger following in Spain and Mexico.
At the moment, Gokuism seems to have just begun, with only a few sites and established groups existing on the internet. But the comparisons between Goku and Jesus Christ have been around for as long as the series has been popular, which I explore below.
Given more time, what might the future hold? Could Goku become a bigger religious icon or a larger symbol of faith?
Before you write off the possibility, consider for a moment that this exact thing has already occurred with another very well known series.
Gokuism and Jediism
Gokuism appears similar to the Jedi Religion born from Star Wars, known as Jediism, or The Jedi Church
Is Jediism for real? Yes, very much so. According to Wikipedia, Jediism is an actual recognized religion in Canada. And in the 2001 census for England and Wales, there were over 390,127 declared followers. That same year in New Zealand there were 53,000 declared Jedi followers, even eclipsing the amount of Buddhists. There are followers across the world, and you can see the resources below for more information.
Sociologically what I find most interesting is the cross cultural comparison between the two.
Both Gokuism and Jediism are fan-based creations aligned with pseudo-religious spirituality and eastern principles.
Jediism was based on a western creation interwoven with eastern Daoist / Zen mysticism and Taiji theories ala the Force. While Gokuism was based off an eastern creation interwoven with Buddho-Daoist legends and American Hollywood influences, and then recently paralleled with Judeo-Christian beliefs of the west.
It’s as if each group of followers is looking outside their own culture for something else and then finding ways to connect it to their already accepted world view.
Numerous books about Star Wars and living the path of the Jedi have been written, where the authors detail the similarities between Jedi philosophy and western belief systems, so as to make the content relatable. Is Dragon Ball the next subject for this treatment?
On the Facebook page titled Evangelical Gokuism, the owner says he created the page “To spread the message of our personal savior Goku, as well as promote my forthcoming book, “Praying to Goku.””
As Dragon Ball is in many ways a similar phenomenon to Star Wars (with films, a global fan base, billion dollar licensing deals, etc.), could Gokuism become the next Jediism? It has the same qualifications, such as worldwide appeal, an in-world belief system, an afterlife, demons, deities, and martial arts based paths of personal development.
Star Wars fans find the Daoist / Zen Buddhist perspective attractive enough to make it their lifestyle, so it seems logical that Dragon Ball fans would as well, since it is based on Journey to the West. In addition, members of both fan bases share similar ‘nerdy’ traits, and it is common to admire both series.
But truth be told, on a larger scale it seems that Gokuism is still years away from reaching the level of the Jedi Church, if at all. That said, Dragon Ball is incredibly popular. Perhaps all Gokuism would need to grow is another televised Dragon Ball series or a successful series of Hollywood films, thus pushing it further into the minds of the populace.
The Beliefs of Gokuism
What are the beliefs of Gokuism?
At the bare minimum, practicing Gokuism implies that you are a huge fan of Goku, as can be seen on this Spanish Facebook page, called “Because he Died for Us and Rose Again to Save Us… WE LOVE YOU GOKU,” which has over 290,000 Likes.
On a more religious level there is unfortunately little material available on the actual beliefs or tenants. At the moment there are no texts or codified materials. There is this site in Spanish that lists the 10 Commandments of Goku, but it appears to be a joke.
From what is available online I gather that Goku is perceived as a super powerful figure who sacrificed his life, was reborn, and fought for the salvation of mankind. Goku is taken as the physical and moral ideal. A role model of innocence and purity who has unfathomable power yet only uses it to help others.
According to one Gokuism Facebook page, it states the following creed. “Do you believe that Goku is the all powerful son of Bardock? Do you believe that Goku has a power level Over 9,000? Do you believe that Goku died, trained with King Kai, and was resurrected? Do you believe that Goku defeated Freeza, and gave Son Gohan the motivation to defeat Cell? Do you believe that you would give Goku your energy if he ever did another Spirit Bomb?”
Elsewhere, this sacrament appears. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Saiyan Spirit.”
On a Spanish Facebook Gokuism page, it says, “Goku is above all things. Gohan is seated at the right of the father. Through the work of Vegeta he spoke through the prophets.”
Honestly I can’t tell if these are jokes or genuine beliefs. I contacted the owners of several sites to try and get answers to my questions, but did not hear back.
More importantly, what does a follower get if they believe these things? The ability to fire a Kamehameha, fly into the air, teleport, or punch through mountains? So far nobody has promised these abilities to converts, but if the movement became more serious, these temptations would be easy bait to swing in front of the eyes, just like Jedi Force powers.
It’s not that far-fetched, either. Consider that these same promises and belief systems were proselytized during the Boxer Revolution (1898 to 1901) in China, and among the White Lotus sects and secret religious martial arts clans for thousands of years. The result was millions of violent deaths.
In regards to physicality, if I had to conjecture, I would imagine that practitioners of Gokuism should also try and embody Goku’s exercise regimen and dietetic practices, such as avoiding alcohol and consuming healthy, natural foods, while training in the martial arts. This seems positive.
What is the ultimate goal of Gokuism? To simply live a better life in the model of Goku? Or does it encompass entering Heaven and fighting demons and other villains as well? Maybe the more spiritual aspects are perceived as allegory for internal conflicts and achievements within the practitioner.
Gokuism opens up a gigantic can of theological worms, so for my own sake I’ll stop with conjecturing here.
As it happens, Gokuism is just beginning, and the majority of inspiration for its existence seems to have sprung from followers of Christianity.
Son Goku and Jesus Christ
Ever since Dragon Ball has become popular in the mid to late 90’s, comparisons between Son Goku and Superman have often been made. Likewise, comparisons between Son Goku and Jesus Christ. There are reasons why.
Consider that in all three cases, the “only son” was sent from “heaven” down to earth, where he matured and harnessed supernormal or “divine” powers to fight against “great evil” and “save humanity.” The three stories are similar in many ways.
Followers of Gokuism (Gokuists?) often seem to believe in both Goku and Jesus Christ. Theologically speaking, can a person who practices Gokuism also practice another faith simultaneously? I would think that eventually they would have to decide which one is their true personal savior.
In the above video, rumored to be from Spain, titled “Ten Reasons Why I Am a Gokuista and Not a Christian,” the creator, EspirituNoTanSanto, states why he believes Goku is superior to Jesus.
For example, Reason 1, “The Number of Times They Saved the World.” According to the video, Jesus saved the world once, against Satan, by removing original sin. Goku on the other hand, saved the world from Pilaf, the Red Ribbon Army, Piccolo, Raditz, Vegeta and Nappa, Freeza, Cell, Majin Buu, and the Evil Dragons.
Reason 2, “The Number of Times Resurrected.” Jesus was only resurrected once, but Goku was resurrected twice.
Reason 3, “Their Skills.” Jesus can heal the blind, raise the dead, remove sin, walk on water, and multiply fish. Goku has the Kamehameha, Kaioken, Taioken, Dragon Fist, Teleport and Genki Dama.
It goes on like that for 7 more slides, concluding in the argument that Goku lived his entire life for other people and would soundly defeat Jesus in a fight. Therefore, he is the “Undisputed Winner.”
Dragon Ball and Parallels to Christianity
To be fair, there are many genuine parallels that can be drawn between Judeo Christian beliefs and the world of Dragon Ball, with Goku in particular.
For example, in regards to the Holy Trinity, Goku is simultaneously the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In one sense, he is the Son of Bardock, the Father of Gohan, and a Spiritual being that resides in both Heaven and Earth. He finishes Bardock’s fight against Freeza, closing the circle of “savior of the people” against “persecutory tyrant.” In a sense, he is like the child that was sent down in order to defeat Satan. He is also made in the same image as Bardock.
In another perspective, Goku is a Father to Gohan and Goten, the youngest and last pure blooded Son of the Saiyan people, and a Spiritual being that can manifest physically in two places at once. For example, after sacrificing his life and going to Heaven, he physically helped Gohan defeat Cell on Earth. Likewise, he rescued Gohan from the death grip of Bojack, appearing in physical form for a split second in order to punch Bojack in the face and free his son. Both acts could be considered the definition of a miracle.
Lastly, in Dragon Ball GT, Goku as an adult is the Father who shrinks down in size and becomes a child (aka the Son), while maintaining his mind and Spiritual powers. He is all three beings at once.
Goku experienced many great tests. For example, at the end of the original Dragon Ball series Kami asks Goku to replace him as God and ascend the throne. But Goku refuses, choosing to remain on earth as a poor hermit so that he can continue improving and fighting stronger opponents.
There are also the demonic beings that Goku defeats, such as Broly. In Dragon Ball Z movie 8, Broly said the following. “Me, a monster? No, I am the Devil.” Christian fans of DBZ have grabbed onto this as an argument that Goku is defeating the devil. Similarly, Piccolo and several others also refer to themselves as demons. Goku defeats them all.
In terms of holy powers, in Dragon Ball Z movie 5, Cooler’s Revenge, Goku holds a dead bird in his hand and brings it back to life. And of course there is the ‘laying on of hands’ that Dende performs on others when healing them. Although from my perspective I believe this stems more from Daoist Qigong energy healing found in the eastern martial arts.
In any case, there are many other parallels to be drawn, and perhaps these are the reasons why people believe in the ideal of Goku and follow his way.
Practicing in The Church of Goku
Fantastical or otherwise, in the mind of a believer, Goku represents an ideal that can be followed.
Having considered the emerging presence of Gokuism and its reasons for being, it may be easy to see why Goku is considered a god, or even a manifestation of God Himself. Goku’s ability to save others and defeat evil, while teleporting between dimensions and enduring the unendurable, all lend credence to the perspective that he is a holy being.
Naturally this brings up the question of religious tolerance, and whether or not Gokuism should be considered a valid religion.
In the above video’s description the creator says, “Do you realize something? The character of Jesus is as fictional and or fanciful as Goku. However, people consider it ridiculous to worship Goku and not Jesus.”
Should a religion based on a cartoon character be taken seriously? Is Goku real? Is Jesus real? Is it all in the mind of the believer?
Goku’s origins can be traced back to the mind of Akira Toriyama, a comic book creator in Japan influenced by eastern legends, Hong Kong martial arts, and Hollywood cinema. We know for a fact that Goku is a fabrication.
For Jesus’ origins we have the biblical texts and historical artifacts that point in His direction, but no definitive proof. Thus His existence is, arguably, dependent on faith.
And yet for a practitioner of Gokuism, who may seemingly also believe in Judeo-Christian beliefs, does it even matter? I don’t think so, because in the mind of a practitioner, gradual self improvement toward an ideal is all that matters, even if the source of motivation is fabricated.
In The Dao of Dragon Ball book I quote a young man who said that Goku helped him come closer to Jesus, and that he hopes that when he dies, that Goku is there waiting for him. He is not a declared follower of Gokuism, and I don’t think he had ever heard of the practice, but in either case, both belief systems are reflecting off one another and providing reciprocal motivation.
In the end, while it seems Gokuism has been around for years on an individual level, it is only now beginning to establish itself on the internet. This means Gokuism may fade away, or it may grow. Only time will tell.
Since there are so many unanswered questions about Gokuism and The Church of Goku, that means this post serves as a great conversation starter. I’d love to hear what you think.
Personally, if I got into the mind of a Gokuist, I would immediately ask myself the question, “What would Goku think of this?”
I believe he’d scratch his head, let out a laugh, and return to his training.