My opinions on the Tenrikyo Religion
12/11/17 It has been over five years since I had written my lecture below, hoping to bring upon discussion especially among current followers of the church. I challenged myself to find what concepts would help the world understand our religion. I believe the answer was staring me in the face all this time. In the first verse of our most sacred book, the Tip of the Writing Brush (Ofudesaki) is the following:
Looking all over the world and through all ages,
I find no one who understands the heart (soul). 1-1
It is the soul or heart that God wants us to understand. Please read the main page of the website to understand the soul and how it affects us.
LECTURE 1 written 2012
I would like to share my views of the religion. I would like to hear from others who are devoted to this path in America, on how we can spread God’s truth to the world one day sooner.
The following verse from the Ofudesaki may apply to me, and to the older population of our religion.
Step by step, I shall nurture trees, starting with aged ones
and assemble them in preparation for the future. 7-19
I humbly apologize if I should offend anyone in expressing my views of the church. I am aware that I am only a neophyte compared to many of you who have accumulated much more merit in following the path of Oyasama and the teachings of the church. I ask for your kind patience in reading my views of the religion.
Since childhood I have attended Tenrikyo churches and participated in the monthly services. The services were about two hours of discomfort on my knees, and were without much significance due to my limitation of the Japanese language. The lectures after the service were often in Japanese, or “broken English”, often expounding the importance of performing the service without a single mistake and visiting Tenri, Japan for our salvation. Even though physically I participated in the prayers, unfortunately my mind was elsewhere. This has resulted in the continual accumulation of “dust” (paths of the mistaken mind).
What is Tenrikyo? “Look at me”, was one of the answers that a respected Tenrikyo Reverend was quoted. But to me, I see a Japanese person first, albeit a very good Japanese person. There are seven billion people on earth today, and only .04 % are Tenrikyo members. For this religion to be the final religion, it would need to present itself in a more prominent way to the world. Even if we believe that eventually all mankind will be purified, should we not hasten this salvation?
During the late nineteen century, our religion spread like wild fire. But now in modern times, our religion is stagnant. Why is this path obscure to the world now? To understand this dilemma, I have recently started to study the Ofudesaki (Tip of the Writing Brush) again. To me, the Tip of the Writing Brush is easy to read, yet it is sometimes difficult to interpret due to the element of time. For example, a century may be an eternity to us, while it may be a millisecond to God who created mankind millions of years ago. There are many references to the future events that are sometimes nebulous, requiring the reader to speculate on when an event will occur or when it had occurred.
My scrutiny of the Tip of the Writing Brush is not to find fault with church officials. Initially, I wanted to understand our religion. Then I wanted to find out if the current views of our church elders are in agreement with our most sacred book. Would errors in translation and interpretation of our most sacred book explain the slow progress of our religion? With any document, there are different interpretations depending on one’s prior experiences and beliefs. Setting aside these influences (including other documents of Tenrikyo), the Tip of the Writing Brush should be translated and interpreted as accurate as possible. If there are errors in these areas (translation and interpretation), it would be difficult for the teachings to be understood. I will comment on three of the verses from the Tip of the Writing Brush which are suspect to interpreting and translation errors. I believe that these unintentional errors delay our progress toward receiving God’s truth. For example:
As to the Service to be done,
it is solely by the Service of the Kanrodai (Joyous Service). 10-21
Despite the above verse and other verses in the Tip of the Writing Brush that specify the Joyous Service as the service that God requires for our salvation, parts 4 and 5 of the mikagura uta continues to be part of the monthly service. It is service dance difficult to master, even for a native Japanese person. The contents are important and reflect the Tip of the Writing Brush; but parts of it may be antiquated and not relevant to the modern world, such as the subjects of smallpox and farming. Another example is:
Some would say that we must perform the service without a single mistake if we are to receive God’s blessing in quoting verse X-34 from the Tip of the Writing Brush. They often quote this verse in advocating that everyone perform the service exactly as danced in nineteen century Japan (performed in Japanese and with all the ancient musical instruments).
If only the Service is done without error,
the Gift of Heaven, also, will be given without fail. (Ofudesaki 6th Edition 1998) 10-34
The service performed without error will be a difficult task for a non Japanese person. Fortunately, the above verse may not be translated and interpreted correctly. The preceding verses X-32 and X-33 are about the completion of the Central Pillar (Kanrodai). The verse in question (X-34) can occur only after all mankind is purified and the Central Pillar is completed; and the two verses can be translated as:
If only this is surely completed (Kanrodai),
there will be no failure in the monthly service. 10-33
If there is no failure in the Service,
there will be no failure also, in the Gift from Heaven 10-34
By these two verses, God promises that when the Central Pillar is established, our prayers would be fulfilled and that the Gift of Heaven will be bestowed to the Parent of Mankind (establishing a joyous world). Verses 9-53, 9-54, and 9-55 support this translation.
About this Stand, I do not say when or how,
but when it is completed, the Service will be done 9-53
If only this Service is begun,
nothing will remain that cannot be realized. 9-54
Watch! God will surely bestow the Gift,
the Food of Heaven, without fail. 9-55
In summary, performing the service without error is not implied in verse X-34; but what are promised are God’s marvelous blessings to the world, and the Gift of Heaven to Oyasama when all mankind is purified. Considering our slow progression of spreading the truth, this is not likely in the near future. Another example of a misinterpretation is:
By performing the service, a mute will be able to speak.
This Service is the path of salvation for the entire world. IV-91
I shall enable even a mute to speak. (Ofudesaki 6th Edition 1998)
Since the preceding verse IV-90 is about God teaching the hand movements of the service, verse IV-91 can be translated as:
This Service is the path of salvation for the entire world. IV-91
Even a mute can pray for world salvation (by the hand movements only, this prayer can reach God).
These and a few other verses that are translated and interpreted may not convey the original messages that God intended for us to understand. We must be cautious to translate and interpret the verses in the context of the topic, by understanding the verses that precede and follow. Accurate translation and interpretation of the Tip of the Writing Brush is vital since it is God’s words.
Whatever I may say or write by the tip of my brush, 6-82
it is none other than directions from the mind of God.
From corruption and greed in politics and business, to religions that encourage violence and retribution of nonbelievers, the world is mired with many problems. How do we begin to fix this? As explained in the Tip of the Writing Brush, we need to attain God’s truth. Beginning with our own salvation by attaining God’s truth, we can generate momentum to save the world. But where and how can we receive God’s truth? I believe that we can find the answers in the Tip of the Writing Brush. We need to find these answers and spread these teachings to the world.
Today, you must explain my talks to others 14-65
in detail step by step. The time has at last come.
There will be no understanding about anything 14-66
unless you tell them. Tell them everything, all in detail.
We are teaching them about the soul/heart, and telling them that God will begin to work, to guide people by placing temporary illness in making them understand what the soul does. This spreading of the truth is called hinokishin.
The question arises, how do we “tell them” or spread God’s teachings to the World? The world is more receptive to what is familiar. When Tenrikyo was flourishing in the late nineteen century, the customs and ceremonies were similar to the Shinto Religion which the inhabitants in Japan were very familiar with. For example the altars we pray to, are similar to the kami-danas in the Shinto religion. To make it easier for the people to understand the teachings, even the first couple was named after the Shinto mythical figures. Today, the appearance of our religion is foreign, especially in America. This makes it difficult for those who want to introduce this religion to others. When discussions about religion are discussed, I feel uncomfortable. Our first strike is when we tell people that our religion is Tenrikyo. The initial response is “Is that a Japanese religion?” We are on a back track to justify why the ceremonies are performed wearing Japanese attire and performed in Japanese. How do we explain why we are praying for abundant crops this season or about the salvation against small pox when we perform the teodori? Before we can tell them the essence of our teachings, they have a negative view of our religion; and we often end up causing “dust”.
I believe that if we are to hasten the dissemination of the teachings of our religion, we must take the foreign influence and the miscellaneous old rituals out of our religion. These familiar aids were once helpful in spreading the teachings, but now hinder our progress in the modern world. We must go back to reading the Tip of the Writing Brush (Ofudesaki) and understand God’s words. We must distinguish what is important. The importance of the Joyous Service is emphasized in this sacred book. For many of us, we chant “Ashiki o harote tasuke tamae” without realizing what we are asking God to do. In contrast to the other services (teodori and osazuke), this prayer (Joyous Service) is the most important for the salvation of mankind. Our priority should be to share this prayer with the world. The importance of this prayer will be expounded below.
As was once stated, we have the truth in a container (Tip of the Writing Brush and the Joyous Service), but are we going to share it with the world? The date January 26, 1887 is a significant date in history. This was the date Oyasama withdrew from physical life, but it was also the date that the portal was opened to save the world. Is this portal only partially open now because of the traditionalists who place more emphasis on old customs and rituals than the words of truth contained in our teachings? Have the weeds grown thick and is the path now obscure to the world again?
Many followers have difficulty distinguishing the core of the teachings from the “weeds” that may accompany them. They have a sense that this religion is good, and continue to participate in the church activities; but they may not know how to receive God’s truth. The ceremonies, the attire, and the pilgrimage to Ojiba do not guarantee us God’s truth. They may facilitate our prayers in receiving God’s truth (especially in the past), but by themselves are only events and memories in our lives.
There are some that have attained God’s truth, but are reluctant to spread the teaching for fear of what families, friends, or the world may think of them. This fear arises from our perception of how difficult it would be for the world to understand God’s teachings under the present structure and appearance of the church. The teachings that lead to God’s truth are partially buried under the miscellaneous rituals and ceremonies of the past which the traditionalists insist are important for our salvation. Because of these impurities, it becomes difficult for people to recognize and acquire God’s truth or blessings at our churches.
Where can we refer an English speaking acquaintance who seeks God’s truth today? I am ashamed to say that I am not comfortable to direct that person to any Tenrikyo church at this time. There is too much information that the novice has to filter out, before “digging up” God’s truth (blessings). This is why we need changes in our existing churches. We need places that directly convey God’s truth.
What do you think this talk is about? 2-16
I am hastening for the places where God’s truth is conveyed.
These churches that convey God’s truth show people how to receive God’s blessing. God’s blessings are not revealed by perfunctory long ceremonies, incantations, magical rites, psychic manifestations, or prayers for miraculous healings, which some in America have attempted to emphasize in their zeal to spread the religion. Our blessings are received by our daily and monthly sincere prayers for world salvation. It is this simple prayer that will provide God’s blessings (Illness as guidance to help one understand the purpose of the soul/heart in purifying the mind), and eventually will settle the world. It is also this prayer which makes the osazuke (healing prayer) effective. And finally, it is this prayer that will someday resonate throughout the world.
Solely by the Service (prayer), everything will be revealed (blessings of illness as guidance to help understand the soul/heart in purify our minds). 15-85
Praise should be given to those who tread the path for salvation in America. Many have worked unselfishly in spreading the truth in America. Even though confronted by a different culture, they go forth by the knowledge that they carry God’s truth. But the container that carries the truth may be foreign to most Americans, and will likely remain unopened. Some may wonder if the efforts of these missionaries are in vain; and if there is an easier way to spread this truth that will settle the world? I believe there is a way. This path is explained in the Tip of the Writing Brush (Ofudesaki).
note: the farming references may be relevant today, in that it may refer to how to increase church members. Crops may represent new members, fertilizer as the joyous service, weeding may refer to removal of dust from the follower, and planting seed may refer to spreading of the teachings or hinokishin. 07/10/17
* green words are recent additions 06/18/18