Q: Could you, in a nutshell, describe the basic teachings of Tenrikyo?
submitted by Popcorn for Geronimo (real name withheld)
A: Geez, Geronimo, you might as well tell me to bungee-jump off the Empire State Building or something. I’m kidding. I’ll do the best I can.
The basic teachings of Tenrikyo include:
- The purpose of creation was for humanity to live the Joyous Life, a life where everyone in the world lives in harmonious existence, helping and respecting one another.
- God is the “Parent” of all human beings. All human beings are children of God the Parent (In Japanese: Oyagami-sama). Therefore, all human beings are brothers and sisters. One of Tenrikyo’s scriptures, the Ofudesaki (The Tip of the Writing Brush) contains the following verse:
All of you throughout the world are brothers and sisters. There should be no one called an outsider.
- “Our” bodies ultimately do not belong to us; they belong to God the Parent. God lends us “our” bodies for the purpose of living the Joyous Life. This teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” (kashimono karimono) was considered one of the most primary teachings in Tenrikyo’s early years. In the Ofudesaki:
So long as you remain unknowing that the body is a thing borrowed, you can understand nothing at all.
One can say this teaching forms the basis of Tenrikyo morality: for if “our” bodies are lent to us by God in order to live the Joyous Life, would we use it to hurt or harm others for our own selfish gain? If we truly understood the implications of this teaching and incorporated it in our daily lives, much suffering could be avoided.
- Only our minds truly belong to us, we are given the free use of our mind by God the Parent. God could have programmed us so that we could automatically live the Joyous Life, but chose not to. God instead wishes to have all of us awaken on our own and make efforts to approach the divine intention. Whether we crumble or rejoice in the face of an adverse situation is ultimately up to us. Anyone can rejoice when things are going our way. It takes a spiritually mature person to accept adversity with joy and gratitude. (Surely not me! Maybe I’ll get there someday) We are all ultimately responsible for the consequences of every thought we conjure or the action they lead to.
- Oyasama taught that any use of the mind that goes against the divine intention of the Joyous Life is “dust.” Similar to actual, physical dust, our spiritual dust collects naturally; it comes out of nowhere and can be blown away with a single puff of breath. Yet if we neglect to clear away this dust, it will pile up and accumulate to the point that it becomes difficult to clear away and even “stain” our minds not unlike how dust, with time, can stain a mirror.
- Oyasama taught us the “Service” (Japanese: Tsutome or o-Tsutome) to rid ourselves of this spiritual dust. The First and Third Sections of the Service are prayers with sweeping/brushing motions done in front of the chest to pray to God to sweep/brush away these wrongful uses of mind.
- The world is a mirror. The state of the world is far from the ideal of the Joyous Life that God the Parent intended, yet it simply reflects the state of humanity’s collective mind. All unfortunate events in our lives are manifestations of wrongful uses of mind. God allows these things to happen to have us awaken to our wrongful use of mind. In fact, Tenrikyo teaches that all illnesses and other unfortunate circumstances are forms of God’s “guidance,” “attention,” “care,” and “call to God’s service.”
- When we pass away, we “return” our borrowed bodies to God. When we are reborn in this world, we borrow a new body. Death is called denaoshi in Tenrikyo, literally, “starting anew” or to “come back.” It is usually translated as “passing away for rebirth” in English. It essentially is a belief in reincarnation, but we use the word “rebirth.” We hardly use terms such as “reincarnation” or “transmigration.”
- The Main Sanctuary of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters is build around the sacred spot where human beings were first conceived according to our creation story. This place, called, “Jiba” (literally, “Place” or “Locale”) is considered the homeland of humanity. It is also the place where God the Parent “resides” (maybe it’s more appropriate to say, “enshrined”?). The name of God, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, was bestowed on this spot. It is the place where the Kagura Service, or the Service of universal salvation, is performed. (It is a standing version of the seated Service performed by ten masked dancers each representing an aspect of God’s providence. It is Tenrikyo’s most sacred ritual and is only performed at Jiba.)
- The founding of Tenrikyo is said to be a fulfillment of God the Parent’s promise at creation. Before initiating the creation process, God assembled various materials — metaphorically described as various aquatic creatures — and asked them to agree to take part in the creation process. God made a promise to these aquatic creatures who made themselves available to become God’s instruments at creation that after the number of years equal to the number of firstborn children elapsed, they would be brought back to the Residence of Origin to be “adored by their prosperity” (the original Japanese can even be translated as “to be adored and revered as gods”).
- Tenrikyo teaches that Miki Nakayama, our Foundress, had the soul of the Mother at creation and was selected to be the mouthpiece of God’s final revelation to humankind. Her position is called “the Shrine of God.” She is also known as the “Parent of the Divine Model.” Followers call Her Oyasama, (literally, “honored Parent”) and consider Her to be “everliving.” Though She “withdrew from physical life” on 01/26/1887 (lunar calendar), She nevertheless is considered to be present, residing at Jiba, watching over, and guiding Her children just as She did when She was physically alive.
There is of course much more to Tenrikyo doctrine, but I should stop here. I was asked to give the basic Tenrikyo teachings “in a nutshell.” That’s some fat nutshell up there!
Note: there is no real significance to the sequence in the explanation of the teachings as given above, it just happened turn out that way.
*This post has been revised since its original publication.