A Person Who Exemplifies the Truth of the Teachings

The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 84–88) by Koji Sato 佐藤浩司, assistant professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is a provisional one at the moment and will most likely require further revision.

A Person Who Exemplifies the Truth of the Teachings

Toyomatsu Sekine, the first head minister of Aimachi Branch Church once received an award in 1951 when he was 70 years old which recognized him as the leading religious figure in the six prefectures of the Tokai region. The governor of Aichi Prefecture, the mayor of Nagoya City, and several other eminent people from various fields were present at the award ceremony.

Many followers affiliated with Aimachi rushed to ceremony grounds. They all savored an indescribable wave of emotion seeing Rev. Sekine at this proud moment.

That is because they all knew that Rev. Sekine was once laughed at, slandered, and experienced much alienation when he resigned as the second head minister of Omorimachi Grand Church and left Tokyo to become a missionary based in Aichi Prefecture. People around him said, “There is no fool greater than he is. He has to be a fool to do what he did.”

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There is the expression “a person who effortlessly convinces others” (naruhodo no hito) that describes a kind of person that is desired on this path.

The entry in the Kojien Japanese dictionary on “naruhodo” reads as follows:

  1. as much as possible; as much or as best as one can
  2. truly; indeed

Other meanings include “a word used to express conviction or agreement at another’s statement(s).” So a general interpretation of “naruhodo no hito” amounts to “a person who convinces” or “a persuasive person.”

What then, does Tenrikyo literature say about the phrase “naruhodo no hito“? According to the revised edition of the Tenrikyo jiten (Tenrikyo encyclopedic dictionary), “The phrase refers to people who, in the eyes of one and all, provide a convincing example that illustrates the truth of faith through the way they lead their lives.” We also have the following Divine Direction:

I shall accept anything you do each day so long as your mind allows you to present the world with a convincing example through the way you lead your life… I shall fully provide for you in every matter if you go on the path of single-heartedness with God while maintaining a mind that effortlessly makes the world feel that you provide a convincing example through the way you lead your life.

Osashizu, May 6, 1890

The passage that describes the act of “present[ing] the world with a convincing example (naruhodo no hito)” may not seem different from the general interpretation of a person who embodies morality and virtuous behavior. But does this interpretation really give us the entire meaning of the expression “naruhodo no hito“?

In 1838, when God the Parent requested Miki Nakayama to become the Shrine of God, Her husband Zenbei refused and asked God to ascend several times in every way possible. Then, God the Parent gave the following response through Miki’s lips:

Whomever may come, God will not retire. It is natural that you are filled with anxieties at present, but after 20 or 30 years have passed, a day is sure to come when all of you will admit the truth (naruhodo to omou) of My intention.

Also, when one of Tenrikyo’s first followers came to pray to be saved, Oyasama said:

It might be hard for you to believe upon hearing the divine name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto for the first time. However, there will come a day when 20 or 30 years have passed when you will be utterly convinced (naruhodo to omou).

Thus we see the word “naruhodo” used in situations where people cannot be persuaded by normal standards of logic but will become convinced once a period of 20 or 30 years pass by.

Certainly, when Oyasama fell to the depths of poverty upon becoming the Shrine of God, people around Her could not understand Her actions. She in turn became the object of ridicule and verbal abuse. Yet when 20, 30 years passed, the number of people who She saved increased and the public was persuaded that She was no ordinary woman.

Anyone who comes to believe in Tenrikyo and attempts to walk the path of the Divine Model struggles to reconcile the teachings with conventional social standards. At the very least, a degree of friction is created between a believer and the people around them.

When a believer maintains his or her firm conviction and continues to make unchanging efforts year after year, as in the case of the Rev. Toyomatsu Sekine mentioned earlier, the day will come when he or she will persuade others of that the life they led was truly the path they had to follow.

That is, I believe that an important aspect of a person who effortlessly convinces others (“naruhodo no hito“) is that he or she is able to wholeheartedly convince others after doing something that falls outside all conventional norms of behavior.

The Divine Directions also says,

It is the truth of the mind of sincerity that is the truth of a convincing example.

Osashizu, November 11, 1888

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*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.


Naruhodo no hito is also rendered in English as “a person who exemplifies the teachings” or “a person who makes the truth of the teachings self-evident.” My take on it is that every Tenrikyo follower is a kind of ambassador for the religion and has the potential to form a person’s opinion on Tenrikyo by our actions alone.

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