The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 88–91) 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 may require further revision.
In Jiba, “Grand Services” are held on January 26 and October 26. The “festivals” falling on 26th of the remaining months of the year are called “Monthly Services.”1
When the Service only consisted of chanting the divine name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, the 26th was referred as “go-meinichi” (“anniversary”) and people gathered at the Residence to worship each month.
This was because God the Parent’s promise at human creation was fulfilled when Oyasama was received as the Shrine of God on the 26th, which also marks the day when our teaching was founded. Each Tenrikyo church, fellowship, or home shrine all over the world follow suit and sets a particular day aside to hold a monthly service.
Oyasama once explained the significance of the 26th to Koiso Yamanaka as follows:
“A festival is called ‘matsu-ri,’ meaning ‘wait’ and ‘principle.’ Thus do not do anything else from the morning of the 26th. The only thing you must do on that day is to feel joy, ‘how wonderful’ and give thanks for the marvelous protection of God the Parent.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama 59, “Festival”
The etymology of the word “matsuri” is often said to come from the participle form of the verb “tatematsuru” or “revere” as in revering to a Shinto or Buddhist deity. But according to the Meigentsu, another possible origin is “matsu-aru,” meaning “having to wait.” One can say that the Oyasama’s words quoted above truly reveal to us the proper manner of “having to wait.”
The Yamanakas were among Tenrikyo’s earliest followers and Koiso often accompanied her parents when they visited Oyasama to receive instruction in the teachings. Koiso began to serve Oyasama in the beginning of 1878, when she was 28 years old. Her main tasks each day were to comb Oyasama’s hair and sew Her red garments.
Then on April 28 (3/26 according to the lunar calendar), Koiso had finished cleaning and preparing for the “Festival” or Monthly Service. There was still time before it was to begin, so she asked, “Oyasama, may I have some red cloth to sew? It seems such a waste of time to be doing nothing from early morning.”
Oyasama thought for a moment and said, “I understand,” and She cut some red cloth and gave it to Koiso. Rejoicing, Koiso immediately began sewing, but no sooner when she put a stitch or two into the cloth, she was in complete darkness. She had lost the ability to see. Astonished, Koiso cried out “Oyasama! It was against the divine will to think I was wasting time.” The moment when she resolved, “I will sew the red garment tomorrow,” her eyes returned to normal and she was able to see again.
When Koiso later reported to Oyasama what had happened, she was told:
“I cut the red cloth because you, Koiso, said it was such a waste of time to be doing nothing from morning. Other than sweeping and cleaning, you need not do anything else on the 26th except perform the Service. You must not, My dear.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama 59, “Festival”
To Koiso, sewing Oyasama’s red garments must have been an important way in which she served God. However, Oyasama told her that there was no need for her to do anything else on the 26th other than the Service. In fact, Oyasama clearly said, “You must not.”
The task of “sweeping and cleaning” can be considered to mean all tasks to prepare for the “Festival” or Service.
There are countless numbers of religious ceremonies throughout world. With any ceremony, the people who are involved with the festival engage in purification rituals from an early stage and set up various arrangements to prepare for the big day.
The Tenrikyo Service is an important ceremony whose purpose is to save the entire world. We all know how essential its practice and preparation is, but we should to take a moment to re-examine how we ought to approach the day when it is conducted.
- Next installment in this series: Buy Dearly, Sell Cheaply
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Koiso Yamanaka 山中こいそ married Ihachiro Yamada 山田伊八郎 (who later became the first minister of Shikishima Daikyokai 敷島大教会) in 1881. She was thereafter known as Ie (sometimes spelled Iye) Yamada 山田いゑ. This marriage is mentioned in Anecdotes of Oyasama 84, “In the Southern Half of the Province” (p. 70).
- A note on translation: the same Chinese character is used to write “matsuri” (festival) and “sai,” in the Japanese words for “Grand Service” (tai-sai) and “Monthly Service” (tsukinami-sai) ↩
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