Smoothing Out the Wrinkles of the Mind

The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 111–113) by Koji Sato 佐藤浩司, professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Smoothing Out the Wrinkles of the Mind

We human beings can spend our lives joyously and with delight because God the Parent granted us the free use of our minds. On the other hand, we may find ourselves suffering from the misfortune of illness or another difficult situation.

We are prone to use our minds in a selfish way, which can result in losing the use of the body we borrow from God or damaging our relationship with our spouse, parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors.

The selfish use of our minds become ingrained in us before we realize it and remains with us as our bad habits and temperament. Oyasama compared such bad habits and temperament to wrinkles in crumpled pieces of paper, calling them “wrinkles of the mind.” In Anecdotes of Oyasama, we read:

“If wrinkled paper is left as it is, it can be used only as toilet paper or as paper to blow one’s nose, but if its wrinkles are carefully smoothed out, it can be used in many ways. Once it is used as toilet paper or paper to blow one’s nose, it cannot be retrieved and used again.

“The saving of a person also follows this principle. You are to smooth the wrinkles of the person’s mind with the truth of the teachings. A mind that is completely wrinkled is like toilet paper. Saving such minds, rather than discarding them, is the principle <essence> of this path.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama 45, “Wrinkles of the Mind”

When our bad habits and temperament reign supreme in our minds, we cannot recover when our bodies fall ill or smoothly communicate in our interactions with others. There are times when these wrinkles of the mind affect our work or business. They sometimes even cause people to do wrong and commit crimes. On top of instructing us to smooth out wrinkles of the minds of others with God’s true teachings, Oyasama warned:

“Do not do anything that would waste another person’s life.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama 112, “Amiability First of All”

No matter how heinous or monstrous a deed may be, it is important to direct our hate to the crime, not the perpetrator, and make efforts to smooth out the wrinkles of his or her mind. Just as there are many ways wrinkles can appear on a piece of paper, the wrinkles of each person’s mind differ.

Salvation work refers to our careful efforts to convey to someone, starting with God the Parent’s creation of human beings, on how we are to live in accordance to the divine the intention as we would smooth out wrinkles from a crumpled piece of paper.

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


“No matter how heinous or monstrous a deed may be, it is important to direct our hate to the crime, not the perpetrator, and make efforts to smooth out the wrinkles of his or her mind”— a very commendable statement, yes, but it helps highlight one of the weaknesses of Tenrikyo at the moment: the words/teachings might be wonderful, but they always seem to stop short from giving out any practical advice. So what exactly does one need to do to “smooth out the wrinkles” of a person’s mind?

More thoughts: After reading an article at The about how unjust the sentencing is for crack cocaine possession is in the U.S., I had to wonder: How can we as a society rehabilitate someone who is scarred from the experience of spending time in a prison?

This particular article relates how many African Americans are being unfairly incarcerated for significant periods of time just for possessing crack cocaine and find themselves shunned by society when they are lucky enough to get out: they can’t vote and face huge obstacles when looking for a job. Crazy!

While most of us have little control over how the justice system establishes sentencing standards on the Federal and State level, isn’t the rehabilitation of criminals into productive members society a calling Tenrikyo would call “salvation work“?

You would think the fact that one of the greatest local criminal masterminds in late 19th century Japan, Narazo Hirano, was reformed by Oyasama to become a great Tenrikyo minister would set a grand precedent for adherents to follow. Or, given our lack of resources at the moment, would we be biting off more than we can chew? Is Rev. Narazo Hirano just an exception among a handful of exceptions? I have to wonder.