The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 150–153) by Koji Sato, professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Every religion has a place dedicated for worship. They are called by variety of names: in Christianity they are called churches; in Buddhism, temples; in Islam, mosques; in Judaism, synagogues; in Taoism, byo; and in Shinto, shrines. Naturally, the object of worship has a different role. Yet for followers they represent sacred and solemn places where they can find peace and comfort.
In Tenrikyo, we have churches (kyokai). They are located in every part of Japan and many other areas of the world. Historically, churches were based on the organizations called confraternities (ko) that were formed in response to Oyasama’s instructions and established to attain legal and institutional recognition. When God grants the establishment of a church, its members pledge to solely devote themselves to salvation and the realization of the Joyous Life, which is the purpose of human creation.
When Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was established, it happened to fall under the organizational framework of “Shinto” according to the religious policy of the Meiji government. Although Tenrikyo would later achieve independence from Shinto, it spent some time as one of the so-called 13 sects of Shinto. Consequently, Tenrikyo was classified as “Sect Shinto,” but since this was nothing but a type of classification, it is debatable whether such a kind of Shinto actually exists or ever existed.
Churches are granted by virtue of the Jiba, the original place of human creation and thereby receive the “truth of the Jiba.” To put this concretely, a medo (symbol of worship) of God the Parent and Oyasama are enshrined at each church. Thus, God the Parent and Oyasama are, in a sense, go out to work in the respective country and region where a Tenrikyo church is located.
To put it simply, the role of a church is to promote salvation. One way to do this is to convey the truth of this path — that was begun out of God’s wish to save human beings — to those who are not aware of it.
A second way to accomplish this is to practice the means to bring about salvation. This is to conduct the service and helping one another.
A third way is to provide a model of the Joyous Life in each locale. This is practicing a cheerful and enjoyable lifestyle in our daily life.
A fourth way is to cultivate the faith of the followers connected with the church. This is to hold discussions that help refine its members with the head minister as the core.
A fifth way is to contribute the local community. One way to accomplish this is to conduct hinokishin activities. This can lead to contributions through local charity groups. Churches are given tax preferences because they should contribute to society.
Yet although we may make efforts to realize the mission of a church, it is not an easy task to create a model for the Joyous Life on the surface level. People who lament over their troubles and difficulties come to the church praying for salvation. Because people come carrying their problems, there is no guarantee that problems will never occur.
However, in the general public or in a typical household, when a problem arises, the problem deepens unless its underlying cause is removed. A church is a place of mutual help and prayer that takes the troubles of others as one’s own and resolves the root cause of the trouble. The dusts of the mind and muddied thoughts are purified through people’s prayers and God the Parent’s providence. This is what makes a church a model of the Joyous Life.
Kuraji Kashiwagi, a Church Headquarters executive official who was able to establish a grand church in a single lifetime, took care of many followers within his church.
He once said: “When people with dust disappear from a church, it means that there are no longer new people coming into the church. This means that the truth of the activities devoted to single-hearted salvation at the church has weakened. While this may look good, it is not something a church should be happy about.”
We can say that we are all aiming for spiritual growth and in the process of attaining it. A church is a place to attain this spiritual growth.
- Next installment in this series: Naorai (Post-Service Meal)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.