Second Installment of “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” Lecture Series
The second lecture of “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” lecture series sponsored by the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion was held at 13:00 on May 25. The lecturer this month was Yoshinori Sawai and he was assigned to discuss the so-called “First Section” or Section One (Dai-issetsu) of the Mikagura-uta: Ashiki o harōte tasuke tamae Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto (“Sweeping away evils, please save us, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto”).
While I felt he spent too much time on historical background before discussing the meaning of the section itself, I found Sawai sensei to be a lively and animated lecturer. He made many gestures with his hands while speaking, which leads me to speculate that he would probably have difficulty speaking if someone were to tie his hands behind his back.
Notable points he discussed/mentioned in his lecture were:
(1) Some of you out there may be aware that the “Service” (Tsutome) consisted of simply chanting “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” and hitting the wooden clappers (hyoshigi) before Oyasama taught Section One. Precedents of this that are mentioned in The Life of Oyasama (LO) include Kokan‘s missionary trip to Osaka in 1853 (LO pp. 25–27) and Chusaku Tsuji‘s performance of the Service to pray for his ill sister in 1863 (LO pp. 36–37).
There is also the so-called “Oyamato Shrine Incident” in 1864 where such a “Service” was performed with other instruments like a drum and hand gong on top of the wooden clappers. According to documents from the Oyamato Shrine, followers not only created a racket in this manner but supposedly danced as they chanted God the Parent’s name. This raises an interesting question: Did followers dance spontaneously in joy not unlike an ecstatic version of the Bon Dance or Awa Odori? Or did they dance a trial version of the Kagura Service that they learned from Oyasama? We can only speculate with the limited literary sources we have on the incident.
(2) I always assumed the hand movements done during the singing of “Tenri-O-no” in the first section symbolized a person “calling” or “beckoning” to God the Parent (not unlike how the ubiquitous “beckoning cat” or maneki-neko is displayed to “beckon” customers or good fortune to a store or home). I was not aware that there was an interpretation that claimed these hand movements symbolize a person responding to God the Parent calling and drawing him or her to embrace the faith. This underscores the amorphous quality of the Mikagura-uta that makes it difficult to resolve with utmost certainty the “correct” interpretation of a certain verse or phrase.
May Monthly Service at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters
I was able to sit inside the South Worship Hall again this month, but since I was in the back and off to the side, I did not have a good view of the pre-Service ritual procedures or the Teodori this month. The Sashizu-gata (“director”) may have been Kazuo Nagao sensei, former Bishop of Hawaii Dendocho, but it was too dark to be sure.
All the Service assignments each month do happen to be published in the back of the monthly periodical Michi no tomo. But often more than not, I always forget to check the identity of a Service performer afterward whenever I am struck at how inspired I found someone’s singing or dancing since at least a month passes by before the newest issue comes out.
The Monthly Sermon was delivered by Koji Masui sensei. He opened his sermon by mentioning how we are presently here not only by the virtue of God the Parent’s efforts at Creation but also due to the divine nurturing and protection God the Parent has provided for us since Creation.
He then stressed the importance of tracing one’s faith to when it first began, the so-called “day of origin” of our faith. Masui sensei then related a well-known story from Anecdotes of Oyasama that describes how his ancestor Isaburo Masui went to ask Oyasama to save his mother from illness. He then spoke of how Isaburo’s efforts to have his mother saved serve as a model of parental devotion or filial piety.
He also described another anecdote as an example of how Oyasama nurtured Masui Isaburo on the path towards spiritual growth. He talked on the importance of “sowing seeds” that helps lead us to live the Joyous Life, “sowing seeds” meaning our efforts of true sincerity directed toward helping others. He then closed by thanking everyone for their efforts during Hinokishin Day.
Yadda yadda yadda
I would like to indulge myself here and type up some personal musings.
This month seemed to drag on and on for some reason. Not that it was a bad month at all. One of the highlights this month was going to Osaka to renew my passport. It proved to be a great temporary antidote for my unexplainable listlessness. I got a little lost on my way to the Consulate, but that turned out to be a good thing, as I discovered there was a Tower Records store in the area. I splurged a little on a couple of CDs, ate a hearty lunch, enjoyed some art along the underground Nanba Walk mall and got some bagels and tasty bread to take home for the Missus. And unlike the five month wait in the states, I got my new passport in the mail in less than a week! Got to love the USA and how well they treat us expats.
The only thing I can think of that really bummed me out this month was how I was stopped by the cops the other night because the light on my bicycle is broken. I got away with just a warning, but it really left a bad taste in my mouth. Yet considering what Oyasama went through, my experience was nothing.
As for the light on my bicycle. . . who has the time to get it fixed? I don’t! Damn cops! I know I’m asking for it since the piggies here are really clamping down hard on bicyclists here recently and they have nothing better to do.
I wonder if the reason why it seemed to take forever for the May Monthly Service to come around can be to attributed to “gogatsu-byo” or “May sickness“? Or does it have to do with the fact the days are getting longer? I’m not really sure, but one of the plusses of having the days drag by was to savor each day with my 14-month son on a deeper level than I usually do. It may not be so bad to have the days drag along. As the song (from Life of Brian) goes: Always look on the bright side of life.
That’s all (for this month) folks!!!
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.