Post-26 Report (July 2008)

Fourth Installment of “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” Lecture Series

The fourth 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 July 25. (It was held on the sixth floor of the Tenrikyo Doyusha building.) The lecturer this month was Kazuhiro Hatakama sensei and he was assigned to discuss the so-called “Section Three” or “Third Section” (Dai-sansetsu) of the Mikagura-uta:

Ashiki o harōte tasuke sekikomu ichiretsu sumashite Kanrodai

(“Sweeping away evils, hasten to save us. All mankind equally purified, the Kanrodai”).

Among the topics Hatakama sensei touched upon were how the revision of this verse (1881) coincided with Oyasama’s directive to Her followers to “Compile a divine record” or Koki (1882). This in turn went into a short discussion of what the divine record or Koki refers to. Hatakama sensei went over a particular interpretation suggesting that the Koki refers to the oral transmission of Oyasama’s teachings that took over as the means of instruction after the Ofudesaki or written transmissions ceased to be written (1882). (I have read or heard others’ opinions that the Koki refers to the current content of what is now the Besseki lecture and that, because they compose the teachings that will help humanity return to the Origin, efforts must be made to spread it to the world.)

Since Hatakama sensei is a historian of religions, he brought up some interesting bits from the historical record, mentioning how there are documents indicating that the 11 forms of the Service Oyasama taught — such as the Obiya Zutome (Service for Safe Childbirth) and Service for Rain — were once sung with the line “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai” instead of “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” three times. (That is, different from how the Obiya Zutome is done today and how the Service for Rain was supposedly sung according to The Life of Oyasama, p. 189.)

If these documents are accurate, we find that this suggested historical precedent where “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai” was sung instead of “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” occurred not long after the Nara Chukyoin — a “Middle Teaching Institute” or the prefectural branch of the Daikyoin or “Great Teaching Institute” the Meiji government had set up to oversee religious affairs across the country — told Tenrikyo followers the chanting/singing of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto could not be permitted since it was a name that was not mentioned in the Shinto classic texts such as the Kojiki and Nihongi. This event (described in The Life of Oyasama, pp. 91–92) is alluded to in the following verse: They banned the name given by Tsukihi. What do you think of this regret of Mine? (Ofudesaki 6:70)

Although Hatakama sensei did not say this explicitly, if we are to trust these documents, they suggest that the Kanrodai line was a temporary fill-in for the time when the divine name could not be chanted/sung. The Chukyoin represented a serious setback, for Ofudesaki verses 8:5–6 relates how the “Salvation Service cannot be performed” because of efforts “to stop Me and, after that, even to forbid” implicitly alluding to the Chuyokin “banning the name given by Tsukihi,” i.e., Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. This makes sense theologically, as it is during the singing of “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” in the first section of the Kagura Service when each of the ten dancers make the hand movements that specifically and symbolically reenact/represent the ten workings of God the Parent’s complete providence.

The most rewarding part of attending this month’s lecture by far was being able to listen to a recording of Yoshie Nagao (the daughter of Izo Iburi) singing the first three sections of the Mikagura-uta, or the so-called “Kagura” verses! I had heard that such a recording existed but I never thought would ever have a chance to actually hear it. (The recording is significant in that Yoshie Nagao learned to play the shamisen directly from Oyasama. See Anecdotes of Oyasama 53 and 54) Interesting differences from how they are sung at present:

  1. She sings “Hito-tsu” in the very beginning after the hitting of the signal block (aizu) ala the Twelve Songs
  2. She sings the first section pre-1882 revision style, Ashiki harai, not Ashiki o harōte. The singing melody closely follows the koto melody. Interestingly enough, she sings the third section the way we do today, post-1882 revision style
  3. In the second section, she sings ashiki na koto instead of ashiki no koto

It also has come to my attention that these lectures are being printed in the monthly periodical Omichi no tomo. The August 2008 issue has Yoshinori Sawai sensei’s lecture (which I discussed two months ago). So I imagine that Hatakama sensei’s lecture will be in the October 2008 issue. With things going at this rate, the lectures may be eventually translated in the Tenri Journal of Religion, but that’s a big assumption on my part.

*Update on 10/10/08: I did some editing to fix several mistakes and rework what I originally wrote in hopes it is now more representative of the presentation Hatakama sensei gave.

*Update on 12/3/08: I thought to add a link to a more official (and possibly more dependable?) source on the same event.

July Monthly Service at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters

The Monthly Sermon was delivered by Michihito Hamada sensei, the bishop of Tenrikyo Hawaii Dendocho (Mission Headquarters of Hawaii). He began by giving a general overview and description of the situation in Honolulu, as well as a brief history of Tenrikyo in Hawaii. He touched on the difficulty of transmitting the faith to younger generations in a Christian-dominated society while sharing his belief that the key to transmitting the faith successfully was instilling a sense of gratitude for/indebtedness to God’s blessings in the next generation and ensure they make it a habit to express this appreciation. He added that even making it a habit of putting one’s hands together in prayer (gassho) was important to attaining this sense of gratitude/indebtedness.

Bishop Hamada also talked of his experience being dispatched with his family to Congo-Brazzaville on two occasions. On his second time in the Congo, he went through the ordeal of having his, his family’s, and seinens’ passports confiscated when he was ordered to return to Jiba.

While the passports were returned without further incident, Bishop Hamada related how he still bore a grudge against the individual who did so after he returned to Jiba, and later fell sick. Contemplating over this illness, he perceived that it was God’s way of telling him to let go of his anger and bitterness. Then, he later read in the newspaper that a plane — the same Brazzaville to Paris flight he flew on just a week before — exploded over the Congo jungle.

Seeing this, he was shocked and expressed his gratitude for God’s protection that allowed him, his family, and seinens, to escape such a terrible fate. He then compared that the acts of expressing anger and complaining were like pressing on the brakes in a vehicle that was heading toward the Joyous Life and by expressing anger and complaining while we make efforts to serve the path, we run the risk of damaging the vehicle (body?) so important to taking us to our goal.

Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba

The 2008 Children’s Pilgrimage to Jiba (held every year July 26 to August 4) is currently in full swing. I remember wondering what the reason was for all the Disney World type of rubbish the Boys and Girls Association did with all the “Honwaka Village” characters such as Pikky, Ribbon, Papio, Bitto (Bit?) et al., the Oyasato Parade, and the poorly written music. I wondered if this was a wise investment of valuable resources (time, effort, and such). But I’ve since come to terms with the Children’s Pilgrimage. What counts is making the kids happy or at least all the efforts to make them happy.

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