110. Souls Are Everliving
When there were no worshipers, Oyasama usually sat alone in Her room. She often smoothed out crumpled wastepaper or folded paper packets for the sacred powder. When an attendant asked, “Do You ever feel lonely sitting by Yourself?” Oyasama answered:
Occasionally, She would be heard talking as if with someone when really She was alone in Her room. She said to Hisa Kajimoto, who was in attendance, late one night:
“My legs are feeling heavy as Shuji and Kokan have come home from afar. Please massage My legs.”
On another occasion, Oyasama was having sweet rice wine. After drinking three cups, She said:
“Shozen and Tamahime are having wine with me.”
Note: Hisa Kajimoto was married in 1887, becoming Hisa Yamazawa.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 93–94
My research / take
Here, it is described that Oyasama had communicated with her late children Kokan (1837–1875) and Shuji (1821–1881). Further, it is described that Oyasama also bore the exhaustion of her deceased children even though one would presume that disembodied souls wouldn’t be able to feel sore in the first place since they no longer have a nervous system or legs for that matter.
But I digress since I find it rather useless to becoming preoccupied with metaphysical matters that are not elaborated in any Tenrikyo Scripture or text I am familiar with. Nevertheless, this “fatigue transferrence” appears to be a part of a reoccurring theme as Anecdotes 162 describes a somewhat similar phenomenon of how Oyasama would inexplicably end up bearing the exhaustion of a number of her (living) followers when they returned to the Residence or worked in the fields nearby.
What makes Anecdotes 110 rather fascinating, however, is that Oyasama is described saying, “Shozen and Tamahime are having wine with me.” Shozen (1905–1967) happens to be the names of one of her great-grandchildren. Specifically, he was the son of first Shinbashira Shinnosuke (1866–1914) and Tamae (1877–1938). Shozen would later go on to become the second Shinbashira. Although Anecdotes of Oyasama was published nine years after Shozen Nakayama’s passing, the account here seems to imply that he was Shuji in his previous life.
As for whom Tamahime is, it is assumed this name is referring to Kokan’s future rebirth. Kokan has been associated with the aspect of God’s providence that has the sacred name Kunisazuchi-no-Mikoto.1 The 1881 poetic version of the Koki narratives written by Ryojiro Yamazawa (also known as Ryosuke) foretold that Kunisazuchi would be reborn at the Residence 30 years later.2
I presume that there is a belief in the tradition that Tamahime refers to Tamachiyo Nakayama, the younger sister of Shozen. But I have not been able to secure any information on her other than the fact she served for a short period (1946–1949) as the president of the Tenrikyo Women’s Association. It is hard to say at this point without further research whether or not the preordination Ryojiro had either merely recorded or came up with himself had been fulfilled with Tamachiyo’s birth.
In any case, Anecdotes 110 functions to present support for the belief that souls are “everliving.” To put in another way, it is a belief in “rebirth,” a variant take on the notion of reincarnation.
I have recently come to nurture some private skepticism regarding the notion of the personal soul being eternal but, as a commentator once astutely observed, “Tenrikyo is more on the topic of rebirth.” Private reservations aside, I readily accede that the notion of rebirth and causality accrued from previous lives take up a significant allotment in Tenrikyo‘s worldview. I have heard a particular minister mention that it was an essential aspect of Tenrikyo faith; that a faith in which a belief in rebirth is absent is not Tenrikyo. While the notion of rebirth may not be a fully developed one compared with tales of the afterlife that have emerged from the Buddhist and Christian traditions, there is certainly Scriptural basis for this belief.
The example that most readily comes to mind is the narrative of Shu, granddaughter of Oyasama and daughter of Shuji, who is implicitly mentioned in the Ofudesaki and later said to have been reborn as Tamae Nakayama (as previously discussed in Anecdotes 89). The Osashizu is a reputed source of further examples, together with some of the writings of Tomoji Takano.3
Finally, the following excerpt from The Life of Oyasama describing Shuji’s passing makes an explicit assertion regarding the notion of rebirth as well as implicitly identifying Oyasama’s children as the reborn agents who were involved in God’s creation of humanity:
After Shuji passed away for rebirth, Oyasama stroked him on the forehead and thanked him for many years of hardship…. When Oyasama returned to Her seat, She spoke in place of Shuji:
I have not gone anywhere. My soul is embraced by the Parent. I have simply cast off an old garment.
Then She spoke in place of Kokan and Oharu.
The souls of the instruments of creation remain at the Residence of Origin forever and, being reborn again and again, work for the salvation of all humankind.
The Life of Oyasama, p. 113
- Nakayama Shōzen. 2005 . Kōki no kenkyū. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1996 . The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō, Seinenkai, ed. 1995. Tashika na kyōri rikai no tame ni. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyō Seinenkai Shiryōchōsa-han. 1987. “Kyōsoden shiryō no kentō: Nakayama Miki kenkyū nōto hihan.” Arakitōryō 149 (Fall 1987), pp. 22–264.
- Yamochi Tatsuzō. 1993 . Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- This topic has been briefly touched upon in an endnote from my discussion of Anecdotes 43. Tatsuzo Yamochi is among the few authors who explicitly identifies Kokan as Kunisazuchi (pp. 230; 297). ↩
- This preordination is covered in verses 30 and 31 of Yamazawa’s Koki poetic narrative. I have made a preliminary attempt at an English translation of these verses that follows the 5-7-5-7–7 syllable structure of the original:
from this serpent’s year (1881) / after thirty years elapse / once these years elapse
as child named Tamahime / to the original home
she will be brought back / after this has unfolded / ’til forevermore
she shall provide protection / of salvation manifold ↩
- Examples mentioned here can be found in Tenrikyō Seinenkai 1995, pp. 234–245 (or Tenrikyō Seinenkai Shiryōchōsa-han 1987, pp. 166–172). ↩