San-ni / Sanzai kokoro o / sadame
Three / Sanzai / heart-mind / resolve
Kokoro, which also can be glossed as “heart,” “mind,” and “self,” has been described by one scholar of Japanese religion as a term that “includes the faculties of mind, will, and emotion. The kokoro is not, however, the sum of these faculties in the abstract but differs in each person according to personality traits, dispositions, and aesthetic sensibilities.”1
Kokoro can be thought of anything that falls in the realm of conscious experience. Themes dealing with the ideal way to bear or handle one’s kokoro is a central theme throughout the Twelve Songs.
There are two main interpretations regarding what “sanzai kokoro” refers to. Among the two, “heart-mind of a three year old” (sansai kokoro 三才心) is considered the representative interpretation.2
“Heart-mind of a three year old”
This “heart-mind of a three year old” is further elaborated by commentators as a quality of mind that is:
• selfless and free from greed4
• pure, believes in and relies on one’s parents without any doubt5
• free of arrogance, like a clear blue sky, undefiled like freshly drawn water6
• receptive and untainted by the world’s vices or bad habits7
• animated and dynamic8
It may be noted that because a child was traditionally considered to be a year old at birth and aged a year at each New Year’s, a “three year old” is between what we would consider a year and a day old and two years old.
A commentator who presents the strongest case for sanzai kokoro meaning a “heart-mind of a three year old” elaborates as follows:
“After spending her first six months after birth as an infant, a child begins to display her distinct personality in time. Around her first birthday, the prospect of her sitting still becomes nearly impossible. After having grown five or six teeth, she no longer can survive on breast milk alone, but cannot give it up just yet. If one were to ask what a child’s most powerful instinct is, it is her yearning for her parent.
“All is fine while she is in a good mood, but in the middle of a serious cry, no one can console her but her mother. No matter how much she cries, once her mother takes her in her embrace, she becomes quiet and seizes the nipple that is offered to her. When her father comes home from work, she will surely raise her arms and ask him to carry her.
“This is how things should be. A child’s very existence depends on her parents. The mind of a child that yearns for and leans on her parents. Doesn’t a three-year-old child symbolize what it fundamentally means to be truly innocent?
“Oyagami is telling us to have a mind like that of a three-year-old child. Our life, flesh, and spirit is connected closer to Oyagami than an infant’s very existence is connected to that of her parents. Night and day, Oyagami provides protection to the point of entering us with each instance we breathe in and out, working harder than a mother who goes without sleep to feed her infant and change the infant’s diapers.
“How is peace of mind possible without leaning on Oyagami? How is the Joyous Life possible? This is because Oyagami is our true Parent in a deeper sense than a woman is a mother to child she has borne. Oyagami blesses and cares for all humanity even more than a human parent loves her child.
“When we rely on this absolute and limitless parental love, we can be more joyous, cheerful, and spirited than a three-year-old child.”9
The commentator offers the following three major traits of a three-year-old child we should maintain as adults:
- an inward orientation to lean on our parents/Parent,
- an outward orientation of being highly active,
- be in a constant state of joy and spiritual uplift.10
After considering a child at one or two years old, I personally feel “sanzai kokoro” symbolizes a period when a child makes great strides. She begins to point at objects and assert herself. A child at this age brings joy to her parents in an effortless manner just by progressing from taking her first steps to being able to dash away at full speed and from babbling to talking in sentences of increasing complexity. She unquestioningly emulates parents and older siblings. Although her ability to understand has yet to develop, she shows a keen knack for observation that reveals she is watching even when her parents are not conscious of it. A “heart-mind of a three-year-old” conjures a quality of joy and love that is spontaneous, unplanned, uninhibited, unbridled, unhindered, unplanned, uncontrived, and pure.
The second interpretation 散財心 can be translated as “dispensing heart-mind.” Sanzai has the connotation of squandering one’s assets. It is a term that came into use during the Bunsei era (1804–30) that meant to throw one’s money about.11 Yet one commentator explains that in the Yamato region, sanzai does not necessarily mean to squander one’s assets but mainly used to refer to someone who goes about in a lighthearted and playful manner.12
The commentator that gives the strongest arguments for interpreting sanzai kokoro as “dispensing” writes:
“Sanzai does not merely mean to dispense one’s assets for the sake of pleasure. Sanzai surely can mean one’s efforts of contribution and dedication that are an expression of one’s indebtedness to Oyagami or to dispense one’s assets to help individuals and society as a whole. Exhausting one’s sincerity administering the Sazuke to people who are ill and conveying the teachings to those suffering from unavoidable circumstances can surely be called sanzai kokoro….
“If one were to contemplate what agricultural activity sanzai kokoro would compare to, it would be sowing seeds.
“To sow a seed, one momentarily lets go the seed one holds in one’s hand. Certainly, a visible, tangible substance disappears at that instance. Thus, you can call it a sanzai (dispensing). However, because this sanzai brings about a harvest, the seeds one sows do not truly go away. Rather, a single seed allows flowers to bloom, bear fruit, and come back as seeds numbering in double and triple digits. The sanzai of these seeds will lead to the attainment of seeds numbering in quadruple and quintuple digits, seeds numbering in the thousands and ten thousands. Thus, dispensing contains the principle of increasing, which is taught as ‘one seed multiplying ten thousandfold’ (ichiryu manbai).
“As long as one shows reluctance to sow seeds or unnecessarily clenches onto the seeds in one’s hand, one will never be blessed with a harvest.”13
Keeping such meanings in mind, verse 3 can be interpreted as meaning “exert your genuine effort in all matters and follow the path with a mind firmly resolved and grounded in sincerity.”14
Another commentator makes a similar argument by associating sanzai or dispersing with expressing our indebtedness to Oyagami for the body we have been lent. Yet the commentator adds that the act of dispersing or expressing our indebtedness is not unlike the blessings of the rise and fall of moisture that Oyasama gave the sacred name of Kumoyomi-no-Mikoto. If we seek blessings in some area, we must express our indebtedness for the blessings we have already received. This is compared to drawing water from a well to encourage fresher water to bubble from the ground and relieving our bowels in order to stimulate our appetite.15 To restate this in simpler terms, it is similar to the maxim “give and you will receive.”
It may be noted here that another possible interpretation of sanzai is 散在, which means “scattered,” “disseminated,” “sporadic,” and “stray.”16 This is an interpretation that needs some fleshing out, for it is not immediately obvious what significance such an interpretation may have. It may be an implication that early followers were separated from their land and unable to attend to their farming because of their dedication to spreading the faith, leading Oyasama to make the Grant of Fertilizer available to them.
The sanzai Grant of Hand Dance to Chusaku Tsuji
When Oyasama bestowed for the first time forms of the Divine Grant that were to be administered precisely for the sake of bringing relief to people who were ill, she said to Chusaku Tsuji, “San-ni, Sanzai Teodori Tsuji” (Three, the sanzai Grant of Hand Dance to Tsuji).17
Even though it is not immediately clear whether Chusaku Tsuji was to administer the Sazuke with a heart-mind of a three year old or while exhausting his heart-mind to the fullest, dispensing his utmost sincerity, I can’t help but come away with the feeling that this historical development has something to do with Song One, verse 3. It is even more significant when we consider that the form of the Sazuke Oyasama bestowed to Chusaku Tsuji — the Grant of Ashiki Harai or Grant of the Hand Dance — is the only form that is available to us today.
One commentator takes into consideration the words of the Grant of Hand Dance (All ills sweep away, save [this person] please, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto) and interprets Oyasama’s instruction to Tsuji as meaning “Make the resolve to maintain a pure, spirited heart-mind swept clear of wrongful dust.”18 Yet another potential meaning of this verse suggests a mind resolved to conduct the Service of Ashiki harai.19
An attempt to find common ground between sansai and sanzai
Is there a way to reconcile the two main interpretations of sanzai kokoro? Among the early handwritten manuscripts of the Mikagura-uta, there are four versions that have verse 3 written as “sansai,” which favors the interpretation of a “heart-mind of a three year old.”20 This interpretation has a strong nuance of the purity and innocence of a three-year-old child. The “dispensing heart-mind” interpretation has a strong nuance of throwing away attachment.21
If one were to consider the meaning of the verse from the hand motions, it suggests a state so high-spirited and joyous that one is jumping up and down with excitement.12
One commentator notes:
“Whether it be interpreted as ‘heart-mind of a three year old’ or ‘dispensing heart-mind,’ I believe there is something in common in the central meaning of both. I believe sanzai kokoro refers to a joyous heart-mind of someone who, with a smile, cheerfully appreciates receiving the sacrament of the precious Gift of Heaven that is the Sazuke, thinking, There is nothing to be more grateful for, nothing more wonderful, no greater source of happiness, no greater honor than this…. I come away with the insight that sanzai kokoro is a spirited mind overflowing with the radiant hope and firm determination of a Yoboku to devote his or her entire life toward building the world of the Joyous Life that Oyagami desires.”5
Passages from the Osashizu containing “sansai”
Here is an example:
Let your mind be like the mind of a newly born child. A newly born child grasps at nothing. This mind of a newly born child — a three-year-old — it may not be apparent what it is. If you give it something to hold, it will take it and hold it. If you give it nothing to hold, it will be content to hold nothing. Listen to this truth and understand it well.
Osashizu, January 20, 190725
This is the imperative form of the verb sadamu or “resolve” or “set.” Whether we interpret sanzai as “three year old,” “dispensing” (exerting effort/sowing seeds), or “to save others through administering the Sazuke,” the most important part of verse 3 is the action that is asked of us — sadame, or to resolve.
Even if we interpret sanzai kokoro as “mind-heart of a three year old,” most of us are no longer pure and innocent as a toddler. One commentator interprets verse 3 as a command for us not to express arrogance or greed.26
It requires a conscious commitment to maintain a state of mind with such a quality. The same kind of resolve or commitment is also necessary when we either “dispense” our efforts or administer the Sazuke for the sake of others.
Further of discussion of the phrase “kokoro (o) sadame” will be reserved for a later time.
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication. Most recently revised on August 22, 2015.
- Helen Hardacre in Kurozumikyō and the New Religions of Japan, 18. ↩
- Most commentators mention the two interpretations, but Yoshinaru Ueda (A and B) and Masui only makes mention of “heart-mind of a three year old.” Ono initially does not mention this interpretation at all. ↩
- Hirano 65; Masui 83; Ueda A 144; Ueda C 26. ↩
- Ando 34; Masui 83; Nagao 69; Tsutsui 18; Yamamoto 69. ↩
- Hirano 65. ↩
- Tsutsui 18. ↩
- Nagao 69; Ueda C 26. ↩
- Ueda A 144. ↩
- Ueda A 144–5. ↩
- Ueda A 147. ↩
- Yamamoto 71 fn. ↩
- Fukaya 63 E44. ↩
- Ono 53–4. Ono sensei does not make mention of the possibility of interpreting sanzai kokoro as “heart-mind of a three year old” in his original manuscript. Readers questioned why and he gave a lengthy explanation arguing that sanzai could not mean sansai since the Japanese language largely differentiates words with non-voiced sounds (such as s) from words with voiced sounds (such as z) (261–5). Another commentary makes note there are examples such as senzai and banzai where an s sound becomes voiced as a z. See MST 119. ↩
- Ono 52. ↩
- Ando 34–6. ↩
- Brought up in Ueda C 26. ↩
- The complete set of proclamations Oyasama gave on that day, December 26, 1874, have been translated in The Life of Oyasama (94) as follows:
First, I bestow the Grant of Breath to Nakata.
Second, the Grant of Boiled Rice to Matsuo.
Third, the Grant of Hand Dance to Tsuji, which is to be performed with an innocent heart like that of a three-year-old child.
Fourth, the Grant of the Kanrodai-Teodori to Masui, which is to be performed in one accord, all firmly united.
Fifth, be careful in your everyday speech.
Sixth, never use cruel words.
Seventh, help one another in everything.
Eighth, maintain strict discipline at the Residence.
Ninth, remain here for ever and ever.
Tenth, strive in ways that will bring peace. ↩
- Yamamoto 70–1, 72. ↩
- Keiichiro Moroi, cited in MST 107. ↩
- MST 106. ↩
- Hiroumi Nagao seems to suggest that the interpretation of “dispensing” and associating it with forgetting greed and abandoning attachment as shown by Oyasama’s exemplary action of falling to the depths of poverty is a somewhat rash interpretation — “少し解釈上気になります” (cited in MST 106). ↩
- Fukaya 63 E44. ↩
- Hirano 65. ↩
- Nagao 70 E29:56. ↩
- Cited in Hirano 65; Masui 84; Nagao 69 E29:56; Ueda C 26; Yamamoto 70 fn. ↩
- Ando 34. ↩