Yottsu / Yononaka
Four / In the world
Yononaka is explained in every major commentary as a term in the Yamato dialect meaning “rich harvest.” Pronounced “yonnaka,” it has been explained as “shifting from adversity to favorable circumstances”1 and elaborated as meaning “the happiness of having things go exactly as one plans and hopes.”2 Another commentator writes that it is a phrase that expresses gratitude for Oyagami’s unlimited blessings as well as the wondrous and extraordinary forms of relief that can be attained through one’s exclusive dedication toward bringing relief to others.3 However, it is worthy to note that in his commentary on the Mikagura-uta, the first Shinbashira interprets yo no naka literally, meaning “In the world.”4
Why did the first Shinbashira explain Song One, verse 4 as meaning “In the world”? One possible explanation is that, by his generation the term “yononaka” went out of use. But one would imagine elder followers would have explained to him this term had the specific meaning of “rich harvest.”
Another possible explanation is that the first Shinbashira very well knew what yononaka meant but refrained from writing about it because it could have been associated with millenarian sentiments that the Japanese government wished to suppress. One researcher of Japanese folk religion has written that “yononaka” is a phrase short for “Miroku yo no naka.” The Miroku here is not the Miroku associated with Buddhism (i.e., the future Buddha Maitreya) but a folk deity associated with harvests and the growth of crops.5
Here are some arguments favoring the interpretation of Song One, verse 4 as “In the world”:
- It would be strange for the first Shinbashira to be unaware of yononaka meaning “rich harvest.”
- If yononaka meant rich harvest (hōnen in Japanese), why isn’t verse 8 “Yattsu, Yamato wa yonnaka ya”?
- The hand movements for “yononaka” is the isami or “spirited/spiritual uplift” hand motion. Although Song One verse 4 is the only verse with the phrase “yononaka,” it must be brought to attention that other than Song Three verse 3 and Song Eight verse 3, the hand motions for sekai (world) in the Twelve Songs are the same as Song One verse 4 in that they share the isami hand motion.6
- One Tenrikyo researcher suggests that early followers interpreted verses 4 and 5 literally, as Oyagami’s blessings bursting in the world as buds burst and that the current interpretation of yononaka equaling the Yamato term yonnaka came only later.7 Certainly, the flow of the verses from 4 to 5 favors this early interpretation.
- With the exception of one commentator who cites an encyclopedia of Japanese dialects8, all commentators merely claim that “yononaka” is a term in the Yamato dialect meaning rich harvest. None of them really cite any actual examples from other texts.
As for arguments for yononaka as meaning “rich harvest,” one must put into consideration verse 1:9 from the Ofudesaki. It goes:
Dandan to kokoro isande kuru naraba, sekai yononaka tokoro hanjo.9
The current official translation is “As your minds become spirited step by step, there shall be rich harvests and prosperity everywhere.” Surely the interpretation “the world will have rich harvests (sekai = yononaka) and various places will experience prosperity (tokoro = hanjo)” is a very straightforward interpretation. But it must be mentioned that the interpretation “the various places of the world will experience prosperity (sekai, yo no naka tokoro = hanjo) cannot be dismissed entirely.
Itsutsu / Ri o fuku
Five / Blessings burst forth
Ri o fuku
It may be noted that while Ri is generally interpreted as 理 (Oyagami’s sacred providence or the manner in how Oyagami’s workings are manifested10) the “Ri” in Song One, verse 5, was written in early manuscripts of the Mikagura-uta as 利11, suggesting this Ri is an abbreviation of the term riyaku 利益 or sacred blessings.12 This distinction may seem a minor one, but I believe it has profound implications. Riyaku conveys connotations of blessings that come in tangible forms whereas 理 also imply blessings or providence in an abstract sense.
The verb fuku evokes the imagery of Oyagami’s blessings emerging in several ways:13
- “Mizu ga fuku” or the image of the sacred providence spouting forth like water from a geyser.
- “Hi ga fuku” or the image of the sacred providence bursting out like a flame.
- “Kaze ga fuku” or the image of the sacred providence blowing about like the wind.
- “Go-han ga fuku” or the image of rice cooking up nice and fluffy.
- “Me/hana ga fuku” or the image of buds bursting forth from a seed or flowers blooming.
All of the five images above conjures a latent explosive power that describes how the sacred providence is expressed. The fact that the particle “(w)o” is used here (as opposed to “ga”) presumes there is something or someone behind the action described. For example, “Hi o fuku” conjures the image of a fire-breathing creature.
The following quote attributed to Oyasama is brought by a pair of commentators discussing this verse:
“I will teach you, using water as a metaphor. When water falls from a high place to the very bottom, it will splash up no matter how you try to stop it. By this principle, if there is anyone who obstructs this path, they will become part of a ladder. Those obstructing the path will become steps of a ladder that take us higher step by step. In the case of a tree, if you stop its ends, buds will sprout in four, eight directions. If you dig up its roots, buds will begin sprouting from your shovel.”14
One commentator elaborates:
“The phrase ‘Ri o fuku’ conjures the image of dedicated efforts laid silently over long months and years sprouting forth at last with a powerful momentum, causing things to grow, bloom, and mature with great force.”15
In other words, by resolving and maintaining a sanzai heart-mind as commanded in verse 3, one fulfills the condition to allow blessings to burst forth with great momentum.
Another commentator associates Ri here with merit, and that verse 5 urges us to contribute and dedicate our sincerity, which allows blessings to bud and burst in the future.16
Yet another commentator suggests Ri means Oyagami’s intention, explaining as follows:
“Oyasama repeatedly went through extraordinary Hardship and worked earnestly for the purpose of single-hearted salvation in exact accordance to Oyagami’s intention. The profound sincerity that Oyasama dedicated finally ripened with the arrival of the season, appeared in the open, bringing forth instances of wondrous salvation one after another. Those who began to yearn for Oyasama and have faith steadily increased. This can be said to be an example of “Ri bursting forth.”17
It may also be noted that the corresponding hand movement at Itsutsu here is unique in how it is the Namaste hand motion is brought down diagonally to the left instead of being held in front of the chest. It isn’t immediately obvious why this hand motion only appears here but a likely explanation is that the motions for this verse flow more readily this way (i.e. from the diagonal Namaste during ‘Itsutsu’ to drawing a circle with both index fingers during ‘Ri o fuku’).18
Muttsu / Mushō ni / deke-mawasu
Six / Unlimitedly / produce all over
Mushō ni deke-mawasu
Deke-mawasu is a peculiar compound verb. It is a combination of the verbs dekiru (come into being, finish) and mawasu (turn or spread around). One commentator notes that the dance motions for mawasu is the same as ichiretsu, suggesting that crops will grow and bear fruit everywhere in every nook and cranny.19
Further, verse 6 here stands out in the way that there are no nouns contained in the verse; it is merely an adverb (mushō ni) followed by a compound verb (deke-mawasu). What is being produced here is not specified; it can potentially mean anything.
But before proceeding any further, it may be noted that commentators have explained verse 6 as “continually receiving Oyagami’s protection that one did not even think to ask for”20 and “having boundless harvests come about everywhere without exception.”21 One commentator explicitly connects this verse with the establishment of a countless number of churches.22
Another commentator writes as follows:
“‘Mushō ni deke-mawasu’ describes a condition in which good things grow, spread, and prosper with no limit…. [a condition] described elsewhere as Oyagami’s ‘free and unlimited’ protection…. To have good things be produced and spread all around unlimitedly, one must firmly resolve and maintain a sanzai kokoro and merely sow seeds of genuine sincerity.”23
Still another commentator explains the verse while mentioning that Oyasama’s many years of sincere dedication ended up as ‘one seed multiplying ten thousandfold,’ bringing followers into the faith one after another. Further, he explains, our efforts yearning after Oyasama’s exemplary legacy, to contribute and dedicate our genuine sincerity toward the path exclusively dedicated to bringing relief to others become monodane (“seeds of everything”) that will surely bud, gradually spread, and produce blessings before our very eyes.24
- Fukaya 63 E44. ↩
- Tsutsui 19 (a similar sentiment is expressed in Masui 86). ↩
- Hirano 67. ↩
- MST 108. ↩
- Noboru Miyata. Miroku shinkō. ↩
- To elaborate, the hand movements for sekai in Song Three verse 3 is the “upright fans” hand motion. In Song Eight verse 3, it is the turning motion. In the other places “sekai” is sung in the Twelve Songs (Song Five verse 1, Song Six verse 3, Song Seven verse 3, Song Eight verse 1, Song Nine verses 1 and 3, Song Eleven verse 3, and Song Twelve verse 3), the corresponding hand movement is the isami hand motion. The hand motion for sekai in the Eight Verses of Yorozuyo is particular to that Dance, lifting the left index finger and turning the body to the left. ↩
- Hiroumi Nagao in MST 109–10. ↩
- Ono 56. ↩
- Cited in Fukaya 64 E44; Hirano 67; Masui 85; Nagao 71 E29:57; Ueda C 27; Yamamoto 72–3 fn. ↩
- This is how Masui interprets the verse (86). ↩
- Fukaya 65; Hiroumi Nagao in MST 109; Takanori Nagao 72. ↩
- Ueda C 27. ↩
- As mentioned in Ono 57–8. ↩
- Fukaya 64; Ueda A 150. A previously published translation of this same passage goes: “We will illustrate with water. If you drop water from a high place, it will splash up. If there are people who will try to hinder our path, we will use them as steps in a ladder. We will continue to rise, step by step. We can illustrate with trees. If you prune the top of a tree, buds will appear on the sides” (Fukaya E45). ↩
- Ono 58. ↩
- Ueda A 150–1. ↩
- Hirano 68. ↩
- See Keiichiro Moroi, cited in MST 119. ↩
- Keiichiro Moroi, cited in MST 111. ↩
- Tsutsui 21. ↩
- Yamamoto 73 fn. ↩
- Masui 86. ↩
- Ono 59. ↩
- Hirano 69. ↩