Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 43

43. That Will Do

September 27, 1875, is the date when Oyasama’s daughter, Kokan, departed for rebirth. The people of Shoyashiki Village had often come to comfort her while she was ill in bed, and had rushed to her when her condition worsened. On the day of the funeral service, they came and helped from early morning.

On the following day, during the after-funeral dinner, they talked about their memories of Kokan, and recalled Oyasama’s words. In the course of their talk, one of them tearfully said, “Indeed, we have been doubtful of God until now and have no word to excuse ourselves.”

On hearing this, one of the seniors who worked at the Residence suggested, “Why don’t you form a [confraternity]?” Whereupon, the villagers talked, and agreed among themselves to form their own [confraternity]. When this was reported to Oyasama, She was very pleased.

Then they had to name the [confraternity], but at first the farmers could not think of a good idea. In the meantime, someone suggested, “Since this is the place of origin where God resides, how about naming it Tengen(divine locale)-ko?” Everyone agreed to this name, and they inquired of Oyasama about it. She said:

“That will do.”

And She took off Her red formal coat and gave it to them, saying:

“This shall be enshrined as the symbol of faith.”

In this way the Tengen-ko [Confraternity] was born. Without naming anyone in particular as head of the [confraternity], they held the monthly service on a fixed day each month at a different member’s house, bringing the red garment to that place.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 37.

Translation of “Sawa’s note

“[Also related in] Tengen Bunkyokai enkaku shi (history of Tengen Branch Church), published in 1985.”

Significant developments of 1875

A discussion on this story describing the founding of Tengen-ko (later, Tengen Bunkyokai), which was motivated by Kokan’s passing, provides a good opportunity to describe the major events of 1875.

  • First of all, 1875 was the year when Oyasama composed and taught the hand movements of the third section of the Kagura Service: “Ashiki harai tasuke sekikomu ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai.1 She also taught 11 different Services to answer specific prayers. These are: Safe Childbirth, Fertilizer, Germination, Harvest, Rain, Smallpox, Cessation of Rain, and Rebellion, among others. Of these Services, the Service for Safe Childbirth (Obiya Zutome) and Service of Germination (Haede no Tsutome) are still performed today.
  • Oyasama continued to write the Ofudesaki: Part 7 (February), Part 8 (May), Parts 9–11 (June), and the first two verses of Part 12 (lunar 12/27).
  • On June 29, 1875 (lunar 5/26), Oyasama identified the location of the Jiba where the Kanrodai was to be set up.2
  • Izo Iburi is said to have received the Invocation/Grant of Speech (gonjo no ukagai or gonjo no yurushi, also translated as “Grant of Divine Utterance”) in 1875 as well.
  • In September, the South Gatehouse was completed, which was Oyasama’s living quarters until 1883.
  • Also in September, Oyasama and her son Shuji were summoned by the Nara Prefectural Office (24th). Oyasama responds to the summons the next day, accompanied by her daughter Masa. Chusaku Tsuji appears in place of Shuji (who is ill). Oyasama is interrogated and detained in prison. Kokan, who was ill for some time (followers placed at the Jiba the model of the Kanrodai Izo had made to pray for her recovery), passed away for rebirth on the 27th. She was 39. Oyasama was released on the 28th and allowed to return home on the occasion of her daughter’s passing.

Circumstances surrounding Kokan’s passing

The circumstances that have been linked to Kokan’s untimely passing are not widely known by many Tenrikyo followers, for understandable reasons since they are controversial to say the least, and have the potential to raise a number of uncomfortable questions.

To touch upon it as briefly as possible, Kokan’s passing is closely linked to the passing of her sister Haru in 1872.3 It was customary at the time for a single young woman to marry her brother-in-law if her sister had passed away. Oyasama had voiced her (or God’s) opposition against such a proposition, for it was in the divine plan for Kokan to remain single and solely serve God.4

Apparently, however, Oyasama allowed Kokan to go to the Kajimoto household on the condition that she would come back. But Kokan did not comply, which ultimately led to her illness and death three years later.

The description above (On the following day, during the after-funeral dinner, they talked about their memories of Kokan, and recalled Oyasama’s words. In the course of their talk, one of them tearfully said, “Indeed, we have been doubtful of God until now and have no word to excuse ourselves.”) implies that Oyasama had warned Kokan that she was risking her life by disobeying the intention of God by staying away from the Residence.

Tatsuzo Yamochi sensei has written at length regarding the religious importance of Kokan’s passing (1993, pp. 299–305), so I feel it is best to quote from him here. Hopefully, the passage I provide below will prove beneficial since he cites a number of Ofudesaki verses that are said to be related with Kokan’s illness. (I do however, must question if it is even possible to speculate what Kokan’s thoughts were toward the end of her life. What Yamochi sensei writes below is somewhat presumptuous on his part to say the least.)

Here’s the long citation.

One would imagine that Kokan at least had a role in Oyasama’s objective of assembling the instruments of human creation at the Residence and having them fulfill their roles as Service performers for the Service of the Kanrodai. However, though Kokan was in the thick of this plan, she could no longer be included in Oyasama’s intention. Why couldn’t she be included any more?

It was a serious situation for the Kajimoto household when Kokan’s elder sister Haru passed away in 1872. It was a prevailing practice at the time for a single woman to take over when her married elder sister passed away. It appears that Kokan was willing to take over for Haru after being swayed by the voices of those around her. Yet Oyasama’s thoughts were different. She told Kokan: “You have a causality that links you to Jiba. There is no way you can be allowed to [marry and] leave Jiba. If you are to go [to the Kajimoto household], you may go only to help.” Although Kokan went to go help, there was no way that she could have gone for just a week and returned, kicking aside her young nieces and nephews who were saying, “Auntie is going back already.” To have done so would have been out of character, for Kokan’s mind was that of Kunisazuchi.5 The mind of Kunisazuchi is solely devoted to joining.

Yet there was no way that God the Parent would have allowed this to continue as the years passed, from 1872 to 1873; from 1873 to 1874. Kokan’s physical condition gradually worsened. From the standpoint of the Kajimoto household, it was impossible to tell Kokan to go home once she was unable to help with household matters since she was initially healthy when she came and only became ill after.

Although they hoped to send her back once she got better, Kokan’s condition gradually worsened as each day passed. By the time they were willing to let her return, it was already too late. I imagine that she realized that she was on the brink of death as her breathing became more difficult. I can imagine that Kokan would have had the desire to pass way for rebirth in Oyasama’s loving embrace while crying to her heart’s content. Although it was Kokan’s single wish to meet Oyasama one last time, when she was brought home, Oyasama was absent since She was being detained at the Nara Prefectural Office. Kokan passed away for rebirth in loneliness while Oyasama was absent, at the age of 39.

The Divine Model that corrects a mistaken path

Here we must face the question of why Kokan met with such a tragic end. To consider what is written in the Ofudesaki:

This is a world constructed on reason. So I shall press upon you everything with the reason in verse.

I shall press, though not by force or word of mouth. I shall press by the tip of My writing brush.

It is all very well if you err in nothing. But should you err, I shall inform you by verse.

Ofudesaki 1:21–23

These verses tell us that God the Parent will inform us by verse if we are ever in error. Thus, the contents of the Ofudesaki function as examples to point out mistakes in certain situations that serve as the basis of the Divine Model (hinagata) that we must follow. Since there is great likelihood for us to go on a mistaken path, we begin to understand that Oyasama is showing us the mistaken paths traveled by people close to Her so that we do not make the same mistakes. If we perceive this point in the wrong way, there is the tendency to think of the manner how Kokan passed away for rebirth as being too tragic for someone who had gone through so much for the sake of the path. The same can be said for Shuji as well. However, Kokan and Shuji had nothing wrong with them.

In the Ofudesaki, we read:

A body that had no disorder anywhere: Tsukihi bent it and caused you much trouble.

The time was thirty-nine years ago. Since then, I have given you worries, troubles, and suffering.

Ofudesaki 12:118–119

For what reason did Kokan and Shuji have to go through such troubles? We realize their troubles came out of Oyasama’s agonizing plan that they had to become examples of mistaken paths, to illuminate the mistaken paths humanity is bound to tread in order to save the entire world. One of these examples was shown in how Kokan passed away for rebirth.

The causality of the Service performers described in the Ofudesaki

This concerns the issue of the self-awareness of one’s causality as a Service performer. This is described in Part 11 of the Ofudesaki as follows:

From your suffering at this time, be convinced, you and all the others.

There is no error in My free and unlimited workings, but there must be understanding in everyone’s mind.

When understanding comes to all of you, Tsukihi will assuredly save you.

What do you think of this salvation? You will be able to go out of doors in three days.

Ofudesaki 11:13–16

To paraphrase what is written above: “If you were to see the illness that Kokan is suffering from at this time, I ask those around her to become convinced of God’s instruction. There is never any error in God the Parent’s free and unlimited workings. If you would only follow the Parent’s intention, I will give you the protection that will allow you to go outside by the third day.” Further:

You are thinking that the suffering at this time is from illness, but the thought is wrong.

Never think it is from illness or the like, but from the desire for you to know the free and unlimited workings of Tsukihi.

I inform you of all matters whatever because I have an intention for the future.

To explain what this talk is about: Tsukihi will take charge of everything in the future.

I, Tsukihi, will take charge because she is causally related to the origin.

To explain what the causality is about: she is an instrument of origin in the beginning of human beings.

Tsukihi will train this person in all matters and bring about marvelous salvation. Do not think of this lightly. It will become the Divine Record of Nihon.

If you had only known earlier that she should have been returned home to be saved completely…

Unaware of it, you would not return her, but tried to care for her there.*

If you had known this earlier, there would have been no suffering or anxiety.

Because you humans are shallow-minded, you did not heed the words of Tsukihi.

Ofudesaki 11:25–36

*Note: Meaning “tried to care for Kokan at the Kajimoto household in Ichinomoto.”

The verse beginning with “If you had only known earlier…” means “If only you had known earlier that if Kokan had returned to the Jiba/Residence, she would have been provided with the blessings of being able to go outside by the third day.” The verse beginning with “Unaware of it…” means “Although you have heard God’s teachings to a sufficient extent, it will not do for you to settle it in your heart and refrain from implementing them, for this does not show that you are aware of them.” In the Ofudesaki, the verb shiru (“aware of,” “know”) does not mean possessing knowledge but has the meaning of “settling in the heart and implementing.” Then, lastly:

From now on, you must firmly lean on Tsukihi in all matters whatever.

In doing anything, so long as you lean on Tsukihi, there will be no danger.

Your unawareness of such a splendid path as this has led to your remorse.

Hereafter, whatever you are told, you should never go against what Tsukihi says.

Ofudesaki 11:37–40

My lengthy quote above may bring up more questions than it addresses, but I nevertheless felt compelled to add it. Although it may also beg for more explanation to add on my part, I’ll just move on for now since this post is long as enough as it is. (There is just one more topic I’d like to discuss before I close.)

The founding of Tengen-ko: Offering a glimpse into Tenrikyo practices of the past?

Kokan’s passing, along with providing, in Yamochi sensei’s words, “an example of a mistaken path,” also became a catalyst for the founding of one of the first “ko” or Tenrikyo confraternities.6 One of the villagers of Shoyashiki offers “Tengen”7 as a potential name. When news of this is conveyed to Oyasama, she gives her approval with the words “That will do” (Sore de yokaro).

I find it quite interesting that after Oyasama presents her red formal coat (haori) to Tengen confraternity as a symbol of worship, it was taken to a different member’s house each month on the designated day when their service was conducted.8 This is because I was initially unfamiliar with any other Tenrikyo confraternity of rotating the place of their monthly services. (Well, I’ve uncovered very little reading on the important subject of Tenrikyo confraternities in general.)

But some hunting at Tenri Central Library led me to an old article from Michi no tomo (well, not that old; its from November 1984) that mentioned there were still a few confraternities in the mountainous regions of Nara Prefecture that met monthly, rotating the place where they gathered among homes that have a Tenrikyo altar. The musical instruments of the service would be brought to the home that was its turn (the article mentions just four instruments, the same ones used for the daily services: the wooden clappers, cymbals, gong, and large drum.)

Everyone except the singers and people playing the instruments would dance the Teodori. This is unusual in the sense that at church monthly services, the number of dancers is set at six for three shifts, ideally three men and women each. This means that only a maximum of 18 people are given the chance to dance at a standard church monthly service.

I must mention that it is unclear whether or not Tengen also originally had everyone dance the Teodori in this way, but I can’t help but feel that Anecdotes 43 is giving us an important glimpse into the past regarding how Tenrikyo services were once conducted. It is more than possible that the style of conducting Tenrikyo services as mentioned in the Michi no tomo article was common at one time.

Having everyone dance instead of six designated performers, in my mind, would promote a more proactive mindset among participants (vs. having those attending not leading the song, dancing, or playing an instrument to sit in the back where some actually zone out since they are not actively participating) as well as a more egalitarian atmosphere among the membership.

To elaborate on the latter phenomenon, as a typical church grows larger in size, the greater the potential for politics to play a role in determining who gets to dance or play a particular instrument. Further, I imagine that allowing different member households to host the service each month may promote greater cohesiveness and a sense of community among members.

Although I’m not in the position at present to try out such a style of “koshasai” (confraternity/home monthly service), I think it’s something that might be promising to implement in some form. I would definitely like to do so if I ever find myself becoming a head minister of a church with a small following.

*Additions on September 27, 2009

I do not know the identity of the “senior (senpai) who worked at the Residence” that suggested to the devastated villagers of Shoyashiki to form a confraternity at Kokan’s passing, but this certainly is an example of an ideal Tenrikyo way to respond to a knot or a negative situation by turning it into a catalyst for a positive development.

I should also mention that Pearl Church of Honolulu belongs to the Tengen lineage.

Further reading

  • The Life of Oyasama, pp. 98–101.


  • Hashimoto Takeshi. 1998 [1952]. Hinagata no kage ni “Ofudesaki” ni miru Shūji, Kokan sama, revised edition. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
  • Hatakama, Kazuhiro. 2002. “Society and Tenrikyō During the Meiji Period.” Tenri Journal of Religion 30 (March 2002), pp. 83–103.
  • Michi no tomo Henshūbu. 1984.”Kō-zutome: ima nao iki-zuku mura no ‘kō’ — Tahara Bunkyōkai, Uda Bunkyōkai o tazunete.” Michi no tomo (November 1984), pp. 40–43.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • _________. 1996 [1967]. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • Tenrikyo Overseas Department. 2000. Reference Materials for The Life of Oyasama. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department.
  • Yamochi Tatsuzō. 1993 [1984]. Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō, second printing, second edition. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.


  1. This was later amended by Oyasama to its current form, “Ashiki o harōte tasuke sekikomu ichiretsu sumashite Kanrodai” in 1882.
  2. The identification of the Jiba is briefly mentioned in my translation of my New York Center May 2006 monthly service kowa (sermon). An account can also be found in The Life of Oyasama, pp. 96–97.
  3. See The Lives of Our Predecessors (Returns) and Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 6 for more details and discussion on Haru’s passing.
  4. Ofudesaki verses 9:5–6 (“I desire that the two persons received as shrines by Tsukihi each be given a separate room. Then, in whatever you pray, your salvation will be assured. Watch closely!”) are traditionally interpreted to be referring to Oyasama and Kokan. Kokan was also called the “young goddess” (wakaki Kami) by followers since she could also deliver God’s instructions and revelations as Oyasama did.
  5. Yamochi sensei here is implicitly referring to how Kokan is often associated with the aspect of God’s providence that is given the sacred name of Kunisazuchi-no-Mikoto, which is explained as “in the human body, the providence of the female organ, of skin and joining; in the world, the providence of joining in general.”

    According to the Koki narratives, the historical counterparts who are associated with other aspects of the sacred providence were:

    • Shuji Nakayama (1821–1881) = Tsukiyomi-no-Mikoto
    • Tamae Nakayama (1877–1938) = Kumoyomi-no-Mikoto
    • Masajin Iburi (1874–1937) = Kashikone-no-Mikoto
    • Matsue Nakayama (1851–1882) = Taishokuten-no-Mikoto
    • Shinnosuke Nakayama (1866–1914) = Otonobe-no-Mikoto 
    • Zenbei Nakayama (1788–1853) / Maegawa Kikutaro (1866–1913) = Izanagi-no-Mikoto 
    • Oyasama (1798–1887) = Izanami-no-Mikoto

    Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto and Omotari-no-Mikoto do not have such counterparts since they are considered primary aspects of God’s providence. (Click here for an explanation of the “ten aspects of God’s complete providence” that touches on this.) Although Oyasama is occasionally said to have the “soul of Izanami-no-Mikoto” in Tenrikyo literature (Click here and here for two examples from just one author), the historical counterparts associated with the other seven aspects are rarely emphasized in the tradition at present. It is far from clear on how these associations are meant to be understood and I have yet to come across a satisfying explanation that accounts for their existence.

  6. I’ve seen “ko” translated in a variety of ways: in Tenrikyo literature it has been rendered as “fraternity” (i.e., Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 37), “fellowship” (i.e., The Life of Oyasama, p. 106), and “brotherhood” (Mikagura-uta 5:10). I’ve seen it translated in religious studies literature on Japan as “religious associations,” “lay believers’ associations” and “confraternities.”
  7. Not to be too nitpicky here, but I would probably translate “Tengen” as “heavenly source/origin” instead of “divine locale.”
  8. Tengen Bunkyokai appears perform their monthly service on every 23rd. I am not sure whether or not this has always been the case since it existed as a confraternity.