Song Three Summary

Song Three covers a diverse array of themes, which include:

  • [1st verse] The revelation that the Place for the Service (Jiba) in Shoyashiki is the origin of the world.
  • [2nd verse] Although Oyasama (Oyagami) does not explicitly request anyone to build the Place for the Service, [3rd verse] people outside the Residence will gather to initiate and participate so it will come to be built.
  • [4th verse] You have done well to have followed this far until now, a true, lasting salvation will be made available from now on.
  • [5th verse] Always laughed at and slandered, to the point until Kami will be compelled to promise and provide unprecedented forms of salvation.
  • [6th verse] Do not make any wishes that lack merit or that are not backed up with the necessary effort that will help bring them about. Instead, become of a heart-mind that is straight and unswerving.
  • [7th verse] A declaration: In any situation from now on I will go in a straight and unswerving manner while leaning on Kami.
  • [8th verse] There is nothing more painful than illness. I, too, will join in the hinokishin, to contribute on a day-to-day basis.
  • [9th verse] I have entrusted myself until now, but did not know I was entrusting myself to the original Kami.
  • [10th, finally] At this time, as various forms of protection have been revealed, there is no mistake that an actual Kami, the Source of life’s sustenance is involved.

One commentator suggests the main theme of Song Three is “shinjitsu no tasuke” (true/actual salvation or relief) and Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.1 To present his comprehensive analysis of this Song in outline form:2

  • A. Tsutome basho (Place for the Service): Jiba as the fountainhead of salvation
    • 1 yo no moto (origin of the world)
    • 2 fushigi (wonder)
    • 3 itte hitotsu (collective effort or “unity of mind”)
  • B. Tasuke (relief/salvation) through the performance of the Service
    • 4 jitsu no tasuke (actual salvation)
    • 5 mezurashi tasuke (extraordinary, unprecedented salvation)
  • C. Shinjin (belief): expressing indebtedness/gratitude and absolute devotion as the means to attain the aforementioned salvation
    • 6 hitosuji gokoro (straight heart-mind)
    • 7       “         “
    • 8 hinokishin
  • D. Tenri-O-no-Mikoto
    • 9 Moto no Kami (original Kami)
    • 10 Jitsu no Kami (actual Kami)

The same commentator further elaborates on the difference between the first half in which the folding fans are used and the second half when they are put down. The first half of Song Three, which is thematically about the Place for the Service where the Joyous Service is to be conducted and the forms of true salvation made possible through the Joyous Service, cover physical phenomena.

In the second half, the fans that have been placed down symbolizes the Moon and the Sun or Cosmic Space-Time watching over us. With the exception of verse 8, the remaining verses are about metaphysical phenomena. Although verse 8’s hinokishin is a visible phenomenon, it is nevertheless an outward expression of the metaphysical phenomena mentioned in Song Three’s second half.3

I present my own attempts to connect the diverse subjects appearing in Song Three below.

Song Three: An amalgam of early followers’ experiences

One theme connecting the diverse subjects covered in Song Three is the Place for the Service, as well as the circumstances that led to its construction, which was completed just two years before Oyasama composed the Twelve Songs.

Although there is a tendency for commentators to emphasize the dedication of Izo Iburi when explaining Song Three, I feel it is also beneficial to take into consideration narratives that describe how other followers who contributed toward the construction of the Place for the Service in various forms — Gisaburo Nakata, Isaburo Nishida, Chusaku Tsuji, and Chushichi Yamanaka — embraced the faith. Song Three may be considered as an amalgam of the combined experiences of these aforementioned individuals. In other words, particular verses in Song Three would have likely helped some of these followers recall the manner how they were drawn to Oyasama. In turn, for us reading these historical narratives today evoke some of Song Three’s verses.

First of all, it is notable that the followers who made the construction of the Place for the Service possible were drawn to embrace Oyasama and her teachings through the illness of either their spouse or a sibling. (The significance of this will be clearer upon discussion of Song Four, verse 2.)

In Izo’s case, on his visit to Oyasama concerning the physical condition of his wife Sato, Oyasama relates to Kokan, “Certainly I shall save her. But since this [Kami] by the name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto must be quite new to them, it might be hard for them to believe.” Although Izo visited the Residence and placed his faith in Oyasama to heal Sato’s condition, Oyasama noted that it may be hard for the Iburis to believe in a Kami whose name they likely have never heard of before, which evokes verse 9 to some degree.4

In the case of Isaburo Nishida, Koto Nishida suffered from a toothache and ended up visiting Oyasama herself after a friend advised her to visit Shoyashiki when she was on her way to pray to Inari for relief. Her experience, retold in Anecdotes of Oyasama 8, of how she visited Shoyashiki over three successive days to clean the Residence to express appreciation for being relieved from a severe pain in her eyes she later suffered evokes verse 8.

In the case of Gisaburo Nakata, he embraced the faith when in 1863 after his wife Kaji was saved from postnatal complications when giving birth to their son Kishimatsu. It is possible this would evoke 8 as well.

While this is admittedly somewhat of a stretch on my part, the narrative of how Chusaku Tsuji approached Oyasama so that his sister could be saved from a psychological condition evokes verse 6 in the sense when he was breaking the incense stick in half when chanting the divine name, he was making a “muri na negai” or a prayer without merit or the required effort.5

Chushichi Yamanaka’s experience evokes verses 5 and 8. At a village festival during the New Year’s holiday season in 1865, a bunch of youths ridiculed and scoffed at Chushichi with, “Recently, there’s been no one who’s been a bigger fool.”as a fool. Others said that “He’s been tricked by a fox or tanuki spirit. It’s the end of the Yamanaka family.”

As Chushichi began to gain an understanding of Oyasama’s hardships, he began taking a bright red sack filled with 45 kg of white rice each time he returned to the Residence. When he was encouraged by Sono and his daughter Koiso to increase the amount to 225 kg, Oyasama is said to have responded: “It is ideal for you to dedicate yourself day after day after day as you are doing now.” Oyasama’s words here imply that rather than making large offerings at sporadic intervals (kishin), that is to it is better to make daily efforts to worship and make small, incremental offerings (hinokishin).

I already noted how verses 2 and 3 is connected with the construction of the Place for the Service and how 4 verse evokes the first Oyamato Shrine incident.

Koko made, kono tabi, kore kara

Upon looking for another theme that would help connect the disparate subjects covered in Song Three, I noticed that there are two instances of the phrase “koko made” (until now) and three instances of “kore kara” (from now on).

They are:

  • Until now
    • You have done well to follow up this point (4).
    • You have placed your trust in Oyasama without knowing that she represents the original Kami (9).
  • From now on
    • There will be true, actual salvation that endures, not merely temporary relief (4).
    • “I will go forward in a straight and unswerving manner leaning on Kami” (7).
    • “I, too, will join in hinokishin” (8).

I then realized that perhaps Song Three is a description of the conditions before and after one has committed to becoming straight and unswerving (7) according to Kami’s command (6) as well as before and after Kami and/or Kami’s protection “appeared at this time” (10). With this understanding, I have come up with the following summary/paraphrase of Song Three:

  • Although Oyasama did not request anyone to build the Place for the Service (2) in Shoyashiki that is the origin of the world (1), after the appearance of Kami’s protection (10), it comes to be built by followers who have gathered from outside the Residence (3).
  • These followers have done well to have followed until now (4) despite being subject to ridicule and slander (5). From now on, with their commitment to lean on Kami in a straight and unswerving manner (7), they will achieve an enduring, lasting salvation (4) that is unprecedented (5).
  • Until now, people have made unreasonable, self-centered wishes (6), yet with the appearance (revelation) of the original and true Kami (9 & 10), people will commit themselves to lean on Kami in a straight and unswerving manner (7).
  • Until now, I was ill (8), but I have become well after committing to lean on Kami in a straight and unswerving manner (7) and the appearance of Kami’s protection (10). From now on, I too will join the hinokishin to express my appreciation for being restored to health (8).
  • While until now people placed their trust in Oyasama to be saved, they did not know they were entrusting themselves to the original Kami (9). With the appearance of Kami’s protection, there is no doubt a true Kami, a true source of awe and protection has appeared (10) and that the Place of the Service in Shoyashiki is the origin of the world and center of the burning flame of faith (1).

Song Three happens to bring back fond memories when I was hospitalized in the South Wing of Ikoi-no-Ie Hospital6 A group of young men, who I suspect were Tenri Seminarians, would conduct Kami-na nagashi coming from the north and headed south along the road that passes the hospital and they would be usually be singing verses from Song Three as I watched them passing by my window. This made quite an impression on me since a conventional Kami-na nagashi merely consists of singing the Eight Verses of Yorozuyo over and over to the rhythm of a single pair of hyoshigi.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication. Most recently revised on September 6, 2015. 

References/notes

  1. Ueda A 214.
  2. Information compiled from Ueda A 214–6, 271.
  3. Ueda A 271–2.
  4. Hirano 103.
  5. The Life of Oyasama, Chapter Three.
  6. Ikoi-no-Ie Hospital’s South Wing is otherwise known as Oyasato-Yakata West Wing 2 and 3. (I know, it’s rather confusing.)

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