93. Eight Cho* Square
One day Oyasama was gazing out of the south window of Her room in the Nakaminami-Gatehouse and looking at the vast expanse of bamboo thickets and rice fields. Suddenly She said to the attendants:
“Someday this neighborhood will be filled with houses. Houses will line the street for seven ri** between Nara and Hase. One ri square will be filled with inns. The divine Residence will become eight cho square.”
* Eight cho equals 872 meters.
** One ri equals about four kilometers.
Note: It is taught in the Osashizu:
“It will not do to think of small things. You do not understand that when the years accumulate step by step, this place will become eight cho square.”
November 17, 1894
“I have said, ‘It is necessary to go through many years, many years.’ I said, ‘One ri square must become inns.’ I also said, ‘One ri square is still too narrow.'”
Timely Direction: February 6, 1893.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 78–79.
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“One cho equals 109.09 meters. Eight cho equals 872.72 meters. One ri equals 3927.27 meters.”
My take / research: “eight cho square”
The most obvious importance of Anecdotes 93 is that it describes Oyasama anticipating what the divine Residence would look like in the future, which is in the process of being brought into reality through the construction of the “Oyasato-yakata building complex.”
Regarding predictions such as these, Tatsuzo Yamochi sensei (former dean of the Senshuka or “Special Training Course” of Tenri Seminary) once wrote that “The things that Oyasama spoke of came across like it were the stuff of dreams or the stuff of fantasy.”1 I’d like to argue that the dream-like and fantastic future visions she spoke of (which includes one from Anecdotes 61) served as an important way in which she stimulated the imaginations of her followers.
To the faithful, that several of Oyasama’s predictions have appeared to have come true serves as evidence that her words were that of God’s.
A more objective perspective would rather insist that her words related in both Anecdotes 61 and 93 were self-fulfilling prophesies.
That Oyasama made such bold predictions may be likewise seen as signs of great confidence in her own words and in her followers to cherish them and work to bring them into realization. Upon further objective scrutiny, it can be argued that the predictions being made in Anecdotes 93 are still far from being completely fulfilled.
That the same set of prophesies claiming the Residence would become eight cho square and that one ri square would become “filled with inns” appears to have been repeated again from the lips of the Honseki Izo Iburi more than a decade later2 would similarly be viewed differently depending on one’s background. The devout would merely say it was only natural for the same predictions to be repeated again if the situation had called for such a reminder. A more cynical take would insist that it may be wiser to assume that, in the absence of evidence that would help confirm that Oyasama did indeed make these oral predictions, that the later transcripts of the Honseki’s revelations may actually be the source of these very predictions.
Yet, it is nevertheless intriguing that the two sets of Divine Directions quoted at the end of Anecdotes 93 happen to be the only two Directions in the entire seven volumes of this Scripture that include the phrases “one ri square” and “eight cho square.”3
This seems to suggest that such predictions were merely peripheral in contrast with the remainder of the sacred pronouncements the Honseki helped deliver.
Peripheral as they may have been, the second Shinbashira, Shozen Nakayama, nevertheless made the words “eight cho square” the centerpiece of his vision to begin building the concrete boundaries of the divine Residence in his quest to construct a religious city.
In his address given at the 1993 Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association Convention, his son and third Shinbashira, Zenye Nakayama, noted:
The design for the Oyasato-yakata building-complex was first announced on April 18, 1953, and the first phase of its construction started a year later. This phase was completed the following year. The construction of the building-complex has continued to the present and, I hope, it will continue still. We can imagine that those who started this project desired to give tangible expression to Oyasama’s words “The divine Residence will become eight cho square” and to bring about a Joyous Life village — in which God and humankind dwell in joyous harmony — here in the Home of the Parent. This project, sometimes referred to as “endless construction,” is aimed at the realization of the Parent’s intention.4
I find it somewhat ironic that the phrase “endless construction”5 is mentioned here. Considering the current pace of the Oyasato-yakata’s construction, which calls for 68 wings in total, I feel quite confident that its completion won’t likely happen in my lifetime.6 The construction of each extra wing places itself great financial constraints on Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, not to mention rises in the accumulative costs of maintaining all the facilities that have been built so far.
In addition, taking into account the haphazard manner in which the construction has unfolded (not in a neat sequence as one may would feel be the most appropriate approach to a project of such scale), it is well within the realm of possibility that by the time all the scheduled wings are completed, the wings on the east side that were first built between 1954–1955 may have to be rebuilt or that some wings may not end up aligning perfectly with the rest.
While a highly cynical view would counter that we shouldn’t expect religious organizations to act in ways that ultimately make objective sense, the completion of the Oyasato-yakata may not be meant to be a means to an end itself.
Some criticism has been leveled on the second Shinbashira for allocating Tenrikyo’s precious few resources toward an unrealistic pipe-dream. Shin Aochi was a non-believer author who stated such a view and claimed that Shozen Nakayama’s vision was inspired by a wish to create a religious city similar to the Vatican after a visit to the Holy See. As interesting a case Aochi sensei is able to make, such a view nevertheless neglects to take several important things into consideration.
First of all, irrespective of whether or not one ultimately judges the second Shinbashira’s vision to be beyond realistic fulfillment, more than 50 years onward, it is difficult to imagine what Tenri would look like today without these majestic buildings.
The yakata wings that currently exist serve to function as various administrative offices, training centers, and followers dormitories, among other uses. While the pace of construction for new wings of the Oyasato-yakata has noticeably slowed and may be easily perceived as a sign of scarce financial resources, it is also possible to conclude that the organization has no need for more wings to be built at the immediate moment.
Second, “construction” is a dominant theological theme throughout The Songs for the Service (most notably in Song Eight and Song Twelve). It is both a metaphor for spiritual growth and a tangible means to express, build, and expand on a shared level of spirituality.
Material construction has served as a means to instill enthusiasm and test the commitment of its followers throughout Tenrikyo’s history. News of the building of the Oyasato-yakata had actually reached Tenrikyo prisoners of war in Russia (mainly administrative staff of “Tenri-mura” in Manchuria) and had helped inspire them near the end of their long ordeal. Participation in a Tenrikyo construction is also considered as a meaningful opportunity for followers to “express their indebtedness for God’s blessings” (i.e., hinokishin) and to “sow seeds of sincerity” (fusekomi).7
Finally, when one compares the building of the Oyasato-yakata with the audacity of the grand goal in Tenrikyo to purify the hearts/minds of all in the world, such a construction may not be such a far-fetched proposal after all. One could even imagine that the one ri square around Jiba may even become “filled with inns” by that time as Oyasama predicted nearly 130 years ago.8 When or whether this will actually unfold is anyone’s guess, however.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Kyōgi oyobi Shiryō Shūseibu, ed. 1982, 1985, 1987. Osashizu sakuin, 3 vols. Tenri: Tenrikyō Kyōgi oyobi Shiryō Shūseibu.
- Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department Translation Section. Sermons and Addresses by the Shinbashira: 1986-1995. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department Translation Section.
- Yamochi Tatsuzō. 1993 . Kōhon Tenrikyo Oyasama-den nyūmon jikkō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
Further reading (external links)
- Tenrikyo: The Path to Joyousness: Oyasato-yakata building-complex
- Yoboku’s Guide to Tenrikyo: Oyasato-yakata
- Words of the Path: Jiba, the Residence, the Home of the Parent — Returning to Jiba; spiritual construction; endless construction; Oyasato-yakata
- 2004 Spring Grand Service sermon, part 2
- See my discussion on Anecdotes 62 for more. ↩
- On the presumption these predictions were made no earlier than 1881, as the sequencing of Anecdotes suggests. ↩
- According to the Osashizu sakuin (index to the Divine Directions), the terms “ichi-ri shiho” (one ri square) and “haccho shiho” (eight cho square) only appears once each in the entire Osashizu (p. 243; p. 2016). I also present further translated segments from the 1894 Direction:
It will not do to think of small things. You do not understand that when the years accumulate step by step, this place will become eight cho square. About this path, I have never told anyone to do anything on a grand scale or asked anyone to do anything in particular. Things do not get done by asking people to agree to them. Without sincerity, nothing gets done. Looking in that direction, I see brothers and sisters. Looking this way, I see brothers and sisters. All will settle if you have a mind to let it settle…. If you persevere for three years, one thousand days, then you will need to defer to no one.
- Sermons and Addresses, pp. 243–244. ↩
- This term (“kiri-nashi fushin/bushin“) appears seven times in six separate Divine Directions (Osashizu sakuin, pp. 595–596). It also evokes verse 7, Song Twelve: “Ever so remarkable is this work of construction; once begun, there shall be no end to it.” ↩
- Twenty-six wings have been completed thus far. To show the pace of construction by decade:
1955 – 1960: five wings
1961 – 1970: seven wings
1971 – 1980: six wings
1981 – 1990: three wings*
1991 – 2000: four wings
2001 – 2010: two wings
*This slight dip in the pace of construction can be accounted for by taking into consideration that the West and the East Worship Halls were built and completed during this period (1981 and 1984, respectively).
See Wikipedia article for full table for more info on currently extant wings of the Oyasato-yakata. ↩
- I have decided to relegate a long tangent here regarding the term “fushin” in an endnote here. I personally feel the fact that Oyasama never wrote this term in kanji (some Tenrikyo writers still currently write fushin in kana) metaphorically represents the variety of potential perspectives people will take depending on their relation to any construction project.
To elaborate, the kanji in which fushin is usually written — (普請) — reveals its roots as a construction project (usually that of a Zen temple) that starts with the head priest “widely requesting” assistance from his parishioners to raise funds, plan, assign, and carry out the actual construction work. Anyone who is not involved or emotionally invested in the construction may express a variety forms of “fushin,” which can be written in the following different ways:
- a lack of sincerity or disbelief (不信) that it is even possible;
- mistrust or suspicion (不審) of the people undertaking the construction; or
- an opinion that a construction may bring about a poor or sluggish (不振) financial situation.
- Yet others will struggle and make painstaking efforts (腐心) to make the construction possible.
While the ideal is to react enthusiastically to the prospect of construction, the four different reactions I related to above have been expressed at various points throughout Tenrikyo’s history by outsiders and insiders when various construction projects were undertaken. ↩
- Although I briefly mentioned above that the predictions that appear in Anecdotes 93 are, at best, in the mere process of being (possibly) completely fulfilled, I find it nevertheless worthwhile to assess the very audacity of the suggestion that the area one ri square would become “filled with inns.”
Currently, roughly 233 followers dormitories (tsumesho) exist primarily to accommodate short-term stays. While that number appears high, it is arguably far from being enough to “fill in” the roughly four-kilometer square area surrounding the divine Residence, which almost extends to Obitoke JR station to the north, almost to Kuzu Shrine 九頭神社 to the mountainous east, almost to Nikaido station on the Kintetsu line to the west, and a little beyond Oyamato Shrine to the south. It also must be noted that the Meihan National Highway is about two km north of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. (See a map of Tenri and surrounding area) Thus, it is difficult to imagine that inns for people visiting the Home of the Parent will ever crowd this entire area, which is the home of historical shrines such as Isonokami in addition to Oyamato, but of course it is debatable to what extent the words “fill in” (“tsumaru” in Japanese) meant or even if Oyasama’s predictions are/were supposed to be taken literally. ↩
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