Survey on the History of “Moto no ri” (The Truth of Origin) Studies by Teruo Nishiyama 1

The following is a translation of an excerpt from “Survey on the History of “Moto no ri” (The Truth of Origin) Studies.”

Bibliographic info:

Nishiyama Teruo. 西山輝夫. 1987. “Moto no ri no kenkyu-shi gairon.” In Koza Moto no ri no sekai 1: Moto no ri no ningengaku (The World of “The Truth of Origin”: Lecture Series One—The Philosophical Anthropology of “The Truth of Origin”), pp. 13–36.

On the author:

Born 1926 in Hyogo Prefecture. Graduated from Philosophy Course, Department of Literature at Kyoto University. At writing (1987) was a member of the editorial board of Tenrikyo Doyusha, lecturer at Tenri Seminary, and guest professor at Kankoku International University. Notable works include: Tenrikyo to wa (Tenrikyo is. . .), Hinagata o mijika ni (Having the Divine Model close at hand), Tenrikyo nyumon (published in English as Introduction to the Teachings of Tenrikyo, by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1981), and Masuno Kosetsu no shinko to shiso (The faith and thought of Masuno Kosetsu).

The composition (成立) of “Moto no ri”

I would like to begin with the composition of Moto no ri (The Truth of Origin). This began around the time when the writing of the Ofudesaki ended and Oyasama began earnestly encouraging Her closest followers to “Compile a divine record.”1

A number of followers responded by collecting the talks that they heard from Oyasama in writing. One could call this a type of report. These reports were submitted to Oyasama to look over, taken home, preserved with care, and are presently transmitted through various documents.

In a sense, one can take this as the beginning of group learning in Tenrikyo. In other words, Oyasama had Her closest followers go through the learning process of studying the teachings in a systematic manner, recording them, and transmitting them to others.

I have heard there about 40 of these documents. It is surmised that they were composed from 1881 to 1883. However, because the majority of the people who wrote them were not used to taking up a writing brush, there is no uniformity in their writing style. While this may bring forth an assessment that they were not fully able to express themselves in their work, whether these writings took on a poetic form or were written in prose, one gains the impression that they gave their utmost effort into compiling these writings.

When Oyasama saw the fruits of their laborious efforts, it has been said that She did not give Her approval to any of them.2

What on earth can this mean? It is unknown whether Oyasama assessed these writings similar to how a professor would give a 100% for a perfect score, saying, “This is only 50% so this is not satisfactory,” or, “This one amounts to about 80%, but it does not pass because it is not a perfect score.” Further, we do not know the reason why She did not approve them. Thus, there remains a difficulty on our part on how to approach and handle these writings for this very reason.

When we examine how these documents—which have been called by various names, such as, “The Story of this World’s Beginnings” (Kono yo moto hajimari no ohanashi) or “Ancient Records of the Muddy Ocean” (Doroumi koki)—were used, at one instance we see it being submitted as one of the four documents to the governor of Osaka Prefecture in 1885. According to The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, the four documents were: a copy of the Twelve Songs, copies of Part 4 and Part 10 of the Ofudesaki, and a version of “The Story of this World’s Beginnings.”3 From this we understand that these writings were not merely hidden away in individuals’ homes but were occasionally used and told to others.

Also, in 1886, the following episode happened. In May, a person by the name of Toyomichi Furukawa 古川豊彭 visited the Residence as a representative of the Patriarch of Shinto. He outlined five points in a written acknowledgement for followers to sign and submit.4 The first three points were:

  1. The god of worship is to be one contained in the Shinto regulations
  2. The doctrine of creation is to be based upon the two books of the imperial chronicles
  3. Man is the lord of all creatures. Man is not to be confused with the souls of fish and shellfish. 5

Concerning “the god of worship,” the divine name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto in Tenrikyo does not appear in the Shinto regulations. Oyasama’s followers were told they could not use the divine name Tenri-O-no-Mikoto thereafter since they were compelled to follow the standards of Shinto.

A myth newer and older than Japan’s imperial chronicles

The foundations of Shinto are the imperial chronicles known as the Kojiki and Nihon shoki. Since these fundamental texts as established by the state had their own versions of creation, followers were told not to promulgate the Ancient Records of the Muddy Ocean that was unique to Tenrikyo in the above written acknowledgement they were signing.

This is the reason for the third point, “Man is the lord of all creatures,” etc. According to Oyasama, a fundamental teaching in the Truth of Origin was that human beings were created from loaches that were all equal. The authorities claimed that this was not acceptable. Behind this reasoning was the authorities’ clear position that, “Although there is no harm at in saying that you commoners were born from loaches, the emperor is different.” It was from this position in which the government placed a high degree of importance on the Truth of Origin and sought to suppress and ban it outright.

We can also see this during the series of dialogues between God and followers in 1887 leading up to Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life. In one these exchanges, the first Shinbashira said and asked, “You taught us that the souls of the instruments and prototypes of human creation were born at this Residence, that You descended to this Residence because it is the Jiba where the creation of man and the world began, and that the souls of the rulers and our souls are the same. If we are asked about these points, how are we to answer?”6

This reveals how the teachings in the Truth of Origin were different from government policy and how the government saw the Truth of Origin as a serious problem. Thus this led to the prohibiting of the Service on the outside and banning the dissemination of the Truth of Origin on the inside.

The Kojiki and Nihon shoki are old myths of the imperial establishment. Compared to these texts, the Truth of Origin is a newer myth, and the above situation can be called a clash between myths and ideologies of the new and old. However, when considering which series of myths are older or are correct, Oyasama said, “I wish to teach the world of things not to be found in learning, ancient things extending over nine hundred million and ninety-six thousand years.”7

In this case, “learning” refers to the ancient chronicles. From Oyasama’s point of view, the Truth of Origin is far older and the imperial chronicles are newer myths that were created by human beings.

I wish to bring up something relating to this. Although this information might not be reliable since I did not see this first hand, the philosopher Takeshi Umehara 梅原猛 (dates?) appeared on a round-table discussion on NHK and offered a statement along the likes of: “In Yamato, there is a myth that has been preserved which is older than the Kojiki or Nihon shoki. That is the Truth of Origin of Tenrikyo.” I feel that it was interesting that, strangely enough, his words were nearly identical to that of Oyasama’s.

In any case, from the standpoint of government line on religion, in order for Tenrikyo to receive official recognition as a religious organization, the situation in where the Truth of Origin had to be held back continued for some time. Consequently, in the Meiji kyoten—that is, the Doctrine of Tenrikyo written in the Meiji period (1868–1912)—the fact it contained nothing about the Truth of Origin was an unavoidable consequence at the time.


  1. Translator’s note: See The Life of Oyasama, p. 117.
  2. Translator’s note: See Yoshinaru Ueda’s Insight into the Story of Creation, p. 2.
  3. Translator’s note: See The Life of Oyasama, p. 202.
  4. Translator’s note: See The Life of Oyasama, p. 213.
  5. Translator’s note: slightly revised from The Life of Oyasama, p. 219.
  6. Translator’s note: See Osashizu, January 13, 1887.
  7. Translator’s note: See The Life of Oyasama, p. 88.