Survey on the History of “Moto no ri” (The Truth of Origin) Studies 2

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

The manner in which the Truth of Origin was conveyed in missionary situations

Then, how was the Truth of Origin conveyed in missionary situations? One can gather from various church histories that though it was only told in bits and pieces, it was told fairly often. One is able to infer that the rustic and innocent people of the times felt great joy and astonishment when they came upon the Truth of Origin as new source of information.

Although it is uncertain when or how it came about, one of the ways in which the Truth of Origin was interpreted as a narrative on the end of the world. In a concrete example, according to the accounts of a missionary belonging to Koga Daikyokai proselytizing in the plains of Mino (Gifu Prefecture) in around 1891, he claimed that the world was soon to become a muddy ocean but that everything will be fine if people began to have faith in Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. In an extreme episode, this missionary got into a fight after grabbing a person who was transplanting rice seedlings in the fields and said that there was no use in doing such things because the world was about to become a muddy ocean.

After some time had passed, this missionary actually began to predict the exact month and day when the world was to become a muddy ocean and began to conduct prayers at the home of the person who headed the local Tenrikyo confraternity (komoto). The situation escalated to the point where Buddhist priests began to come. However, no matter how much they waited, nothing happened, and eventually the police took him away to give him a reprimanding.

Nevertheless, about six months later, the Mino-Owari Earthquake struck. Most people were astonished and while they were in the middle of panicking, a single Tenrikyo follower became spirited, saying, “There was no mistake in our prediction,” and the name of Tenrikyo spread in an instant, leading to the establishment of the precursor of Gimi Daikyokai. While one may question about the Truth of Origin being a narrative on the end of the world, we have such an example from history.

While the above episode was a special case, Tenrikyo’s official stance was that the Truth of Origin could not be told. First of all, it was never mentioned in Michi no tomo, the monthly magazine of Church Headquarters. If one asks what was told in its place, in most cases it was the ten sacred names and the respective protections of the ten aspects of the complete providence. According to the fundamental interpretation at the time, Tenri Okami was the collective divine name of these ten sacred names. Nevertheless, the protections that were given the ten sacred names have a deep relation with the Truth of Origin. If the Truth of Origin was a narrative on the process in which these divine workings were consolidated into one to bring about human beings, then the explanations of how these workings are manifested in the present in the human body and the world is a part of the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed. Thus energy was put into developing the descriptions of the ten sacred names and the aspect of the complete providence each provided.

These descriptions were truly elaborate. For instance there is a book entitled, Shin no takara (or is it Makoto no takara?; The true treasure). According to the preface, the editor Akira Yasue 安江明 compiled the talks that the first head minister of Kawaramachi Daikyokai (Genjiro Fukaya 深谷源次郎) directly heard from the Honseki Izo Iburi 飯降伊蔵. This book was published in 1927.

Looking inside, the book attempts to explain the all known phenomena in the world through the providence of the ten sacred names. One ought to call this a Tenrikyo version of a mandala and the intention behind such an effort was grand indeed. I cannot help but wonder if this was the basic form in which descriptions of the past took. These were taken and applied to the present day in works such as Kyowa: otasuke no kokoro (Lectures: the saving mind) by Katsuzo Nishimura 西村勝造, which explains each aspect of the complete providence one by one. However, one discovers that there were no studies on the Truth of Origin itself.

Indications of studies on the Truth of Origin

A number of people seemed to have awakened that there was a need for studies on the Truth of Origin, at least in portions, beginning in the Taisho period (1911–1925). One of the two representative figures from the Taisho period is Michioki Masuno 増野道興 (1890–1928; penname Kosetsu Masuno 増野鼓雪). In the 23 volumes that make up his collected works, although he presents a comprehensive outline on the Truth of Origin, it is difficult to clearly ascertain his fundamental stance toward it. For instance, what are we to make of statements such as: “The Doroumi koki is the great mystery which God gave to human beings” or “When we clearly understand God’s act of taking loaches and making the seeds of human beings, there is no mistake that we will come upon the answer to everything,” Masuno’s statements stop at the suggestive level at best.

What is most interesting is his views regarding the overseas mission. He questions what the majority of his Tenrikyo contemporaries thought about the overseas mission. The mainstream view felt the first step was to convert Japan to Tenrikyo before following through with the overseas mission. However, Masuno greatly doubted that such a manner of thinking would benefit the overseas mission and instead argued this would make its prospect impossible. Then, what other kind of course is there to consider?

When we see Buddhism and Christianity today, their presence in the nations from which they emerged from is close to zero. It can almost be argued that they were able to become world religions because their presence in the place they originated had deteriorated to such a degree. According to such precedents, Masuno argues that for Tenrikyo to spread to every corner of Japan and spread gradually thereafter is not the proper path for the overseas mission to take.

According to the Doroumi koki, the children that were conceived at Jiba were given birth to in surrounding areas. Thus it is expressed that these children swam overseas in search for food. It is highly significant that it mentions that they went overseas in search for food. When we translate this into the situation at present, this points to people having being forced to leave Japan where they have nothing to eat and relocate and engage in missionary work overseas in search for food. Is this not how an authentic overseas mission established, when such an emergency measures are required?

The motivating force of society is greed. Tenrikyo moves by virtue of selflessness.1 If the people of Tenrikyo were thoroughly selfless and live with sincerity, there is no way they can coexist with a greed-driven society. Just as how Oyasama was subject to persecution, Tenrikyo churches would most likely be on the receiving end of a similar kind of persecution and find themselves in a situation where their livelihood is endangered.

Thus, they will go to places like Brazil and other corners of the earth in search for food. Their frame of mind will be determined indeed, since their livelihood is at stake. Thus Masuno sets forth an opinion that diverged greatly from the mainstream, that the future of the overseas mission depended upon the true lifeblood of Tenrikyo, missionaries who were thoroughly imbued with sincerity and selflessness.

The second representative figure is Ryohei Ohira 大平良平. On the copyright page of a book he published in 1915, he noted that it was the Year 1,000,087. This is according his understanding of the Truth of Origin that 1838 marked 999,999 years since the creation of the world and that 1839 was the year one million.2

Thus according to his understanding, 1915 was 1,000,087 years after human creation. It may have been an outlandish thing to note on a copyright page, it still came from a mindset intensely faithful to the Truth of Origin.

Ohira printed this work, Tenrikyo kyori yori mitaru jinsei no igi oyobi kachi (The meaning and value of life from the perspective of Tenrikyo doctrine) through a publisher in Tokyo. Although it cannot be said that he especially focused on studying the Truth of Origin, it nevertheless is greatly related to the content of his work as a whole. For instance, on the concept that all human beings are equal, he gives the argument that because God the Parent created human beings from loaches that were all equal, the equalization of humanity is an inherent promise that was part of God the Parent’s plan from the very beginning. As long as this promise existed, this equalization was to be realized no matter what occurred and its momentum could never be obstructed with human resistance. Ohira goes on to say that this was different from the external and heavy-handed equalizing methods of communism that happened to be popular at the time. In contrast with the example of the earthquake mentioned earlier as a millenarian interpretation, this ought to be referred to a theory on the future, indicating the direction how the future can be expected to unfold.

Entering the Showa period (1925–1988), one can raise Takahito Iwai’s 岩井尊人 Doroumi koki tsuki chushaku (Ancient Records of the Muddy Ocean with notes) as a representative work. This could very well be the first study on theme of the Truth of Origin, yet presently it is a work that is not held in high regard. Iwai was a businessman with the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. According to another book, it seems that that government officials had questioned him repeatedly on various matters. This shows that the difficulty of openly discussing the Truth of Origin still persisted at the time.

However, times were changing. The trend of openly discussing the Truth of Origin gradually began from the 50th Anniversary of Oyasama (1936). I have heard it began when Honbu-in Naokichi Takai 高井猶吉 (1861–1941) spoke on it in a lecture at Church Headquarters.

Evidence of this can also be seen in the Tenrikyo koyo published by Tenrikyo Doyusha. In the 1930 edition, we find the introductory section on Tenrikyo’s doctrinal works in the third chapter. Here, we see that it begins with the Doroumi koki and followed by the Ofudesaki, Mikagura-uta, Osashizu, and the Meiji kyoten. Considering the situation at the time, I believe that the fact the Doroumi koki comes first in this section is worthy of our attention. However, any survey on the works before World War II reveals that while there may have been people who studied the Truth of Origin, they could not openly present their studies due to a variety of reasons.


  1. Translator’s note: Dude, you are making such a sweeping statement it is friggin’ unbelievable.
  2. Translator’s note: This is a result of a conceptual quirk interpreting the number ku oku ku man ku sen ku hyaku ku ju ku that appears in the Ofudesaki and Truth of Origin. Although it is translated literally into English as nine hundred million, ninety-nine thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine (i.e., 900,099,999), according to the classical counting system in Japan, the number would be rendered in Arabic numerals as 999,999.