Survey on the History of “Moto no ri” (The Truth of Origin) Studies 3

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 publication of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo

Genuine efforts to study the Truth of Origin began after World War II. The starting point was when The Doctrine of Tenrikyo was newly published in 1949 with “The Truth of Origin” as its third chapter. It can be said that this determined the framework for all future studies. This marked the first time that the nomenclature “The Truth of Origin” (Moto no ri) came to be used.

But what is this “Truth” (ri) referring to? I myself broadly consider “ri” to be the means in which God the Parent’s workings manifests. When God’s workings manifest in the movement of physical objects, it is physics (butsu-ri). When in manifests in the human body, it is physiology (sei-ri). The manifestation of God’s workings during human creation is the Truth of Origin (Moto no ri). This is how I interpret “ri.”

The Doctrine of Tenrikyo should be celebrated as a doctrinal work that was only based on the Scriptures. Yet, this is not completely so in the case of its third chapter. In fact, sources other than the three Scriptures were used to put it together. These sources are the writings that were once called the Doroumi koki and so forth. Although based on the talks of Oyasama, they were written by nearby followers. Thus, these works may more or less include the subjectivity of the writer and have a different place of emphasis compared to Oyasama’s. One can think that this caused Oyasama to refrain from giving Her final approval to these writings. Yet these writings were included on the premise that they corresponded with the Scriptures.

Among the writings it is easy to see there were sections that were included in “Chapter Three – The Truth of Origin” and those that were not. One may ask the reasons why certain sections were included over others. The circumstances concerning this are not clear. Furthermore, we must ask what position Chapter Three takes.

To say it in a few words, I take it presents the basis of the religious interpretation of the Truth of Origin. To quote the opening sentence of the chapter, “In order to hasten the realization of the Joyous Life, God the Parent revealed the truth of the creation so that we might understand the truth of the Joyous Service and the mysterious causality by which God appeared on earth through Oyasama as the Shrine.”

But I privately believe that there is an intervening problem behind how this religious interpretation came about. Scholars often asked me whether the Truth of Origin is a myth or whether is (scientific) reality. When I answer that it is a myth, then they tell me this means that it is an imaginary story. When I answer that the Truth of Origin is reality, then they demand that I provide evidence. So they reject it, whichever way I may answer. At this point, one realizes the Truth of Origin cannot remain on such a level of understanding.

One can say that the attitude of the religious interpretation of Chapter Three of the Doctrine severs both the interpretations that it is a myth or that it is reality and completely places it on another level. This makes the Truth of Origin an explanation for the grounds that led to the Teaching to be founded and a vehicle to convince us of the Truth of the Service. To put it another way, the Service is the main point, and the Truth of Origin provides its backdrop.

Although this may be correct from a religious standpoint, there are those who embrace different perspectives. These perspectives can be largely divided into two categories. The first perspective holds that while Chapter Three of the Doctrine includes information from old writings that correspond with the Scriptures, there is enough information on the Truth of Origin found in the Ofudesaki that allows it to stand on its own.

The other perspective agrees with the principle that Chapter Three of the Doctrine says that the main point is the Service, and the Truth of Origin is its background but questions whether the significance of the Truth of Origin is confined to this alone. It is a perspective that suspects that the Truth of Origin also includes a scheme that is independent from the Service.

The people who hold the second perspective have no argument against its religious interpretation. However, they hold that if this is the extent to which it can be interpreted, this limits the potential for the Truth of Origin to have worldwide implications. If Chapter Three of the Doctrine is the final conclusion one can make, they suspect that the spirit of the Truth of Origin will find difficulty in finding worldwide reception by being unable surpass the marginal confines of the Tenrikyo community. Although I cannot say anymore on this subject at this time, one can say that it is just one task that remains to be undertaken.

The meaning of “Koki” (Divine Record)

Be that as it may, following the publication of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo was the appearance of the second Shinbashira’s exemplary work Koki no kenkyu (Study of the Divine Record). One can easily say that this work clearly laid the foundation for the bibliographical study of the Truth of Origin. Within this work there is an interpretation worth noting. That is, in the past the “divine record” (koki) that Oyasama encouraged followers to compile was taken to mean “ancient” or “old” record (古記). However, the second Shinbashira suggested that, in actuality, in most cases “koki” had the qualities of being an “oral record” (口記) and should be understood as such. Finally, he argued that this oral record developed into the present book of the Besseki used for the Besseki lectures.

In contrast to this view, in his work Doroumi ni tsuite (On the Ancient Records of the Muddy Ocean), Kazuta Kurauchi 蔵内数太 presents the following view: Originally, “koki” (古記) included the connotation that it is a model for the future because it held a precedence in the past. Also, because the Chinese character for “ancient” (古) was created by putting together the characters for “ten” (十) and “mouth” (口), it refers to something that is repeated orally from person to person. Thus it is something old that possesses a type of authority based on its age and functions as a model and precedence for the future. Thus Kurauchi expresses the opinion that he has no objections of writing koki in Chinese characters meaning “ancient record.”