109. Yoshi, Yoshi
On one occasion, Yoshie Iburi (later Yoshie Nagao) asked Oyasama, “Why do we chant ‘Yoshi, yoshi‘ at the end of Choto hanashi and Yorozuyo?” Oyasama answered
“You chant ‘Yoshi, yoshi‘ to conclude Choto hanashi and Yorozuyo. And you must do so. There is nothing bad in saying so, because it means ‘it’s good, it’s good.'”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 93
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“Yoshie Iburi was born in Keio 2 (1866) as the eldest daughter of Izo and Sato Iburi in Takashina, Ichinomoto. Oyasama had named her Yoshie. She learned to play the shamisen from Oyasama between 1877 and 1880. On September 30, 1880, Yoshie played the shamisen when the Service was conducted with the full set of instruments for the first time. In 1882, she joined her family and moved into the Residence. She married Narajiro Ueda in April 1887 and established the Nagao family. She passed away for rebirth on April 29, 1936 at the age of 71 (traditional count).”
My research / take
As described in Anecdotes 109, at the performance of monthly services, “Yoshi, yoshi” is sung at the end of Choto hanashi (“Section Two” of The Songs for the Kagura and Mikagura-uta) and Yorozuyo (“Section Four” of the Mikagura-uta and so-called prelude to the Twelve Songs). It is also notable that the singing of “Yoshi, yoshi” in Choto hanashi and Yorozuyo follows the single singing of “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.” This contrasts to how “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” is usually sung twice at the end of each of the Twelve Songs.
In any case, I personally find Oyasama’s explanation to Yoshie’s question wanting. It can be easily argued that “There is nothing bad in saying so, because it means ‘it’s good, it’s good'” barely amounts to an explanation at all. I offer a few of my own speculations why Oyasama did not elaborate any further than she did.
First, it just happens that Yoshie was named by Oyasama because her father Izo had a habit of saying, “Yoshi, yoshi” (good, good). Yoshie certainly must have heard this from her parents and may have merely been curious if the singing of “Yoshi, yoshi” had anything to do with her name or her father’s pet phrase. Oyasama may have just sought to impress upon Yoshie that this wasn’t necessarily the case.
Second, by not going into any detail the reasons why “Yoshi, yoshi” is sung in those two particular sections of the Mikagura-uta, Oyasama may be placing an emphasis on the importance of adhering to this practice merely because of the fact that she taught that it was to be done this way. It may be an implication of the importance of unquestioningly conducting the Service in the exact manner it was taught.
Further, by not divulging herself the reasons why the Service is conducted the way it is conducted (this includes reasons why the first section is repeated 21 times, why open folding fans are used in particular Songs, and so on) Oyasama was attempting to ensure that the Service would continue to be done the way she taught. If she had divulged any information that explained in detail why the Service is conducted the way it is, there would be an increased potential risk of followers adding unwelcome innovations of their own if they ever happened to disagree with any explanations that she gave.
Explanations from elsewhere
That Oyasama did not divulge the reason why “Yoshi, yoshi” is sung in Choto hanashi and Yorozuyo has not stopped theologians from speculating the possible reason themselves. I have done some digging and have come up with the following explanations:
Yoshi, yoshi: “Good.” Positive thoughts, actions, and words. An affirmation. Positive words enable others to become spirited; positive deeds make life cheerful. The source of positive words and deeds is a positive mind. A positive mind is a sincere mind and represents the truth that enables us to receive God the Parent’s blessings. “Yoshi” is the complete opposite of “ashiki.”1
Oyasama composed Section Two, “Choto hanashi,” and Section Four, the Eight Verses of Yorozuyo, in 1870. When performing it as part of the service, we sing “Yoshi, yoshi” at the end. Although Oyasama explained that there is nothing bad about saying “Yoshi, yoshi” (Good, good), my interpretation is that “Choto hanashi” is not simply about the relationship between husband and wife, but about how God the Parent made husband and wife when beginning the world and humankind. God the Parent did not directly make human beings. Instead, God the Parent first made Izanagi-no-Mikoto and Izanami-no-Mikoto as the models of husband and wife who gave birth and nurtured human beings as their children. “This is the beginning of the world [This is the world’s beginning]” is the original narrative about the creation of human beings and narrative that is known as the Truth of Origin. It concerns the origins of human existence.
While Section Two teaches on the origins of human existence, Section Four — beginning with the verse “Looking all over the world and through ages, I find no one who has understood My heart” — gradually teaches us the origins of the Teaching’s founding. In other words, it explains to us the reason God the Parent came out into the open to take Oyasama as Shrine and began this path. Section Two explains the origins of human existence and Section Four explains the origins of the founding of the Teaching. I interpret the singing of “Yoshi, yoshi” meaning that there is nothing bad about learning the origins of these things and since it directs us toward the Joyous Life in the best manner possible.2
It is possible to interpret this as an affirmation of something being acceptable or signifying conviction or self-reflection.3
Other possible explanations can be gleaned with help from a publication entitled Mikagura-uta no sekai o tazunete (Inquiring into the world of The Songs for the Service), a tome that benefits from the insight of four theologians: Masaaki Hayasaka, Masao Ishizaki, Hideo Nakajima, and Yoshinori Sawai.
It should be noted that the main text of both Sections Two and Four are traditionally regarded as God’s direct words. (The Twelve Songs, on the other hand, irrespective of how their authorship is attributed to a divine composer — Oyasama — have Songs with verses that are either considered to specifically represent a divine or human sentiment.) Yet the singing of “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” (All praise to Tenri-O-no-Mikoto4) near the end suggests that this represents the ideal human response to the main content of Sections Two and Four. There is then an open question to whether “Yoshi, yoshi” ought to be considered a divine or human utterance.
The commentary from Mikagura-uta no sekai o tazunete that covers Choto hanashi presumes “Yoshi, yoshi” represents God’s response to people singing “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.”5 I am inclined to accept such an interpretation since the words “Yoshi, yoshi” vividly brings to mind an adult patting the head of a child for demonstrating exemplary behavior or for just being adorable.
As Tatsuzo Yamochi sensei relates, the significance of the content of Section Two comes from how it divulges information of the world’s beginnings (as scant it might be) and Section Four discloses the divine mindset as it were at the advent of the revelations that Tenrikyo canon and practice are largely based on. Thus, to respond to Sections Two and Four by intoning “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” would be an act weighted with great significance. One can imagine that God, being the Parent of the human race, would be pleased with any person responding in such a way and express what can be more or less rephrased as, “Atta boy, atta girl” in return.
Yet as Takanori Nagao sensei writes, it is also possible to interpret “Yoshi, yoshi” as an expression representing (presumably) human conviction and self-reflection. It can also further represent a human appreciation for receiving the information contained in Choto hanashi and Yorozuyo that is so preciously valued in the Tenrikyo tradition.
- The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Five: Joys and Sorrows Along the Path
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 53: From This Residence
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 54: Play It with All Your Heart
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 74: Following God’s Path
- The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Seven: The Iburis Move Into the Residence
- Nagao Takanori. 2008. Mikagura-uta no kokoro. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 2001. Mikagura-uta no sekai o tazunete. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Ueda Yoshinaru. 1949 . Mikagura-uta ryakuchū. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Yamochi Tatsuzō. 1993 . Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Ueda 1949, pp. 9–10. Yoshinaru Ueda sensei himself defines ashiki as: “negative or evil things, the eight dusts, and greed/self-centeredness — these are the sources of all undesirable happenings” (Ueda 1949, p. 5). ↩
- Yamochi 1984, pp. 12–13. ↩
- Nagao 2008, p. 60. ↩
- There are various other ways in which “Namu” can be translated. “All praise to” is just one possibility among several. Namu has its origins in Buddhism, deriving from the Pail namo and Sanskrit namas. ↩
- The commentary paraphrases the meaning of “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” as: “Yes, I understand. Thank you very much. All praise to the venerable Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. The hands are in a gassho position” (Tenrikyō Dōyūsha 2001, p. 66). ↩