I have decided to upload an expanded series of commentaries on Song Five. I will upload more expanded commentaries on Song Six and beyond when I get around to them.
一ツ ひろいせかいのうちなれバ たすけるところがまゝあらう
一つ 広い世界の内なれば 救ける所がままあろう
Hitotsu / Hiroi sekai no / uchi nareba / tasukeru tokoro ga / mama arō
One / [This] wide world / within / saving places / there are many
In the Teodori, there are four different corresponding dance motions for the word “sekai” (the world).
- The uplift or “isami” hand motion
- Holding up the left index finger and turning the body slightly leftward (as done in the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo)
- A clockwise spin motion while holding the right hand near the left cheek (Song Eight, verse 3)
- Moving forward while holding the open folding fans upright (Song Three, verse 3)
The sekai of Song Five, verse 1 corresponds to the first movement above.1 Thus, the “world” sung here is not just any world, but an environment Cosmic Space-Time created and protects so we may lead the Joyous Life.2
The corresponding hand motion for “uchi” (within) is simultaneously placing both hands on the chest. It is unclear what this motion may symbolize here.
Tasukeru tokoro ga mama arō
This phrase is saying in this wide world, there are many places one can go to seek help and find salvation. These places of help/salvation can range from those that offer spiritual forms of salvation such as temples, shrines, churches, and other places of worship3 to places such as hospitals and clinics that offer tangible forms of relief.
Another potential interpretation of this verse is there are many places and people that require salvation and relief4 but I favor the first interpretation when taking the next verse into context.
One commentator explains verse 1 as follows: When we look around with a mindset that seeks to bring relief, we will find there are many places requiring salvation. If we look around seeking help, we will find that there are quite a few places that offer relief. Thus, Oyagami in every age provides places of “tending and fertilizing” in the world that offer help and relief.5
Another commentator says: Although the verse mentions “tasukeru tokoro (saving places),” there are not only people suffering from physical ailments, but many who are ailing spiritually as well. For this reason, to Oyagami, there are an uncountable number of tasks to be done on this path. This verse is announcing that Oyagami will work as much as necessary for our behalf.6
二ツ ふしぎなたすけハこのところ おびやはうそのゆるしだす
二つ 不思議な救けは 此の所 帯屋疱瘡の許し出す
Futatsu / Fushigi na tasuke wa / kono tokoro / obiya hōso no / yurushi dasu
Two / Wondrous salvation / at this place / safe childbirth and [prevention of] smallpox / Grants are offered
“Kono tokoro” (this place) refers to where Oyagami resides, that is, the Jiba.7 The hand motions here are said to represent Oyagami extending a helping hand to Oyagami’s children who are seeking relief.8
While there may be places that offer various forms of relief, forms of wondrous salvation such as the Grant of Safe Childbirth and the Grant providing protection from smallpox (presently represented by the child’s Amulet)9 are only offered at Jiba. Commentators have noted that Oyasama offered these Grants precisely because Jiba is the original Residence where humanity was conceived and created.10
In the Ofudesaki, there are verses that go:
Even until now, the blessings of safe childbirth and freedom from smallpox: what were your thoughts about them?
From now on, I shall save you completely from the rigors of childbirth. You shall give birth quickly and without distress.
What do you think this salvation is about? I am preparing the amulet to protect you from smallpox.
Another salvation: My free and unlimited workings for the time of childbirth, either to delay or quicken.
Hereafter, if all of you throughout the world save one another in every matter,
Know that [Cosmic Space-Time] will accept that mind and will provide any salvation whatever.
What do you think this salvation is? It is My assurance of your freedom from smallpox.
Fushigi na tasuke
Several commentators define “fushigi na tasuke” (wondrous salvation) as forms of relief that are beyond human power and/or comprehension.15 One particular commentator describes “fushigi na tasuke” as tangible forms of relief such as easing the burden of childbirth, curing an illness considered incurable by doctors, and the alleviation of mental anguish.16
The obiya yurushi or Grant of Safe Childbirth is significant in how it is now considered to have “opened the path” to all other forms of salvation. Further, Oyasama taught that all an expectant mother had to do to ensure a smooth childbirth after receiving the Grant was to fully entrust herself to Oyagami while eschewing traditional customs such as restrictions from certain foods, leaning on objects, wearing an abdominal binder, and observing a 75-day period refraining from working, cooking, and even visiting shrines or temples for worship because of the belief she was ritually polluted during this time.17 It may be argued that such superstitions existed precisely because of the uncertainty of childbirth and the dangers it involved, especially before the advent of the modern prevalence of giving birth in hospitals. It was further taught that even the daily manner in which the expectant mother handled her mind would not interfere with the blessings of the Grant of Safe Childbirth as long as she maintained her trust in Oyagami’s workings.18
One commentator offers that there is no other time that allows us to come away with the insight that the body is a thing lent, a thing borrowed as clearly as during birth.19 For it is not the midwife, attending doctor, nurses, or even the mother or father who is responsible for creating a new life. The father merely supplies the seed and the mother supplies the ovum and her womb for the fertilized ovum to grow into a baby. In a natural conception, the baby’s parents do not even have the power to determine the sex of their child, not to mention the manner the child develops in the womb. The child develops according to the workings of the Cosmic Providence. Therefore, there is nothing for the parents to do but to lean on the Cosmos for protection and the Grant of Safe Childbirth is offered to ensure that a baby is delivered in the smoothest manner possible.
Oyasama first offered the Grant of Safe Childbirth in 1854 to her daughter Haru Kajimoto. She breathed on and stroked Haru’s belly to administer it. Although the Nankai earthquake struck on the afternoon of December 24 when Haru gave birth and caused a portion of a wall in her birth-chamber to collapse, she is said to have delivered a baby boy with great ease. Oyasama gradually offered the Grant to other expectant mothers in subsequent years and is said to have established the reputation as a living Kami of safe childbirth by the early 1860s.20
The Grant of Safe Childbirth later came in the form of packets containing either konpeito candies or cleansed rice grains. Whereas Oyasama dispensed these packets herself during her physical lifetime, after she withdrew from physical life, the sacred rice for the Grant of Safe Childbirth has been prepared with the performance of the Service for Safe Childbirth at the Kanrodai.21
Currently, any woman six months or more into her pregnancy may apply for the Grant of Safe Childbirth. If she cannot return to Jiba to receive the Grant herself, her husband or one of their parents may receive it on her behalf.
The Grant of Safe Childbirth consists of three packets of sacred rice grains. Each of the three packets are taken at different times.
The first packet, called mimori-machi no goku (sacred rice for safe carrying) is taken immediately upon reaching home after the Grant is bestowed and explained. The woman partakes it with a prayer wishing for the baby to develop safely and smoothly.
The second packet, called hayame no goku (sacred rice for quickness), is taken when childbirth is imminent. The woman prays to be able to give birth safely and can even specify the length of labor.
The third packet, called osame kiyome no goku (sacred rice for purification and settling) is taken after the woman has given birth. The new mother is instructed to express thanks for giving birth and pray that she swiftly recovers from the physical changes she experienced during pregnancy and childbirth.22
Hōso no yurushi
“Hōso,” which is more commonly called tennentō in Japanese, refers to smallpox. Although the World Health Organization certified that smallpox was successfully eradicated in 1979, the disease was a perennial threat for human populations for at least two millennia. Smallpox outbreaks decimated native populations in the Americas during the 16th and 17th centuries. In Japan in particular, it was traditionally held that smallpox, along with measles, were diseases children could not avoid contracting and it was a cause for celebration when a child survived them as it was considered a sign he or she would survive to adulthood.23 One commentator mentions there was a saying that went along the lines of “Measles determines a child’s life, smallpox determines a child’s looks.” Yet he notes that smallpox was just as fatal as or even more so than measles if it developed into a form that was literally known as “blackpox” or “black smallpox” in Japan.24
There is less documentation on the hōso no yurushi or Amulet for protection from smallpox compared to the Grant of Safe Childbirth. There are records that claim Oyasama began offering these Amulets sometime between 1861 and 1864.25
Whereas the specific form these early Amulets came in is not known, eventually, they were made from Oyasama’s red kimono. They currently are made from a piece of red cloth about 7.3 cm long and 3.6 cm wide and contain a piece of white cloth inscribed with the kana character “mu,” which is thought to represent the elimination of illness.26 There is an application form for an Amulet that can be obtained from one’s affiliated followers dormitory, and the child receiving it must be accompanied by his or her parent, grandparent, older sibling, or church head minister. It is also possible for a parent to receive the Amulet on behalf of a child who has not returned to Jiba him or herself.27
Adults may also apply to receive an Amulet, which comes in the shape of a triangle, is larger in size, and contains a white cloth inscribed with the kanji “Kami.” The adult Amulet is noted for offering protection against misfortune.28
Both the child’s and adult Amulet is only meant for the person it was bestowed to and cannot be later given to another. An Amulet is meant to last for the recipient’s lifetime. It is unlike protective amulets of other religious traditions such as Shinto that require occasional replacing. The Tenrikyo Amulet cannot be replaced if it is ever lost or stolen.
- Fukaya 119 E81. ↩
- Fukaya 119 E81; Ueda A 383; Yamamoto 136. ↩
- Lourdes, which became a famed pilgrimage site in late 19th century after the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to a young girl on a number of occasions, is mentioned by both Ono (128) and Yamamoto (136) as a specific example. ↩
- MST 187; Tsutsui 56; Ueda B 25. ↩
- Ueda A 384. ↩
- Ando 97. ↩
- Ando 98. ↩
- Fukaya 120 E81–2; Ueda A 388. Since the hand motions here for “Kono tokoro” are the same in verse 1 (“mama arō”) and Song Two, verse 5 (Izure mo), the same interpretation can be extended to these verses. For instance, for Song Five, verse 1: “There are many places where Oyagami extends a helping hand.” For Song Two, verse 5: “If everyone Oyagami extends a helping hand to follows and comes in every situation.” ↩
- Fukaya 124 E82; Hirano 124; Nagao 125–6; Ono 131; Ueda A 391; Ueda B 25–6; Ueda C 57, 58; Yamamoto 141. ↩
- Masui 149, 154; Nagao 122; Ono 129; Ueda A 388, 391; Yamamoto 137. ↩
- Cited in Fukaya 122; MST 190; Nagao 124; Ono 131; Ueda C 58. ↩
- Cited in Fukaya 122; Hirano 123; Nagao 124; Ono 131; Ueda A 390; Ueda C 58. ↩
- Cited in Fukaya 122–3; Nagao 124; Ono 131; Yamamoto 141n; 8:32 Cited in Hirano 124; Ueda A 389; Ueda C 58. ↩
- 12:95 cited in Ono 131; Ueda C 58. ↩
- Fukaya 120 E81; Nagao 122; Ueda A 386, 387; Ueda C 57. ↩
- Ono 95. ↩
- Hinagata kikō 72–3. ↩
- Fukaya 122; Masui 151; Seibun iin shō ???. ↩
- Ueda A 389. ↩
- See The Life of Oyasama 28–30 and 34–5 for more on the Grant of Safe Childbirth. ↩
- The Service for Safe Childbirth (Obiya Zutome) is one the so-called 11 forms of the Service taught by Oyasama. It is occasionally conducted before a non-Grand Service month Service day. The Kagura masks are used in the Service and a different is Song is sung in place of Section One of the Kagura. It goes:
Ashiki o harōte dōzo obiya
Sukkiri hayaku tasuke tamae
(All ills sweep away please in childbirth
Clearly, quickly, save please
This Song is repeated seven times. ↩
- Hirano 124; Masui 152; Ono 130; Yamamoto 140; Yoboku’s Guide to Tenrikyo 131. ↩
- Nagao 125; Ueda C 58. ↩
- Ueda A 390. ↩
- MST 190. ↩
- Makoto no Michi: Masui Rin. 106. Fukaya has measurements of the Amulet as 2 sun by 1 sun, 2 bun (approximately 6 by 3.6 cm (124). ↩
- Ono 131; Yoboku Handbook 128. ↩
- Yamamoto 141. ↩