Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 163

163. Brothers Among Brothers (kyōdai no naka no kyōdai)

Oyasama once instructed:

“All of you who are living in this Residence are brothers among brothers. When one of you goes out somewhere, the rest of you should choose the best clothing from among your own, and have the person go out wearing it. Furthermore, those who happen to have money should put it together, even if it is only one or two sen from each, and give it as pocket money. And you should see him or her off in high spirits. This is what brothers and sisters should do.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 131

My take/research

One of Tenrikyo’s central tenets is the notion of “ichiretsu kyodai,” that “all of humanity are brothers and sisters,” which can otherwise be referred to as universal brotherhood. This concept isn’t necessary unique to Oyasama’s teachings, for the Stoics are said to have advocated cosmopolitanism much earlier than Christianity did. While I imagine it is more than possible to find a similar precedent for ichiretsu kyodai in Japanese history, such a task is unfortunately beyond the parameters of this single blog post.

Hatakama Kazuhiro, an associate professor at Tenri University, once noted that the notion of “ichiretsu kyodai” has an opposite orientation compared to what is implied by the expression “brothers among brothers.” While the former represents universal equality, the latter establishes a distinction within a group (p. 43).

Oyasama explicitly indicates that the expression “brothers among brothers”[1]  refers to the various individuals living at “the Residence”: her abode which also happens to be regarded as the original Residence where the creation of humankind took place.

A Tenrikyo publication entitled Ikiru kotoba (Living words) happens to elaborate on this expression as follows:

On our Parent’s side, the Parent who created all the people in the world, every one of us are equally brothers and sisters. If this is the case, the ideal is for all of us to offset each other’s deficiencies and give when another is in need. Our Parent hopes we will tear down the barriers that have been set up between those who are considered “outsiders” and indiscriminately help one another instead. Implementing this in our immediate community is the first step toward world peace (p. 44).

Oyasama has been quoted as having said: “Those who live in this Residence — if they want to eat good food, wear good clothes, and live in good houses, then they will not be able to stay in this Residence. If only they do not think of eating good food, wearing good clothes, or living in good houses, will every daily need be met in this Residence” (Anecdotes no. 78).

Thus, it was taken for granted that those who moved in the Residence with Oyasama did not own much clothing or other possessions. Taking this into consideration allows us to better appreciate her directive: “When one of you goes out somewhere, the rest of you should choose the best clothing from among your own, and have the person go out wearing it.”

This directive also happens to remind me of a particular episode describing Nakayama Miki’s early years when she was still an ordinary housewife. There was a time when she allowed her husband to go sightseeing with a maid named Kano dressed in one of her kimonos. Yamochi Tatsuzo, a former instructor at Tenri Seminary, has written:

When Zenbei expressed a wish to go to see the peonies in Hase, Miki goes out of Her way to ask Kano to accompany him and dresses her in Her kimono before seeing them off. We can perceive that Miki did this with the thought to allow Kano to compensate for Her shortcomings. This was the degree of love which Miki held for Her husband. While we may not be able to demonstrate such love ourselves, we may able to reach such a point if we deepened our faith. There are some people in Tenrikyo who actually demonstrate such a high level of love. I may have brought up a rather complicated issue here, but I did so with the aim of organizing my thoughts (p. 59).

By comparing this episode with the directive attributed to her in Anecdotes no. 163, it is possible to conclude that Oyasama is merely instructing something that she had practiced herself before she became the “Shrine of God the Parent” in 1838.

Further, the mention of even giving one or two sen 銭 (issen nisen) to a fellow “sibling” as pocket money happens to evoke the opening verse of Song Nine of the Mikagura-uta.

According to Wikipedia, coins for this subunit of the yen were not circulated until 1873 (and were taken out of circulation in late 1953). This information may offer indirect evidence for favoring the current official interpretation of sen as 洗 because Song Nine was composed in 1867. (Thus the English translation the first verse of Song Nine is “Clapping around throughout the wide world, And cleansing human hearts once and twice, I will advance the work of salvation.”)

Nevertheless, it is more than possible to apply the kanji 銭 to this verse, and it has been done so by Tenrikyo theologians on several occasions (Tenrikyo Doyusha 2001, p. 269). A recent commentary offers an interpretation that Tenrikyo missionaries can bring about instances of salvation even when presented with just a few coins in appreciation for their efforts (p. 266).

The Tenrikyo Scripture known as the Osashizu happens to have a share of passages that echo the message attributed to Oyasama in Anecdotes no. 163. I offer just two here for food for thought:

The foundations for brotherhood have been laid one by one. Understand the principle of brotherhood. Human beings were created because of the one original truth. Since you are brothers and sisters, the meaning of brotherhood must exist. But there are some among you whose hearts of brotherhood do not ring in harmony. All of you, bring your hearts together. Those who hear My words, be the first to make your hearts one.

May 19, 1895

From now on, you must realize that you are brothers. If you are brothers, you must have a mind of brotherhood or not call yourselves brothers at all. When you have something on your mind, you must give advice. It is because you care for one another that you give advice. If you are grateful for the advice, your gratitude will bring truly grateful results. It will not do to listen to the advice with a mind of complaints, one with thoughts of having gone through many trying days. You must keep in mind the suffering of others and help one another, help one another in all things.

July 13, 1902


Hatakama Kazuhiro 2003. “Kyōdai naraba: ‘ichiretsu kyōdai’ to ‘kyōdai no naka no kyōdai’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 43-52. 

Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie.

_________. 2001. Mikagura-uta no sekai o tazunete.

Yamochi Tatsuzo. 1984. Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha. 

Further reading

The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Seven

Fifth installment of Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta lecture series, part 2

External links

All People Are Brothers and Sisters (Ichiretsu Kyodai)” by Fukaya Yoshikazu

Tenrikyo jiten: “Universal Brotherhood


[1] One can easily render this phrase into a gender-neutral “siblings among siblings” since kyodai can written in kanji with a variety of options: 兄弟 (big brother/little brother) 姉妹 (big sister/little sister), 兄妹 (big brother/little sister), or even 兄弟姉妹 (big brother/little brother/big sister/little sister).