Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 170

170. Heaven is the Foundation (ten ga dai)

Among the words Shirobei Umetani heard from Oyasama were the following:

“At any shrine or temple of Buddha, pay your respects and then chant Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.

“People worshiping at a place will increase the authority of that place. Because people worship at a place, that place will be able to maintain itself. The place where Ubusuna-gami is enshrined is one of the places where man was given birth. Even people who worship Ubusuna-gami are returning their obligation to God.

“Each other place of worship, whether it be a shrine or temple, is like a single finger of your hand. This place of origin is like having both hands and each hand with all its fingers.

“The foundation of this world is heaven. The core of heaven is Tsukihi.* The core of the human body is the eyes. The core of the human being is the clear water of the mind, the clear eyes.”

* Tsukihi: literally, ‘Moon-Sun’; another name of God the Parent.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 137

My take

There are four quotes here attributed to Oyasama, but they basically cover the same overall thematic territory with the possible exception of the last one.

The theme of the first three quotes—whether or not Oyasama’s teachings are compatible with other religions—has been already touched on in earlier selections, specifically Anecdotes 10 and 108.

Tenrikyo may be seen as being quite accepting of other religions when one considers the first two quotes above and what Oyasama is quoted as saying in Anecdotes 108: “Do you know Mt. Fuji? Its summit is one, but the roads to the summit are many. Whichever road you take, it is the same.”

I once wrote on a Tenrikyo Forum thread a few years ago:

Based on these words, a Tenrikyo follower is not only free to visit other places of worship, but seems to be actually being encouraged to worship at other churches, shrines, temples, etc. This is completely different from the stance of many other religions! There are those who say you can’t even step inside! Talk about tolerance!

It can be said that it also speaks volumes for Oyasama to have instructed “At any shrine or temple of Buddha, pay your respects and then chant Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” when a similar injunction of hers several years earlier in 1864 (“Be sure to pay their respects at the shrine when you pass it on your way”) led to the first “Oyamato Shrine Incident.”

Other reading seems to suggest that the Tenrikyo teachings merely comprise a fraction of what God taught to humanity across the millennia. For example, in The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, it reads: “God the Parent became openly revealed at this time to give the final teaching directly to us, for God had already given us nine-tenths of the complete teachings” (p. 26).

Nevertheless, one may notice that Oyasama appears to have made not-so-subtle implications that the faith-system she promoted was somehow superior to other religions. This becomes clearer when one looks closely at the third quote from Anecdotes 170, which suggests each shrine or temple merely amounts to a single finger compared to Jiba that has both hands. The same can also be said of the quote attributed to Oyasama in Anecdotes 10: “You have come the long way around. What a pity! You could have met all those gods if only you had come here.”

Concerning this, I once wrote:

[B]y saying that other shrines and temples are like a single finger out of ten, Oyasama is also saying that the Jiba is greater than any other sacred place due to its significance as the original place of human conception at creation and the origin of God’s revelation. . . .

[After Anecdotes 10 quote] Again, Oyasama appears to be conveying the idea that the Jiba is greater than any other sacred place/place of worship. I can’t imagine that any Buddhist or Shinto priest would be happy about hearing such a thing. This begins to explain why certain Buddhist priests and other religionists were so antagonistic toward Oyasama.

I wish I had qualified the last statement there with a “This may explain why other religionists were so antagonistic. . . .” but what the hey, that was what I wrote.

I also once attempted to explain on another Tenrikyo Forum thread how Oyasama once taught about what is called ura-shugo today (or what has been glossed as “indirect explanation of divine providence” in A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms). One could call ura-shugo an “inverse honji suijaku combinatory paradigm” that functioned to put new converts’ minds at ease that they weren’t really abandoning the buddhas and the bodhisattvas by switching their adherence to Oyasama’s faith-system. Faith in Tenri-O-no-Mikoto thus amounted to worshiping the “actual” divine essence ultimately responsible for the miraculous blessings that were traditionally attributed to the religious beings that inspired reverence among the Japanese.

I believe it may be best to just offer the entire A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms entry here:

In early followers’ compilations of the Story of the Divine Record, the names of traditional gods, buddhas, and bodhisattvas were sometimes applied to the principles of the ten aspects of God’s complete providence. This practice—often referred to as “glossing in Shinto terms” or “glossing in Buddhist terms”—has since early days been also commonly called “ura shugo,” which might translate as “indirect explanation of divine providence.” It is not clear when this term was first used, but Masaichi Moroi’s manuscript entitled “Ri no hanashi”—which was first published in 1937 as part of Seibun iin—includes a section called “Ura no michi ni tsukite no ohanashi” (or “Talk on an indirect path”), in which we read:

North is Senju (the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara). Northeast is Kokuzo (the Bodhisattva Akashagarbha). East is Monju (the Bodhisattva Manjushri). Southeast is Fugen (the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra). South is Seishi (the Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta). Southwest is Dainichi Nyorai (the Buddha Mahavairochana). West is Fudo (Achalanatha, one of the Kings of Light). Northwest is Hachiman [considered a bodhisattva]. These are all God’s manifestations in the form of buddhas and bodhisattvas.

In addition, the text explains the phrase “Namu, Amidabutsu” (Homage to the Buddha Amitabha) as referring to the first seven of Tenrikyo’s ten sacred names, that is, from Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto to Taishokuten-no-Mikoto.

Explanations such as those cited above are examples of glossing in Buddhist and Shinto terms. It could be that the phrase “ura no michi” (indirect path) was used to refer to what people believed to be the blessings of the traditional buddhas and gods before God the Parent was directly and openly revealed. This may have been the source of the term “ura shugo” (indirect explanation of divine providence).

Yamazawa’s 1881 manuscript does not gloss the Moon and the Sun (Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto and Omotari-no-Mikoto) in Buddhist terms but links each of the “six instruments” (from Kunisazuchi-no-Mikoto to Otonobe-no-Mikoto) to more than one deity. Kita’s 1881 manuscript, on the other hand, links the Moon and the Sun to Mitsu no Midanyorai (the Buddha Amitabha) and Seishi Bosatsu (the Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta), respectively. As for the “six instruments,” this text refers to the same deities as those we noted in the passage from Seibun iin.

Nakayama’s 1881 manuscript, which is short, provides little else than the main thread of the Story of Creation. It does not contain any references to Buddhist deities.

The manuscripts dating from 1883 onwards associate the Moon and the Sun with Shaka (Shakyamuni), Senju (the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara), Mitsu no Midanyorai (the Buddha Amitabha), and other Buddhist deities. They also link the “six instruments” to various deities, Buddhist and otherwise.

The deities mentioned in Seibun iin are in the list of guardian deities, associated with years of birth, that has been in use since the Edo period.[1] In the passage from Seibun iin, however, the directions have replaced the years of birth—that is, space has replaced time, so to speak. It would be inaccurate to say that this teaching is suggesting that the first eight aspects of God’s complete providence (that is, from Kunitokotachino-Mikoto to Otonobe-no-Mikoto) are similar to the workings of the corresponding Buddhist deities. Rather, the point being made here is that the Buddhist deities that people regarded as their guardian deities were merely performing one facet of God the Parent’s workings.

We may note in passing that, in Kita’s 1881 manuscript, the passages that contain the phrase “in Shinto” are actually referring to Tenrikyo’s sacred names—and not talking about Shinto deities—despite the appearances to the contrary. These passages should, therefore, not be seen as “glossing in Shinto terms.” Many compilations of the Story of the Divine Record use the same Chinese characters as those appearing in the Records of Ancient Matters and the Chronicles of Japan to write the ten sacred names used in Tenrikyo. This situation was one of the causes of confusion even for Tenrikyo followers and, in turn, led to misunderstanding among many who were not followers.

It is also worth noting that Seibun iin provides new interpretations—based on Tenrikyo’s teachings—of traditional annual events and observances such as the Equinoctial Week and the Flower Festival, traditional cures for illnesses, agricultural practices, popular beliefs, and other manners and customs. This might suggest that what is called “ura shugo” (indirect explanation of divine providence) might refer to the entire training in wisdom that was provided prior to God the Parent’s open and direct revelation.

Whew! That was a long quote!

By the way, as far as the last quote in Anecdotes 170 is concerned (“The foundation of this world is heaven. The core of heaven is Tsukihi. The core of the human body is the eyes. The core of the human being is the clear water of the mind, the clear eyes.”, I am quite stumped about what it could mean. It might have to do with how both the eyes and the Moon (Tsuki) are associated with the divine aspect referred to as Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto.


“Indirect Explanation of Divine Providence.” In A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms. Tenrikyo Overseas Department, pp. 163–165.

Teeuwen, Mark and Rambelli, Fabio. 2003. Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. London/New York: RoutledgeCourzon.

Further reading

Omichi no joshiki: The Foundation of This World is Heaven; Core of Heaven is Tsukihi


[1] Offering the footnote (no. 19) from this quotation:

“As of the Meiji period, the government’s edict ordering the separation of Shinto and Buddhism resulted in Hachiman Daibosatsu being replaced by Amida Nyorai, or the Buddha Amitabha.”