The following is an excerpt from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 39–43) by Koji Sato (佐藤浩司), assistant professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is tentative and may require further revision.
Saved By the Truth of Saving Others
We have the following expression in Tenrikyo, “Through saving others, you yourself shall be saved.”
Yet I must note that this does not mean, “Through saving others, you become saved in exchange” or “If you want to be saved, you must first save others.” These words contain a more profound meaning.
There are two stories in the Anecdotes of Oyasama where this teaching of “saving others” appears.
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In April 1875, Eijiro Enomoto of Sugahama, Sandoson, in Fukui Prefecture visited the Residence to ask that his daughter Kiyo be saved from a psychological illness. Oyasama said to him:
You need not worry, you need not worry. Go home quickly, as a great misfortune has happened in your home. Visit houses in your village one by one and save 42 persons. Pray to God earnestly at each house, chanting, ‘Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto,’ while pressing your hands together in prayer. By saving others, you yourself shall be saved.
Anecdotes of Oyasama 42 “By Saving Others”
Eijiro thereby returned home. He found that his daughter was severely ill and that his village was in a terrible situation. There were people sick from various illnesses everywhere. He visited each house and after helping 42 people recover through his prayers, his daughter also experienced a complete recovery. The other story is as follows:
In 1885, Hyoshiro Kami and his daughter Kimi suddenly lost their eyesight. When Hyoshiro’s wife Tsune visited the Residence on their behalf, Oyasama said:
God is testing him and guiding him. It is best for your husband to return himself. He will then be thoroughly instructed in the Teaching.
Hyoshiro then returned to the Residence, traveling 16 kilometers while being guided by his wife. Oyasama directly instructed him in the “Story of Creation.”
After Oyasama’s instruction ended, Hyoshiro found that his vision had returned without him realizing when or how it exactly happened. When he returned home, his daughter also was blessed with her vision.
Yet after that, Hyoshiro’s vision was blurry and he was unable to see distant objects until 8 a.m. every morning. He did not know what to make of this. So when he returned in the first month of 1886, he asked Oyasama and She said:
God has finished guiding you, but not has finished testing you. Testing means that you yourself shall be saved through saving others. You must not think of yourself. If you single-heartedly turn yourself to the thought, ‘I must at any cost save others and have others be saved,’ then your illness will be completely cured.
Anecdotes of Oyasama 167 “Through Saving Others”
It is crucial that Oyasama said, “You must not think of yourself.” Oyasama is instructing us that in order for us or someone dear to us to be saved from illness or misfortune, we must forget all about everything that has to do with ourselves. We must instead direct our attention outward, praying and working for the sake of others.
In the first story, although Eijiro Enomoto went to ask for his daughter to be saved, he was instructed to save others. In reality, it is by no means an easy matter to pray to have 42 people be saved.
If we were to set about in accomplishing this, we will find that we have no time to think about our own situation. This story teaches us the importance of becoming of the mind that wishes for others to be saved.
In the second story Oyasama tells Hyoshiro Kami:
God has finished guiding you, but not has finished testing you. Testing means that you yourself shall be saved through saving others.
A person who is confronted by a misfortune or trouble finds that it is more important than anything else to be saved from this situation. Yet the misfortune or trouble is but a catalyst for a person to be guided to the teachings. I feel that Oyasama is teaching us that we are not to stop at that step but to place ourselves at “the locus of mutual salvation” where we find the key to having faith in this path.
To place ourselves on this stage of mutual salvation is to perceive the troubles, misfortunes, difficulties, and privation of others as our own responsibility and thus refuse to cast them aside. By praying for the salvation of others, we are able to purify our minds and advance on the path of “spiritual growth” that God the Parent so ardently desires.
Hyoshiro did as he was taught and single-heartedly dedicated himself to saving others and received the blessings that allowed him to completely recover from his disability.
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
I have taken the liberties here of revising and making what I see as small improvements to the some of the quotes from Anecdotes.