On new year’s eve, the company I work for had a barbecue and I was asked to say grace. I was caught off guard because Tenrikyo does not have a practice of saying grace before meals – rather, it is a Christian tradition, to bless and sanctify the meal. (Tenrikyo offers prayers at sunrise and sunset). So I started reciting a prayer, thanking God the Parent for the daily use of our bodies, and for the blessings we receive in keeping us alive and healthy. It was short and I uttered the word “Amen” at the end to signify closure and so as not to alienate others by saying “Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.” In hindsight, I realized I completely left out the part about “blessing the food and the hands that prepared it!”
The experience got me to thinking about how different the teachings of Christianity and Tenrikyo are. We are taught that the religions throughout history explained nine-tenths of the complete teachings, and that God finally revealed the remaining one-tenth through Tenrikyo, telling us about the Truth of Origin, thereby laying the path for universal salvation. Thus, Tenrikyo is sometimes referred to as the “Final Teaching.”
I thought it might be helpful to compile a list comparisons between the two religions to understand the differences. A word of note: I firmly believe that the God we pray to in Tenrikyo is the SAME God revered in Christianity (and other religions). It is simply the MESSAGE, conveyed through MESSENGERS that is different. I will use Chr: to preface Christian teachings, and Ten: to preface Tenrikyo teachings.
Chr: One God; the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Existence as The Father (male figure), from whom all things came and for whom we live; the Son, Jesus Christ, who was God’s incarnation in the world; and the Holy Spirit, the third divine person in the Trinity.
Ten: One God, referred to as God the Parent (not gender specific, representing both male & female attributes). God is the creator and sustainer of the universe and of mankind. God is the parent of all mankind, so we are all children of God, and are all brothers and sisters in the world. God was also referred to as Tsuki-hi (moon-sun) to early followers, to signify cosmic bodies that provide sustenance to the earth in which we live.
REGARDING ITS FOUNDER:
Chr: Jesus Christ (male) was conceived in the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit; therefore, Jesus is also God, the Son; the ONLY son of God. In other words, Jesus was God, in human form. Jesus was baptized and began preaching around 27 AD (34 years of age) and preached for approximately 6 years before crucifixion, estimated to be around 33 AD at the age of 40. Jesus died for the sins of all humanity.
Ten: Oyasama (female) was born Miki Nakayama, in 1798. In 1838, at the age of 40, God entered Her body and She became the living Shrine of God for a period of 50 years before withdrawing from physical life at age 90. Becoming the Shrine was preordained because Oyasama possessed the soul of the original female figure in the creation of mankind. The 50 years of her life after becoming the Shrine is referred to as the Divine Model, and is an example of how we should live our lives – spiritedly and joyously under any circumstance. Oyasama shortened her term of life and withdrew from physical presence to urge the spiritual maturity of her followers, and to eternally step out to save the world, unbound by physical limitations.
REGARDING THE CREATION OF MANKIND:
Chr: In Genesis 1, the earth was formless and empty. God created the world in 6 days: 1) created light and separated day and night. 2) created the sky by separating water. 3) crated land by separating water beneath the sky, and created vegetation. 4) created stars and two great lights, the sun and moon. 5) created sea creatures and birds. 6) created animals and created man in his own image. God rested on the 7th day and declared it Holy. In Genesis 2, God formed man (Adam) out of the dust from the ground and breathed life into him. God placed man in the Garden of Eden and made a helper as his complement – first forming all the wild animals, but no helper was found his complement. So God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs and made the rib into a woman and brought her to the man. (God made man first, then made woman by taking a part of man)
Ten: In the beginning the world was a muddy ocean. God, finding this chaos unbearably tasteless, thought of creating human beings, so that by watching mankind living joyously and helping one another, God would also be filled with joy. God drew personages from the sea and, after having tested the mental flavors of each, obtaining their consent and used their characteristics to create a model of man (the seed) and a model of woman (the seed plot). Entering their bodies, God taught them the providence for creating human beings. 900,099,999 seeds were put into the model female and she conceived that same number of children. The firstborn grew taller before passing away for rebirth, again being conceived in the body of the model female. Over successive rebirths covering hundreds of millions of years, the children grew taller gradually, passing through stages of fish, worms, birds, beasts, etc. before arriving at the current state of human beings. For 900,090,000 years we lived in the sea, were trained in wisdom for 6,000 years, and were trained in letters for 3,999 years.
REGARDING THE MEANING OF LIFE:
Chr: The Bible does not specifically outline the meaning of life for human beings, or indicate if each human life has an individual meaning. Each Christian sect has its own interpretation of man’s purpose for being, but they share a common theme which is to glorify God; to have a primary relationship with Jesus Christ; and to follow the teachings of Jesus so that one can go to heaven. Those who do not accept Christ as their savior may be subject to eternal damnation in the afterlife.
Ten: The purpose for God’s creation of mankind is to see us live the Joyous Life, which is a state of the world where all human beings live together, while helping and saving one another. By watching all of God’s children of the world living joyously and spiritedly, God the Parent, too, would become spirited and bestow further blessings. There is no after-world. After passing away, our souls are returned to the bosom of God the Parent, awaiting rebirth into this world as human beings. There is no heaven or hell; however, depending on the use of mind (NOT depending on one’s circumstances), one’s life can be a viewed as either a life of paradise or a life of suffering.
Chr: There exists a devil. Satan was once an angel, created by God, who fell due to his pride, and rebelled against God. He convinced one-third of other angels to also rebel against God, and continues to influence people to rebel against God. The devil, thus, is often blamed for the wrongful thoughts and actions brought on by mankind, as well as for natural disasters.
Ten: Demons and evils spirits of whatever kind do not exist in this world. The only “evil” lies in our self-centered imagination. Although we borrow our bodies from God the Parent, God has given us free use of our minds. By using our minds selfishly engaging in greed and arrogance rather than thinking of others, our minds become clouded with “mental dust”, which inhibits our ability to receive God’s blessings. We are responsible for our own actions due to the way we use our minds.
REGARDING ILLNESSES AND TROUBLES:
Chr: It is not taught in the Bible why sickness and troubles occur, other than to say that suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope.
Ten: When we accumulate excess mental dust through self-centered thinking, we inhibit our ability to receive God’s blessings, which may result in illnesses or troubled circumstances in life. These misfortunes are not punishments by God, but rather signposts given out of God’s love and care, to let us know that we are traveling down a mistaken path, and not living in accordance with God’s intention. By reflecting on our maladies and difficulties, joyously accepting them as God’s care, vowing to change way of thinking by focusing on others rather than ourselves, and spiritedly performing the sacred service, God will help us sweep away our mental dusts so that we can once again receive the full blessings being bestowed by God on the world.
Chr: Jesus saved people from sinfulness through his life and teachings, thus transforming their character to become righteous. This salvation is seen as undeserved, since God graciously sent Jesus to save people when they were unrighteous and did not in any way deserve such a favour. In the moral transformation paradigm, a person is saved from sinfulness by faithfully following the teachings of Jesus, and the example he set of how to live. Consequently, a person becomes righteous in God’s sight, and can expect a positive final judgment by God. Perfection is not required, and mistakes are forgiven after repentance. Under a theory known as penal substitution, Christ takes the penalty of people’s sin as their substitute, thus saving people from God’s wrath against sin. Penal substitution thus presents Jesus saving people from the divine punishment of their past wrongdoings. However, this salvation is not presented as automatic. Rather, a person must have faith in order to receive this free gift of salvation. In the penal substitution view, salvation is not dependent upon human effort or deeds.
Ten: Salvation comes from the physical salvation of an illness (warning sign from God) as well as mental salvation, with the latter being regarded as more important. Oyasama taught that if one does not have the mind of saving others, in vain is devotion, however strong it may be. In other words, if one is cured from an illness or has accumulated enormous wealth, but still leads a life of self-centered thinking, one cannot be said to have achieved true salvation. Conversely, even if one’s health and physical condition are not good, or if they are living in the depths of poverty, but they are able to understand God and still be grateful for the daily blessings of life and are able to still live each day spiritedly and joyously despite the difficulties and challenges, they are said to have been saved. Also, if one lives happily and joyously at the expense of causing others unhappiness, this cannot be considered true joy. Only when one’s happiness brings happiness to others can it be called true joy and true salvation.
REGARDING THE HOLY SCRIPTURES:
Chr: Jesus Christ did not personally write anything down to pass on to his followers, and did not contribute to any part of the Holy Bible. The Old Testament was written several hundred years to several thousand years prior to Jesus Christ, by dozens of different authors. The New Testament was written decades after the crucifixion of Christ, by many different authors.
Ten: Oyasama, after becoming the Shrine of God, personally wrote the Ofudesaki, the book of revelation over a period of 13 years. However, She said Her hand would simply grab ahold of the writing brush and it was God that was doing the writing. Similarly, Oyasama Herself composed the songs for the Sacred Service; choreographed the hand movements of the Service; and instructed others how the play the musical instruments that accompany the singing of the Sacred Service.
From the examples above you can see how the MESSAGES conveyed by earlier teachings differ significantly from the MESSAGES conveyed in the “Final Teaching.” Tenrikyo is constructed on divine reason, where the meaning and purpose of life is explainable, and where causes and effects follow a logical cycle such that we are able to control our destiny according to our use of mind. Man and woman were created equal, and are equally important in the procreation of human beings. We are all children of God and are all brothers and sisters with no one considered “outsiders.” We are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, and we will reap the crops we mentally sow. We will not be saved simply by believing a certain way, but by our sincere efforts to help and save others, and by changing the way we view our bodies, and the way we use our minds.
God waited for the spiritual and mental maturity of mankind (as well as the pre-ordained time) to descend into the realm of human beings in order to teach the truth about our creation and the purpose for which we were put on this earth.