This month marks the start of the 179th year of Tenrikyo. Who can tell me what the date was when God the Parent first descended into the realm of human beings? October 26, 1838? No, it was actually October 24, 1838, while an incantation was being performed for Shuji’s leg, Zenbei’s eyes, and Miki’s back.
But this was the culmination of a series of events that started a full year prior to that date. And if I can have your attention for a while, I would like to go over this auspicious beginning, as very elaborately described and explained in the recently published book by Tenrikyo Doyusha: Tracing the Model Path, A Close Look into The Life of Oyasama.
The story of the God’s revelation actually starts the previous year, on October 26, 1837. Shuji, the Nakayama’s eldest child, was working in the fields when he felt a sudden pain in his left leg. He hobbled back home and a doctor was called in to treat the pain with ointments and other medicines, but nothing worked. Because Shuji was the only son, and heir of the Nakayama family, it was a serious matter for them, and following someone’s advice, they asked Ichibei Nakano, a Shugenja monk, to perform a healing ritual, which he was known for.
After performing 3 prayers, the pain didn’t go away so Ichibei suggested holding an incantation with a purifying fire to invoke divine help. This actually helped, but relief was temporary and the pain soon returned. In fact, over the course of the next year, a number of these incantations were held and Shuji went through the cycle of relief and relapse no less than nine times.
In those days, holding an incantation was like an exorcism to cast away evil spirits that might be causing the illness or affliction. Each time they held the incantation, many people would be called to participate, and the Nakayamas had to prepare a meal afterward, in addition to paying the officiants.
Almost a year later on the night of October 23rd, three members of the family experienced pain in various parts of their bodies. Ichibei happened to be in Shoyashiki village at the time, so he was consulted and he arranged to hold another incantation in the morning. However, as fate would have it, Soyo, the usual medium used by Ichibei, was unavailable.
The medium plays a critical role in an incantation. Usually performed by a girl, the medium is the one that holds the gohei, the sacred stick with streaming folded papers, and she acts as a conduit through which a deity could enter and communicate with the Shugenja.
Looking back at the sequence of events leading up to this point, we cannot help but feel that God the Parent had “set the stage” so that people witnessing the forthcoming revelation would be convinced that God had, in fact, descended from the heavens to address human beings for the first time.
Think about it, if God had merely entered Miki and began speaking on any ordinary day, what would people think? Perhaps that she had gone crazy. But making arrangements from the time of the precursor, one year prior (Shuji’s leg ailment), and by going through cycles of relapse and incantations nine times during the year, and by having the main three family members afflicted by physical pains on 10/23, and by having Ichibei conveniently visiting Shoyashiki at the time for the Inoko festival, and by having Soyo unavailable and Miki standing in as the medium; all these things seem random and coincidental, but really they were organized carefully by God in preparation for the revelation.
Beginning the incantation, Ichibei, recited his prayers, and suddenly, something completely unexpected happened. From the mouth of Miki came God’s revelation: “I am God of Origin, God in Truth. There is causality in this Residence. At this time I have descended here to save all humankind. I wish to receive Miki as the Shrine of God.
Everyone in the room was shocked, for no one had heard of such a God, nor had they imagined that they would be witness to a revelation of such epic proportions as “saving all humankind” since they only signed up for the cure of the family members’ respective ailments. Most shocked, of course, was Zenbei, because this God was asking to receive his wife as the Shrine. Zenbei, concerned with what would come of his family if he consented, flatly refused God’s request. Ichibei also seconded the refusal, and asked God to withdraw.
Ichibei was bewildered because in all the years performing incantations, nothing like this had ever happened. Of course, because the fact that God appeared at that time and place had nothing to do with Ichibei’s incantation; rather, God had merely used Ichibei to create a dramatic entrance. This revelation occurred really, because of the conjunction of the three fundamental causalities through which the Tenrikyo Teaching was to be founded: These being the causality of the Soul of Oyasama, the causality of the Residence of origin, and the causality of the promised time.
As Zenbei and Ichibei continued to refuse God’s request, Miki’s composure became more restless and the incantation became stalled at that point. Zenbei asked for more time and sent for his relatives so they could all consult together and figure out what to do. Deciding there was no way they could accept the situation, they altogether begged God to leave Miki’s body. To which God replied, “Whoever may come, God will not retire. It is natural that you are filled with anxieties at present, but after twenty or thirty years have passed, a day is sure to come when you will admit the truth of My intention.” This intention, of course, referred to saving all humankind.
Those in attendance were even more stunned, for they couldn’t possibly wait as long as 20 – 30 years. They again refused the request.
Having been refused again, God’s tone became more severe, saying “You shall do as God of Origin wills, and comply with My demand. I shall save all humankind if you will listen to Me; but if you should object to it, I shall destroy this house so completely that not a trace of it will remain.”
There is an anecdote from Oyasama’s daughters Omasa and Oharu, who were at the time, 14 and 8, respectively, saying when they recalled their mother’s changed demeanor, the two said, “We were so frightened at the utterance of every revelation that we threw ourselves in each other’s arms, trembling and pulling the quilt over our heads.”
This intense dialogue went on for three days, and during this time Miki did not eat or sleep. A couple thoughts on this: 1) How strong was the will of Zenbei and the family? Seeing his Miki in this state, listening to the terrifying words of an unknown God, yet still remaining indecisive for such a long time, and 2) It may appear that God was forcing, even threatening them into an unreasonable demand, but through these three days, God was actually waiting for them to consent to the request on their own accord.
Why does this scenario sound familiar? Let’s recall the Story of Creation, where God the Parent drew forth the instruments necessary for the creation of human beings, and gained their consent before consuming them to taste the flavor of their minds and promising them that when the years equal to the number of their first born had elapsed, they would be returned to the Residence of Origin and adored by their posterity.
Did the creatures of the sea immediately consent to be used as instruments? From the official Story of Creation in the Doctrine of Tenrikyo, it doesn’t say. But did you know there are some 40 different versions of the Koki (Divine Record) that convey the story of creation? In some versions it says that the fish and the serpent, humbly refused, but God explained the plan to create human beings and the world, and “forced” them to consent, promising that they would be adored by their descendants in the future.
Finally, at 8 o’clock on the morning of the 26th, Zenbei accepted God’s demand, saying “ I offer Miki to You.” In that instant, Miki’s body became relaxed for the first time, and also in that instant, Miki Nakayama was settled as the Shrine of God. The mind of God entered into Her, and through Her lips She began revealing the Divine Will. Thus began the ultimate teaching for saving the world, and it is with this significance that we perform the Autumn Grand Service.
Before closing, I just wanted to touch on a number of interesting parallels that can be drawn between the Story of Creation and the life of Oyasama:
- First of all, God obtaining (or demanding?) consent by the instruments, is echoed by Zenbei’s offering of Miki to God.
- The first couple, Izanagi and Izanami, were reincarnated and reunited as Zenbei and Miki Nakayama.
- The conception period of the first-born children was 3 days and 3 nights, which mirrors the 3 days it took Zenbei to offer Miki as Shrine to God. This is also the basis for our spiritual practice to pray (or administer the sazuke) for 3 days and 3 nights, anticipating the development of new blessings.
- The gestation period of the first-born children was 3 years and 3 months. Similarly, Oyasama secluded Herself in a storehouse for 3 years after becoming the Shrine of God.
- Izanagi-no-Mikoto withdrew from physical life after the first-born children passed away after 99 years. Izanami-no-Mikoto conceived the original number of children by the divine providence already taught her. Zenbei passed away in 1853, after about one-third of the duration of Oyasama’s 50-year divine model.
- The original children were born and passed away after 99 year for rebirth 3 times, each time all passing away together. Likewise, three major knots in the history of Tenrikyo which is symbolic of these passings are 1) the passing away of Zenbei in 1853, 2) the Oyamato Shrine incident in 1864, after which virtually all followers abandoned the Path, and 3) Oyasama’s withdrawal from life in 1887.
- Lastly, after the children were born the 3rd time and passed away, Izanami-no-Mikoto said “Now that they have grown so tall, in time they will reach the height of human beings five feet tall,” and with a smile, withdrew from physical life. Similarly, at 2pm on January 26th, 1887, just as the Service came to an end, Oyasama withdrew from physical life so peacefully that She appeared to be sleeping. We can surmise that Oyasama also felt a that moment, a sense of satisfaction that Her children (the followers) had attained a level of spiritual maturity that would allow them to continue growing their faith for future generations to eventually reach the goal of the joyous life.
I encourage everyone to read books like this to gain deeper insights into the Life of Oyasama, and really get closer to Oyasama. As Shuto Oya-okusan said to us during her hanashi here at Taiheiyo Church, it’s not easy to gain a real closeness with God, because we don’t know what form or substance God is. God is invisible, vast, and all-encompassing. We cannot begin to imagine what God really feels or thinks. But Oyasama was physically human. She felt happiness, sympathy, love, excitement, disappointment, hope, and fear, the same as all of us. For this reason, it’s much easier for us to develop a relationship with the Everliving Oyasama, and we should do what we can to pursue that opportunity. Through knowing Oyasama we can know God the Parent, and we can draw upon that relationship whenever we encounter difficulties in our lives. Thank you for your kind attention today.