There are many ways to answer the question that is naturally posed by those who hear of Tenrikyo for the first time. Even long-time followers in the faith are sometimes at a loss for words because they don’t know where to start in explaining such a complete and integrated set of teachings. One could simply say “Tenrikyo is the Path to the Joyous Life,” and that would be quite accurate, but it does not give the inquirer a sense of understanding as to what it is that we believe. Sometimes it helps to clarify what Tenrikyo is not: E.g., It is not a branch or offshoot of Buddhism or Shinto, but rather has its own doctrine; sacred scriptures; and a unique service ritual that is at the heart of its teachings. Though, this still begs the question, “so what is Tenrikyo and what are its basic tenets?”
Let me attempt to answer the question somewhat unconventionally: Tenrikyo teaches that “Through saving others, you will be saved.”
Many teachings of the world focus on praying to save oneself, or one’s own soul. Even general social ideology tells people to “look out for number one.” Tenrikyo teaches a different approach that says we are all children of God the Parent, and God desires, above all, to see the children of the world joyously helping and saving one another. When we free ourselves from our self-centered imagination and replace it with the mind of saving others, God will bless us with our own salvation so we need not worry. God will also become spirited and bestow blessings all over the world.
That said, what is “salvation?” Salvation in Tenrikyo is also defined differently from conventional thinking. Of course there is the physical or tangible salvation, e.g., the cure of a serious illness, or the resolution of a long-strained relationship. However, Tenrikyo also emphasizes the salvation of the mind. Achieving a state of mind where we are completely satisfied and thankful for the daily blessings we receive in being kept alive, regardless of the level of wealth, health, social status, or material possessions we may have.
I mentioned earlier that my explanation was unconventional. This is because the traditional way that Tenrikyo is explained is that God, whom we refer to as God the Parent, found the chaos of the universe unbearably tasteless, and thought of creating human beings. The reason God the Parent created human beings was the desire to see us lead a Joyous Life, and thus share in that joy.
In this sense, Tenrikyo provides the answer to the age-old question “What is the meaning and purpose of life?” It is, of course to live the Joyous Life.
This sounds very straightforward and almost too simple – really, can this be it? Well, yes, but there is a deeper meaning that should be clarified. The Joyous Life does not mean a world where we are just living happily, enjoying ourselves without caring about others, or worse, at the expense of others. Rather, the Joyous Life is a world where all human beings live together by helping, respecting, and saving one another – hence my initial explanation.
An important concept of the Joyous Life it that it is meant for ALL mankind, not only a “chosen few.” Another important aspect of the Joyous Life is that it is not just for people, but involves the interaction between human beings and God. As people become spirited, God will also be spirited and when God is spirited, blessings will be freely bestowed – everything from abundant harvests to thriving economies; from protection against illnesses, to longer, healthier lives…Imagine living to the age of 115 years, never falling ill, dying, or becoming weakened. Imagine having the strength and vitality at the age of 100 as when you were 25! These are the things promised in the Joyous Life world.
The teachings that will follow in the blogs to come will explain the Truth of our creation and our existence, and discuss the cause & effect principles of our daily actions, so that we can better understand how the Joyous Life can be achieved.