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Tenrikyo: Beliefs, Rituals & Facts

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Tenrikyo is considered one of Japan's new religions. It is officially recognized as a Shinto sect. This lesson reviews its basic beliefs, rituals and facts.

New Ideas

Imagine you had new neighbors move in next door. What would you do? You'd probably go over and introduce yourself, right? So, you go over and start chatting to get to know each other. During your conversation you find out that your new neighbors practice the faith of Tenrikyo.

Okay, now you have a problem. You know nothing about Tenrikyo. So you ask your neighbor to explain. Come along as we learn about this faith from general facts to believes and rituals.

Tenrikyo Facts

A great way to get a quick overview of any new idea is to gather facts about it.

Tenrikyo is a Japanese faith founded in the 19th century, in 1838. The founder was a poor farmer's wife named Nakayama Miki. Since 1908 it has been considered a Shinto sect although practitioners do not consider themselves Shinto.

Tenrikyo clergymen in the 1930s
tenrikyo clergy

Tenrikyo is monotheistic, with its single deity being Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. Its religious text is written in waka, a poem style with a syllabic pattern similar to haiku.

Headquarters for the faith are based in the town of Tenri City, Nara Ken, Japan but there are 2-3 million members of the faith all over the world, including in areas of Southeast Asia, the U.S.A and Canada.

Tenrikyo Beliefs

Similar to other major faiths, followers of Tenrikyo believe that their deity is the parent of the world and humanity its child. The faith's central principle is that believers should strive for joy known as Joyous Life. This state of embracing life's joy is believed to be what the deity Tenrikyo intended for all of humanity.

Tenrikyo believers strive for Joyous Life.
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In general, followers believe that to achieve Joyous Life one must put others first. Selfishness is the antithesis of joy. Hinikishin is the name for selfless action shown to others. Followers are encouraged to avoid or reject anger, greed, arrogance and any other negative emotion in favor of adding positivity to the world through kindness.

Practitioners of Tenrikyo believe in facing hardship and burdens with optimism. Followers should not complain when in adversity, but strive for completion of the burden.

The major tenant of the faith emphasizes charity towards others in order to find joy in one's self.

In another similarity with other mainstream religions, followers of Tenrikyo believe that the founder, who changed her name to Oyasama after beginning the faith, was a conduit for the actual word of the deity, that the deity spoke through Oyasama. As the conduit, Oyasama wrote the Ofudesaki, The Tip of the Writing Brush, the spiritual text for the faith. This text is believed to be directly from Tenri-O-no-Mikoto as written through the conduit.

Foundationally, followers of Tenrikyo believe that the center of the world (the origin of creation) is the center of the city of Tenri in Japan. This place is sacred because it is believed that it was here that the founder received her first words from Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.

Emblem of the Tenrikyo religion
tenrikyo emblem

Here there is a small, recessed arena called the jiba that is seen as a sacred place of origin. Also located in the center of the main temple is the kanrodai, a pillar believed to allow followers to receive blessings from their deity.

Tenrikyo Rituals

Followers of Tenrikyo ritualistically give of themselves through charity and mission work. Most devotees are active in disaster relief programs as a way of practicing their charity-based faith designed to spread Joyous Life to all.

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