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August 12, 2003

Tenrikyou at the Cursor

Tenrikyou, one of the sects of sectarian Shinto is more organised than amorphous, generic "Shrine Shinto" so there is more of a clear defnition of whether you are in it or not. It has an organisation and one generally joins and attends Tenrikyou gatherings, (altough I guess there are people who are doing it on their own). In contrast most people that do Shinto seem to be doing so pretty much on their own, or in looser organisations. People often ask me "How do I join Shinto ." I am at a loss to answer since there does not seem to be anything to join. With Tenrikyou there is an organisation to join.

Tenrikyou has some books written by the founder which have teachings, and constitute scripture. Shinto only has the myths and norito which do not contain much in the way of teachings, except under interpretation.

Tenrikyou people do a lot of sort of dancing or movement, starting with only the hands and the other parts of the body. Some of the forms of Tenrikyo dance resemble the Japanese dance style popular in the late 1990's, called "Parapara." By way of purification ritual, Tenrikyou-ers are inclined to perform various types of dance for long periods of time.

Tenrikyou believes in an encompassing or supreme deity. This tendency is observed in many of the Shinto related groups (I am not sure if it is appropriate to say "sect") e.g.. Kurozumikyou = Amaterasu Oomikami (the Sun Goddess) Tenrikyou = Oyasama or Tenri, or "God the Parent" Konkokyou = Tenchikane-no-Kami, Konko-Sama

It is not entirely clear to me whether "Shinto" has has an encompassing or supreme deity or not. Often Amaterasu is claimed to be head of the Shinto Pantheon by Shrine priests educated in the Shinto-universities under the auspices of "Jinja-honcho." Even above Amaterasu, or any of the other gods above, nature or cosmos is oftern revered as the absolute (contrast Christianity). Finally, perhaps *all* the shrines in Japan bear the unsaid message "Behold, this god here before you is the ultimate god!" so that the disctinction between the sects/groupings about and Shinto as a whole is non existant. If so then only difference may be that the above groupings have scripture which states this clearly. But all the same, there seems to be a tendency for the groups above to have a more focussed towards one god and have a *slightly* monotheistic tendency. Tenrikyou is particularly notable in that respect. Tenrikyou is particularly focussed on "the parental god". (But then again, I repeat, it seems to me, that a lot of Shinto-ists are *not* polytheistic like Greeks, with a god of wine, a god of music, a god of this that and the other, but simply worship the one deity of their local shrine. In this sense, Shinto-ists seem to bear some resemblance to monotheists, that believe there are other monotheisms!)

Tenrikyou like some of the other groups, has a founder or prophet. Often the founder had some sort of experience of rapture/enlightenment. Shinto does not really have a founder.

The word Tenri means "Heaven's Reason/Law (ten=heaven, ri=reason/law/order)" and Tenrikyou stresses the rational nature of the divine. I am not sure what "rational" means but it may mean, "can be expressed in words." Particularly in Tenrikyou, the divine can be expressed by the written word via "the tip of the writing brush." I may be completely wrong but it seems to me that one of the defining characteristics of Shinto is its *non-linguistic-ness.* Not only are there no scripture in Shinto but Shinto seems to me to assert that there could be no scripture since the divine is not rational (by the above definition). Obviously since there is no written scripture there is no such assertion. Any such assertion would fall foul of the liar's paradox. The bravest attempt to blast through that paradox, or aim at its heart, is in Zen (which may have been Shinto influenced?). Zen claims, in words, that the absolute can be cannot be expressed in words, with lots of finger waving and other attempts to say the unsayable.

All the same, especially when I was young, I used to really like the "tip of the brush metaphor" since it seemed to me that the place where the divine revealed itself is precisely at the meeting point between language and the world, most stricklying at the point where language is formed on the surface of paper. In this medium perhaps we might pay attention to what is happening, "at the cursor".

Finally, "Tenrikyou" seems to me to merge some of the . (Perhaps therefore I should join!). Please compare the Tenrikyou "quick summary of teachings" with the basic teachings of Christianity. I am not sure what the basic teachings of Christianity are, they are, but they seem to overlap a lot with what is written here.
Posted by timtak at 03:16 PM | Comments (7)