Tenri University and Marburg University Commemorate 50 Years of Exchange

Tenri University and Marburg University (Philipps University of Marburg) held an international symposium with the theme “Purification: Religious Transformations of Mind and Body” at Tenri University from September 18 to 20, commemorating the 50th anniversary of academic exchange between the two universities.

Tenri University’s ties with Marburg University―which was founded in 1527 as the world’s first Protestant university―go back to 1960 when the second Shinbashira, Shozen Nakayama, was invited to attend the Tenth International Congress for the History of Religions held at Marburg University. There he reunited with Prof. Friedrich Heiler, who had visited Tenri during the ninth congress held in Tokyo two years before. Since then, the two universities have deepened their exchange through academic research, music, and sports.

In 1975, upon a proposal by Marburg University, a Tenrikyo exhibition entitled “For the Joyous Life of Human Beings” was held at Marburg University’s Central Library. The former Shinbashira and his wife attended the opening ceremony of this exhibition. The present Shinbashira later visited Marburg as well. In 1996, the two universities concluded an academic exchange agreement.

Then, in 2006, the year of Oyasama’s 120th Anniversary, the first joint research project between Tenri University’s Religion Department and Marburg University’s Theology Department was held as a three-day symposium with the theme “Prayer as Interaction” at Marburg University. The fruit of the first project was later published in English as Prayer as Interaction (Tenri University Press, 2007). The symposium this time was, therefore, the second joint research project between the two institutions.

In the pre-session held on the morning of the first day, Tenri University President Masahiko Iburi gave opening remarks, and Mr. Hiroshi Sugai of Tenrikyo Overseas Department―who had studied at Marburg University for a total of five years―gave a lecture entitled “Tenri-Marburg Academic and Cultural Exchanges: Retrospect and Prospect,” in which he recounted episodes of the second Shinbashira’s special ties with three prominent scholars of Marburg University.

On the afternoon of that day, a public session was held with an audience of approximately 150. In his opening address, President Iburi stated: “Religions of the world have emphasized various rites or acts for purifying the mind and body in order to reach the ultimate goal of salvation or enlightenment. We human beings, under the influence of modern rationalism, have been losing sight of how we should really be. I hope this symposium will present valuable suggestions for us to recover it and truly understand the meaning of life.”

Then, Prof. Yoshitsugu Sawai of Tenri University gave a lecture entitled “Purification of the Mind in the History of Religions: Based on the Works of the Second Shinbashira.” By referring to the second Shinbashira’s well-known studies on the Ofudesaki, Prof. Sawai presented the Tenrikyo concept of “purification of the mind” from a perspective of religious studies. This was followed by Dr. Martin Kraatz, former head of Marburg University’s Religionskundliche Sammlung, who gave a lecture entitled “The Religious Circle of Impurity/Pollution and Purification.” After expounding on the origin of the concept of “purification” in relation to human awareness of mortality, Dr. Kraatz presented examples from Judaism and Hinduism.

Closed sessions were held on the next two days. Following the keynote address entitled “Conceptual Patterns in the Analysis of Religious Transformation” given by Emeritus Prof. Michael Pye of Marburg University, 12 scholars from the two sides gave presentations on various relevant themes and exchanged ideas. Mr. Shugo Yamanaka of Tenrikyo Overseas Department gave the final presentation entitled “From ‘Purifying’ to ‘Having Been Purified’: Tenrikyo Practice of Purification,” in which he elaborated on the Tenrikyo concept of “dusts of the mind” in relation to the realization of the world of the Joyous Life.

Prof. Gerhard Marcel Martin of Marburg University, who had played the key role in organizing this symposium, said: “Through exchanging our opinions at a scholarly level, we have been able to deepen our understanding of each other’s doctrine. I hope we can have more opportunities in the future to discuss the various problems our society is facing now.”

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