As reported in last month’s issue, Tenri University’s Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion is currently presenting a public lecture series entitled “Modern Society and Tenrikyo.” The third lecture in the series was delivered on June 25 by Prof. Midori Horiuchi, researcher at the institute, who explored the significance of Tenrikyo Women’s Association’s commemorating its 100th anniversary. Below is a translation of the summary of her lecture published in the Tenri Jiho newspaper.
This year marks the 100th year since the founding of Tenrikyo Women’s Association. As we live in an age that seeks to realize equal participation of both sexes whereby men and women fully exercise their abilities while respecting each other’s human rights, I would like to consider in this light the significance of the association’s reaching the juncture of its 100th year.
The first thing that comes to my mind upon hearing or seeing the number “one hundred” is a passage from Instruction Three, issued by the former Shinbashira in 1981 during the lead-up to the Centennial Anniversary of Oyasama. It is the passage that said, “The number one hundred implies a return to one, a new beginning.”
At the 100th Anniversary Convention, Women’s Association President Harue Nakayama stated, “[W]e spent the years leading up to this significant juncture of our association’s 100th anniversary by seeking to return to the origin and bring our association into accord with the way it was intended to be.”
In order for us Women’s Association members to return to the origin and bring ourselves into accord with the way we were intended to be, we first need to carefully examine the series of the Divine Directions that led to the founding of the Women’s Association and remind ourselves of the objective as well as the mission intended for the association.
As indicated by the passage “Women, at this time, set about as the Women’s Association. This is not begun by human beings. It is God who has you begin it” (Osashizu, March 25, 1898), the greatest characteristic of the Women’s Association, I think, lies in the fact that God had us begin it.
Other relevant passages are: “Is it a man or woman who opened this path? You can understand everything if you look at it from this perspective. . . . The Women’s Association is for the path of single-hearted salvation. If you clearly perceive all aspects of the course of the path you have taken, a true feeling will well up in your minds” (Osashizu, March 26, 1898), and “I make no discrimination between men and women. . . . You do not understand this truth at all” (Osashizu, October 26, 1898).
From these passages, we can discern God’s parental concern in instructing the women who were serving at the Residence—yet had very few opportunities to go outside—to come out to the fore so as to follow the path of single-hearted salvation with the Women’s Association as their basis.
A phrase often used to symbolize the Women’s Association is “foundation of the path.” Originally this phrase became well known after Yoshie Nagao delivered a lecture entitled “Women Are the Foundation of the Path” during her mission tour in March 1925. Thereafter, with the conviction that even women can become the foundation of the path because God makes “no discrimination between men and women,” a spontaneous awareness as followers of the path came to be conspicuous among the women in Tenrikyo.
The foreword to the April 1926 issue of Michi no tomo points out the reason for the “sharp rise” of women followers by referring to this lecture: “This is due to women’s natural awakening. . . . The very cause of this awakening was the lecture delivered by an earnest and devout woman.”
In an article in the September 1938 issue of Michi no tomo, a Women’s Association member talks about her memory of the association’s first president, Tamae Nakayama. She recalls that the first president always exhorted the committee members by saying, “As God teaches ‘there is no discrimination between men and women,’ you have to make yourselves shine.” She goes on to state that “this spirit of women is reflected” in the fact that both the planning and building of Tenri Kindergarten and Tenri Day Care Center were all accomplished by the work of women alone.
It seems clear from the above that the “foundation of the path”—which symbolizes the ideal image of a Tenrikyo woman—should signify studying and learning the Divine Model and the teachings and, furthermore, proactively coming to the fore so as to follow the “path of single-hearted salvation as an association member.”
At the present time, when women’s positions in society are changing, we Women’s Association members are required to settle firmly in our hearts the divine intention behind the founding of the association as seen in the Divine Directions, study the teachings, and engage in salvation work, thus striving to make further spiritual growth with the Divine Model as our dependable guide.
In my effort to return to the origin and bring myself into accord with the way I was intended to be in this seasonable time, I always carry with me a copy of the Ofudesaki in the commemorative pouch I received at the convention.