Tenri University Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion: Public Lecture Series on the Mikagura-uta: “All Humankind Equally Purified”

Below is a summary of lecture four, which was delivered recently by Kazuhiro Hatakama, researcher at the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, and which addressed the Mikagura-uta’s section three, i.e., the song that contains the line “All humankind equally purified, the Kanrodai.”

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While various interpretations have been made of section three, I would like to base my remarks on Prof. Taketo Hashimoto’s view that “section three celebrates the way God and humans work together for the world of the Joyous Life.”

In order for God and humans to work together, humans, who are to perform the Service, need to respond to God’s parental love that desires to hasten the salvation of all people in the world through the purification of their minds. That is, humans must awaken to God’s parental love and use their own initiative to purify their minds.

Historically, there seems to have been a close connection between Oyasama’s teaching of section three and the following three events: the identification of Jiba, the construction of the stone Kanrodai coming to a halt, and the confiscation of the completed blocks of the stone Kanrodai.

It was in the year Oyasama identified Jiba, 1875, that She taught section three in its original form, which contained the line “The Kanrodai which purifies all humankind equally.” Following that, She also taught eleven different Services, as well.

It is also useful to note in passing that Her teaching of section three came against the backdrop of a series of important events that had occurred in the previous year: Oyasama had two followers visit the Oyamato Shrine to ask the priests about their deity; She was interrogated at the Yamamura Palace by a prefectural official; and Nara Chukyoin forbade followers from believing in their God and banned the divine name given by God.

The Ofudesaki verses written shortly after Oyasama identified Jiba include many that urge the performance of the Service of the Kanrodai. For example, we read: “As to the Service to be done, it is none other than the Service of the Kanrodai” (Ofudesaki X:21). Thus, even at the time when followers were prohibited from using the divine name, Oyasama was emphasizing the importance of performing the Service.

Later, after the construction of the stone Kanrodai came to a halt and the completed layers of the stone Kanrodai were confiscated, Oyasama altered the phrase “The Kanrodai which purifies all humankind equally” to “All humankind equally purified, the Kanrodai.”

Regarding this alteration, Rev. Yoshinaru Ueda wrote in his Okagura no uta: “[This alteration] is God’s loving nudge intended to encourage humans to grow out of relying entirely on divine intervention and start making their own efforts to purify their minds so as to receive God’s blessings. That would represent a great leap forward in the way of practicing their faith.”

Thus, through the series of events relating to the Kanrodai, Oyasama was telling the followers that their goal now was to work to purify their minds–although She also reminded them that this goal was to be achieved through “God and humans working together.”

After all, the Service taught by Oyasama is something that humans need to implement concretely. By teaching section three in the way She did, Oyasama was perhaps indicating that She wanted humans to be more aware and responsible as regards their practice of faith and that the time was ripe for this new level of spiritual practice.

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