Besseki Lectures

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The Besseki 別席 (also called the “Besseki lecture”) is a 90-minute lecture delivered at Jiba. Its contents cover the basic teachings and narratives of the Tenrikyo faith. The Besseki is said to prepare a person so he or she may receive the sacrament of the Sazuke with a purified heart/mind. Anyone aged 17 and over may attend the Besseki.

Besseki literally means “separate seat.” The term is used in contrast to the Honseki or “Main Seat,” the “seat” where the Sazuke is bestowed. It is assumed that this term for the lecture originated to reflect the ideal that they be delivered in a quiet, separate room.[1]

Current Besseki system

To receive the Sazuke under the current system, a person must first recite the Besseki pledge and attend the lecture nine times. Those residing in Tenri and its immediate vicinity are only allowed to attend one lecture a month.

However, exceptions are made for people who live far from Jiba. Depending on where they live, people may attend two, three, five, or all nine lectures in a single visit.[2][3] Further, students of Shuyoka (the three-month Spiritual Development Course in Jiba) who have not received the sacrament of the Sazuke may attend up to nine lectures within three months.

That a person must attend nine lectures before receiving the sacrament of the Sazuke is said to symbolize the nine months a baby spends in its mother’s womb.[2][4] The entire process of attending the lectures and receiving the sacrament of the Sazuke is also likened to undergoing a spiritual rebirth.

Overseas followers have the option of completing the nine lectures in five days. This is possible by attending lectures in both the morning and afternoon for four of these five days. There is a requirement to take a break in either the morning or afternoon somewhere in the middle of the five days.[5]

Here is a condensed version of the process to become a Yoboku

  • Besseki Pledge (o-Chikai お誓い)
  • First Besseki (hatsu-seki 初席) usually done on the same day and time of the pledge but not necessary
  • Second to eighth Besseki (naka-seki 中席)
  • Final Besseki (man-seki 満席)
  • Sazuke Bestowal (o-Hakobi お運び) and Post-Bestowal Lectures (Kariseki 仮席)

It could be said that reciting the pledge or receiving the Sazuke (becoming a Yoboku) would amount to the closest thing Tenrikyo has to a conversion/ordination ceremony.

Attending the Besseki lectures


  • Anyone 17 or above is eligible to attend a Besseki lecture, including those who will turn 17 during the particular month they wish to begin attending the lectures.[6]
  • To attend the Besseki, one must get an application and Besseki attendance slip from their directly supervised church or followers dormitory before coming to the Besseki reception desk located on the ground level of Oyasato-yakata Left Wing 1. Note there may be particular requirements to be met depending on one’s church affiliation before attendance of the lectures can begin.
  • One must undergo an “examination” by reciting the Besseki pledge in front of a Tenrikyo minister before attending one’s first lecture.
  • Then, after showing one’s attendance slip at the Besseki reception desk, the staff will stamp the slip with the date and session (morning/afternoon) and hand out a blue chip that identifies the room where the lecture will be delivered. The room will usually be on the second floor.
  • Yoboku who have brought someone to Jiba to attend the Besseki have the option to audit the lecture. The Yoboku must bring an audit application (bocho-negai 傍聴願) from directly supervised church or followers dormitory.

Besseki reception desk hours

Morning lecture registration hours Afternoon lecture registration hours
Regular days 8:00–9:30 12:00–1:30[7]
Spring Grand Service Day (Jan. 26) 8:00–9:30 None
Oyasama Birth Celebration Service Day (April 18) None 2:30–3:30
Autumn Grand Service (Oct. 26) and Monthly Service Days (26 other than Jan. and Oct.) None 1:30–2:30

Interpretation services

  • Interpretation is provided for prospective attendants of the Besseki. For language assistance in any language besides Japanese, one should request one’s head minister or dormitory staff to contact the Translation Section of the Overseas Department for accommodability of language and/or to make an appointment with a Translation Section staff member to assist during the pledge.
  • English Language assistance for the Besseki lecture itself comes in the following forms:
    • Listening to an audio recording of someone narrating a translation of the Besseki Manuscript. The lecture is said to have been translated and recorded in some 30 languages.[8]
    • Requesting a live interpretation through earphones.
    • Requesting a live English Besseki (Availability limited depending on the season).

Precautions/ Etiquette during the Besseki

  • The Besseki is roughly 90 minutes long. Please use the restroom before the lecture begins. If you leave the room during the lecture, your attendance will not count.
  • No eating, drinking, and smoking in the Oyasato-yakata buildings.
  • Please turn off all electronic devices such as cell phones before the start of the lecture.
  • No note-taking or audio/video recording during the lecture.
  • If you feel sick during the lecture and need to leave the room, please exit through the back door. Inform the staff and a room where you can rest will be made available to you.
  • At the end of the Besseki, the lecturer will ask everyone attending to practice the hand movements of the seated service.
  • The lecturer will call the name of each person attending the lecture and hand back the attendance slip. Please remain seated until your name is called.

Very important! Do not lose your Besseki attendance slip or drop it in water. It is the only record of one’s attendance. If one happens to lose it, one will have to begin once again from reciting the Besseki pledge.

The Besseki Pledge

The current text of the Besseki pledge was adopted on January 5, 1948.[9] The English translation of this text has been revised at least on one occasion.

The purpose of the pledge is to ensure a person has the right mindset as well as a basic grasp of Tenrikyo terminology prior to beginning the process of attending the lectures. The pledge goes as follows:

We call God the Parent, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.
God the Parent is God of Origin, God in Truth, who created human beings and the world where there was no form.
God the Parent revealed the divine will to humankind through Oyasama as Shrine. It is due to Oyasama that we learned of the will of God the Parent for the first time.
Oyasama is Miki Nakayama.
God the Parent created human beings to see their Joyous Life and share in it. Thus the Joyous Life is the goal of our existence.
I have come to know of God the Parent through the guidance of __________* and have learned of the divine will. And because I desire to understand it more clearly and to fix it in my mind, I have returned to Jiba at this time.
We are taught that the Jiba is the place where God the Parent resides and where the Service for universal salvation is performed.
I desire to learn the teachings of God the Parent thoroughly at Jiba, to follow the Divine Model of Oyasama with adoration, and to bring satisfaction to God the Parent and happiness to others.
(*) Here, people reciting the pledge state the reason they came to know of the teachings. Examples: (1) name of the person who guided them to the teachings or invited them to the Besseki lectures, (2) "my parents' faith," (3) "illness," or (4) "personal problems."

Besseki content

The basic structure of the lecture (based on the Besseki Manuscript) is:

Creation of the Besseki system and Besseki manuscript

Oyasama originally bestowed the Sazuke to adherents whom she felt were spiritually qualified, and Izo Iburi, in his role as the Honseki, initially continued to do the same beginning in March 1887, bestowing the grant to missionaries who showed great devotion and acumen for bringing in new followers.

However, the rise in Tenrikyo’s membership in subsequent years during increased the demand for Sazuke bestowals and led to the installment of the Besseki system in 1889. The Besseki lectures served to prepare initiates for Sazuke bestowals by inculcating in them basic Tenrikyo tenets and accounts of’s Oyasama’s Divine Model or exemplary life.

When it became known that plainclothes police were secretly attending the lectures in January 1890, an examination was introduced to screen future missionaries before they could begin the lectures and once again before receiving the Sazuke.[10] This examination consisted of reciting the eight forms of dust and the ten aspects of God's providence.[citation needed] This examination was later replaced with the Besseki pledge in 1948.

Lastly, in May 1898, a set of Divine Directions called for the standardization of the content of the Besseki lectures. Concerned over the growing tendency of intermediaries in charge of giving the lectures presenting too many different versions of the Besseki, the Divine Directions instructed Tenrikyo officials to create an official Besseki text to be used by all the lecturers.

This move sought to discourage lecturers from spontaneous sermonizing and clearly represents a routinization of the system that helped initiate new converts in Tenrikyo doctrine. This same set of Divine Directions gave Shinnosuke Nakayama the final authority of overseeing the drafts of this text, known today as the Besseki daihon (Besseki Manuscript or Book of the Besseki). The fact that Izo asked for set of a red clothes to wear before delivering these instructions lent an unprecedented air of legitimacy to the process.[11]

Further reading

  • The Besseki Lectures—Toward Spiritual Rebirth

See also

External links


  1. “Noisy places will not do. You need quiet places. Sah, sah, from each intermediary, the people must be able to understand the divine intention clearly” (Osashizu 1888-08-02 17:00).
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, p. 25.
  3. For current regulations concerning how many Besseki lectures may be taken during each pilgrimage to Jiba according to where a person lives, refer to ようぼくハンドブック Yoboku handobukku, p. 135.)
  4. The Besseki Lectures—Toward Spiritual Rebirth, p. 3.
  5. "As for those who come from afar, they should have days of rest during the course of the nine lectures. Then they can resume attending the lectures. A proper understanding will not arise if the entire course is completed at one go.... Some of those who come from afar should make two trips. Through the nine lectures, one must settle the one truth in the mind "(Osashizu 1889-10-17).
  6. Unless noted, most information in this section is based on The Besseki Lectures—Toward Spiritual Rebirth, pp. 6–9
  7. Information in this chart based on Yoboku's Guide to Tenrikyo, p. 147.
  8. Morishita, Saburo S. Teodori: Cosmological Building and Social Consolidation in a Ritual Dance, p. 137, n. 13.
  9. A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, p. 24.
  10. 植田平一 Ueda Hirakazu. 「おさしづに拝する—別席制度の確立とその思召」 “Osashizu ni haisuru: Besseki seido no kakuritsu to sono oboshimeshi.” 『あらきとうりょう』 Arakitoryo 214 (Winter 2004), pp. 68–69.
  11. Osashizu 1898-05-09 night