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Tenri-O-no-Mikoto is the name of God according to Tenrikyo revelation. God is also often called Oyagami-sama, which is usually glossed as God the Parent in English. In some instances, God is referred to as Tsukihi (月日, literally, Moon-Sun), while the expressions "God of Origin" and "God in Truth" are often used to articulate God the Parent's attributes.

Analysis of the word "Oyagami-sama" and divine name "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto"

The divine name of God the Parent, "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto," is composed of the following four kanji:

  1. Ten "heaven"
  2. ri "reason, justice, truth, principle"[1]
  3. Ō : "king"
  4. Mikoto .

"Oyagami-sama" is composed of three kanji:

  1. Oya or "Parent"
  2. gami or kami "god, divinity"
  3. "-sama" , a honorific suffix more reverential than "-san."

Oyagami-sama is commonly rendered into English as "God the Parent."

While the combined term "Tenri" 天理 is regarded in the tradition as the conduit through which God the Parent's protection and workings are deployed and manifested[2], Tenri generally means the "law of nature" and "the way of nature that governs all things."[3]

Analysis of the divine name Tenri-O-no-Mikoto implies that God the Parent is the "king" that oversees the law of nature, yet this attribute of God the Parent does not seem to be emphasized in the tradition. While "Mikoto" is written with the kanji that means life 命, it appears to be rank reserved for special deities and individuals in the Shinto tradition.[4]

Meanings attached to God the Parent's according to Tomokazu Hirano

Theologian Tomokazu Hirano once attatched the following meanings to the four kanji that comprise God the Parent’s name:

  • 天 = the Absolute (zettaisha 絶対者)
  • 理 = cosmos/order (chitsujo 秩序), Providence (setsuri 摂理), Truth (shinri真理)
  • 王 = Lord of Creation (sozo-nushi 創造主), Lord of Protection (shugo-nushi 守護主), Lord of Salvation (kyusai-nushi 救済主)
  • 命 = Life (seimei 生命), subject (shutai 主体)[5]

Attributes of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto / God the Parent

The Tenrikyo jiten (Tenrikyo encyclopedic dictionary) covers the four following attributes of God in detail:

  1. God Revealed (kengensha 顕現者)
  2. God as Creator (sozosha 創造者)
  3. God as Protector (shugosha 守護者)
  4. God as Savior (kyusaisha 救済者)[6]

God Revealed

The Tenrikyo jiten relates that human beings have always sensed a superhuman presence through natural phenomena and subjective experience yet was never in the position to grasp God due to God's transcendent nature. No matter how much human effort was made to seek God, this was impossible as long as God remained "hidden." This was the case until Tenri-O-no-Mikoto / God the Parent personally and directly became revealed "at this time" (lunar calendar 10/26/1838) to clarify the truth of human salvation and illuminate the workings that prepare for this goal. The Tenrikyo jiten asserts that it is important to understand God the Parent / Tenri-O-no-Mikoto as God revealed since this allowed for human beings to become informed God's existence and directly experience the power of God the Parent.[6]

The above appears to be an elaboration of phrases from the Ofudesaki such as "Kami ga omote i (e) arawarete" (God revealed into the open) and "Tsukihi yori kono tabi koko de arawarete" ("Tsukihi is revealed at this place and time").[7]

God as Creator

This attribute of God is described in the Three Scriptures of Tenrikyo as "kono yo o hajimeta Kami" ("God, who began this world"), "Moto no Kami" (the original Kami / "God of Origin"), "Moto koshiraeta Kami" ("God, who made the origin"), "Moto hajimari no Oya" ("Parent of the beginnings of origin") and "ningen hajime Moto no Oya" ("original Parent of human beginnings").[8] Tenrikyo's Story of Creation symbolically describes the creation process as God creating the world and human beings from "where there was no form," collecting various "instruments" and taught the models of man and woman "the divine providence of creating human beings"[9], which suggests a indirect creation process that distinguishes it from creation narratives from other religions such as Genesis that describe God creating humanity from ex nihilo or nothing.

God as Protector

This attribute of God is described in the Three Scriptures of Tenrikyo as "(Shin)jitsu no Kami" (the actual or true Kami / "God in Truth") and "(Shin)jitsu no Oya" ("true Parent").[10] The Doctrine of Tenrikyo relates this attribute in the following manner: "there is nothing in this world whose existence does not depend on divine providence. The unlimited workings of divine providence can be distinctly seen by our eyes, felt by our bodies, and sensed by our minds."[11] The Tenrikyo jiten elaborates on this attribute as follows:

"God the Parent did not simply create human beings and everything else, but also has provided for the existence of all things ever since, and will unchangingly continue to bestow life and protect it for eternity. Teachings indicating that human bodies are 'things borrowed' from God the Parent and that the world is 'the body of God' are straightforward expressions of this truth. Further, God's complete providence has been divided into ten fundamental aspects, with each aspect being given a sacred name. The explanations given through the 'ten aspects of the complete providence' allowing us to understand the exhaustive and all-encompassing nature of God as Protector."[12]

God as Savior

According to The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, God the Parent's purpose of personally becoming revealed through Oyasama as Shrine is attributed to God's desire to "save all humankind."[13] Scripture also says:

"To Tsukihi, all of you throughout the world are My children. My only desire is to save you."[14]

Appearance of "Oyagami-sama" and "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" in the Three Scriptures and other early documents

Tradition holds that the divine name was chanted as "Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" by Kokan when she was sent by Oyasama to spread the fragrance in Osaka.[15] According to The Life of Oyasama, the service (o-tsutome) originally consisted of simply chanting "Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" to the rhythm of wooden clappers.[16]

Religious historian Shigeyoshi Murakami has asserted that Oyasama originally taught her chant as "Namu Tenrin-O" instead of "Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" as it is written in Tenrikyo texts but he cites no source to back up this claim. Murakami insists that it was only natural for Oyasama—who was a committed devotee of Jodo-shu early in her life—to call God the Parent Tenrin-O 転輪王, the wheel-turning king or chakravartin who was the suijaku (垂迹, minor manifestation) of Amida Nyorai in the Buddhist pantheon.[17]

Evidence supporting Murakami's assertion include documents of Tenrikyo's early temporary legal engagements under Yoshida Shinto (the sanction to worship Tenrin-O-Myojin 天輪王明神) and Shingon patronage (the establishment of Tenrin-O-Kosha 転輪王講社) both included the appellation "Tenrin-O."[18]

It is impossible to determine with absolute certainty whether or not Oyasama taught the divine name of God the Parent as Tenrin-O-Mikoto or Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, for there is no surviving document that contains the divine name in her writing. It is unknown whether or not Oyasama ever wrote down the Mikagura-uta on paper at all when she taught it to her followers.[19]

Various extant early manuscripts of the Mikagura-uta have the divine name written both as "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" and "Tenrin-O-no-Mikoto." It is also not known when the practice of intoning "Namu Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" at the end of Songs from the Mikagura-uta (once at the end of the second Song for the Kagura and Eight Verses of Yorozuyo and twice at the end of each of the Twelve Songs) began.

The divine name Tenri-O-no-Mikoto does not appear in the Ofudesaki; God the Parent is referred to in the Ofudesaki with the words "Kami" ("God" or divinity), "Tsukihi" ("Moon-Sun"), and "Oya" ("Parent"). The fact that the divine name is missing from the Ofudesaki may be attributed to how the nine (or 10) hiragana characters of Tenri(n)-O-no-Mikoto てんり(ん)わうのみこと does not easily lend itself to fit in the 5-7-5-7-7 form of waka poetry that the Ofudesaki is written in.

While it is not possible to know whether Oyasama taught the divine name as Tenri-O or Tenrin-O, there is evidence affirming that her followers did refer to God the Parent as "Tenrin-O." The Tenrikyo jiten maintains that the divine appellation Tenrin-O-no-Mikoto was a linguistic corruption of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto in the Yamato dialect, which may be difficult to accept knowing that Oyasama—aside from a missionary trip to Kawachi—never left northern Yamato.

However, they attempt to bolster this argument by the fact that "Tenrin-O" was rarely written as 王 or "turning-wheel-king" in documents written in Oyasama's lifetime but more commonly as 天輪王 "heaven-wheel/circle-king" or 天王 "heaven-road to take/sequence-king" to consciously differentiate it from the Buddhist chakravartin.[20] According to Tenrikyo scholar Masaaki Hayasaka, the kanji 転輪王 was only used during Tenrikyo's brief engagement with Shingon patronage between 1880 and 1882.

While the earliest known manuscript to contain the divine name Tenri-O-no-Mikoto written in the kanji it is written today, 天理王命, can be only traced to 1885[21], the Honseki Izo Iburi has been known to have asserted that the divine name was always known as Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.[22]

The term "Oyagami" does not appear in any of the Scriptures. More research is needed to determine when "Oyagami-sama" became a common term to refer to Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. The divine name "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" appears in the Osashizu on 71 occasions.[23]

External links

(pages nos. refer to hardcopy equivalent)


  1. Spahn, Mark and Hadamitzky, Wolfgang. Japanese Character Dictionary. Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, p. 1113.
  2. 「天理」 "Tenri," 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, p. 578.
  3. Spahn and Hadamitzky, ibid.; 『新明国語辞典』 Shinmei kokugo jiten, fourth edition. Tokyo: Sanshōdō, p. 892.
  4. citation needed. Mikoto can also be written with the kanji 御言 and 尊 (『新明国語辞典』 Shinmei kokugo jiten, p. 1235).
  5. 平野知一 Hirano Tomokazu. 『天理教教典研究』 Tenrikyo kyoten kenkyu 172
  6. 6.0 6.1 「親神・天理王命」 "Oyagami/Tenri-O-no-Mikoto," 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, pp. 141–142. For English equivalent, see A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, pp. 109–111.
  7. Ofudesaki I:3 and Ofudesaki XI:67
  8. "Kono yo o hajimeta Kami" appears in the following verses: Ofudesaki I:43, Ofudesaki III:68, Ofudesaki III:118, Ofudesaki IV:62, Ofudesaki IV:116, Ofudesaki V:39 and Ofudesaki XII:40. "Moto no Kami" appears in Song Three, verse 9 of the Mikagura-uta and Ofudesaki III:15. "Moto koshiraeta Kami": Ofudesaki III:18. "Moto hajimari no Oya": Ofudesaki VI:30. "Ningen hajime Moto no Oya": Ofudesaki VI:55.
  9. The Doctrine of Tenrikyo (tenth edition), Chapters Three and Four.
  10. "Jitsu no Kami" appears in Mikagura-uta Song Three, verse 10. "Shinjitsu no Kami": Ofudesaki 3:85, Ofudesaki 4:35, Ofudesaki 5:49, and Ofudesaki 6:50. "Shinjitsu no Oya": Ofudesaki 6:102 and Ofudesaki 14:79. "Jitsu no Oya": Ofudesaki 10:54.
  11. The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, p. 29.
  12. 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, p. 142.
  13. The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, p. 3.
  14. Ofudesaki 8:4.
  15. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo — Manuscript Edition (third edition), p. 26. (online version)
  16. The Life of Oyasama, pp. 36–37. (online version)
  17. 村上重良 Murakami Shigeyoshi. 『教祖 近代日本の宗教改革者たち』 Kyoso: kindai Nihon no shukyo kaikakusha tachi. Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, p. 45.
  18. 『稿本天理教教祖伝』 Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama-den, p. 100; pp. 148–149. For English translation, see The Life of Oyasama, p. 75; p. 111.
  19. The divine name is clearly mentioned within the first of the Songs for the Kagura and verse eight of Song Nine, which, according to tradition, were composed in 1866 and 1867 respectively.
  20. 「てんりんおうのみこと」 "Tenrin-O-no-Mikoto," 『改訂天理教辞典』 Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, p. 662.
  21. 早坂正章 Hayasaka Masaaki. 「親神称名私考」 "Oyagami shomyo shiko." 『天理教学研究』 Tenrikyogaku kenkyu 21, p. 110; 天理教青年会資料調査班 Tenrikyo Seinenkai Shiryochosa-han. 「教祖伝史料の検討『中山みきノート批判』」 "Kyosoden shiryo no kento: Nakayama Miki kenkyu noto hihan." 『あらきとうりよう』 Arakitoryo 149 (Fall 1987), pp. 68–72.
  22. 「教祖伝史料の検討『中山みきノート批判』」 "Kyosoden shiryo no kento: Nakayama Miki kenkyu noto hihan", pp. 77–78.
  23. There is no entry for "Oyagami" or "Oyagami-sama" in the 『おさしづ索引』 Osashizu sakuin (index) where one would expect one (p. 447). The entry for "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto" appears on p.1589/vol. 2 p. 718.