Joyous Life

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Joyous Life is the English gloss for "yoki-gurashi 陽気ぐらし," which refers to an ideal existence where all of humanity respects one another and lives in harmony as brothers and sisters (i.e., God's children) and is what the Tenrikyo teachings maintains as the reason why God the Parent created humankind. According to Tenrikyo teachings, God became revealed on 10/26/1838 (lunar calendar) to teach the path that fulfills the divine purpose for human existence.[1]

Analysis of the word "yoki-gurashi"

"Yoki" is written with two kanji characters:

  1. : "yang principle; positive; the sun"[2]; and
  2. ki : "spirit, mind, heart; intention; mood; temperament."[3]

The resulting combined term, yoki, can be translated in a variety of ways, including "joviality" and "mirth."[4]

Helen Hardacre, a scholar of Japanese religions, gives the following explanation:

Ki, “vital force,” “material force,” is the dynamic principle vitalizing all life.... The number of expressions involving ki is virtually infinite, and they are used continually in completely secular settings as well as in religious circles. Ki can be of a yang 陽 nature, 'yoki' 陽気, or it can be of a yin陰 quality, inki 陰気....
In the new religions whether ki is yoki or inki depends upon how it is cultivated. When it is cultivated well, it will be bright, ascendant, radiant, and powerful: yoki. When poorly cultivated, ki is inki, dark, sinking, dull, and weak.[5]

The current and fourth Shinbashira, Zenji Nakayama, has described yoki as: "referring to a state of feeling bright and cheerful as well as a quality that energizes and vitalizes all things" and that it "may be seen as indicating a sense of feeling bright and cheerful, spirited and full of energy."[6]

The convention in Tenrikyo is to write "gurashi" in hiragana, i.e., ぐらし, and not in kanji (暮らし). "Gurashi" or "kurashi" generally means "(daily) living, life."[7]

Definition of "Joyous Life"

It can be said there is some degree of disagreement within the tradition over whether the essential ingredient to attain the Joyous Life is

  1. the attainment of an ideal state of mind; or
  2. an engaged commitment to social causes

Here are two statements that represent each of these perspectives:

  1. "It is my understanding that the expression 'building of the world of the Joyous Life' was once described, at one time not too long ago, as the 'building of the Kanrodai world'.... In my opinion, or from the standpoint of Tenrikyo faith, I would like to declare that the attainment of the Joyous Life comes about by replacing one's own mind. The replacement of one's mind results in the automatic rebuilding of the world since this affects how the world is reflected in one's mind. When reading the Ofudesaki or even other documents that happen to be the basis for various teachings I plan to discuss later, they all repeatedly present the point of replacing mind and the sweeping of the heart. These actions, as of themselves, allow for the world to be reflected joyously [in the mind]. Joyous phenomena occur when the world becomes filled with such minds, that is, when the rebuilding of the world takes place."[8]
  2. "[T]he stories of Oyasama concerning the Kanrodai world are different from the usual stories from heaven and hell. They are stories of an extremely realistic nature, concerning a world of yokigurashi which would appeal even to the masses. We can understand that they indicate a fundamental direction for academic studies, politics and economics, and that these stories should be a guide in our efforts to establish the Kanrodai world.
    "The ideals of God the Parent must be realized in human history. Thus, we must be fully concerned with the problems of our society and country, and attempts to escape from this duty cannot be permitted."[9]

However, it may be argued that a middle path that equally takes the two above perspectives consideration may represent Tenrikyo's ideal.

Appearance of "yoki-gurashi" in the Scriptures

"Yoki-gurashi" only appears in the Osashizu in five instances in four separate passages[10] and does not appear in the Ofudesaki[11] or the Mikagura-uta.

However, similar terms found in the Scriptures include "yoki-zukume" (usually translated as "joyousness") and "yoki-yusan" (translated "joyous life" in lower case in the English Ofudesaki or "joyous play" elsewhere). It is presumed that "yoki-gurashi" became the catchphrase over terms such as "yoki-zukume" (appears 19 times in Ofudesaki, once in the Mikagura-uta) and "yoki-yusan" (appearing prominently in Ofudesaki 14:025) because of the obscure nature of the former term and the latter term sounding somewhat frivolous. Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen in Japan, warned his followers not to indulge in "yusan gansui" (treating the Zen teachings as a type of sightseeing or leisurely activity) in his writings.[12]

Further reading

  • 諸井慶徳 Moroi Yoshinori. 「陽気ぐらし論」 "Yoki-gurashi ron." In 『諸井慶徳著作集』 Moroi Yoshinori chosaku shu, vol. 2, pp. 255–395.

External links

(pages nos. refer to hardcopy equivalent)

  • "Yōki-gurashi." Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, pp. 928–9. For hardcopy English equivalent, see A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, pp. 179–81.
  • "Yōki-yusan." Kaitei Tenrikyo jiten, p. 930. For hardcopy English equivalent, see A Glossary of Tenrikyo Terms, p. 181.


  1. The Doctrine of Tenrikyo (tenth edition). Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, p. 20.
  2. Spahn, Mark and Hadamitzky, Wolfgang. Japanese Character Dictionary. Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, p. 261.
  3. Spahn and Hadamitzky, p. 94.
  4. Entry for 陽気 at
  5. Hardacre, Helen. Kurozumikyō and the New Religions of Japan, p. 20. Princeton University Press.
  6. Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service, October 26, 2004, in Sermons and Addresses by the Shinbashira 1996–2005, p. 271.
  7. Spahn and Hadamitzky, p. 794.
  8. 中山正善 Nakayama Shozen. 『おふでさき概説』 Ofudesaki gaisetsu, pp. 124–5.
  9. Fukaya, Tadamasa. A Commentary on the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Tsutome, pp. 28–9.
  10. 『おさしづ索引』 Osashizu sakuin (index) vol. 3, p. 714/2684. The Osashizu passages that contain "yoki-gurashi" are: Osashizu 1893-02-26, Osashizu 1895-05-28 am, Osashizu 1895-05-31-22, and Osashizu 1907-04-02-08.
  11. Ofudesaki sakuin, p. 227.