"Passing Away for Rebirth" (Denaoshi)

Tenrikyo uses the term "passing away for rebirth" to describe the phenomenon that is generally referred to as "death." In contrast to the usual idea that death is the final end of life, the term indicates that dying is a departure toward starting life anew in this world.

Human beings are considered as comprising a mind (soul) and a body. The body, we are told, is lent by God; it is borrowed from God. Tenrikyo thus refers to the body as "a thing lent, a thing borrowed." We become living beings when we borrow a body from God. "Passing away for rebirth" means returning that body to God, a process that is likened to "casting off an old garment" so as to put on a new one. Through the providence of God the Parent, we are lent a new body appropriate to our mind and are thereby brought back into the world. In this sense, the teaching of "a thing lent, a thing borrowed" acknowledges that human beings have eternal life in this world.

When Oyasama's daughter Kokan passed away for rebirth in 1875, Oyasama stroked her cold, lifeless body and said tenderly: "What a pity! Come back soon." These words, recorded in The Life of Oyasama, teach us that human beings pass away only to be reborn again.

Since the natural term of life is said to be 115 years (Ofudesaki III:100), the end of that term is considered the ideal time for passing away for rebirth. Most people, however, pass away before they reach that age for reasons such as a lack of spiritual growth and God the Parent's loving consideration. We are taught to undergo a spiritual rebirth while still alive so as to transform our "causality" that stems from our dust of the mind. We can see that passing away for rebirth embodies God the Parent's profound arrangements for salvation, which take account of our individual causality shaped by our dust of the mind.

From the way the story of creation describes human beings as passing away for rebirth repeatedly, we may get a sense of how we can grow spiritually. If we pass away for rebirth in full awareness of God the Parent's profound desire to have us live the Joyous Life, we will be gaining an opportunity to build on the progress we have already made and grow to a new level. It is vital in this regard to live our present life sincerely and truthfully. Far from being a mere link in the continual repetition of life and death, passing away for rebirth may be seen as an important catalyst in the creative process of spiritual development toward the world of the Joyous Life.

(This article was first published in the September 2005 issue of TENRIKYO.)