The Japanese term for sacred gift or sacred rice--goku--referred to "offerings to the gods and buddhas" from ancient times. The rice fields where goku-mai--the rice that was to be offered--was grown were commonly known as goku-den. A place which was set aside to prepare offerings was called a goku-sho. Any offerings that were taken down from the altar were also called goku. The general usage of this term has led to a common misconception that the goku or sacred rice we Tenrikyo followers receive is rice that was offered to God the Parent at the Kanrodai in the Main Sanctuary. However, this is not the case.
Presently, we can obtain sacred rice through a missionary or a minister of a church. Yet, this sacred rice is not made at a church or a mission station at the whim of their missionaries or ministers; this sacred rice comes from Jiba. Furthermore, this sacred rice is not the rice offered at and removed from the Kanrodai after the daily services or Monthly Services at Church Headquarters. Rather, it is the rice that we receive from the everliving Oyasama. Cleansed rice (gosenmai) is offered to Oyasama in addition to the meals that are prepared for Her each day at the Foundress' Sanctuary. The rice offered to Oyasama and then removed becomes the goku, or sacred rice. (The place where this sacred rice is placed into paper packets is called the goku-sho.)
Oyasama revealed numerous instances of God's marvelous and wondrous protection out of Her single-hearted parental desire to save all human beings. As a result, people began to yearn after Her and returned to the Residence in an unending stream. Oyasama would give fruits, sweets and other food She happened to have at hand to those who returned. On other occasions, Oyasama gave hattaiko, or roasted barley powder, which She wrapped in paper, to people whose minds She discerned as being sincere in their daily efforts in following the path. When those who received this hattaiko gave it to people who were suffering from illness, instances of God's protection occurred in rapid succession, for which they were very thankful. Such was the reputation of goku--sacred gift--in Tenrikyo.
Among the earliest people who received the sacred gifts in the form of roasted barley powder were Yuki Shimizu who was saved from post-delivery complications and Sato Iburi, Izo lburi's wife who was saved from the aftereffects of a miscarriage. Accounts from the time tell us that the sacred gifts were a mixture of several varieties of grain that was ground into powder. The sacred gifts were later changed to konpeito, a sugar candy, and they presently come in the form of cleansed rice. Although the form of the sacred gifts has changed in this manner, there is no difference in that they are sacred gifts that Oyasama gives us out of Her single-hearted parental love for us, Her children.
In regard to the sacred gifts, the Divine Directions contain instructions that can be paraphrased as follows: "Although you are prone to believe that you are all saved because of the sacred gifts, the issue is not the form in which they come. The form which the sacred gifts come in is no different from the food that you eat on a regular basis. It is not this food itself that is effective but it is the use of your mind that makes it effective. It is different from things such as medicine that is made by measuring the quantities of its ingredients. Instead, it is important to firmly accept Oyasama's deep, single-hearted parental love for you, Her children, and firmly make a resolution of the mind that brings joy to God the Parent and Oyasama." (See the Divine Directions of July 23, 1902, and April 3, 1904.)
The sacred gifts are not only for times when we wish to receive blessings for an illness. Since partaking of the sacred gifts allows us to receive the providence of God the Parent and the parental love of Oyasama, the sacred gifts can also be partaken of when we are about to proceed with a serious consultation, an important task, an entrance examination, or any other significant and potentially life-turning event. When we find ourselves facing such a situation, it is important that we partake of the sacred gifts, receive the providence of the true Parent of this world, and proceed with firm resolution in our mind.
There is another type of sacred rice--the sacred rice for the Grant of Safe Childbirth, which is completely separate from the sacred gifts or sacred rice discussed up to this point. The sacred rice for the Grant of Safe Childbirth consists of cleansed rice especially prepared as offerings to be made at the Kanrodai when the Service for Safe Childbirth is performed. This sacred rice that is bestowed as the Grant of Safe Childbirth embodies the protection from this Service for Safe Childbirth. Needless to say, this sacred rice is also separate from the rice that is included with other offerings of food and drink that are offered when the Service for Safe Childbirth is performed.