In Tenrikyo, the word danji-ai is often used together with the word neri-ai. [The suffix -ai in both of these words shows reciprocity and is translated by such words as "mutual" or "one another," as found in other Tenrikyo terms: tate-ai (mutual respect, or respecting one another), tasuke-ai (helping one another), satoshi-ai (bringing understanding to one another)].
The root of the word neri-ai is neru, which means to bring something to the proper texture or consistency by mixing it with something else or treating it in some way, usually in the sense of working with something that is hard or coarse until it is pliable, soft, or refined. It is used in the following instances: 1) to make (silk) soft and glossy by boiling; 2) to heat and knead; 3) to temper (steel); 4) to moisten and knead (dough); 5) to tan (hides); 6) to refine or polish (plans, compositions) by reworking them; 7) to refine or polish ( mind or spirit, skills ) by training; 8) to acquire experience; to make self-improvement or spiritual development.
The last two definitions, seen from the standpoint of faith, show that the word neri-ai means to refine one another's minds, to polish one another's minds, to deepen one another's faith. We are all seeking the intention of God the Parent and trying to follow it in any given situation in the light of Oyasama's divine Model. Neri-ai, therefore, refers to the act of opening our hearts to one another to discuss with one another and encourage one another, helping one another discover what we should do to meet the will of God, how we should understand God's intention, and what kind of mind we should have to make progress in this effort.
From the beginning of the year 1887, Oyasama was bedridden due to poor health. The followers at the Residence discussed the matter night and day in the true spirit of neri-ai. On January 24, which was New Year's Day by the lunar calendar, She told them: "Sah, sah, we have discussed thoroughly. I have accepted your sincerity fully."
We, too, should have serious neri-ai, such as will be fully accepted by Oyasama.
(The above is a translation--first published in the July 1990 issue of TENRIKYO--of an article excerpted from Omichi-no-kotoba by Yoshikazu Fukaya, published by Doyusha Publishing Company.)