Filial Piety (Oya-koko)

by Yoshikazu Fukaya

These days in Japan, the phrase "filial piety" is not heard so often. People may even say that the ties between generations are breaking down. Yet, if we carefully ponder over the fact that we are only alive now because of our parents, we can realize that filial devotion to our parents should be regarded as natural human behavior and indeed an indispensable part of being human in all ages.

In Tenrikyo, we are taught that God the Parent brings us together in a parent-child relationship by discerning the causalities of our previous lives so that we can repay our indebtedness to each other as parent and child as well as help each other work off our causalities.

A Divine Direction says:

Becoming parent and child is entirely due to causality. If you fail to honor your parent, forget the truth of your parent, or treat your parent unkindly, therefs no telling what kind of world may be waiting ahead.

Osashizu, April 9, 1907

The Divine Direction cautions that, if we give no thought to our great indebtedness to our parents and repeatedly take unfilial attitudes to them, there is no knowing what our next life will be like.

Filial piety is not something that parents should demand from their children. Nor is it something that children should be forced to practice on ethical or moral grounds. Babies are given birth at the cost of so much pain and sacrifice on the part of their parents. Despite having no power to protect themselves or any knowledge to sustain themselves, they can survive because their parents protect and nurture them with love and devotion. We may say that, in the hearts of children, a feeling of affection for their parents will naturally and spontaneously well up as they grow older and that this feeling will lead to filial piety.

An important point to note here is that Tenrikyo's concept of filial piety is fundamentally different from that which comes from the traditional Japanese institution of a household or Japan's pre-war moral education. Oyasama taught that the true and original Parent of all humanity is God the Parent and that all human beings are equal children of God. Human parents are entrusted by God with the task of raising and nurturing their children in accord with the intention of the true Parent on behalf of God the Parent. The Kakisage* given to those under the age of thirty stresses the importance of showing filial devotion to their parents. What is taught in the divine writing is that, since tracing parentage all the way back to the very beginning will bring us to the true Parent of Origin, God the Parent, our filial piety to our parents will be accepted as piety toward God.

Oyasama taught us the depth of our indebtedness to the true Parent who gives life to all of us and sustains our lives and the path of extending gratitude and making repayment to the source and origin of our lives. As a means of making repayment to our true Parent, the source of our lives, we are taught to show filial piety to our parents.

* The Kakisage refers to the text that is given to recipients of the truth of the Sazuke when they attend the Post-Bestowal Lectures. At present, the Kakisage is written on two sheets of paper. The part written on the first sheet is much longer than that on the second. There are two versions of this first part. The version given to those under thirty contains an additional passage, which instructs them to give sufficient attention to their occupations and practice filial piety.