Repentance (Sange)

by Yoshikazu Fukaya

Most dictionaries would describe the meaning of zange* or repentance as the process of becoming aware of one's past misconduct, expressing regret, and confessing them to the gods and buddhas.

There is an expression in Buddhism, "zange zanmai," that refers to repenting all one's past transgressions. In Christianity, the practice of confessing sins one committed in the past and asking for God's forgiveness is considered important for followers. This is especially so in the Catholic tradition, where followers repent and confess to a priest--known as a "confessor"--who is said to dispense forgiveness in God's place.

In the Osashizu, we read:

I shall accept repentance from this point on. Good things and bad things all have their [respective] truth. As long as there is truth, its principle will be set into motion.

Osashizu, April 20, 1898

As stated in the entry on causality, all the seeds we sow bear fruit. Sowing good seeds will bring good buds and good fruit. Sowing bad seeds will bring bad fruits. Thus, we are taught that when something happens that makes us aware of our mistake, we should genuinely repent. God the Parent will then accept our sincerity in repenting and provide us with protection. We are also taught in a Divine Direction that can be summarized as follows: "Talk and discuss among yourselves. Upon settling God the Parent's intention in your minds, become persuaded of what is right and wrong. Understand your mistakes and shortcomings and dispel all negative thoughts from your minds. Thus making sure there are no dark or cloudy thoughts in your minds also amounts to expressing repentance." (Refer to Osashizu from October 16, 1898).

Here we find that "repentance" is also regarded as important in Tenrikyo. However, this does not simply include becoming aware of and confessing our wrong use of mind or mistaken manner of doing things. First of all, it is important to firmly have appreciation for God the Parent's profound parental love that guided and cared for us to the present despite such use of our mind and manner of doing things. It is perhaps appropriate to say that a wholehearted "repentance" is possible precisely when we savor the infinite love of God the Parent that allows joy and gratitude to well from within. Further, a self-awakening made possible with a wholehearted "repentance" allows us to fully experience and savor the profound depth of God the Parent's blessings

Among God the Parent's instructions, we read:

You must express repentance if you feel joyous at discerning from your inner core a causality from the past, after hearing these instructions for this time.

Osashizu, January 28, 1891

In Tenrikyo, what matters most is how we determine our mind to take certain steps hereafter and implement our resolution when we express "repentance." The path of "repentance" does not merely consist of apologizing for our past by merely feeling guilty and sorry, but is embodied in our efforts thereafter.

God the Parent has instructed:

Sah, sah, repentance, repentance. It is repentance if you listen and keep to the path.

Osashizu, June 20, 1890

Repentance in thought is not enough. To put it into action is truly to repent.

Osashizu, April 4, 1896

Repentance for the past need hardly be discussed. Repentance upon seeing something. Repentance when shown something. I am talking about things that lie ahead. Repentance is to resolve all situations that lie ahead for the rest of your life.

Osashizu, February 8, 1892

Further, we are taught:

To say what repentance is, repentance is to never relapse hereafter into the future. I have nothing more to instruct you in if you settle this hereafter into the future.

Osashizu, April 9, 1907

Thus, we are taught that true "repentance" consists of fully pondering on God the Parent's intention, determining how we are to live our lives hereafter, and implementing what we have determined without error.

*Translator's note: While generally pronounced zange, it is a convention in Tenrikyo to refer to the same term as "sange."