The Salvation Service

The Tenrikyo Service is the most important ritual taught by Miki Nakayama. This Service, which is described by several names, but primarily the Salvation Service, was created and taught by Oyasama as the means to the universal salvation of all humankind. The principle of the Service is to have, in the course of the dance and the playing of the musical instruments, all persons, whether performing or attending the Service, become one in mind with God the Parent. The significance of this is that the performers and attendees must sweep all self-centered thoughts from their mind--a process that the Service itself promotes. The main aspects of the Salvation Service are covered in the following.

With the completion of the place of worship, Oyasama began to teach a style of worship all Her own from the year 1866. It was not until 1882 that it came to take the form in which it is performed in our contemporary setting. This special ritual, the Salvation Service, consists of two parts, the first called the Kagura, the Service with the kagura masks, and the second called the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements. That which constitutes the song-text for both is the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Service, one of the three Tenrikyo Scriptures. Whereas the song-text for the Kagura was composed a little at a time in the years 1866, 1870, 1875, and 1882, the Twelve Songs of the Teodori were entirely composed in 1867. Its prelude, the Yorozuyo, was added in 1870.

When She started to teach the Service, Miki asked each disciple in attendance to create their own tune and to arrange their own hand movements to it in accordance with the written text She had completed. The following gives us a clue as to how She taught Her disciples:

When the Twelve Songs were completed, Oyasama told Her attendants: "These are the songs for the Service. Try singing them to the best tune you can find." Each of them sang to his own tune. After listening to it, Oyasama said: "Thank you for your singing, but none of them will do. You should sing them in this way." She sang loudly Herself. Then She told the attendants: "These are the songs of truth. So you must dance to the truth. Try dancing the best way you can." Each of them arranged the dance and showed it to Oyasama. Afterward, She said: "Thank you for your dancing, but no one danced to the truth. You should dance in this way. You should not just dance, you should dance the truth." So saying, She stood up and performed the dance movements Herself in order to teach the attendants (TCH 1976, 13).

She is also reported as saying:

Hands that are limp in the performance of the Service betray a mind that is undisciplined. Also, it will not do to make even a single mistake in the manner of moving your hands. Through this Service, one's life can be renewed. So important is this Service (TCH 1996, 71).

Further, we should take note that when Miki was a child She was very timid and shy. It was only later in Her life--after the age of seventy--that She became uninhibited enough to dance in the company of others.

I had been reserved since My childhood, and it had always been difficult for Me to bring Myself to appear before company, but after I passed seventy I came to rise and dance in company (TCH 1996, 72).

It was not until 1875 that Oyasama identified the Jiba of Origin, the exact spot where humankind was conceived, and the Kagura Service has since been performed around this spot. The significance of the Jiba of Origin is presently threefold: it is the place where God the Parent and Oyasama reside, it is the place where humankind was first conceived, and it is the place around which the Kagura Service is performed. Marking the exact location of the Jiba of Origin is a stand called the Kanrodai, literally the sweet dew stand. The Kanrodai is a hexagonal stand consisting of thirteen tiers. Miki taught that when the Joyous Life takes concrete form "sweet dew" is to descend from the heavens, vividly marking the reality of the world of the Joyous Life. This dew, we are taught, will fall on the apex of this stand only when the desired level of spiritual maturity is reached by all human beings. The performance of the dance with masks, the Kagura Service, presently takes place around the Kanrodai on the 26th day of each month.

In the performance of the Service, dancers representing the ten aspects of the complete providence at the time of human creation perform a ritual that mirrors the creation story (TCH 1993, 20-23). All dancers encircle the Kanrodai and wear their respective kagura masks. During the performance, dancers symbolize by hand gestures God the Parent's complete providence, symbolizing in the present the very workings through which human beings and the world were created. The Service therefore symbolizes the renewal of human creation.

This Service is performed inside the Main Sanctuary that surrounds the Kanrodai. The dancers perform the Service by encircling the Jiba-Kanrodai which is located on the ground level while the players of the musical instruments perform their part on the dais of the Inner Sanctuary. These performers are chosen from among the senior officials at Church Headquarters and alternate roles on a monthly basis.

According to one author, the Kagura Service has three meanings (Hashimoto 1982). The first meaning is found in the construction of a prayer through which performers invoke the blessings of God. It is taught that through this performance, participants can pray to God the Parent so that the power at the time of creation will continue in the present as well as into the future. The second meaning is in the act of the performance itself, where humankind regains the relationship it has lost with God the Parent. In other words, aligning one's mind with the Jiba-Kanrodai through the movements of the dancers that manifest the workings of God the Parent at the time of human creation, a relationship between human beings, as children, and God, as the Parent, is reconfirmed. Finally, the third meaning found in the Kagura Service concerns the importance of being one with God as at the beginning of the world. The participants are reminded of where, why, and how God the Parent created humankind. Accordingly, then, human beings are thus able to live in perfect accord with the will of God the Parent through the performance of the Kagura Service.