On one day in the 1880s, a husband and wife brought their child to visit the foundress of Tenrikyo, Miki Nakayama. They visited the foundress to show their gratitude for curing the eye disease of their son.
The foundress calmly sat in the sitting room wearing her red garments, a Japanese style Kimono. The young boy, being only a child of seven or eight, looked around the room without hesitation and found a cluster of grapes on the table, even though his parents were terribly nervous and bowed down in front of the foundress. The imported grape had widely been cultivated in Japan during the Meiji period, but a grape was an exotic food for a child living in a rural area.
The foundress felt the eyes of the child staring at the grapes. She took one cluster of grapes in her hand and spoke as follows:
“It is nice of you to return. Here are some grapes for you. Like these, in the world, everybody is to relate to each other with round minds. This is a path to be followed joyfully by looking forward to the delight in the future.” (Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo)
The foundress explained the ideal way of human being and the world in plain terms while handing the young child the cluster of grapes.
Just as a single grape is connected to a cluster of grapes, each person's "round mind" is connected to others, and this makes the world in harmony. The "round mind" here means the state of people who follow the teachings of the foundress and lead an ideal life complying with the will of God the Parent. The "round mind" is an independent state of individual faith, but the ideal world comes true by joining many such minds together in harmony.
Masao Maruyama, a well-known modern Japanese thinker, emphasized a shift from a society featuring the logic of the value, "to be," to a society featuring the logic of the value "to do" for the reproduction of postwar Japanese society. Japanese modernists like Maruyama hoped to realize a mature modern society sustained by individual people with independent wills who would be able to sound the alarm bell and not repeat the past miserable history.
The postwar Japanese society has basically been aiming for the realization of this kind of mature modern society.
In the postwar period, Japanese people avoided the traditional social ties based on the territorial connection and blood relation. They tried to find a totally new lifestyle and new form of human relations. The population was concentrated in the urban areas, and the farm village communities which supported Japanese society for a long time were dismantled rapidly.
At the same time, the postwar Japanese social system required a separation of politics and religion, and the religious activity is now considered to be voluntary. There has been a shift from "the faith of the house" to "personal faith" emphasized in every domain of society. The traditional religious customs and event in the community declined rapidly and, on the other hand, the new inhabitants who moved to the urban areas demanded new social ties and joined new religions.
In every domain of life, the importance of self-realization by means of personal free intentions has been emphasized. However, the human being cannot live alone. It is basic human nature to live together with others and to help each other. The main role of religion is to connect people one by one in all ages.
During the period of rapid economic growth in Japan, religious teachings have also encouraged the mind of self-help and demanded a continuous effort from people in many cases. One of the expected roles of religion was to give people a chance to succeed in modern society. As postwar modernists frequently emphasized, the foundation of modern Japanese society should be the freedom to choose any lifestyle based on individual intentions. Such independence will be essential for people who live in future too.
However, Japanese people today who face with economic confusion or natural disasters feel an uneasiness in many realms of life. They started to demand a new form of social relations supported by a mutual trust and mutual aid. It is more significant for Japanese people today to build a reliable relationship of mutual trust than to get higher social position or to become a rich person. The time of rapid economic growth brought by Modernism has already passed away. In the modern Japanese society which has begun to demand new sense of values, the role of religion that people need seems to be shifting from the value to support the individual success to the symbiotic consciousness to get over a difficult situation in cooperation with others.
When we consider the contemporary social conditions in which the brutal words such as "social alienation" are well-known to everybody, and the social ties of people are weakened in the systematic and inorganic modern society, I keenly realize the significance of the gentle message of the foundress that I mentioned before. However, the early-modern Japanese society was ruled by a territorial bond and a blood relation. Society was dominated by the institutionalized mutual aid, and it never accepted an act of self-realization based on one’s free will. The mutual aid of people was incorporated into a social system, but personal freedom was limited strictly. The social ties in the traditional Japanese society could be visualized as the beads of a Buddhist rosary symbolically.
In the grape story, however, each grape is not directly connected to each other. Each piece is connected to a peduncle and each peduncle is connected to the branch. Then each piece of grape is provided nourishment and a cluster of grapes get together. The world in which people get together while each person's personality and independence is highly esteemed. The world like this can exist only when we share the root of existence. The image of the ideal world that Tenrikyo’s foundress, Miki Nakayama, showed in plain terms will be a prominent guidance to the contemporary society which confronts the breakdown of traditional community and the contradiction of the modern society.
Let me introduce the following Japanese poem quoted from the sacred text, Ofudesaki, written by the foundress. We need the spirit of this poem to live in the world of instability in future.
Ponder deeply from within your heart
In order to realize that you are saved by saving others. 3-47