Looking all over the world and through all ages,
I find no one who has understood My heart.

A poem in Miki's own hand writing

It was in January of 1869 that the poems now called the TENRIKYO OFUDESAKI began to be written down by Miki Nakayama,"An old woman of 72 years" on scraps of paper of various sizes and shapes that She had smoothed out and saved to be used as writing material. The poems were composed on and off over an approximate period of thirteen years from 1869 to 1882 and from time to time were responses to various individuals in an attempt to clear away the misunderstanding of Her intention and teaching as both were, according to Her, misunderstood by everybody who heard them. Since She had been teaching and modeling a path of universal single-hearted salvation  by then for over thirty years it is of critical importance to the understanding of the poems to be able to identify and separate the misunderstandings that are addressed by the poems from the intended meaning that the poems are meant to convey.

Indeed the Poems make some astonishing claims by offering a path of single-hearted salvation that leads to joyous life and true satisfaction in al things by freeing us of all of the evils that trouble the human mind and cause us so much suffering; such as illness, weakening, including natural disasters, earth quakes and tsunamis and even death by revealing the original cause of all, the true origin of the human mind and truth of self.

This time, I teach single-hearted salvation,
beginning once more that which never existed.

Translated into English as "The Tip of The Writing Brush". It is a title that has been used more than once in Japanese literature and in this case refers to poems curated and published by the Tenrikyo Church Headquarters as  "OFUDESAKI English, Japanese, and Romanization" 1998 (6th) edition. Though the poems still maintain their form as poems in 1710 stanzas the original "Waka" metre is not attempted or employed in the translation.

To make the poems easily accessible for the people that they were initially composed for, they were primarily written in ordinary phonetic "Hiragana" Japanese characters as opposed to the perhaps more difficult and inaccessible  "Kanji" Chinese characters that are also used in the Japanese writing system. To further the ease of access for the villagers the poems employ the normal spoken language and idioms of the time and place; which was Shoyasiki Village, Yamabe County,Yamato Province in the mid to late 19th Century. The poems themselves were written in the "Waka" poetic style. That style of poem is most often used to relate the course of a dialog, often an expression of  love, between persons. In this case the love, regret and frustration of the original parent of all is addressed to the depressed minds of the "children" (children to be understood as all human beings in all times and places). It is important to remember that the poems are not intended to be a scholarly work requiring specialized education to understand but rather a simple and straightforward expression of parental love written for people living in a community whose world view was narrowly set by the common truths of their culture. Though the time and place has since changed that still describes the current situation of all of the minds of the world.  It is vitally important for anyone who wishes to realize the intended outcome (awakening to the truth of origin, the original cause of all things) of the poems that both sides of the conversation be clearly identified else it is quite possible to end up identifying with and attaching to the causality of the side of the conversation that represents the doubt and misunderstanding of the self-centered imaginations of the "children" as opposed to the clear instructions and intention of the mind of the Parent. 

To God, who began this world,
All of you in the world are equally My beloved children.

This is a my personal interpretation of the poems since being one of the "children" of the original parent of all, the poems are addressed to me as well as to everyone else. This fact of universal application and access to the truth of this teaching has been somewhat difficult for us "children" to digest, which is of course just one of the reasons why the teaching is so easily misunderstood. Ordinary common sense would place these poems within the context of Japanese cultural tradition and limit its expected reach to a niche occupied by one of the "new religions". These days the label "counter intuitive" is often used to describe facts that do not sit well with our reasonable "common sense" view of a particular matter. The difficulty that we may personally have in understanding this teaching was and continues to be compounded by pressures from sincerely concerned family, peers and authorities who feel that they know best for us and our community and would be satisfied if the common truths that currently occupied their minds remained in place and undisturbed. Fortunately for us, since the entire teaching involves the state of our individual mind we can work on testing and realizing the truth of it privately in an intimate single-hearted dialog to take place at the core of our own mind.

This talk is not someone else's concern.
It is a matter of your own and you single-heartedness with God.

As a child then of the original parent my intention will be to identify and highlight clear and concise instructions and contrast those instructions with the misunderstandings that cloud my own mind as well as of the depressed minds and thinking of the children of the world as those states of mind are addressed and shown in the poems. I do not intend to write a history but rather would like to record the steps of a living dynamic instruction manual for awakening from depressed thinking to a joyous life. Though ease of access is intended in the distribution of the poems, as is often the case, the understanding of poetry often requires the aid of a poetry teacher. In this regard I have had many poetry teachers but will "lean on" Zenye Nakayama, the 3rd Shinbashira of Tenrikyo, whose elucidation of three interpretations of the "Model of Parental Love" ( An interpretation from a child's point of view, an interpretation from a parent's point of view and the interpretation of someone who is following the path of single-hearted salvation. Sermon 2/18/1986) was a breakthrough for me in the way that I understood all of the poems and indeed for my understanding of the long journey of our human species in all times and places. With those three interpretations in mind I invite the reader to start again from the beginning with the sincere intention of quickly settling one's own mind in accord with the mind of our original parent, the mind of single-hearted salvation in all matters.

From now on, please quickly make preparations
truly to purify your innermost heart.
As there are a great number of people in the world,
to purify all of them will be difficult.
However difficult it may be,
see the truth through your own mind!

It was in the Fall of 1838 that in the midst of a magical healing ritual that Miki Nakayama's true sincerity manifested the causality of return. As the story goes, Ichibei Nagano a notable, highly respected and rather expensive and therefore exclusive healing monk was once again hired by the Nakayama family to conduct a healing ritual in which for the first and only time Miki Nakayama a forty-one year old housewife, living on a farm and mother of five acted as a medium. On that day Ichibei's regular medium was unavailable for the ritual so Miki, unwilling to wait because of the pressing illness experienced by her son, her husband and herself agreed after some coaxing, to take on the role of medium during the ritual. It was a roll which she took very seriously and conscientiously in conformity with her well known reputation for piety.  Having done so, she sincerely followed the instruction commonly given to mediums to completely empty her mind so that Ichibei could employ his ritual magic to send the Gods and spirits that were causing illness in the Nakayama family out of the house through the empty mind of the medium and back to where they had come from; and in so doing cure the spiritual cause of the illnesses that were being experienced by the Nakayama family.

 In this instance however the ritual was disrupted and brought to a close as unexpectedly and unintentionally Miki's ordinary self-centered imagination settled (in Tenrikyo terms this is the preordination or causality of origin) and was replaced by the original conscious mind of God, the true origin of human beings and the original cause of all things in detail. That moment of  return and awakening also marks the beginning of the three interpretations of the path of single-hearted salvation that She tirelessly worked at opening.

Importantly for the rest of us, beginning then from the stable foundation of the original consciousness, the mind of God, She was then in a position to embark upon the task of opening new paths of "single-hearted salvation" for all human minds regardless of the time, the place or the previous content of our self centered imaginations so that each of us can, if we wish, awaken to the truth of our origin the original cause of all things in detail just as She did. In fact, just to be sure, She tested the path for quickly awakening on Herself before offering it to all of the "children" or self-centered imaginations of the world. Going forward then and teaching with the intention that it be equally available and applicable to everyone everywhere without discrimination. The only criteria for the completion of the path and awakening being "true sincerity" in following the instructions in correct order and exactly as given.


It is noteworthy and a key element of the "Model of Parental Love" that She distributed seventeen  different "books" of poems to different people each one crafted to respond to a class of  misunderstanding, overcome objections and accord with the predisposition and maturity of the person who received them. Once again we want to be especially careful in our approach to the poems that we do not attach to the misunderstandings addressed and focus instead on identifying and practicing the teaching that is intended to overcome them. In this regard it is useful to bring to mind the passage of time and the declarations of the mind of our parent concerned with the misunderstanding or level of understanding of the path of single-hearted salvation of those close to Her as well as those who had come to Her for aid She having begun to teach in 1838 and beginning to write down the poems collected as Ofudesaki in 1869. In the poems She noted that in fact no one, even those close to Her, was able to understand Her intention and teaching. I make this point not as a criticism of those who came to Her for help but to emphasize the fact that knowing and understanding the intention and teaching of single-hearted salvation is not a trivial matter and is not something that can be settled in an ordinary way. 


Unfortunately for us our common way or reasoning, the very foundation of our thought process, finds it difficult and according to some, impossible to realize, know and understand the single-hearted salvation of all things as taught by the mind of our original parent. That is because the default interpretation of the teaching of single-hearted salvation is the "interpretation of a child" and though that interpretation knows nothing about the truth of its origin, the true origin of human beings, the true origin of the mind, by the time that we hear of the single-hearted interpretation our mind has already accumulated and settled on all kinds of "truths of the world" that cause our imaginations to "tumble away" from the work of awakening. In so doing frustrating our sincere efforts to know and understand the meaning and intention of the path of single-hearted salvation. The Ofudesaki poems then are directed at human minds that sincerely want to awaken to single-hearted salvation but have so far have not been able to do so. The "interpretation of a child" then isn't wrong, it just misses the mark as it approaches the work of awakening with a default foundation for reasoning that just isn't up to the task at hand. Again the "interpretation of a child" isn't wrong and if we chose we are welcome to continue on with it. We will all return to our origin but some of us might find that we would rather do that now, "at once" as opposed to at the time when the body ceases to function. Intentionally awakening requires a fundamental way of reasoning that is different from our ordinary fundamental way of reasoning.


Responding to our sincere difficulty in understanding both the intention and instructions for completing the path of single-hearted salvation, our original parent is willing to work tirelessly and employ all means necessary to help us to mature to the point that our mind is up to the task and able to complete the work of awakening to the knowledge and understanding of the truth of our origin, the true origin of our mind. This willingness to employ all means necessary is the "interpretation of the parent" and in Tenrikyo is shown as the willingness to "pass through together" the sincere misunderstandings of the path of single-hearted salvation while working toward the goal of maturity and awakening. There is a fundamental insight that is recognized by the 'interpretation of a parent" and that is that everything has the same origin; no two human minds are exactly the same. To reach out to the varied flavors of the human imagination in all times and in all places it is necessary for the "interpretation of a parent" to employ all appropriate means. Appropriate means being ways of working at awakening that lead back to the truth of our origin, the origin of human mind, the true heart of our original parent, the mind of God.


We call our human species Homo Sapiens, Sapiens. In brief that means that we regard ourselves as being in possession of a degree of knowledge about the world that separates us from the rest of the animal world and we are very proud of that fact. I have already mentioned the fact that the foundation of our reasoning is not up to the task at hand and as such needs to be replaced. That replacement of the foundation of our thinking is what single-heartedness is all about and it is something that we can all do, however we find it really hard to make the necessary replacement because we automatically mix in knowledge that we have accumulated in our old way of reasoning and that immediately spoils the task of awakening. That means that we are taking something that is simple and fundamental and complicating it to the degree that it is no longer fundamental but is instead a mixture and restatement of the same knowledge and understandings that we were dissatisfied with in the first place.


When faced with something that is entirely new to us such as the "interpretation of a path of single-hearted salvation" is, we more or less automatically and reasonably try to make sense of it by fitting it in with our existing knowledge. That effort however, instead of enlightening us with the knowledge and understanding of the true origin of our human mind in most cases just returns more human thoughts that are a mixture of the existing knowledge and the new knowledge. Which is of course the way that we ordinarily learn about the world. Certainly in ordinary terms, it is understandable that anyone who heard Miki teach would have been justified in hearing Her teaching as a continuation of the tradition that was current in the village at the time and which She herself had piously subscribed to and taught Her children to recognize as truths of their world. To communicate with us then it is necessary to find a way to get us to voluntarily calm our mind. I don't know about anybody else but I have always found it very difficult to quiet my mind.


Years ago I worked for a wise man with many more years of experience than I had and he told me that my problem was that I think too much. He was correct in that observation and a few years earlier I had myself come to the same conclusion. What's more I had discovered that the "thinking" that I was doing was a function of my imagination. What I now call my self-centered imagination. In fact I became aware of the fact that I talk to my self constantly and that constant chatter is mostly unfocused imagination. These days that would probably a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder or "ADD".  In every waking moment keeping myself company talking about a wide variety of topics and what I like and don't like. It is something of a miracle that I was able to get through grammar school as I was a constant recipient of the "sit up and pay attention" request.  That being the case, once identified, I found that I was living in a self-centered dream that is more our less unique to me. Discovering that my "thinking" was in fact "imagining" was a big deal for me. I of course don't know about anyone else but after identifying my self-centered imagination I found that my attention could be turned inward. 


Pondering deeply, thinking deeply is one of the main instructions carried throughout all of the Ofudesaki poems. Looking within our own mind and intentionally identifying the distinction between our imagination and its conscious origin, (deep self-reflection) is one of two primary tools for awakening, knowing and understanding the true origin of the human mind. The tool that is perhaps most familiar being the "Sazuke" the indescribable instantaneous awakening to the truth of origin that is given to the truly sincere mind regardless of the original intention. The "model story" of Miki Nakayama's awakening and replacement of mind clearly shows an accidental or unintended encounter with the causality of origin. Miki intended one thing but Her true sincerity manifest as the causality of something entirely different and unintended. It was however because She had awakened that She was able to open a path of intentional single-hearted salvation for every mind or self-centered imagination that wants to awaken just as She had. My own encounter with the teaching came through the approach that is guided by following the instruction to ponder deeply. That is an intentional means of honest and sincere deep self-reflection and resolve to complete the work of awakening as if from a dream.

Currently all three interpretations are being modeled by the Tenrikyo Religious Corporation. The "interpretation of a child" is being engaged by and hastened to mature by the "interpretation of a parent" and the "interpretation of someone who would walk a path of single-hearted salvation" is held out for anyone who sincerely wants to know and understand it. Engaging with the poetry of the Ofudesaki we are then hastened to sort out the three interpretations and as an expression of our sincerity to embrace the single-hearted interpretation.

Our current way of reasoning is fundamentally based on the knowledge and understanding that this universe is made up of separate objects, classes of which include conscious individual beings, the pinnacle or most interesting of which for us is the human being. Specifically each of us is at the center of an experience of being alive and interacting with other objects and beings. In Tenrikyo terms this center of experience is called the self-centered imagination and even in ordinary terms is recognized as defining our individual self-image or who we imagine our self to be in relation to the rest of the world.

The way of reasoning that Miki Nakayama promotes through the Ofudesaki poems is fundamentally different from common reasoning that has as its foundation the shallow, limiting self-centered imagination. In an easy, step by step manner we are provided with the means to awaken from our self-centered dream state and dive deeper into the origin of our own mind.  The poems are gently but firmly coaxing, never forcing, just us as a loving parent coaxes a beloved child to pay attention and sincerely determine and identify the origin of our own self centered imagination and allow for the replacement or repair of the current foundation of our thinking with the original deeper foundation that is absolutely stable and unchanging. That original foundation is the original consciousness that our self-centered imagination rises up and appears within. That original consciousness is immortal, it is the source and beginning  of all that appears and its nature is joy in the appearance of life.

The promise of immortality and freedom from the evils of illness, weakening, natural disasters and even death sounds like an impossibility as all objects, the human body is an objects are subject to degradation back to simpler and more elemental forms. The true and original consciousness that "resides" as the heart and core of our being is however not an object. The task undertaken by the Ofudesaki is to overcome the natural objections, doubts and denials of that original truth by showing ways to quiet and purify the mind of common ideas of self so that the original truth can shine forth to be known and understood. From the point of view of this teaching then, the "mind like clear water" is both the test and the proof of the teaching.

From now on, I shall speak in the metaphor of water.
Be enlightened by the words "clear" and "muddy"

This talk requires only your enlightenment.
With enlightenment will come tested proof.

This universe is the body of God.
Ponder this in all matters.

So long as you remain unknowing that the body is
a thing borrowed, you can understand nothing at all.