Newpath Tenrikyo - Tenrikyo Dynamic - THE ROOT (Ne)

Dig up the rootThe image of a "root" appears as a metaphoric theme in five of the books of "Ofudesaki" poems. Though used in the different ways in the poems the intention of the metaphor is ultimately the same in each theme in which it appears. For instance when it is used as "Nihon", (Japan) it is referring to the origin of the human mind. On the other hand when it is used as the "root" of rebellion" or as the "root" of illness" it is referring to the human mind, manifest as the first thought of the self centered imagination. That first thought is the idea of being a body. In both cases the metaphors relate to and are intended to bring to mind a single source, one original, independent, strong and providential and the other dependent, weak, boastful and fearful. When pondered and identified in our own mind we are then gifted with the ability to separate and distinguish between the one original, eternal truth as it exists at the heart and core of our mind from the unstable, changeable, self centered truths of the world that rise out that one truth and which are totally dependent upon it.  

This universe is the body of God.
Ponder this in all matters.
All human bodies are things lent by God.
With what though are you using them?

We are reminded that metaphor employs a familiar word or object to indicate and bring to mind some other word or object because of the ability of our imagination to "see" or understand some likeness between the metaphor and what the metaphor is intended to bring to mind.

 Certainly just about everyone must be familiar with the appearance and importance of roots and their function as an apparent necessity for new life and as foundations for continued expansion and growth, making them an easy and almost universal metaphor capable of easily bringing that image to mind. From that image of a foundation for new life, growth and expansion we can also bring to mind an image of branches of varying size, strength and duration all drawing their life and strength from a single root or source.

The metaphor of a "root" and "branches" first appears in the Ofudesaki poems as a vehicle to explain the intended meaning of yet another metaphoric theme. That metaphoric theme being "Japan" (Nihon), "China" (Kara) and "India" (Tenjiku). In the English language translations of the "Tip of the Writing Brush" that I am familiar with this metaphoric theme is left un-translated which gives the false impression that when translated the translation provides the intended meaning of the metaphoric theme. It doesn't, the meaning requires giving some thought to the intention driving the use of the metaphors.

 With the passage of time it is likely that a modern reader would not be familiar with what  the terms "Nihon" (Japan), "Kara" (China) and "Tenjiku"(India) would have brought to the minds of people living in Yamato who were provided with those poems. To get some sense of the state of mind that the metaphors appeal to we can recall that the original parental mind wrote these poems in response to the misunderstanding and lack of understanding of the intention to calm, clear and purify the human self centered imagination so that single hearted salvation of all kinds could "rush out" and save all of the minds of the world equally.

There are two points that I wish to make in this regard. The first is the willingness of the parent to enter into the "muddy water" of our self centered imaginations to help us to find our way out. That means modeling the willingness to engage with minds that do not understand, misunderstand or disagree with the intention of this teaching nor in general can those minds calm down enough to be reasoned with even if they would like to. The second point is that the modeling of engaging with minds that do not understand, disagree or misunderstand the intention of the parental mind in terms that those minds can identify with; without abandoning the original intention of single hearted salvation. This is sometimes referred to as using all means to open new paths of single hearted salvation that are based on revealing the true parental heart and not some other intention. To insure that we don't sincerely confuse the teaching that is the Reason of Heaven with our ordinary way of understanding things we are warned that the teaching of the mind of the parent never has a common meaning nor is it in the same category as common truths of the world.

Society then on the Yamato plain in the mid nineteenth century was under stress, having only recently endured and emerged from a frightful, troubling and probably for many in the region, depressing civil war. A war the outcome of which perhaps some or even many of the recipients of the poems would have been impacted by. The  ruling class from the Yamato region having been on the losing side in what was to become the "Meji Restoration" and the resultant shift of political and economic power from Yamato to Edo. The "Japan","China""", "India" metaphor speaks to the minds of people caught up in that situation. Even today in this time and place we find that some people when under stress will look to disparaging views of others in an attempt to make themself feel better.

By informing the "Japan, China, India" metaphor with a "roots" metaphor the parental mind is able to make the point that all of our differences and sources of conflict are created in our self centered imaginations, often with the help of people that we accept as authoritative sources for those worldly common truths. The "roots" metaphor reminds us that we are all "branches of the same root" which is a unifying principle as opposed to the divisive principles as promoting ideas of special cultures, noble births, classes and castes. When we are taught that we will eventually all be "Japan" that is meant to mean that we will all eventually return to the origin, to the "root" of all things. The warning that the "branches" will be broken is intended to make the distinction between the immortal "root" and the impermanent, constantly changing "branches". When we look all over the world and through all ages we find that the human self centered imagination has a real difficulty in coming to terms with impermanence and  change. Particularly with the evils of conflict, strife, illness and death.

When properly viewed, the "Japan", "China", "India" theme "enters into" - just as God enters into the "muddy water" of our mind with the intention of making it clear- and addresses fearful states of mind that were and remain deeply ingrained in the human experience in all times and places. Those fears are as alive and fresh here today as they were in the imaginations of the people that God the Parent addressed with these poems. Briefly, the theme is about human imaginations that cannot clear and settle nor can they be reasoned with because they are being driven by fears such as the fear of cultural contamination by foreign peoples and ideas, fear of loss of status and changing norms and  in short general fear of losing control of the familiar common truths of the world that taken together make up one's individual self image as well as who we collectively imagine our selves to be. In this theme then "Japan" is the truth of origin, the mind of God and "China" and "India" are varieties of  common human thought, knowledge and accumulated truths of the world that occupy and hold the attention of our self-centered imaginations. We recall that it is the self centered imagination that is covering and depressing the true origin of the mind and it is the intention of the teaching that is the reason of heaven that all self centered imaginations will eventually be quiet, awaken from their self centered dreams and return to their origin. All will become "Japan". Obviously a worldly common reading of this metaphor might be embarrassing or even a recipe for disaster but viewed as intended it is a metaphoric theme that fit the circumstances of time, place and level of spiritual maturity and fulfills the promise to enter into, that is engage with,  every kind of mind to make it clear, no matter what kind of mind it may be.

To summarize then  "root" and "branches" brings to mind a straight forward image of the strength of the root of a tree where it is easily understood that root is strong and in comparison the branches are weak.  As a metaphor for human beings then it intends to teach us that we all derive life from a single source and though we might imagine otherwise upon reflection it is obvious that the source is eternal and will continue to provide for new life while the branches, our self centered ideas about ourselves, are fragile, weak and in comparison easily broken.  The intention of this first use of the metaphor of a "root" and "branches" then is to hasten us to make the distinction between the two clear in our own mind. The exposed "root" being the single immortal origin and heart of all human minds equally and the branches being the ideas or human thoughts that rise up and inhabit the human mind or self centered imagination providing the erroneous and in many cases inflated ideas of a separate existence and false ideas of "high" and "low" in human society.

 The second use of the "root" metaphor conjures the image of something to be cut off or uprooted . We of course recognize this image as indicating something that is to be completely uprooted and removed. In that usage it refers to the "root of rebellion" and the "root of illness".  This then is the use of the "root" as a metaphor for something other than the immortal, permanent, heart or origin of the human mind. This contrary usage is appropriate because it refers to the first self centered idea, the idea of a separate self inhabiting a separate body that forms the impermanent and unstable foundation of all the self centered thoughts that reasonably follow from it. That very first self centered thought "I am this body" is metaphorically the first bit of "dust" accumulated on the "Heart". All of the rest of the accumulation attaching to the one "root" bit of dust.

As the "root" of rebellion that first self centered idea is the foundation of greed, divisiveness and conflict. Of course it is also the foundation of the great rebellion of the selfish minds of the stubborn, headstrong children holding out against the intention of the mind of the loving parent.

As the "root of illness" it is first rising of the idea of being a separate body. Over time, from our childhood on, we accumulate ideas of self that become our self image. Living our lives based on this unstable foundation and as a species we have never been able to be happy and satisfied with it. Which is why this teaching exists in the first place.  Awakening to the truth that remains when the mind of dissatisfaction is so quiet and clear as deserves to be called the "mind like clear water" is the fundamental way of this dynamic teaching. We take this "root" idea of being limited to a body for granted but when pondered and settled it is understood as being an idea only. It is the imagined  idea of a separate self superimposed and bound to a body that is intended to be identified, "cut off " and replaced as it is that imagined idea that experiences what is commonly known as  illness, weakening and death, which of course is the natural  fate of all bodies. Don't panic, there is nothing to fear in doing this. Once the truth of origin is clearly known and understood the self centered imagination is free to come back up and play, enhanced and strengthened by the knowledge, understanding and free and unlimited workings of the truth of origin, the mind of the parent.

In the third use the "root" is intended to be "dug up" revealed and exposed as the true origin of the mind and of everything in detail. This use of the metaphor provides a powerful image of awakening to knowledge and understanding through the work of removal as opposed to the ordinary notion of knowledge and understanding being the result of an accumulation of ordinary ideas.

Until now, you have understood everything in an ordinary way.
From now on, you will understand from your innermost heart.