Visiting the Main Sanctuary in Tenri
By Charles Coker, TCI Japanese Language Student
As I approached the Tenri complex, I was introduced to my
guide Yuji and the first thing that caught my eye was the large Sanctuary
and the enormous courtyard that surrounded it. While I walked across the
courtyard, I began to wonder what life would be like if I were living
in such an interesting place. I had seen many martial arts movies where
a large temple was surrounded by a large courtyard but I had never until
now experienced how one must have felt standing in such a large area.
After a small prayer, the time came for me to enter the Sanctuary; I removed
my shoes and entered what was a very fascinating place where there were
four large sections, each one facing one of the four directions -- north,
south, east, and west -- and all four sections were sharing a common center.
The outside of the building gave me really no clue as to how large the
Sanctuary really was. As I sat there and listened to the history of the
Tenrikyo religion and itís Foundress, more and more people started to
enter the Sanctuary and offer their prayers.
As I watched them pray I wondered what they were praying for
and why they were all praying in what appeared to me to be the same manner.
So I asked my guide Yuji and he explained to me that usually people issue
a greeting and give thanks for the day, next they would pray for those
whom they believe need a prayer and very seldom would someone pray for
themselves. Yuji then began to explain how the Sanctuary was designed
so that everyone was facing the center of the Sanctuary which is the center
of life, the place where life began and, at the same time, due to the
design, everyone was also facing the people who are praying in the other
section directly across from them, passing positive energy back and forth.
By now I had been in the Sanctuary for about 20 minutes when I noticed
that in one of the sections across from where I was sitting there were
a lot of Tenrikyo members or students working together to expand the Sanctuary
or make repairs to the Sanctuary. As I watched them work, I was fascinated
by how so many people could work together on a project and each person
seemed to be assisting and helping each other instead of working independently.
As I toured the rest of the facility there were members everywhere working
to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of the Sanctuary. I then discovered
that there were three sanctuaries, not just one, and that the Main Sanctuary
was open 24 hours a day, allowing members to pray at anytime of the day
or night. The sanctuaries were not open to just members; anyone who wanted
to enter and pray could. Now it was around 3 p.m. and suddenly the place
became full of students, some of them I saw crossing the many courtyards
while others were busy working on various parts of the facilityís many
buildings. I found out that there was a Tenri University with dormitories,
a Hospital and other schools that were all part of the Tenrikyo complex
and that many of the students were also members of the Tenrikyo religion.
I thought it really must be great for them to grow up around so much goodwill
and harmony. Many of them would certainly develop into good adults with
great character and humility. The whole area seemed to promote a sense
of goodwill to all people and through helping others you were really helping
yourself to become a more honorable human being with peace and harmony
toward all things. I really felt at home even though I was there for the
first time. My visit to the Tenrikyo complex was very enlightening and
rewarding. I felt as if I had really discovered the true way of man. Giving
of oneself to help and support others. Through my experience I was able
to understand much better how such a natural thing as helping others could
grow and develop into a religion that now has many churches and member
throughout the entire world.
In front of the Main Sanctuary, Charles
(left,) Yuji (middle) and former TCI instructor Ayumi Iwai