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JULY 2007

Visiting the Main Sanctuary in Tenri City
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



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