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Yasuaki Deguchi: The Omoto Religion and Aikido (11)

by Yasuaki Deguchi

Aikido Journal #108 (1996)

The Aizen-En truly began to flourish in 1989, for it was then that the three essential elements expressed by the term reiryokutai finally came together. Reiryokutai is comprised of three Chinese characters meaning soul and spirit (rei), energy and strength (ryoku), and body or physicality (tai), and it represents a concept fundamental to Onisaburo’s teachings.

The first of fourteen sections of the long-awaited Reikai Monogatari (Tales of the Spirit World) was published in March 1989 by Hachiman Shoten, followed by four more (in twenty-four volumes) within the same year (publication of the entire work was completed in December 1992).

An Omoto auxiliary organization called Tenseisha had earlier published certain portions of this epic masterpiece by Onisaburo, but many huge gaps in the narrative made it painfully obvious that these editions were missing many of the original volumes. In any case, the fact is that for a long time we were faced with an utterly ridiculous situation in which even Omoto followers were unable to obtain a copy of the work that represents the principle canon of their faith!

We also had the strong impression that the Executive Council within the Omoto Order did not really want people to read the Reikai Monogatari. They were probably worried that its teachings might awaken dissent and stir people to become a bunch of rabble-rousers like the members of our Izutomizu no Kai—in other words, difficult to control. They did put out bits and pieces of the work, but only under pressure from the Izutomizu no Kai. Unfortunately, even those had been extensively censored and edited—words and phrases changed everywhere—on the grounds (they said) that certain passages contained some sort of discriminatory language. It was simply outrageous how they willfully altered the sacred text according to their own bias!

Hachiman Shoten—the company we commissioned to publish our full, unexpurgated version—faced a difficult decision, for the copyrights to any of Onisaburo’s writings, it could be argued, are officially held by the Omoto Headquarters, the authority and legitimacy of which is supported by the presence of the Omoto Kyoshu (head of a religious sect). Attempting to publish the work on our own risked entanglement in a lawsuit. On the other hand, a “canon for humanity” like the Reikai Monogatari really isn’t the sort of thing that can be held as private property, even by the headquarters of a religious sect. This was the perspective Hachiman Shoten adopted when they decided to go ahead with the project. We immediately formed a committee (chaired by myself) to oversee the publication, and we resolved to fight our way through the courts should it come to that.

Surprisingly, there was no resistance from the Omoto Headquarters. Apparently they discussed the issue quite a bit, but I guess they eventually decided at least to tolerate our plans, if not support them wholeheartedly. Besides, Onisaburo had said, “I’m not Omoto’s Onisaburo; it’s Onisaburo’s Omoto,” which convinced us even more that the Reikai Monogatari is not something a single religious organization can or should control.

Forgive me for mentioning this again, but it crossed my mind at the time that undertaking the task of publishing the Reikai Monogatari might have something to do with Onisaburo’s prophecy that I, Yasuaki Deguchi, am a reincarnation of the Dragon King and destined to do something remarkable [see AJ 105]. To me the project seemed significant beyond words, and that feeling made me wonder if this was, in fact, to be that remarkable thing that I was supposed to do. Hachiman Shoten must have felt similarly, for in agreeing to participate they literally put the fortune of their whole company at risk.

In any case, I think our publication of the Reikai Monogatari for all to read was what finally brought energy and strength (the “ryoku” element of reiryokutai) to the Aizen-En. We found that many people were being inspired to visit the Aizen-En after reading the work. In the past, no matter how much we encouraged people to read and study the Reikai Monogatari, they invariably stopped after a short time, claiming that it was just too difficult to understand. Scholars, in particular, could usually make it through only a few volumes before their own preconceptions and preoccupations interfered to obscure their understanding of what Onisaburo was really trying to convey. I would even venture to say that most scholarly studies of Onisaburo are based more on the author’s own knowledge and agenda than on any serious reading of the Reikai Monogatari.

Everyone who read the Hachiman Shoten edition, however, claimed to find it extremely interesting, and people started coming in droves to attend our Reikai Monogatari study seminars. I don’t think this was because people had become more sophisticated; rather, it seemed almost as if the spirit world itself had finally decided to release the seal on its own secrets. I don’t know what other explanation there could be for the sudden acceptance and interest in a work that most people had found impenetrable before.

Choosing an O-Shingo

In July 1989 I was invited to Italy by the Okido Yoga Federation, a trip that gave me my first opportunity to talk about Omoto abroad. Immediately after my return we held a three-day meeting of Aizen-En representatives during which we devoted ourselves to intense discussion of certain matters that were badly in need of decision.

The most important of these was the determination of an o-shingo, which is a term that means something like “name of the deity” or “divine identity”—a sort of mantra to serve as a vehicle for people to express or invoke their faith. Aizen-En had been established for nearly three years already, but we still hadn’t found the time or energy to consider important matters such as a suitable o-shingo. In the past such a thing might have been determined by a single declaration or inspiration on the part of a sect leader endowed with absolute authority, such as had been the case within the Omoto Order. But Aizen-En rejects that kind of absolutism, and all such decisions are open to public discussion.

Everyone had already agreed that our selection of an o-shingo should be inspired by the Reikai Monogatari, but we were still having a hard time finding something that everyone felt comfortable with. That was one of the reasons we decided to lock ourselves in the meeting for several days and hammer out a decision.

Let me explain the significance of an o-shingo by comparing it with a similar word, o-shinmyo. In the simple sense, both o-shingo and o-shinmyo mean “the name of the deity.” The o-shin part is the same in both and means “deity.” The endings go and myo both mean “name,” but they differ in nuance. The Chinese character for “myo” is formed from two parts meaning “night” and “speak,” likely derived from the fact that two parties approaching one another in darkness must speak their names in order to identify one another. Thus, calling out at night came to be associated with the character expressing “name” in the sense of simple identification. An o-shinmyo, therefore, is a name that simply identifies a deity.

The components of the original character for “go,” on the other hand, suggest “calling out in sorrow,” or more broadly, calling out that involves not only identification, but some sort of emotional content as well. This is evident in the original form of the pictograph, which meant “to roar like a tiger.”

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