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Relearning religious practice when home is across the sea : the case of Tenrikyō in British Columbia Chan, Emmett Sebastian

Abstract

The Japanese New Religious Movement, Tenrikyō, views a specific geographical point in Tenri City, Japan as the “Origin” (jiba)—where humanity was conceived by God the Parent, the central deity of Tenrikyō, and a number of other deities. Identified by their foundress, Miki Nakayama, in the 19th century, and the location of Tenrikyō headquarters today, the jiba is far across the ocean from followers whose families migrated to Vancouver, British Columbia. In a religious sense, followers living in overseas diaspora communities have become both physically and spiritually displaced from their Origin. In this thesis, I examine how Tenrikyō adherents in Vancouver practice when they are so distant from the “Origin.” Based on fieldwork and interviews, I have found that many choose, or desire, to return to the Origin. I argue that at the Origin and the surrounding sacred landscape followers become immersed in intensive, daily group practice. These intensive experiences are crucial for active followers to develop a connection the Origin and the surrounding sacred landscape and this connection continues to be important after they leave Tenri City. After they leave Tenri City, practice then becomes a matter of re-learning how to be at-a-distance from the Origin and the surrounding sacred landscape. Followers in Vancouver come to face the anxieties and difficulties associated with practicing in the area and begin to feel a nostalgic longing for the immersive environment they had experienced. While in Vancouver, followers maintain this connection to the Origin and the surrounding sacred landscape in Tenri City from afar through monthly services. These services invoke a sense of nostalgia through ritual, clothing, food and events but leave those who have not yet been to the Origin feeling no connection or sense of nostalgia. For this reason it becomes ever more important for Tenrikyō followers in Vancouver to encourage people to return to the Origin and the surrounding area, so they too may establish a connection.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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