Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I have been studying the religious group called Tenseishinbikai for about five months now (check out their hompage for pics and info). I befriended one of their members and found his organization fascinating. I sometimes visit their church and events. They seem, to me, like wonderful, kind, family people. Of course, I have also found many Japanese who are skeptical or outright mean toward them. For example, while my landlord was in my house looking at a ceiling leak in my shower room with a plumber, a member of the church came to my door to give me (and everyone else in the apartment building) the monthly newsletter. (I hadn’t met this particular member; maybe he was new in town, I thought.) He was young, in his 20s, and friendly. We started talking. I told him I had visited the local church. To my surprise, my landlord immediately walked into the hallway and asked him, in clear, polite Japanese, “What are you here for?"
" I’m a member of Tenseishinbikai.”
"Well, I'm sure not a member, you know. (ne). We are busy right now so…” I felt kind of insulted, and the young man kind of started to get nervous I thought, so I and just continued the conversation we were having about taking a trip to Honshu in march to visit the friend of mine who is a member and who is having a concert (he plays the oboe) and I was wondering if he was going to. “I am!” He says.
“I'll see you later then!” The boy looked me in the eyes and said, most genuinely, “thank you so much.” I said no problem, see ya, closed the door, and went back into the kitchen. Immediately my landlord says to me, in polite Japanese, “They are bad. They are a bad organization, ne.”

I said, in polite Japanese, that maybe that is true, but I am friends with them and even though I already have a religion, and I don’t need theirs, I really enjoy the conversations and kindness. (I'm an artist,, which I consider as a religion, and I also practice different Yogas (which seem very weird to some) as well as Vajrayana Buddhism.
He then smiled and said, “they seem kind on the outside, but they are bad on the inside.”

I wanted to ask why, but he turned, left the hallway, and went back into the shower room. The answer probably involved how they try to get members and financial supporters. Only, like TM, just like TM, they believe their religion is actually transreligious (recognizing that getting stuck in religious absolutism is a significant cause of today’s global problems), and they believe their specific method of meditation and healing is altruistic and reasonable and necessary for “paradise on earth” and the new Human Civilization to emerge as a stage in evolution.

The thing is, though, they use an ancient healing yogic posture used by both Jesus and Buddha, and in this modern world it just looks weird and awkward putting your open palm up to someone's head while meditating. It is especially strange when they do it without explaining what it is or why. (Similar to the hopping done by the TMers. That can weird people like my mom out.) When I experienced my first Jorei I knew enough about Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian mysticism to not think too much of it. It's just another new religion trying to revive the rituals and methods of the past.

Jorei, their main form of worship (transcendental meditation for the TMers) involves one person sitting and imagining (and believing, although that is not necessary) that healing power is coming out of the other person’s open palm as light, directly into their life, body and mind. And the person doing the Jorei, holding their hand up, is not supposed to think about anything. If possible, completely clear the mind. And if thoughts come, there is nothing you can do about it, so just let them pass, but keep your hand up. And if your hand gets tired, change hands, but keep the connection there. They believe that whatever healing happens, it is not you, but is the universe healing itself, so you don’t have to do any special visualization or concentrative meditation. Just sit there with your hand up and the miracles will unfold by themselves.

Now, one rational reason why this healing can and does work to some degree is what is known as the placebo effect. The sick or sad person, by believing that this will work, constructs healthier, positive mind waves or thoughts in their mind, and this helps relax the body and aids in the natural healing or evolving process. It works that way for the receiver, as well as for the giver: The giver, in needing to fulfill some psychological urge to help others, to help heal and bring about peace, can hold her hand there and believe that she is finally helping in a meaningful way. And, like I said, the giver of the miracle may not feel anything necessarily. Maybe a little pain in the arm after a while, but they do feel like they are helping, and that can be very beneficial to an individual. And, in a way, the receiver is actually giving the Jorei to the giver, by letting that person perform the ritual. Does that make sense? It’s ok for a non-believer to sit in front of this person patiently while they do this ritual. It is a gift to them, or can be seen as one. We do similar things when we accept to watch a dance or eat a cultural food. It might seem strange, but it is a wonderful chance for someone to share with you his or her interests and pleasures.

Whether or not subtle energies and spiritual ki is being transferred during Jorei is of course up for debate. No doubt the Jorei affects people, though.
I think ultimately even "nonbelievers," like myself, benefit from Jorei, with our co-workers appearing more friendly and happier day after day, creating a more peaceful atmosphere.

This is so much like TM; only TM has scientists proving that meditation benefits the mind, body, and world.

I think Tenseishinbikai is far more earthy then TM though. More Alchemical. It talks more about the primary elements of the earth, fire, and water. Both talk about the age of Enlightenment though, and the Effortless order and organization of Natural law (the laws of Nature.) They also both promote (above vegetarianism) the immediate end of the use of fertilizers. they also both have huge dome-shaped temples.
Their philosophy is quite fascinating, but also flawed in their inability to see that other philosophies and methods of peace are good to. They are caught in absolutism, or ethnocentrism, trying to convert others. This is very annoying for some. But for others, they really are harmless, I think. And to me, well, they are reviving an ancient yogic poster long forgotten by the masses (even Jesus did this one, remember!) And so did Buddha, and their members seem happy and healthy enough. I’d say they are actually a positive influence in the world. They definitely promote the idea the there is one God who has many different religious names. That is a good, beneficial, tolerant idea, I guess. To each their own. And I have of course received Jorei a few times, and it was a great feeling (because I did my meditation and also tried to imagine what it would feel like to have light pouring into my forehead, and it felt great!). But that doesn't mean I'm going to join the organization. They want me to, but I'm just not interested.


Rick Winfrey said...

Dear David,

It's a great thing you've done in describing this religion. I thought it was a well written piece.

You are moving so fast I feel like in your development. It's quite a beautiful thing to watch. I hope that I keep up enough so the distance between us does not grow to a point where I lose the ability to understand you.

I love you.

p.s. thank you for bringing me together with T-chan.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clear explanation.
Please come home. You have much to share here. mya

Steve said...

Thanks for your excellent description! Sadly, I am in the process of selling my gorgeous house right next door to the beautiful new Tenseishinbikai USA temple in Ditmas Park. If anyone wants to live close to the temple AND have an inground pool and koi pond along with a 10-room victorian house, contact me at 718-834-2968.

Anonymous said...

hey how can i follow you or your bolgs i don't know..i like ur post and i found this one trough google so if you have a facebook id or twitter or a google plus account.

Anonymous said...

I very much like your thoughts on the group and their practices. From my own personal experience, perhaps your landlord and other japanese dislike them because in some cultures and religions (i.e. Japanese and Buddhism) it is frowned upon to actively promote and attempt to convert others to a belief system or way of thought. It is believed that people should decide and find what is best for them and their growth without blatant (couldn't think of a better word) outside stimulation. This attitude is very different from western culture which expects people to actively promote themselves and often goes misunderstood in western societies.

Matheus Costa Garcia said...

Hi...I'm from Brazil...and i just send this message to say that some universities and works publisheds have showed that johrei really works (more than placebo)
I Was just passing, and i've thinking that you would like to know that.
Sorry for my bad english. All that I Know I've Learned on VideoGames.
Matheus Costa Garcia,
Praia Grande, SP, Brazil.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

Blog Archive