OKYOSAMA: DOCUMENTATION OF THE FOUNDING OF NYORAI-KYO, JAPAN'S FIRST "NEW RELIGION"
The Okyosama (Teachings) record the words of a deity named Kompira, who, having possessed a peasant woman, Kino, spoke through her at frequent meetings for twenty-six years. The result was the founding of Japan's first "new religion," Nyorai-kyo. Three questions are addressed to these highly diffuse and repetitive documents: Who were Kino and her audience? What did Kompira teach? What were the reactions to that teaching?
Kompira, through Kino, spoke to a cross-section of the people of early nineteenth century Japan, all of whom (including Kino) were undergoing the strains attendant upon the nearing collapse of the Tokugawa feudal, authoritarian regime. They approached Kompira for healing, advice, and consolation.
Kompira took these requests as opportunities to criticize assumptions about the origin and cure of sufferings. He taught that men suffer because they are evil, and that they are evil because they are all innately possessed by demons. A supreme deity, Nyorai, created the world and men in an attempt to save the sundry transmigrating spirits. But unable to carry his creation beyond seventy-five original men, he had turned the world over to these malevolent creatures.
Nyorai attempted to rescue his creation by sending various emissaries into the world--the historical Buddha, the founders of Buddhist sects in Japan, and various Shinto deities. All failed. Finally Nyorai requested both Kompira and Kino to make a final salvation attempt. In order to avail themselves of this salvation, men must have faith in Nyorai and attempt to model their actions on his compassion. If they do, Nyorai will save not only them but all the spirits of the universe as well.
Kino's audience reacted ambivalently to Kompira's teachings, both worshipping him and Kino, and at the same time criticizing his grandiose claims.
The founding of Nyorai-kyo is significant in the history of Japanese religions because it represents an attempt to synthesize important elements of Japanese religious traditions and thus goes beyond earlier typically syncretistic approaches.