As one of the older "new" religious movements in Japan, Tenrikyo has often struggled with its self-presentation to the public. This was especially so in its quest for legal recognition at certain times in its long history, but also in response to broader public suspicions. However, work by Tenrikyo members to benefit society should not be seen as public relations efforts to create a positive image for institutional growth and acceptance. A case in point is social welfare work undertaken quite early in the movement's history. Drawing on in-progress research and interviews focusing on Tenrikyo members' work with people suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy) in Japan, this essay makes the case that good works are not carried out to create a positive public image, but rather are pursued for the betterment of society and personal spiritual development.
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