Anecdotes of the Honseki Izo Iburi 69

The following is a translation of an excerpt from the writings of Eitaro Imamura (1894–1969), who held several positions throughout his career as a Honbu-jun’in (senior official of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters), such as superintendent of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, and Wakayama dioceses, president of Doyusha, head of Publications Approval Office, and first head minister of Jibun Branch Church.

69. “As Free As the Wind”

Until the Honseki passed away for rebirth in the early summer of 1907, I would often see the Honseki worshiping at the Main Sanctuary at about nine or ten o’clock in the morning. There were times when he wore a hakama, but I think that on most occasions he would simply be wearing a crested haori (formal coat) on top of his everyday clothes.

When he walked, his topknot, a hairstyle that he kept for all his life, would particularly stand out. For this reason, there always seemed to be a distinctive aura that surrounded him. The manner in which he walked could only be described, “as free as the wind.” He would come, as if he were lightly swimming in the middle of the air, free and unconstrained. I am sure that anyone would have recognized that there was something to this man that was out of the ordinary.

In my limited knowledge as a middle-schooler, I associated the Honseki with the Buddhist monk and poet Saigyo. Saigyo was born in an aristocratic family but he abandoned his privileges of ascendancy and wealth in order to devote himself to the Buddhist path. In my mind, Saigyo must have been as free as the wind as he made his pilgrimages throughout the provinces of Japan. I imagined a person who forgot all greed and stepped outside the secular world to live a spiritual life walked in such a manner, for the Honseki exuded such an unrestrained quality.

The Honseki was a joyous person from the beginning, for I have heard that he would often sing while he did carpentry work in his young days. Yet I cannot help but think that because he became ever more immersed in the teachings of the Joyous Life under Oyasama‘s tutelage, he naturally exuded this unrestrained quality in just the way he moved and walked.

Also, because he was very playful, he would often say something funny and make others laugh. You could say that he had a truly easy-going nature that would embrace others with an intimate feeling. After he would finish his prayers, we would come by the Staff Quarters to sit and watch a game of Japanese chess being played by some of the ministers. Because the Honseki loved the game very much himself, he would watch for almost as long as the game went on.

This is a story I recently heard from Mr. Yoshinobu Ashida (a staff minister of Takayasu Daikyokai). Along the Tenri Hondori there was a large open space where many stages would be set up during a Grand Service or village festival. Sometimes there were plays, and even a circus with a variety of sideshows.

One time, there was a hypnotist giving a show. Mr. Ashida then went to take a look together with Mr. Yoshitaka Matsumura (the future sixth head minister of Takayasu Daikyokai). The hypnotist then forced Mr. Ashida and Mr. Matsumura up on the stage. Then he announced to the crowd that he was going to hypnotize the two of them. He moved his fingers about but neither of them felt as if they were being put under a trance. Then, the hypnotist quietly hissed at them with an angry look on his face, demanding, “Just close your eyes and pretend you’ve been hypnotized!”

Seeing they had no choice, they did as he ordered them and were at his beck and command, giving the impression that they were hypnotized. After having them do a variety of things, he yelled, “Ya!” and said, “Now they have returned to their normal selves!” The two then tried to race off the stage when the hypnotist gave each of them a beam-jam bun for their trouble.

When they got off the stage, the Honseki was standing there. He had been watching over them during the whole show. He then asked Mr. Ashida, “Were you really hypnotized?”

When he answered, “Not at all! We acted as we were because he scolded us into doing it.”

The Honseki then said, “That’s what I thought! Ha ha ha ha!”

This story from Mr. Ashida shows how the Honseki easily went from place to place.

However, when it came to delivering the Osashizu and to serving God the Parent, the Honseki never let his easy-going nature keep him from carrying out his duty. The Honseki made a strict distinction between when he was acting as God’s intermediary and when he was Izo Iburi the man, for he never confused the role God bestowed on him with his private affairs.

The Honseki usually conducted himself with casual ease and showed that he was a man with nothing pretentious about him. One can say that he was a person who had a common touch like no other.

(Adapted from Ojiba konjaku banashi by Eitaro Imamura pp. 91–96)

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.