The following is an excerpt from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 19–22) by Koji Sato (佐藤浩司), assistant professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is tentative and may require further revision.
Fools are Desired by God
“Yamada-san, you’re a foolish person.”
Seibei Nishino 西野清兵衞 once said these words to Taemon Yamada 山田太右衞門, to whom he had introduced the faith.
Taemon joined the faith after encountering a series of family misfortunes—fire, drought, the passing of his mother, his wife’s illness following childbirth, and his own contraction of malaria. Out of his honest and unpretentious nature, Taemon singly devoted himself to the faith, abandoned his profession as a farmer, and concentrated his efforts toward salvation work.
Before he began on the path of faith, Taemon and his father Tarobei were well known for their thriftiness. His wealth and fortune took precedence before anything else. Yet once Taemon began his salvation work, he started to sell the land he had inherited from his ancestors to help followers caught in various dilemmas and came to be called “Ta-uri Taemon,” or “rice paddy-selling Taemon.” Seibei Nishino said the words above out of concern after seeing Taemon’s abrupt change in behavior.
* * *
Because faith is pursued with a firm conviction in a set of teachings, there are occasions when the actions of a person who is in the midst of pursuing his or her faith do not comply with accepted forms of social behavior and thus come to be seen as abnormal or insane.
“Fall to the depths of poverty.”
She subsequently followed God’s command, giving away the household fortune through acts of charity—dispensing household goods, selling or mortgaging property—that culminated in the dismantling the main house. There was no chance that anyone would even begin to comprehend Her actions. She was derided as a fool and became the object of ridicule and slander, which is clearly indicated in the following Osashizu (Divine Direction):
People of the world said, “There is no fool who comes even close. What will she do after giving everything away?” You have no idea how many days She spent [being ridiculed] in this manner.”
Osashizu, February 2, 1899
How did Oyasama feel about being ridiculed as a “fool”? Oyasama once said the following to Rin Masui 増井りん, who helped build the foundation of Ogata Grand Church 大縣大教会:
Do you know what God says? Fools are desired by God. This is what God says.
I imagine that these words represented Oyasama’s approval of Rin Masui’s faith and how she singly devoted herself to following the teachings. The calculating thoughts of human beings cannot begin to fathom God the Parent’s intention. Thus I take these words as Her instruction—directed not only to Rin Masui but to all of us who belong to the faith—that tell us the importance of implementing the teachings straightforwardly, exactly in the manner which we were taught.
The essence of this path is to live according to the exemplary model (or Divine Model) as walked by Oyasama. People who followed Her example of casting away social status, honor, and fortune appeared one after another. They rejected the very things ordinary people desired out of their adoration of Her and instead dedicated their lives to implementing the teachings. Taemon was one of these followers.
Taemon later became the first head minister of Koga Grand Church and was promoted to a Honbu-in (executive official of Church Headquarters). In his later years he often instructed his followers to “Become a fool” and constantly inquired, “How much of a fool have you been able to become?”
People have trouble adhering to the words “Become a fool.” Again, I believe it is a trend of the times when we consider that it seems more and more difficult to “Become a fool” each day. Whether we are able to become a fool or not solely depends on how deep this faith is entrenched in the core of our heart.
Reference: Yamamoto Soseki 山本素石. Taigu Taemon. Sanpo janaru.
- Next installment in this series: “All’s Well”
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
I’d thought to add that there is a movie based on the life of Rev. Taemon Yamada.