The following is an excerpt from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 47–52) 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.
Transmitting the Path from a Young Age
We have the tendency to think that it is easier to convey the faith from parent to child than it is to convey them to an utter stranger. Yet in reality, this is not such an easy task because the minds of every parent and child are different, as God gave each of us the freedom to use our mind as we wish.
On the path there are quite a number of families who have been part of the faith for successive generations. If every member of a family from parent, child, and to grandchild is able to continue their faith without break, who knows how many followers this would amount to.
This path is something that you must transmit to the mind from a young age.
Osashizu, November 16, 1900
These words instruct those of us who are parents and adults that we must be mindful of conveying the faith to the next generation when they are still young.
Oyasama always treated the children who accompanied their parents who returned to Jiba with parental love. The children who experienced Oyasama’s parental love firsthand held Her dear in their hearts and remembered their encounters with Her for the rest of their lives.
* * *
When Yasu Imagawa was nine years old, she became afflicted with a form of scabies, a skin disorder. Her parents brought her on a return pilgrimage to Jiba where Oyasama moistened Her hands with Her mouth and stroked Yasu’s entire body while chanting God’s name. The next day Yasu’s scabies had disappeared without a trace.
Yasu, though still yet a child, thought to herself, “What a truly wondrous God!” She was deeply moved at Oyasama’s compassion and at how She did not mind even the slightest at stroking her pus-ridden skin. Her appreciation towards Oyasama grew stronger as the years passed, and she always remembered Her compassion as she served God for the rest of her life.
* * *
When Chusaku Matsui (who later became the first head minister of Meijo Grand Church) was eight years old, he accompanied his parents on a return to Jiba while carrying a rice cake weighing about 12 kilograms. Upon seeing Chusaku, Oyasama said:
Well, Welcome home! Oh, it is too heavy a load for a child!
Chusaku took these words to heart, always remembering them as he single-heartedly devoted himself toward saving others.
* * *
Please make a new kimono for your daughter.
Ikue’s mother took the garment home to make a kimono and they returned again on a thanksgiving worship for its first wearing. Oyasama then said:
I wanted to see the water well of the tofu maker (who opened his business just two days before), but I did not want to go alone. You happened to return just as I was hoping to myself that someone like the little girl from Kurahashi would come.
Oyasama then went to the well while carrying Ikue on Her back. When She came back, She said:
Thanks to you, I was able to see it.
* * *
Even when Oyasama was speaking with a one-year-old child, She did not take it lightly but took great care in doing so.
Oyasama further shows in the following anecdote how adults ought to approach the task of conveying the path to children.
When Umejiro Umetani (second head minister of Senba Grand Church) was about six years old, he returned to the Residence with his father Shirobei (the first head minister of same church). Umejiro, seeing Oyasama in Her red clothes, said, “Daruma-san, Daruma-san.”1
Shirobei, feeling greatly ashamed, did not bring Umejiro with him the next time he returned to the Residence. Oyasama then said:
What happened to Umejiro? The path will be cut off.
As the boy’s father, Shirobei felt Umejiro’s unexpected remark was disrespectful of Oyasama. Yet Oyasama seems to be cautioning that a family’s faith will come to an end if a parent fails to understand a child’s innocent mind by becoming caught up with outward, superficial matters.
Umejiro thereby accompanied his father and mother joyfully each time they returned to the Residence. He later became a devout and outstanding follower of the path.
The Tenrikyo Boys and Girls Association was formed with such examples of Oyasama’s feelings toward children in mind.
There is a Japanese proverb that says, “A child grows up watching the back of his or her parents.” The difficulty of transmitting the faith to one’s relations can be an indication to the degree to which the faith is practiced in the daily lives of each family.
- Next installment in this series: Nurturing Our Youth
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
I have taken the liberties here of revising and making what I see as small improvements to the some of the quotes from Anecdotes.