Rising Early, Honesty, and Hard Work

The following is an excerpt from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 61–65) by Koji Sato (佐藤浩司), assistant professor at Tenri University and instructor at Tenri Seminary. Note: This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Rising Early, Honesty, and Hard Work

Izo Iburi was an honest and hard worker, having the reputation in his neighborhood as a sincere person. He earned his living as a carpenter and was also praised for his work. He joined the faith in 1864 after his wife Sato was saved from severe complications resulting from a miscarriage.

Izo subsequently served Oyasama and the Residence in such a fervent manner that he was called a “man of true sincerity.” Even when the building of the Place for the Service was almost interrupted by an incident at Oyamato Shrine, Izo shouldered the responsibility of completing the construction on his own.

One day Oyasama took three unhulled rice grains and placed them one after another in the palm of his hand, saying:

This one is for rising early, this one for honesty, and this one for hard work. Hold these firmly in your hand. You must make sure that you never lose them.

Anecdotes of Oyasama 29 “Three Treasures”

It need not be mentioned that since Izo was the embodiment of “early rising, honesty, and hard work,” he took Oyasama’s words to heart and further committed himself to implementing them throughout his life. Yet, we may ask, why did Oyasama instruct Izo in this way?

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Oyasama taught the lesson of “rising early, honesty, and hard work” to Izo’s eldest daughter Yoshie in the following manner:

Working hard out the sight of others and praising others is honesty. If you do not put into practice what you hear, you yourself will become a lie. If you continue to work, saying to yourself, ‘Just a little more, just a little bit more’; this is not greed, it is work that comes from true sincerity.

Anecdotes of Oyasama 111, “Being Awakened in the Morning”

There is a proverb that says, “In spring one sleeps a sleep that knows no dawn.” Again, it is not very easy to get out of bed on in the morning on a cold day. Especially in our youth, our wish is to sleep even a minute or second longer.

In the west there is the well-known proverb “The early bird gets the worm.” There are similar proverbs in Japanese (“An early riser gains three mon1) and in Chinese (“An early riser gains light from three sources—the Sun, the Moon, and the stars”).

In any case, the act of waking early in the morning is promoted as an effective means to bring about success. The reason why early rising has been promoted this way in the East and West, both past and present, is because of the reality that it is quite a difficult thing to accomplish.

There are some who insist that “asa-oki” (“rising early,” or literally “waking in the morning”) is different from “haya-oki” (“early rising”). By examining the Chinese character to write “asa” (朝, i.e., “morning”) we see that it is made up of a combination of other characters. We can interpret the character for morning to mean “the sufficiently (十) early (早) time when the Moon (月) looks bigger than the Sun (日).” Thus “asa-oki” as Oyasama meant it can be interpreted to waking when the Sun is about to rise. What do you think of my suggested interpretation?

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A psalm that is often quoted says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” There is also the general view that “Honesty does not pay.” Yet the problem of improprieties being committed by individuals working at government agencies and big businesses in recent years is a result of lies heaped atop one another. When the truth comes out, even a well-established company can make a negative about-turn and endure the misery of bankruptcy. As the proverb “God dwells in an honest man’s head” instructs us, it is better for us to live with righteousness and honesty.

But honesty does not simply end at being a frame of mind.

As Oyasama instructed, “If you do not put into practice what you hear, you yourself will become a lie,” the implementation of honesty in our daily life is important.

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The path tells us that humans were born to work in this world. Oyasama taught we work (hataraku) in order to make things easier (raku) for those around us (hata).

People must work in order to make a living. But as the proverb says, “Man does not live on bread alone,” people work with different aspirations in mind. The concept of “work” or mutual help that Oyasama taught as a means “to make things easier for the people around us” was adopted from the path by the acclaimed “god of management” Konosuke Matsushita as his company motto when he founded Matsushita Electric.

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As for the answer to the question I posed earlier on the possible reason why Oyasama taught the lesson of “rising early, honesty, and hard work” when Izo was already the embodiment of these qualities, She also taught the following lesson while holding a grain of unhulled rice:

The same is true with a human being. If you sow a grain of sincerity, within a year’s time, it will yield two to three hundred grains. In the second year there will be grains in the tens of thousands. The providence of a single grain returning ten-thousandfold will be granted. By the third year there will be enough to sow the entire province of Yamato.

Anecdotes of Oyasama 30, “Ten Thousandfold”

I feel that Oyasama’s emphasis on the importance of “rising early, honesty, and hard work” is revealed to us by the fact that She taught this lesson using an unhulled grain of rice. This lesson is significant due to the very fact that Izo embodied these qualities on a daily basis.

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


  1. A mon is an ancient unit of money worth one-thousandth of a yen.