The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 73–76) 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.
People each have their individual traits and different ways of thinking and perceiving. One comes to the conclusion that society is made up and held together by such gatherings of people. Yet a society cannot hold together if every person refuses to meet others halfway after asserting their opinion or point of view. Laws and courts function to find ways to settle conflicts between two opposing parties that have exhausted all means of finding a solution on their own.
However, in reality, just because we may have disagreements with others does not mean there is a free-for-all rush to the courts. That is because we know when to reconcile our differences with others. Regardless whether we have a difference in opinion with someone, even when we might not be completely persuaded, we find a way to compromise once we work to understand their way of thinking. The act of reconciling is a piece of human wisdom that helps to smooth interpersonal relationships.
* * *
Tokichi Izumita 泉田藤吉 (who later founded Nakatsu Grand Church) engaged himself in missionary work while selling sweet potatoes in Osaka. After closing shop for the day, he would always return to Jiba that night and return to Osaka before dawn after hearing some of the teachings firsthand.
One day, he was held up by three highway robbers on his way to Jiba on the Jusan Pass—a mountain pass linking Yamato Province to Osaka which he usually took.
The teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” which he had been instructed in flashed in his head. Tokichi then took off his coat and other pieces of clothing as the robbers demanded and placed his wallet on top of them. He sat on the ground on his knees, bowed, and said, “I am grateful that I was allowed to borrow these items for such a long time. Please go ahead and take them home with you.”
However, when Tokichi raised his head, there was no sign of the robbers. They had fled without taking a single thing, possibly because they were spooked and uneasy at how Tokichi was all too willing to comply with their demands.
Tokichi thus returned to Jiba unharmed and was granted an audience with Oyasama, who gave him the following words:
“You went through much difficulty. Because you have achieved inner harmony through reconciliation, I grant you the Sazuke of Ashiki-harai. Receive it.”
This was how Tokichi was granted the truth of the Sazuke.
Tokichi was physically strong and big in size, such that he was once hired as a guide and baggage carrier for religious pilgrimages in the Western provinces. One would think that he would have had no trouble fending off three highway robbers.
Yet it was because he had settled his mind with the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” and attained “inner harmony through reconciliation” that he successfully avoided a needless fight and returned to Jiba safe and sound.
* * *
This attainment of “inner harmony through reconciliation” that Oyasama mentioned is different from reaching a compromise within an interpersonal relationship. I believe that it refers to how Tokichi choose to settle his mind with the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” when he was faced with an inner struggle on whether or not he was going to make a stand against the trio of robbers.
No matter what problem or inconvenience we may encounter, we should be able to have an appropriate response if we do not stop short by merely compromising, but strive to attain true reconciliation in our minds. For instance, as we walk on the path of faith, even we find ourselves in situations where compliance is expected from us, it is not an easy task to block our thoughts and verbally accede to any request. It is important that we persuade ourselves from within and achieve inner harmony through reconciliation.
- Next installment in this series: Efforts That Are Consistent With One’s Words
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Here is another Japanese phrase that is giving me trouble—”ori-ai” or “ori-au,”which I have chosen to translate as “reconciling/reconciliation” here. I admit I don’t have much of a confident feel for both the original Japanese as well as the English word “reconciliation.” The original translation of Anecdotes did not help at all since it does not even try to account for it and I feel that it is not effectively capturing the essence of the original.
My trusty Japanese language dictionary (Shinmeikai kokugo jiten) lists the usage for “ori-au” as: “When opposing factions meet halfway to make a compromise.” But what Rev. Izumita did above was not meeting the robbers halfway at all; he was willing to have them take his possessions. I’m unsure that “reconciliation” has such an implication.
While one may argue Rev. Izumita was always taking off his clothes, as we see in other stories, I doubt that this really has to do anything with what Sato sensei is getting at with his example. I’m having fits trying to get this translation to come out right; better stop now before I work myself crazy over it.