The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 76–80) 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 will most likely require further revision.
Efforts That Are Consistent With One’s Words
Human beings can freely use speech as a means of communication. We can share our thoughts with others thanks to this ability. Yet when we come to think of it, it is a miracle for spoken language—which is nothing more than a simple series of sounds—to have an effect on people’s minds. What once began as a meaningless series of sounds came to be assigned with value and meaning after an extended process.
The manner in which we choose our words has the power to make our relationships flourish and suffer. As God the Parent desires all of humanity to support and help one another, we have been given various instructions on the manner we speak and how we choose our words.
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Oyasama once said the following to Isaburo Masui 桝井伊三郎:
“Some are good within yet bad without, and there are also people who are bad within and good without. Anger, selfishness and irritability are wrong [uses of the mind]. A single word is important. One achieves harmony in the family by the way one breathes in and out to form the very words one speaks.”
“Isaburo, you are gentle and sociable to everyone outside your home. When you are home and face your wife, you become angry and shout at her; that is the worst thing you could do. Never do it again.”
Isaburo wondered if his wife had complained about him, but when he considered that God knows and sees everything, he resolved to never become angry again. Then, miraculously, he did not become the least bit upset despite what his wife said to him when he came home.
Yasu Matsuda 松田やす of Kosaka Village helped cook for the Residence for several years from her teens. Oyasama once said to her:
“Yasu, a man, any man, is what a wife’s word makes him. Even if he is a man who is called a fool by others, if his wife treats him with respect and says politely, ‘Welcome home, dear,’ when he comes home, people will say, ‘Although we call him a fool, judging by the respectful way his wife treats him, he must be a great man.’ Whether the husband becomes a great man or a fool depends on the wife’s word.”
Thus, we are taught the importance of how we speak to others face-to-face. Yet even more important is the way we speak about others when they are not present.
In the Osashizu, the Divine Directions, we are taught:
ほんに成程と、口で人に満足さしたて、そうであったかえなあ、真の尋ね合い、言葉添えは真の誠。（中略）蔭から言葉を添える道なれど、人々寄り合うた時は、口で旨い事言うて居て、後でふんと言うてるような事ではならん。 The effort to satisfy a person with one’s words, “Truly, certainly”; the effort toward a sincere inquiry with someone, “Was that how it was?” [Such efforts that are] consistent with one’s words amounts to pure sincerity…. This path is a path to act consistently with one’s words away from the sight of others. It will not do to say sweet words while people are gathered and voice disagreement afterward.
Osashizu, December 31, 1898 Timely Talk; trial translation
Further, the same Direction also declares:
この話伝えば治め方、又話し方の理にもなる。 If you convey this message, it will become the teaching on how to settle [a situation] and the teaching on how [one is] to speak.
There are times when we are on the receiving end of abuse or offensive behavior from someone we only know on a casual basis. We would have a way to resolve the situation if we knew what the cause was. But we have no way to deal with the situation if we have no clue what the problem is.
Someone once approached me for advice about such a situation. Because I once went through a similar experience myself, I told him what I did in my case. That was, to find a positive aspect about that person and praise that aspect at every opportunity when the person was not around. When this person quickly took my advice, it was only a matter of days before he came back with the good news about how this sour relationship made a dramatic turnaround for the better.
- Next installment in this series: Returns
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Yet another confounding phrase: kotoba-zoe 言葉添え, which I have little grasp on how to translate. I’ve rendered it “[being] consistent with one’s words” here but I once had it as “follow(ing) up on one’s words.” I definitely need some time to get a better grasp on the meaning the original phrase and come up with something appropriate in English.