The following excerpt is from Omichi no joshiki [Tenrikyo Fundamentals] (pp. 102–105) 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.
A Single Vegetable Leaf
Most people are aware of the importance of the balance between production and consumption in economic pursuits. This is also evident when we observe prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, agrarian societies, and even animal societies.
However, this balance has been severely undermined ever since human beings achieved the capability of mass-production during the Industrial Revolution. The advancement of engineering and technology brought about improvements in productivity, which has resulted in the inclination of making more things than is needed.
Out of this trend came the hideous idea that “consumption is a virtue.” Any product that has the slightest hint of a problem is not repaired but is replaced by buying a new one. Each time a new product appears on the market, people will throw out things that are still in usable condition in favor for it.
A social environment that allows these trends to continue has brought forth a prevailing attitude where nothing is valued. People do not use things with care and think nothing of throwing things away.
Furthermore, such a mentality is not only limited to material possessions, but has been transferred to people and ideas as well. Those who immediately show results at work are touted as exemplary employees and those who are thought to be behind the times are relegated to marginal positions or are the first to be shown the door during the next corporate downsizing. Also, the increase in cases where seniors face alienation and exclusion in their own families may be a reflection of how productivity has become the only way to judge a person’s worth in modern society.
Oyasama once said, “Do not waste even a single vegetable leaf.”
She ate everything at the dining table, even a single grain of rice, with utmost preciousness. She also said:
“Leftovers will nourish you. It is not gluttony.”
I feel that Oyasama is teaching us through Her words the importance of recognizing the intrinsic value of what most people no longer pay attention to.
Another time, Oyasama said the following when smoothing out small crumpled pieces of paper on Her lap:
“If these crumpled pieces of paper are smoothed out gently like this, they become neat and can be used again. Nothing is useless.”
We are told that Oyasama did not even waste one sheet of paper. She would gently smooth out the wrinkles out from pieces of wastepaper and placed them under Her seat cushion to be used again.
Also, during an imprisonment at Nara Prison, Oyasama once made paper strings out of a piece of writing paper and wove these strings into a net basket. Giving this to Gisaburo Nakata, She said:
“You must treasure things. You must make good use of everything. Everything is a gift from God.”
By simply chasing after productivity and efficiency in the name of convenience and comfort, humanity in the modern age has brought pollution and alienation upon themselves. Recently people have become conscious of the importance of caring for our natural and living environments.
It is a welcome change that people have begun to focus their attention on taking care of the gifts of nature that God has blessed us with and protecting the earth’s environment in which we inhabit. It would be certainly fruitful to take a moment and learn from Oyasama’s mind-set that cherishes even “a single vegetable leaf.”
- Next installment in this series: A Mind Like Cotton
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.