The following is a translation of Part 1 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (The Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the January 2003 (No. 409) issue of Taimo, pp. 20–21.
Part 1 “If You Listen To God’s Teachings”
After Risaburo Yamamoto experienced firsthand an instance of miraculous salvation in the summer of 1873, he is said to have spread the fragrance of the teachings among his acquaintances and relatives. He undoubtedly did so around his hometown of Kashiwara Village (currently Kashiwara City, Osaka Prefecture).
It is also presumed that he went around the neighboring villages of Shiki and Oibara but the evidence is unclear because there are no sources to confirm this.
He is said to have been the first to convert someone from Onji Village (currently Yao City, Osaka Prefecture) when he transmitted the path to a relative named Taichi Moriyama.
Finally, he had a relative from Furuichi Village in southern Kawachi Province (currently Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture) by the name of Ihei Okuno. Ihei was Risaburo’s uncle so he occasionally went to their home to spread the fragrance of the teachings.
Ihei Okuno was a pilgrimage guide to Mt. Omine in Yamato Province. He was devoted to many deities, including Konpira, Yakushi and Kobo Daishi. It is said one of his prayers allowed a woman to give milk when she initially couldn’t. Because of his devotion, he was not willing to listen to what the Tenrikyo faith had to offer. Risaburo nevertheless went to talk about the teachings on multiple occasions.
At the time, Ihei’s son Kumakichi could not move freely because of numbness in his lower body and his daughter Ito could not move her legs due to illness. Around the year 1876, Risaburo visited the Okunos and conveyed the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed. Both Ihei and Kumakichi listened while sitting seiza (formally, on one’s knees). As they listened, nodding and admitting the veracity of what they heard, the numbness had eased from Kumakichi’s body.
Then, Ito, who was sleeping on the other side of a folding screen, still wearing her nightwear, suddenly stood up and said through the folding screen, “Father.”
“Oh! What’s going on? What’s happening?” Astonished, Ihei could only stare blankly at his daughter.
His son Kumakichi then said, “Father, my numbness is gone as well.”
Ihei repeated over and over, “It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle.”
Risaburo then said: “If you listen to God’s talks with your heart and soul, admitting to its truth, all illnesses will settle. Because of the faith you had until now, you doubted Tenrikyo and it delayed you three years.”
According to the Okunos and their descendants, those who were convinced of the truth of Risaburo Yamamoto’s talks were saved, and those who doubted what he said saw their conditions turn for worse.
Reference: Takano, Tomoji. Gozonmei no koro.
- Next installment in this series: 2. “I’m Not Doing the Saving”
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Rev. Risaburo Yamamoto 山本利三郎 (1850–1895) later went on to become the first head minister of Chuka Bunkyokai 中河分教会 (branch church) in 1890. Now known as Tenrikyo Chuka Daikyokai 天理教中河大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 272 branch churches and 473 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Central Fresno Church and Pacific Valley Church in the U.S.
Further suggested reading
- Refer to Anecdotes of Oyasama 33 “The Bridge Between Countries” (pp. 26–28) for an account of Rev. Risaburo Yamamoto’s conversion to the faith.
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 51–55.