The following is a translation of Part 41 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the May 2006 (No. 449) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 41: Bamboo Brooms
Naka Higashida was born in 1893 in Mifune-machi, Kumamoto Prefecture. When she came of age, her aunt who had relocated to Hawaii came to her with a marriage proposal. It was an arranged marriage with a mere exchange of photos, and it was decided that Naka would go to Hawaii to marry.
However, Naka did not receive official permission to travel since she suffered from an illness of the eyes. She had no other choice but to wait until her eyes healed. It was then when she heard the Tenrikyo teachings from Tsuma Hayama. Naka was powerfully drawn to the teachings of how God the Parent created humanity and the world. She also felt a great opening of the consciousness when she heard the teaching “By saving others you yourself will be saved.
Naka was filled with an irresistible urge to go to Jiba and made her first return to Jiba in 1911 and began attending the Besseki lectures. After hearing the Besseki lectures, she immediately jumped at the chance to pray to God the Parent for anyone who had a headache or toothache.
Naka experienced an irrepressible joy in engaging in salvation work since her prayers would bring about miraculous instances of divine protection. In 1912, Naka received the truth of the Sazuke and spent each day thereafter walking about spreading the fragrance and engaging in salvation work. The talk of her going to Hawaii had dissolved by this time.
Naka learned of a woman who suffered from cancer of the uterus and had been bedridden for four years. Neither doctors nor anyone else thought this woman could be saved. Yet Naka intently prayed, “Please, I wish to have her saved by all means” and walked a distance of three li (approximately 12 kilometers) everyday.
Leaving home in the morning, Naka would reach the sick woman’s side at around noon, administered the Sazuke and cared for her, massaging the woman’s shoulders, preparing and giving her a bath. The woman was struck by Naka’s sincerity and gradually began to listen to the teachings to the point where she settled a couple of the teachings in her heart. Her symptoms disappeared a little at a time until she was able to walk in a month’s time.
Naka thereafter intently devoted her efforts toward spreading the fragrance and engaging in salvation work, and was shown miraculous instances of God’s protection one after another. Nevertheless, Naka thought to herself, “God the Parent is leading me like how one tempts a child with a piece of candy, thinking to raise me, still so spiritually immature, into a genuine Yoboku (timber).” and spiritedly dedicated herself even further for the salvation of others.
Naka devoted her utmost in the season heading to the 40th Anniversary of Oyasama. Nevertheless, she thought, “I have been allowed to serve the path as much as possible, yet, I wonder: Isn’t there at least one more thing I can do to bring joy to Oyasama? I want to be able to savor a tangible sense of having served the path.”
She then decided to make bamboo brooms and donate them as a way of firmly recognizing Oyasama’s urgent intention for humanity to sweep our minds.
Naka immediately had three people who could make bamboo brooms come and show her how to make them. She strove to make one broom a day and made a thousand brooms. Since there were many bamboo scraps left over from her work, she came up with the idea of making them into chopsticks.
While she had a hard time at first, she gradually became skilled at making them and made five thousand pairs of bamboo chopsticks. Although Naka was concerned about coming up the shipping cost, one of her followers approached her and expressed their wish to cover the shipping. It is said that three years thereafter, the bamboo brooms that Naka made could be seen throughout Jiba.
Reference: Nakajima Hideo. Haha hitori, umi wataru: Higashida Naka to Amerika fukyo.
- Next installment in this series: 42. “God’s Gifts Are Free and Unlimited”
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Naka Higashida 東田ナカ left for the U.S. in 1929. Her husband, Haruo Higashida (the first Tenrikyo missionary ever to have received authorization to propagate the faith in the U.S.) was installed as the first head minister of North America Church in 1933. Naka became the second head minister of same church in 1950 after the passing of her husband in 1949 (Tenrikyo jiten kyokai-hen, p. 846).