11. God Has Drawn You to this Residence
It was about the middle of January 1864 when Chushichi Yamanaka was thirty-eight years of age. Chushichi’s wife, Sono, had been suffering from severe hemorrhoids for over two years. Her condition became so critical that for several days she could not even drink any liquids. Two doctors had given up hope of recovery. Just about this time, Chushichi learned about the teachings of God from Seibei of Shiba Village. He immediately returned to the Residence* and was granted an audience with Oyasama. She said:
“You have an innen** with God and God has drawn you to this Residence. You need not worry about your wife’s condition. I will save her in an instant, but in return, you must be willing to serve God.”
* In Tenrikyo, Jiba, or the Residence, is the place of Creation. Therefore, it is said that a person ‘returns’ to Jiba even if it is the first time that he goes there in his life.
** Innen: literally “destiny” or “cause and effect.” Man’s original innen is to live a joyous life. Being allow free will, man has used his mind to pursue selfish goals, incurring dust which results in bad innen. In order to change his bad innen into a good one, man must gain merit by using his mind in accord with God’s will.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 6–7.
Information from Taimō
“Chushichi Yamanaka: Born in Mamekoshi, Shikijo County, Yamato Province (Mamekoshi, Sakurai City) in Bunsei 10  as the second son of Hikoshichi.
“He converted in Bunkyū 4  when his wife Sono was saved from illness. In Ganji 1 [also 1864] he was instrumental in shouldering the cost for the construction for the Place for the Service.
“In Keio 2 (1865), he received ‘Eidai no mono-dane‘ [‘eternal seeds’]1 from Oyasama.
“He passed away for rebirth in Meiji 35 (1902) at the age of 76.”
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“From Yamanaka Chūshichi-den [Biography of Chushichi Yamanaka]. Oyasama visited the Yamanaka residence in the eighth lunar month of Keio 1 . She also once said: ‘the Yamanakas are God’s relatives.'”
I’m tempted to comment on the gender-biased language in the footnotes (“man,” “his,” etc.), but I’ll refrain from doing so and just concentrate on content.
A 2008 article from the weekly Tenrikyo newspaper Tenri jiho provides much background information on Chushichi Yamanaka and on this selection from Anecdotes in particular that I’d like to include throughout this post.
A series of grave misfortunes visited the Yamanaka household in 1862 — the illness of Sono and eldest son Hikoshichi in addition to the passing of Chushichi’s father (also named Hikoshichi) as well as his eldest and third daughters. One can imagine the extent of Chushichi’s distress of having had to preside over the funerals for three family members and have his son and wife suffer from illness in the same year. (I cannot help but wonder if a contagious disease such as cholera visited the family.) That Sono could not partake any liquids at one point demonstrates the severity of her condition. Chushichi is said to have heard about Oyasama just as Sono’s condition became critical.
According to Anecdotes 11, when Chushichi visited Oyasama, she said: “You have an innen with God with God and God has drawn you to this Residence. You need not worry about your wife’s condition. I will save her in an instant, but in return, you must be willing to serve God.”
This phrase “innen with God” is an interesting spin on the Tenrikyo tenet that maintains illness is one of God’s ways to draw people to the faith. I have already written on this very subject elsewhere in this series (specifically in my comments on Anecdotes 8.) The words may differ, but I feel the general idea is the same.2 The same phrase may also have a specific connection with Chushichi Yamanaka if we take into consideration that Oyasama once allegedly proclaimed the Yamanakas were “God’s relatives.”
In any case, it may be fitting here to mention that “innen” in Tenrikyo has two distinct usages — the first (which I would argue is higher in importance) is the “moto no innen” that is shared by all of humanity. The second usage of innen — “kojin no innen” (personal or individual innen) — refers to a kind of “karmic fortune” if you will, that differs with each individual. Although innen is officially translated as “causality,” I am not really sure this is the best equivalent we have in English. I suspect the causality has a great amount of philosophical baggage that may not make it suitable translation for innen. Certainly, this is a topic that needs some more Scriptural study and theological refinement.
Although this is not detailed in Anecdotes 11, Oyasama further is said to have instructed Chushichi to come to the Residence without fail for the next three days. He followed these words but Sono showed no signs of a recovery over after three days and was about to lose hope.
Yet when he collected himself together and visited again on the fourth day, Oyasama allegedly said: “God guided and tended to you so that you would resolve such a mindset. I commend you for coming today without surrendering to weariness. I will save your wife, you need not be concerned.” Sono was then completely cured of her condition in just ten days.
The conversion of Chushichi Yamanaka proved to be integral to the formation of a group dedicated to practicing Oyasama’s teachings, for Chushichi’s status as a wealthy landowner in Mamekoshi (an area roughly eight kilometers south of Jiba) helped finance the construction of the Place for the Service (Tsutome-basho), which started in the fall of 1864.
Yet the fact that Chushichi’s memory is enshrined in the central altar at the Memorial Hall of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters suggests that he played a far more significant role in Tenrikyo history than a mere financier.
The central altar is usually only reserved for members of the Nakayama family, a category which includes the late Shinbashiras, but there are three exceptions: Chushichi, Izo Iburi, and Naraito Ueda. That Izo Iburi bestowed the truth of the Sazuke after Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life in 1887 and Naraito Ueda took over for Izo in 1907 provides sufficient reason for their place in the central altar, but I know nothing specific from Chushichi’s life that similarly explains why he also deserves a place there.
One guess is that he very likely made the best use of the Sazuke of the Fan among all of Oyasama’s disciples who happened to receive it. The Sazuke of the Fan was a grant that gave recipients the ability to inquire God’s will. (A short mention of how this grant was used appears in Anecdotes 14.) It is also possible the answer may be found somewhere in the Osashizu, a Scripture whose very length frequently restricts our best attempts at understanding Tenrikyo history.
- Next installment in this series: 12. The Sazuke (Divine Grant) of Fertilizer
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
- Satō, Kōji. 2004. “Innen.” In Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, pp. 334–338.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō Oyasama (kyōso?) no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. “Oyasama: Kami ga hiki yoseta.” Taimō 477 (September 2008), pp. 16–17.
- Yamanaka, Chūtarō. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie.” Tenri jihō No. 4079 (May 18, 2008), p. 3.
Further suggested reading
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 8–10.
- I was about to translate this as “permanent seeds” until I realized the phrase “eidai no mono-dane” appears in Anecdotes 15 (“These Seeds”), which is an account of Oyasama bestowing them to Chushichi Yamanaka. (The Chinese characters 永代 are normally read “eitai.”) I thought this was my first time to come across this term, but apparently it wasn’t! ↩
- Ikiru kotoba elaborates on this phrase as follows: “Illness is painful and trying. Yet it contains God the Parent’s desire concerning the original creation. Oyasama has said: “When it is the divine will to use a person in God’s service, God will draw that person to this Residence by any means. Be thankful and follow the path joyfully, no matter what you may encounter” (Anecdotes 36). Illness is also referred to as God’s call for our service. Illness is a form of guidance; they are road signs (michi-ose or michi-oshie, literally, “path-teaching”). Illness is not something to be loathed or feared” (p. 53). ↩
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