Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 12

12. The Sazuke (Divine Grant) of Fertilizer

Oyasama said to Chushichi Yamanaka:

“As you are following the path of God, in your farming you must not have enough time to fertilize sufficiently,”

and then She bestowed the Sazuke* of Fertilizer on Chushichi. She continued:

“Concerning the Sazuke of Fertilizer, it is not the substance itself, but the truly sincere mind of each person which is effective.”

Further, She said:

“True or false, try it and see.”

As soon as Chushichi got home, he chose two fields and fertilized one sufficiently with the usual night soil, fertilized the other only with the Sazuke of Fertilizer, and decided to wait for the result.

Soon, August passed and September came to an end. The field fertilized with the night soil became thick with green rice plants which promised a rich harvest in the fall. On the other hand, the field fertilized with the Sazuke of Fertilizer seemed lifeless. The stalks were short and stubby and they had turned a slightly reddish color. Chushichi could not help but doubt, “After all, it seems like the night soil is more effective than the sazuke.”

However, at autumn harvest time, the rice plants from the usually fertilized field were infested with insects and some were even empty. In contrast, none of the rice plants from the field of the sazuke were infested with insects and none were empty, although the stalks were a little shorter. It was discovered that the sazuke field actually yielded more rice at harvest time.


*Sazuke: a divine grant for salvation bestowed by God the Parent. When it is administered to any person suffering from a physical or mental illness, the person is saved and given the marvelous blessing of God the Parent.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 7–8.

Translation of “Sawa’s note”

“Oyasama visited the Yamanaka residence in the eighth lunar month of Keio 1 (1865). She also once said: ‘the Yamanakas are God’s relatives.'”

My take

I’m tempted to comment on how awkward I find the translation in some places in addition to other technical things (such as no consistency with capitalizing or italicizing “Sazuke”), but I’ll just go ahead and concentrate on the content of the anecdote.

While Anecdotes 12 does not provide the date when Oyasama bestowed the Sazuke of Fertilizer on Yamanaka Chushichi, the same Tenri jiho article I mentioned last time dates the bestowal during her visit to his home in 8/1865 (lunar).

To fill in the historical narrative from where the last selection left off, we remember that Chushichi first visited Oyasama in lunar 1/1864 to request her to save his wife Sono from a serious case of hemorrhoids that caused her physical distress over at least two years, to the point where her condition actually became critical.

Chushichi subsequently converted after Sono was restored to health. He pledged his service to God (Oyasama) and continued his daily visits to listen to teachings regarding the ten aspects of the complete providence of God and about innen. As he began to gain an understanding of Oyasama’s hardships since becoming the Shrine of God, he began taking a bright red sack filled with one shō (4.5 kg) of white rice each time he returned to the Residence. Encouraged by Sono and his daughter to increase the amount to five to (225 kg), he truly felt grateful for being able to dedicate himself each day in this way (Yamanaka 2008).1

The conversion of Izo Iburi in lunar 6/1864 led to the construction of the Place for the Service later the same year, to which Chushichi pledged to cover the expenses for. Although the construction project was initially supported by a sizable number of adherents, the majority of them were discouraged from continuing their faith due to the so-called “Oyamato Shrine incident.” The incident also incurred debts that adversely affected the construction project, so that Chushichi is said to have sold lumber from his property and emptied his warehouse of rice and cotton to help alleviate a part of them (Ten no jōgi, p. 39).

As a result, the lunar New Year at the Yamanaka household was a rather meager affair compared to years past. Yet despite of his financially strapped situation, Chushichi was grateful that his family was in good health when he considered that Sono’s condition was critical the year before. Also considering that Oyasama was in the midst of greater hardship than they were, he is said to have insisted to his family that it was more important to make the effort so Oyasama would be able to partake her New Year’s mochi, even if they had to forfeit theirs (Yamanaka 2008).

*Update on April 27, 2009

Some preparatory reading for an upcoming selections from Anecdotes (Tsujii 2000) unearthed some extra information I’d like to add here. First, there is mention that Chushichi initially prepared and took a lunch with him when he made his daily visitations to the Residence.

Yet because neither Oyasama nor her daughter Kokan showed signs of getting ready for lunch, he eventually did not touch the packed lunch (bento) that he took with him. (This episode helps demonstrate how destitute the situation was for Oyasama at the time.)

The same source also identifies the daughter who suggested to Chushichi with her mother Sono to offer five to of rice to the Residence as Koiso Yamanaka (someone whom has been featured quite prominently in other posts here on Tenrikyology).

When Chushichi approached Oyasama about making such an offering (again, equaling 225 kg), she is said to have responded: “It is ideal (kekkō) for you to dedicate yourself (hakobi) day after day after day as you are doing now” (Tsujii p. 18). Oyasama’s words here imply that it is better to make daily efforts to worship and make small, incremental offerings rather than making large offerings at sporadic intervals.

Before New Year’s 1865, Chushichi offered two shō (9 kg) of glutinous or “mochi rice” to the Residence. While I do not know how valuable mochi rice was compared to the common variety at the time, considering that the amount Chushichi offered at the end of the New Year amounted to only twice the weight of what he had offered on a daily basis may be an indication of his shrinking wealth.

It may also be notable to mention that at a village festival that same New Year’s holiday season in 1865, a bunch of youths ridiculed Chushichi as a fool, for many considered his loyalty to Oyasama to be quite unconventional indeed. It is said that he became upset, shouting, “We’ll see who’ll end up as being the fool” and never showed up at such a similar social gathering thereafter.

The Sazuke of Fertilizer

It was in such a situation where he was financially strapped but demonstrated an unwavering commitment that Oyasama bestowed the Sazuke of Fertilizer (koe no Sazuke) to Chushichi, saying, “As you are following the path of God, in your farming you must not have enough time to fertilize sufficiently.”

Anecdotes 12 is the only account I am aware of that actually describes anyone using the grant known as the Sazuke of Fertilizer. Mentioned in Mikagura-uta Song One, verse 1 and the Ofudesaki (4:51, 50; 13 60–61, 72), the Sazuke of Fertilizer was among the first series of Sazuke grants Oyasama bestowed to followers.2

The recipient of the “truth” of this grant would take three  合 (450 g) each of rice-bran, ashes, and soil, and offer the mixture to God the Parent. When this grant was administered and the mixture was placed in a field, Oyasama taught that it would be equal to the efficacy of one da 駄 or horseload (135 kg) of night soil.3

Oyasama’s words about the efficacy of the Sazuke of Fertilizer in Anecdotes 12 (“It is not the substance itself, but the truly sincere mind of each person which is effective.”) is echoed in the Ofudesaki4 and is quite similar to a passage from the Osashizu describing the goku — “It is not the sacred rice itself but the truth of the mind that is effective” (April 3, 1904).

According to The Life of Oyasama, Saemon (Gisaburo) Nakata, Chusaku Tsuji, and a “Koemon of Senzai Village” (no surname supplied, but potentially referring to Koemon Murata) were also recipients of the Sazuke of Fertilizer. When bestowing the grant to Chusaku and Koemon, Oyasama said: “Understand that these are for all eternity. You will not be able to continue your long journey without [covering your] traveling expenses. So, I bestow upon you Fertilizer [to cover] for your traveling expenses” (p. 39).5

The Sazuke of Fertilizer no longer exists today. Like other forms of the Sazuke Oyasama granted in 1864 and 1865, its bestowal was discontinued at some point; no one appears to have been a recipient of the Sazuke of Fertilizer after 1865. The question naturally arises: Why?

The ability for followers to use of the Sazuke of the Fan (another early form of the Sazuke) is said to have been revoked entirely by Oyasama from 1868 or so since a number of followers allegedly abused its use. While I can see how such a grant, which is said to have given recipients the ability to know God’s intention when they interpreted the fan’s movements while praying, could be abused, one wonders why Oyasama stopped granting the Sazuke of Fertilizer.

Abuse of the Sazuke of the Fan was potentially damaging (the Sukezo incident, involving a follower who may have been a recipient, comes to mind), but I can’t see how the Sazuke of Fertilizer could be abused in any way. It either works or it doesn’t. If the grant failed to be effective from protecting crops, it could always be maintained that the sincerity of the person applying the Fertilizer was lacking.

I would like to imagine that anything that would promise the protection of crops as described in Anecdotes 12 would be a boon for farmers across the world — especially in areas throughout Africa that are especially vulnerable to crop failure today due to global warming. Yet this Sazuke is not with us anymore. All we have today is one form of Sazuke administered for the sake of praying for another’s recovery from illness.

Granted, just the fact that we have this Sazuke today is certainly something to be grateful for. Nevertheless, we can only imagine how many people would benefit from the Sazuke of Fertilizer if it was still with us, could be applied anywhere in the world its recipients took it, and proved effective as described above.

(And besides, I imagine its environmentally-friendly ingredients of rice-bran, ashes, and soil would be an improvement over the current widespread use of nitrogen-based fertilizers that are said to be the cause of the increase in “dead zones” in the world’s oceans. But of course, the ingredients of the Sazuke of Fertilizer was said not to be the real source of its effectiveness.)

Did Oyasama have any particular reason for discontinuing its bestowal? There appears to be no clear answer.

Although I hoped that an Osashizu passage from July 17, 18906, which, according to the Tenrikyo jiten, is the only mention of the Sazuke of Fertilizer in this entire Scripture, may reveal something, it proved to be a little too cryptic for me. I can only hope that future research may someday reveal a convincing answer.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.


  • Fukaya, Tadamasa. 1978 [1962]. Commentary on the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Tsutome (revised edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department.
  • Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1997. “Koe no Sazuke.” In Kaitei Tenrikyō jiten. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, p. 327.
  • Tenrikyō Kyōgi oyobi Shiryō Shūseibu, ed. 1999 [1928]. Ofudesaki chūshaku. Tenri: Tenri Jihōsha.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • _________. 1996 [1967]. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1997. Ten no jōgi: Honseki Iburi Izō no shōgai. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
  • Tsujii, Masakazu. 2000. In Oyasama no oshie to gendai — Oyasama go-tanjō nihyaku nen kinen kyōgaku kōza shirīzu 1998 nen. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho. pp. 9–28.
  • Yamanaka, Chūtarō. 2008. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie.” Tenri jihō No. 4079 (May 18, 2008), p. 3.

Further reading

  • The Life of Oyasama, pp. 39–49.
  • Takano Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 8–10.


  1. Update on May 20, 2014: When first published, this post incorrectly converted the traditional Japanese measurements , shō, and to into liters and failed to give a metric equivalent for the measurement da. This oversight has since been corrected.
  2. Oyasama did not to bestow Sazuke grants that specifically allowed followers to petition God the Parent to heal physical disorders (i.e., the form of the Sazuke that as it is administered today) until December 1874.
  3. Information from Ofudesaki chūshaku, p. 60; Fukaya Tadamasa. Commentary on the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Tsutome, p. 43.
  4. “This fertilizer: do not wonder what is effective. The mind’s true sincerity is its effectiveness” (Ofudesaki 4:51).
  5. The current translation is missing this important verb so I decided to add them in brackets to the quote here.
  6. There is no English translation of this passage and the words are too obscure for me to even make a trial attempt at the moment. I encourage anyone willing to try a translation to open up vol. I of the Osashizu and turn to p. 778 (Arabic numbered page as opposed to page numbers in kanji).