15. These Seeds
Late at night on February 7, 1866, Oyasama, already in bed, suddenly said:
“Take out the crockery pot stored under the altar.”
When the pot was presented to Her, Oyasama called in Chushichi Yamanaka, and said to him:
“I have granted you various privileges until now. However, you might not be able to understand fully if I just tell you. You may worry about falling short of needs when you go along the divine path. You need not worry about anything. You will not be in want even if you wish to be. I will give you positive, positive, positive proof.”
Then Oyasama gave the crockery pot to him. She further instructed:
“Here are seeds which will multiply ten thousandfold. Sow these at your residence, Chushichi of Mamekoshi Village.”
On the following day, when Chushichi went to thank Her, Oyasama was pleased to see him and said:
“This grant is the treasure of your family and of the path. You must be very happy!”
He had been granted a list and four seeds. The list read: wheat — six kilograms, rice — about seventeen kilograms, personal allowance — sixty kan* and sake — about eleven liters. These were granted as eternal seeds. Each of the four seeds was a six centimeter square, white paper packet which was bound on four sides with white string. On the face of each packet respectively was written: “seed of wheat,” “seed of rice,” “money for medicine,” and “money for wine and seed of oil.” Oyasama Herself wrote these words with a writing brush. She also bound the packets with string, chanting:
“Namu, Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto, Namu, Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto.”
It was witnessed that the string did not go through if She stopped chanting. Thus, She gave him the proof that he would never be hard-pressed for the needs of life as long as he followed the path.
* Sixty kan = about 320 U. S. dollars.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 10–11
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“Sixty kan would amount to about 160,000 yen now. Since [what Oyasama allotted] already included, rice, wheat, and sake, even if one bought supplementary ingredients such as miso or shoyu, it still seems enough [money] to pay off one’s national pension payments.”
First of all, I’d like to mention that the only major event that occurred between the last selection (post-8/1865, lunar) and this one (2/7/1866, lunar) was the “Sukezo incident,” which Oyasama took care of in lunar 10/1865.
The more I read Anecdotes 15, the more I am struck at the magical qualities of the “seeds” and the crockery pot Oyasama bestows to Yamanaka Chushichi. I have seen a photo of these very items (in the May 18, 2008 edition of the Tenri jiho newspaper) and they are still preserved as family treasures of the Yamanaka family. (It may also be worthwhile to mention here that the house where Chushichi lived is now the location of Yamato Makoto Bunkyokai.)
I was only able to find scant information on these items, so I have no clue about how these four “seeds” (which as described above, physically were small pieces of paper that Oyasama wrote on and sewed together with string) worked. Questions abound: Did the four respective items appear as needed in the pot? Or were the “seeds” merely stored in the pot, which somehow maintained the amount Oyasama had indicated on the list she gave to Chushichi?
In any case, I would like to analyze Anecdotes 15 part by part, with an emphasis on the words attributed to Oyasama in this account before I proceed any further addressing questions regarding these “seeds.”
Anecdotes 15 opens with Oyasama waking in the middle of the night to summon Chushichi. This implies two things: The first is that Chushichi was staying overnight at the Residence, something that he may have done from time to time. Second, the bestowing of the pot appears to have been so important that it could not wait the next day. (Many subsequent revelations from God via the Ofudesaki — Oyasama’s direct writings — and the Osashizu — a written record of revelations from Oyasama and the Honseki — took place in the middle of the night.)
Analyzing Oyasama’s words (1) yurushi
Oyasama says to Chushichi, “I have granted you various privileges until now.” I presume that “privileges” is the translation of “yurushi” (which can be alternately be translated as “permission” or “grant”).1 I also presume these “privileges” refer to the Sazuke of the Fan and the Sazuke of the Gohei Oyasama bestowed to Chushichi in spring 1864 as well as the Sazuke of Fertilizer she bestowed to him in 8/1865.2
As for the reason for bestowing the pot and “seeds” she is about to give him, she explains: “You may worry about falling short of needs when you go along the divine path. You need not worry about anything. You will not be in want even if you wish to be. I will give you positive, positive, positive proof.”
I take this mention of Chushichi “falling short of needs” as Oyasama’s recognition of his devotion and the downturn he experiences in his earthy fortune that resulted from his commitment to follow God’s path. (This decline in his fortunes is mentioned briefly in my commentary on Anecdotes 12.)
I’d like to mention here that the original contains a term I often come across in Tenrikyo literature and I usually struggle to find a good English equivalent when it does: fujiyū 不自由. “Fujiyū” actually appears three times here — the first time it appears, it does so in the phrase “mono ni fujiyū ni naru” (translated as “falling short of needs”). The second and third time, it appears in the phrase “fujiyū shitai to omōtemo fujiyū shinai” (translated as “You will not be in want even if you wish to be”).
I guess this just shows the breadth of the ways this one term can be used. But the problem I often have finding a good English equivalent stems from the fact that it is used in modern Japanese to refer to a physical disability. (See for example, this short list of possibilities I got for “fujiyū ni naru” from ALC.co.jp, an online dictionary I often use.)
I am not exactly sure if the term was ever utilized in this way in Oyasama’s day, but I find that it seems awfully close in meaning with other Japanese terms I find in Tenrikyo literature such as “nangi” 難儀 and “nanjū” 難渋 considering that these terms share the same hand movement in the Service Dance.3 Nevertheless, there is something about “fujiyū” (or “fujū” in the Mikagura-uta or Service Dance) that, judging from the kanji used to write it, suggests a loss of freedom or control that the words “hardship” or “hindrance” do not.4
Hardship, difficulty, et al., in the short term equals delight for the long term
In any case, enough technical stuff, back to Oyasama’s words — the phrase “You will not be in want even if you wish to be” is echoed in other anecdotes as well. Consider this one from Anecdotes 36: “Sah, sah, take heart, take heart. You will not have any hardships [nangi], even if you wish to undergo hardships. It is all up to the individual’s mind.”
Here is another from Anecdotes 37: “Then, in the future you will be quite free from hardship [nangi], even if you want it. So work hard now.”
Lastly, consider this passage from the Osashizu: “If you go through the path of three years, you will never be in want [fujiyū] nor will you ever suffer [nangi]” (November 7, 1889).5
Granted, each of these three instructions was given in three different contexts to different people, yet I feel that they nevertheless all share the same central theme with Anecdotes 15. That is, although the effort to follow God’s path may result in inconvenience, suffering, hardship, or whatever you want to call it for the short term, God will accept a person’s sincere commitment so that, one day, the person will find him or herself in a situation where he or she cannot undergo difficulties even if they may wish to.
The paths of Tenrikyo predecessors such as Izo Iburi surely helps make a case for the viability of such instructions to followers today. Perhaps the path of Chushichi Yamanaka (whose life I am not as familiar with as I am with Izo’s) is supposed to suggest the same, for God is recorded to have said that Chushichi was someone singled out to live a life of “comfort and play” [raku asobi] as a result of his intense dedication (Osashizu, September 3, 1890).
More analysis: (3) Fusekomi
Oyasama’s words “I will give you positive, positive, positive proof”6 and “Here are seeds which multiply ten thousandfold” certainly may best be understood as statements that were meant to encourage Chushichi to maintain his commitment to God’s path.7
She then instructs him, “Sow these at your residence, Chushichi of Mamekoshi Village.” The Japanese for “sow” here is “fusekomi” (usually translated as “sowing seeds of sincerity“) which is a term that has a diverse range of meaning.8
This same term is translated elsewhere in Anecdotes as “dedicate… to serve” (Anecdotes 33) and “live in” (98 and 120), all in a context where Oyasama is instructing someone to devote themselves to the path or specifically to move in and live at the Residence. Although the term “fusekomi” may be correctly translated here as simply “sow,” I would argue that while Oyasama was specifically instructing Chushichi to “hide,” “cover,” or “keep” the “seeds” at his residence at the time, she may also have been anticipating his moving in and living at Jiba/Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, which God instructed him to do through the Honseki in 1889.
Next, I’d like to analyze the Japanese for “seeds” here, for it is not simply “tane” (seeds), but “mono-dane,” which is rendered as “seeds of everything” in the official English translation of the Mikagura-uta (11:2).
Yoshinaru Ueda sensei has defined “mono-dane” as the basic seeds that allow one to receive God’s wondrous blessings. He also writes that mono-dane also referred to a legendary magic jewel that would give birth to a new kami when one breathed upon it that would also magically and freely manifest anything one desired. He then specifically maintained that the meaning of mono-daneas it appears in the Mikagura-uta was the basis that allowed one receive God’s wondrous workings and for God to provide free and unrestricted blessings (Horiuchi, p. 113; Ueda 1994, pp. 589–590).9
“Treasure of the path”
I know what some of you are thinking: Are we at the end of this post yet? Well, almost. I was planning to discuss “kekko” to some length here. (Translated here as “You must be very happy!” It’s another Japanese word that gives me trouble and has been translated a variety of ways.) But seeing that this post is already over 3000 words (including the lengthy endnotes), I’ll save it for another time. I just have two more subjects to pick up before closing out the discussion for Anecdotes 15.
First, regarding the phrase “This grant is the treasure of your family and of the path” (kore wa kono ie no takara ya, michi no takara ya), I turn to Yoshinaru Ueda sensei one more time.
Considering that Oyasama referred to the “seeds” (mono-dane) as the “treasure of the path” and not simply the “treasure” of the Yamanaka family, he suggests that this episode as a whole and her accompanying instructions are not only directed to Chushichi Yamakana, but those that can be applied to anyone who makes the commitment to work for the path (1976, p. 32).
This pushes me to take a step further, that Oyasama is guaranteeing to cover the basic needs for those who are willing to work for the path (and I would maintain, this is especially true for those who work for Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. As long as one is willing, one can work and live in Jiba in relative comfort, with basic housing, food, and some allowance covered.)
Ueda sensei then explains that the “seeds” do not contain the items themselves but God’s protection or providence that allowed these items be maintained in the amount that Oyasama specified in the list that came with the “seeds” she gave Chushichi.
Ueda sensei says that when the rice was cooked and eaten, the 17 kilos of rice would be somehow replaced. In addition to mentioning that because the “seed” of sake represented God’s providence (ri), there was no worry for the 11 liters of alcohol to go bad, he writes that the personal allowance of 60 kan10 is enough put one’s minds at ease (ibid. p. 33).
Sawa has expressed this ease of mind above as being enough to pay off one’s national pension payments, or what could be described as Japan’s version of Social Security.
Original Japanese measurements
Lastly, since the measurements of the Kanrodai and those that appear in Tenrikyo’s Story of Creation are considered to have a variety of symbolic meanings, I’ve decided to end here by listing what Oyasama wrote in Japanese for future reference.
I find it interesting the number six appears quite frequently, a number that is associated with “peace settling” and the protection of breathing and speaking or Kashikone-no-Mikoto. (It is equally intriguing that the size of the “seeds” also happen to be “six centimeters” since the original measurement is given as two sun 二寸.) I’m not sure what the one to and two sho might symbolize.
目録 mokuroku or “list”
麦六升 mugi: six shō (“Wheat: six kilograms”)
米一斗二升 kome: One to and two shō (“Rice: about 17 kilograms”)
小遣銭六十貫 kozukai sen: 60 kan (“Personal allowance: about 320 1976 U.S. dollars”)
酒六升 sake: six shō (“about 11 liters”)
As written on the four “seeds” or mono-dane 物種
麦種 mugi-dane (“seed of wheat”)
米種 kome-dane (“seed of rice”)
いやく代 iyaku-dai (“money for medicine”)
酒代・油種 saka-dai, abura-dane (“money for wine and seed of oil”)
- Next installment in this series: 16. The Child’s Concern for the Parent
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
- Horiuchi, Midori. 2000. “Tane o maku no ya de.” In Oyasama no oshie to gendai — Oyasama go-tanjō nihyaku nen kinen kyōgaku kōza shirīzu 1998 nen. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho. pp. 107–121.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- _________. 1996 . The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- 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.
- Ueda Yoshinaru. 1976. “Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den itsuwa-hen ni tsuite.” Michi no dai 65 (May 1976), pp. 26–43.
- _________. 1994. Okagura-uta. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Yamanaka, Chūtarō. 2008. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 3.” Tenri jihō No. 4079 (May 18, 2008), p. 3.
- Yamochi, Tatsuzō. 1984. Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 11: God Has Drawn You to this Residence
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 12: The Sazuke (Divine Grant) of Fertilizer
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 14: Dyeing
- Takano Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 8–10.
- In Tenrikyo literature, the term “yurushi” can be found referring to the Grant of Safe Childbirth (obiya-yurushi) and the Grant/Invocation of Speech as bestowed to Izo Iburi ( alternately referred as gonjō no yurushi and gonjō no ukagai). It is also used to refer to God’s blessings of providing “freedom from smallpox,” which is mentioned one time each in the Mikagura-uta“obiya hōso no yurushi dasu” (5:2) and the Ofudesaki “obiya hōso no kono yurushi” (7:78) together with the Grant of Safe Childbirth. Although the various forms of the Sazuke Oyasama and the Honseki bestowed to followers are not explicitly called “yurushi,” I nevertheless consider them as divine “grants” that allow or permit recipients to either channel a specialized ability or blessing and this story allows me make a case that my presumptions may have some basis in a theological sense. ↩
- See my commentary on Anecdotes 14 for a description of the Sazuke of the Fan and that of Anecdotes 12 on the Sazuke of Fertilizer. As for the Sazuke of the Gohei, I have written elsewhere that “On top of its use as an object of worship, the gohei no sazuke was also utilized in a similar manner to that of the ōgi no sazuke (Sazuke of the Fan) to invoke the will of God the Parent.” ↩
- The “suffer” body motion in the Mikagura-uta or Service Dance is done in Song Two, verse seven (nanjū o/”those suffering”), Song Three, verse eight (tsurai/”trying”), Song Five, verse seven (nangi wa/”suffering”), Song Nine, verse two (fujiyū or fujū naki yo ni/”hardship free from”), Song Ten, verse seven (nangi suru no mo/”suffering to have”) and eight (tsurai/”trying”). Translations of the phrases from the Mikagura-uta here come from The Otefuri Guide, published by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1992. ↩
- Just to give a few examples how fujiyu has been translated into English in Tenrikyo literature, in Chapter Seven of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo: “hindrance” and “loss of function” (of the body). Elsewhere in Anecdotes, “fujiyu nai yashiki” (literally, the yashiki or Residence where there is no fujiyu) is translated as “this Residence” where “every daily need” is met.
Finally, “fujiyu” appears in 18 translations of Osashizu passages covered in An Anthology of Osashizu Translations, alternately translated as “misery” (Jan 8, 1888), “hardship(s)” (Feb 15, 1888; Jan 21, 1891; Oct 29, 1891; Mar 3, 1895; May 28, 1895 (two versions); Feb 12, 1900); , “difficult life” (Jun 1888), “be in want” (Nov 7, 1889), “suffering(s)” (Dec 8, 1889; Mar 29, 1904; Oct 19, 1904), “not have full use of the body”/”problem” (Jun 3, 1890), “becomes poor” (Oct 31, 1900); “difficulties” (May 26, 1901), “disabled/disability” (Jul 20, 1902). Finally, for those of you counting, there is a passage (Nov 27, 1897) with the phrase “nangi-fujiyu-kuro-kannan” that is translated as “difficulties, hardships, and privations.” One of the four Japanese terms has been skipped over (intentionally or inadvertently?) and it’s unclear which one it is.
All this indicates that, for better or worse, there is no convention in place at the moment or attempt to standardize the way “fujiyu” is translated in Tenrikyo literature. Also, “fujiyu” is often paired with “nangi” (suffering) in Osashizu passages. ↩
- This quote from the Osashizu comes at the end of a lengthy passage that is often quoted from regarding the importance of “three year, one thousand day” periods that are often held leading to significant dates such as the anniversaries of Oyasama or other commemorative events. ↩
- Just to nitpick the translation here a bit, I can only account for two “tashika na” (“positive”). Was the third one added for even more emphasis perhaps?
The phrase “tashika na shōko” also happens to appear twice in the Ofudesaki, which are translated as: “proof that cannot be denied” (3:26) and “sure proof” (10:73). (ALC.co.jp offers even more intriguing alternates for tashika na shoko.) ↩
- On discussing Anecdotes 15, Masakazu Tsujii sensei has written that “(Oyasama) presented the phrase “multiply ten thousandfold” (ichiryu manbai) to encourage those who were giving their utmost when their spirit was in danger of wavering” (p. 19). The phrase ichiryu manbai also appears in Anecdotes 4.
- Neither ALC.co.jp nor even the old standby, the “green goddess” (Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary) offers an entry for this term. But a search with Google images gives a good idea of the diverse ways this term is currently utilized. In agriculture, it refers to a preparatory step in growing a crop (examples include rice, asparagus, potatoes, and mushrooms). In engineering, it refers to the step of putting wires, pipes, et al., into walls. It also appears to be used in the jewelry industry to refer to an embedded diamond of a ring or earring and the frame of a cameo.
“Although it is no longer used among farmers today, when you ask old farmers in the area surrounding the Home of the Parent what fusekomi means, it appears to refer to plant a stem of a certain crop in the ground. Also, it appears that fusekomi was used to refer the process of planting unhulled rice grain (seed) in a nursery seedbed in the past” (1984, p. 428).
“The term “fusekomi” has come to take on a wide array of meanings. It is currently applied to refer to a variety of hinokishin activities done at Jiba. This implies not the act of sowing seeds at Jiba/the Residence, but rather becoming a seed oneself for Oyasama to sow, which will then bud and sprout to become the seedling of spiritual growth. I personally interpret the tasks of nioigake and o-tasuke as taking these seedlings and planting them in the seedbeds throughout each region and country” (ibid. p. 429). ↩
- Below are main examples of “mono-dane” appearing in Tenrikyo Scripture and literature:
Husband and wife working together in hinokishin; this is the first seed of everything (Mikagura-uta 11:2).
When a husband and wife work spiritedly in hinokishin daily, each helping and encouraging the other, their happiness will overflow and harmony and brightness will fill their home. This is what is taught by the phrase “the first seed of everything” (The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, p. 61).
The seeds of your sincere devotion sown day after day, I have certainly accepted.
The seed which God truly accepts will never decay through all eternity.
When these seeds sprout in the course of time, it will be the talk of all ages to come.
(Ofudesaki, unnumbered set; The Life of Oyasama, p. 91) ↩
- The original Anecdotes (Itsuwa-hen) actually includes the following information that is not found in the translated Anecdotes: “Sixty kan at the time equaled to two koku and seven to (二石七斗) or currently worth 94,500 yen in 1975.” ↩