21. That’s All to the Good, That’s All to the Good
Around the middle of May 1868, five years from the time Chushichi Yamanaka had embraced the faith, a heavy rain had fallen continuously for many days. The river overflowed here and there, rice fields were washed out and houses were carried away. Chushichi suffered heavy losses. A landslide on his mountain property buried many large trees. Also, his rice fields of approximately ninety ares* were washed out.
People in his village had been deriding Chushichi’s faith and immediately seized the opportunity to heap all sorts of abuses on him, saying, “Look at him! What a fool he is! Stupid one!” Feeling chagrined at what the villagers said, Chushichi visited Oyasama in the Residence and explained the situation to Her. Oyasama told him:
“Sah, sah, that’s all to the good. That’s all to the good. Now that your goods have been carried away to the bottom of the sea, it will come to good in the future. You may wonder why your fields and hills were washed out in spite of your faith, but you must accept the situation with a heart of gratitude. You must do so. That will come to good in the future.”
Chushichi heartily thanked God that he suffered only a small misfortune instead of a calamity.
*Are [pronounced air]: Metric system, a surface measure equal to 100 square meters.)
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 15–16
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“The era name of Keio 4 (1868) was changed to Meiji on 9/8. The source [of Anecdotes 21] is Yamanaka Chūshichi-den [Biography of Chushichi Yamanaka], published in 1923.”
My take / research
Anecdotes 21 describes that “People in his village had been deriding Chushichi’s faith” even before he had the misfortune of having a flood severely damage his house and rice fields. That Yamanaka Chushichi sensei was on the receiving end of ridicule from his fellow villagers is also touched upon in two other sources.1
I have already presented one episode when commenting on Anecdotes 12 (See the paragraph before the section entitled “The Sazuke of Fertilizer”) that I got from Masakazu Tsujii sensei’s research.2 As for the second episode, Chutaro Yamanaka sensei — a sixth generation descendant of Chushichi sensei — has described that fellow villagers ridiculed Chushichi sensei by saying, “He’s been tricked by a fox or tanuki spirit. It’s the end of the Yamanaka family.” Then, during a festival at the village shrine, they further laughed and scoffed at him with, “Recently, there’s been no one who’s been a bigger fool.”
Chushichi appeared to have taken this quite hard. He had no desire to return to the Residence (Jiba) that day. He instead took his hoe and went out into the fields. When he swung his hoe to start his farming work, he couldn’t freely move his body as he wished. When he repented for feeling the way he felt, he was able to move his body again. After going home with his hoe on his shoulder, he collected himself and immediately returned to Jiba (Yamanaka 2008).
Chutaro sensei then offers the following insights:
- After encountering such devastation to his property, Chushichi visits Oyasama, understandably upset, wondering out loud why he had to suffer such misfortune. Oyasama does not touch on Chushichi’s state of mind at all, but tells him: “Sah, sah, that’s all to the good. That’s all to the good. Now that your goods have been carried away to the bottom of the sea, it will come to good in the future.” Although it is impossible to know how Chushichi sensei initially took Oyasama’s words, he ultimately accepted the situation. Chutaro sensei suggests Oyasama’s words here offer a key lesson on how we are to carry ourselves when we encounter “knots” in life.
- Chutaro sensei then goes on to say it is possible to interpret that the misfortune Chushichi underwent was something that he could not avoid regardless of how much he had devoted himself to God.
- Yet it is equally possible to come away with the insight that if Chushichi had not devoted himself in the way he did, he would have suffered a greater misfortune. Oyasama’s word “bottom” (don-zoko; also is translated as “depths,” as in “falling to the depths of poverty“) in the phrase “carried away to the bottom of the sea” can be interpreted to mean that Chushichi literally hit bottom and that he would not experience anything worse thereafter. Chutaro sensei suggests that, Oyasama teaches us through this example the importance of rejoicing in all (negative) situations and cultivate the ability to recognize God’s blessings that one has gone through “a small misfortune instead of a calamity” (Japanese: dainan o shōnan ni shite itadaita; more on this phrase a little further below).
To sum up, Chutaro sensei writes:
Various knots [we encounter] in life are certainly trying. Nevertheless, in reality, these knots are filled with the deep, warm parental love of God the Parent. If we wholeheartedly believe in this, discovering God’s blessings and sources of joy within such knots allow us to deepen our faith even further through practicing joyous acceptance3 and devoting ourselves ever more to the path of repaying our indebtedness to God. Such is certainly the ideal manner of making the best of these knots…. Just as knots in bamboo make it harder to break, having knots every now and then make our faith ever stronger and more resilient (ibid.).
Analyzing a key Tenrikyo expression (1): Kekko
I’d like to take some time here to analyze some of Oyasama’s words. First is the word “kekko” which has been translated in countless different ways in Tenrikyo literature.
(It has been translated above as “That’s all to the good” and “come to good” in Anecdotes 21 and “very happy” in Anecdotes 15.)
First, let us look how it has been translated in the English edition of the Ofudesaki (English rendering of kekko in italics):
When you see it, you will be truly satisfied and know that Tsukihi’s teachings are indeed marvelous.
Your unawareness of such a splendid path as this has led to your remorse.
Other translations of “kekko” from Scripture (all Osashizu passages) include:
- “all is well”4 (March 1887; An Anthology of Osashizu Translations p. 33)
- “gratitude”/”grateful” (July 20 1902; Anthology p. 377)
- “how marvelous” (December 16 1895; Anthology p. 257)
- “how truly blessed” (March 14 1902; Anthology p. 371)
- “preciousness” (July 7, 1890; Anthology p. 165), “joy” (October 7 1895; Anthology p. 247)
- “splendid” (May 12 1898, night; Anthology p. 305)
I present here the various ways in which kekko has been translated just to show how difficult it has proven to achieve consensus and consistency on a single English translation of this term. (Which, actually, might be somewhat of a lucky development. It means translators have quite a lot of leeway when we come across it in our work.)
I honestly don’t think very highly of “That’s all to the good” as a translation. Although I don’t ever recall anyone using this phrase in my experience, I did get 274,000 hits for this phrase on Google recently. After searching through other Tenrikyo literature5, I feel I would translate kekko here as “How wonderful!” or “That’s for the best.”
“Kekko” is a term that can be used in a variety of situations6, but overwhelmingly used to express a feeling of gratitude by Oyasama and Tenrikyo followers. Such an understanding is provides a key in unlocking the primary lesson of Anecdotes 21.
Analyzing a key Tenrikyo expression (2): Dainan shonan
Another key phrase I’d like to take a look at is “dainan o shonan ni shite itadaita” (translated in Anecdotes 21 as “a small misfortune instead of a calamity”). This phrase comes in other forms, such as “dainan shonan” or more commonly as “dainan wa shonan (ni), shonan wa bunan (ni).”
Tenrikyo jiten describes this phrase (now overwhelmingly translated as God “reducing a great misfortune to a small misfortune and a small misfortune to no misfortune at all”) as one that expresses a follower’s perception that Godreduces the severity of a misfortune that we were destined to encounter out of the single-hearted desire to save us. Consider the following translations:
Because you live with the mind that has returned to the truth of the path, calamity becomes mere misfortune (dainan shonan).
Osashizu July 3 1901; An Anthology of Osashizu of Translations, p. 367
Thus, as the truth of the teachings settles in our minds and we make steady progress in spiritual growth, we deepen our appreciation of the benevolence of the parental love, which guides us by reducing a great misfortune to a small misfortune and a small misfortune to no misfortune at all (dainan wa shonan ni, shonan wa bunan ni), and we shall be able to rejoice in things we could not rejoice in before and find happiness in situations where we were unhappy before.
The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, p. 37
From that time on, Oyasama always wore red clothes. After She had worn the clothes, they were cut into small pieces and given to many people as the Proof Amulet. The Amulet was given one per person. If the Amulet were kept on the person, God would sweep away any evil and would bless that person with divine providence, reducing a great misfortune to a small misfortune and a small misfortune to no misfortune at all (dainan wa shonan, shonan wa bunan).
The Life of Oyasama, p. 32
“If by giving to charity what is of secondary importance one’s illness is cured, this is the principle of a disaster turning into a smaller misfortune. Understand well.”
Yoshikazu Fukaya sensei touches upon this theological theme in discussions on topics such as “awareness of one’s personal causality” (innen no jikaku) and “expressing one’s indebtedness to God” (go-onhoji).
I close this post with a quote from Koji Sato sensei:
If the situations that unfold and appear before us give us a hard time, one of the objectives of this faith is to have a large misfortune reduced to a small one and a small misfortune into nothing at all. For this is come about, the manner in which we use our mind and dedicate ourselves on a daily basis becomes important. In the case of children until the age of 15, this depends on the manner which their parents lead their lives. Finally, it is essential that we do not lament and demand why something bad happens to us after despite our devotion and dedication (2004, p. 260).
- Next installment in this series: 22. Writing the Ofudesaki
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
- Satō Kōji. 2004. “Dainan o shōnan, shōnan o bunan.” In Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, pp. 259–263. (Translation available on request)
- Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1997. Kaitei Tenrikyō jiten. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. 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.
- Yamanaka Chūtarō. 2008. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 3.” Tenri jihō No. 4079 (May 18, 2008), p. 3.
- 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
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 15: These Seeds
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 20: Birth of a Girl
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 8–10.
- I suspect these two authors ultimately get their information from the same source, Yamanaka Chūshichi-den (Biography of Yamanaka Chushichi). I have not yet taken the time to hunt this very important reference source down. ↩
- Masakazu Tsujii sensei also makes a connection with how “People in his village had been deriding Chushichi’s faith” to the following verse from Song Three of the Mikagura-uta: “Always ridiculed and slandered, Still I will realize remarkable salvation (3:5) ↩
- Both “joyous acceptance” and the phrase in Anecdotes 21 “accept the situation with a heart of gratitude” are translations of the term tanno. ↩
- I do not remember if this particular translation inspired me to translate kekko as “All’s well” elsewhere (a short piece from Koji Sato sensei on the famed missionary Genjiro Fukaya sensei). ↩
- Here are some more translations of “kekko” that are non-scriptural:
In this world there are those who are suffering, unable to eat or even to swallow water despite food piled high at their bedsides. If we think of them, how blessed we are, for when we drink water, it tastes of water. God the Parent has blessed us with exquisite gifts.
Words attributed to Oyasama in The Doctrine of Tenrikyo p. 37; The Life of Oyasama p. 32
We are born into this world by the grace of God the Parent and live each day sufficiently provided for, because we are in the embrace of heaven and earth, constantly nurtured in the very bosom of God the Parent.
The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, p. 50
Remaining notable examples from Anecdotes of Oyasama include:
- “(The future is) all well” (Anecdotes 68, p. 60)
- “(much) better” (Anecdotes 39, p. 34)
- “blessed” (Anecdotes 162, p. 130)
- “fine” (Anecdotes 186, p. 147)
- “(How) fortunate” (Anecdotes 184, p. 145)
- “give thanks” (Anecdotes 59, p. 51)
- “grateful” (Anecdotes 155, p. 92)
- “gratitude” (Anecdotes 142, p. 115; Anecdotes 144, p. 116)
- “happiness” (Anecdotes 103, p. 87)
- “marvelous” (Anecdotes 171, p. 137)
- “nice (things)” (Anecdotes 46, p. 40)
- “precious” (Anecdotes 154, p. 125)
- “prosper” (Anecdotes 101, p. 85)
- “(you will be) saved” (Anecdotes 57, p. 49)
- “thankful” (Anecdotes 36; p. 31)
- “wonderful” (Anecdotes 108, p. 92; Anecdotes 155, p. 126)
- “very happy” (Anecdotes 144, p. 116
- “Kekko” can be used to mean “I’m fine, no thank you.” (Here’s a link to ALC.co.jp showing uses of kekko in modern, standard Japanese.) It’s somewhat negative use can even be found in Tenrikyo literature to a very limited degree as well. Take for example Anecdotes of Oyasama 13 where Tatsu and Tosuke Maeda are described that they didn’t want to have any more children (“kekko” appears in the original Japanese but not made so explicit in English. The feeling of “sufficiency,” however, is conveyed in the phrase “they did not want to have more”). Another negative use I have found is “I don’t care (what happens to my physical body)” said by Rin Masui sensei in Anecdotes 36; p. 29. ↩