28. Clear the Path from the Bottom
“If the path is cleared from up above, can the people down below get near? If the path is cleared from down below both the people up above and the people down below can easily get near, can they not?”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 23
My take / research
If there was anyone who had any justification at all for expressing the desire for Oyasama’s teachings (“the path”) to accepted by the “high mountains” (a metaphor used throughout the Ofudesaki to refer to government authorities and other powers-that-be), it was Chushichi Yamanaka.
After all, this was the very same man who suffered at the hands of a couple of yamabushi monks who barged into his home and knocked him upside the head in the autumn of 1866 because they were so angry at the prospect of losing potential clients. (They were in the business of healing people, which Oyasama did essentially free of charge.)
Two years before that, he was caught in the thick of the so-called Oyamato Shrine incident where he and a number of other followers were detained three days for interrupting a special seven-day prayer at said shrine on their way to his home so they could continue the celebration at raising the beam for the Place for the Service, Tenrikyo’s first sanctuary.
Thus, one fittingly sympathizes for Chushichi Yamanaka when he expresses his wish for the path to be cleared in the high mountains. If Oyasama’s teachings were recognized by, or better yet, promoted by the high mountains, how splendid and how much easier things would be!
Yet Oyasama replies that if the path was indeed “cleared from up above,” how can the people in the “low valleys” get near? By having the path emerge from below, both people from above and below can near it if they wished to.
Such a sentiment is somewhat similar to the religious importance attached to how Oyasama embarked to “fall to the depths of poverty”: Would it have been possible for Oyasama to show the world that the Joyous Life was for everyone if she had not given away the wealth of the Nakayama family?
I would imagine that the path of the Divine Model would not have its current impact if she had not followed God’s instruction to do so. If Oyasama had taught the way to the Joyous Life while retaining her wealth and status, people would naturally say: Oh, of course she was able to live a content, happy life! She had wealth and status that many could only dream about!
By falling to depths of poverty, Oyasama was able to reveal and demonstrate that one does not need wealth or status to achieve the state of mind that makes the Joyous Life possible and that it is well within reach for anyone who is willing to make the commitment.
Here’s another way to rephrase this: If Oyasama’s teachings were indeed accepted and promoted by the “high mountains,” others would accept it just for its distinction of being a faith that was practiced by the powers-that-be. By emerging from the low valleys, people would accept the path and its teachings for their inherent worth and value alone, not for its superficial prestige in the world (since it had none, and still has relatively little to offer prestige-wise even today).
- Next installment in this series: 29. Three Treasures
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
- 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.
- The Life of Oyasama pp. 44–47; p. 54
- 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
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 21: That’s All To The Good
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 8–10.