Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 29

29. Three Treasures

Once Oyasama said to Izo Iburi:

“Izo, open your hand.”

She had three unhulled grains of rice in Her hand, and when Izo opened his hand as requested, Oyasama said:

“This is early rising, this is honesty and this is work,”

and placed them one at a time in the palm of his hand. Then, She continued:

“Hold these three firmly in your hand. You must try not to lose them.”

Izo adhered to this teaching for the rest of his life.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 24

Supplemental information from Taimo

“Iburi Izo: Born in 1833, in Uda County, Nara Prefecture.

“Izo established himself as a carpenter at age 22 and took a leading part in the construction of the Place for the Service and that of Oyasama’s Resting House.

“In 1887, after Oyasama withdrew from physical life, he was settled as the Honseki (the person selected to reveal God’s words).”

My take / research: content

While I usually prefer to cover background context before discussing content, I believe I’ll go straight to the content of Anecdotes 29 this time around. An unhulled rice grain is a rice grain still in its husk, a grain used to grow more rice.

On “early rising”: A really cynical interpretation of the Japanese “asaoki,” or what this expression literally seems to suggest — “waking in the morning” — may lead one to assert that it is good enough to wake up in the a.m. hours before noon for it to count as “early rising.”

Koji Sato sensei writes that some say that “asa-oki” is different from merely rising early. He dissects the kanji for “asa” [] into smaller components, into [] “ten,” [] “Sun,” [十] “ten,” and [] “Moon” and suggests that “asa-oki” means to wake up sufficiently early that one can see the Sun and the Moon. I assume he means to wake up early enough to see the Moon set and the Sun rise.1

Sato sensei also brings up the following question: Why did Oyasama choose to teach Iburi Izo the importance of early rising, honesty, and (hard) work?

It needn’t be mentioned that Izo observed Oyasama’s instruction for the rest of his life; he was already a living embodiment of these very virtues. Izo already had the reputation of being the “most honest person in Ichinomoto” and found work easily due to his industrious nature. Izo surely woke up early (click here for anecdotal evidence); he was far from the slacker I am.

Sato sensei then suggests that Oyasama’s instruction concerning the importance of early rising, honesty, and (hard) work is significant precisely because of two main points:

  1. She taught this teaching to Izo, who embodied these very virtues, and
  2. She also took an unhulled rice grain to teach that each seed of sincerity sown would multiply ten thousandfold (To be discussed next in Anecdotes 30)

Iburi Chikara sensei, a fifth-generation descendant of Izo, writes:

This teaching of “early rising, honesty, and (hard) work” represent the fundamentals of human life. In other words, I believe it reveals what a way of life based with the teachings amounts to. These qualities can be practiced regardless of one’s position or circumstances; all it takes is commitment and commitment alone.

Faith in this path does not depend on a particular time or place. It is not an exaggeration to say that faith is one’s “way of life itself,” and is something that is not separated from everyday living. In other words, is it not the duty for us Yoboku to make the commitment to constantly implement the teachings in all aspects our everyday lives? (2009).

Anecdotes 29: context

For me personally, one of the great mysteries about Anecdotes of Oyasama is Izo Iburi’s relatively late appearance in its pages.

I imagined that if Anecdotes of Oyasama strictly adhered to a chronological sequence by year, one would expect Anecdotes 29, 30, and 31 to appear much earlier, possibly as early as Anecdotes 13 or so since Izo embraced the faith in mid-1864.  

Ten no jogi, a biography on Izo edited and published by Doyusha, seems to claim that Oyasama instructed Izo in the above teaching of early rising, honesty, and (hard) work soon after his conversion (pp. 20–21).

Chikara Iburi sensei dates the episode above (and the one described in Anecdotes 30) after the Oyamato Shrine incident that unfolded in 10/1864 and caused many early followers to cease their faith. Yet these episodes involving Izo only appear after those that clearly occurred much later. (Anecdotes 25, 26, 27 describe events from 1872. There is no date disclosed for Anecdotes 28.)

I seriously doubted that Izo’s relatively late appearance was due to an oversight or some conspiracy. I began to speculate that the editors of Anecdotes of Oyasama intentionally put stories involving Izo a little later than one would expect as a way to pay respects to a man who embodied the highly regarded qualities of working hard inconspicuously behind the scenes.

Yet according to Masakazu Tsujii sensei, the Shiyo Shuseibu (which I assume refers to the Tenrikyo Kyogi oyobi Shiryo Shuseibu or Department of Doctrine and Historical Materials), Anecdotes 29, 30, and 31 describe events from circa 1872 to 1873. Izo was born in 1833, which would make him 40 or 41 years old (according to the traditional manner the Japanese counted age).

Tsujii sensei then goes on to note that while the age of 40 may not seem so old at present, it was considered so at the time, when 50 years was the average life span. Thus, he mentions that it seems somewhat bizarre for Oyasama to take three unhulled grains of rice and place it in the hands of a man who was well into adulthood like she were placing candy in the hand of a child.

It is a strange scene when we consider that Izo went on to become the Honseki, who bestowed the sacrament of the Sazuke and delivered Divine Directions. One would think someone who would go on to become so important in the Tenrikyo tradition did not need to be taught the importance of “early rising, honesty, and (hard) work” (2000, p. 12).

Tsujii sensei then mentions something that gave me an “Aha!” moment. He mentions that Izo’s five-year-old son Masajiro passed away in lunar 4/1872 after accidentally hitting his head when playing with the neighborhood children.

Assuming the official 1872–1873 dating is correct, it would mean that Oyasama chose to teach Izo the importance of early rising, honesty, and (hard) work not long after what could easily have been the most painful period in Izo’s life.2 This would certainly give a great amount of religious importance to this very teaching.

Tsujii sensei writes:

[Izo Iburi sensei] continued practicing early rising, honesty, and (hard) work, yet the path was not necessarily thriving, and when it came to his family affairs, his eldest son passes away. I would imagine that even someone like Iburi sensei may have wavered or had human sentiments (ningen shian) haunt his mind. I can only speculate that, with the teaching of “early rising, honesty, and (hard) work,”Oyasama was essentially saying to him:

No, do not waver. I am pleased that you have practiced early rising, honesty, and (hard) work until now. But if you allow your spirits to fall, the efforts that you exerted until now will disappear. While many things may be happening, be sure to continue as have done so until now. And, if you do so, there will surely come a day when you will be convinced and see the magnificent results of your efforts.

This is what I feel Oyasama indicated using an unhulled rice grain (2000, pp. 14–15).

Yoshi Nakagawa and “early rising, honesty, and (hard)work” 

I’d like to add one last comment regarding the teaching of “early rising, honesty, and (hard) work.” I’d like to offer an episode involving Yoshi Nakagawa, the famed founder of Tohon Daikyokai, and this very same teaching. Here is an excerpt from a translation of one her biographies:

There is a story that one time Yoshi walked all the way from Tanba especially to hear the words of Rev. Tsukuda. “Sensei, please, I would like to hear a little about the teachings of God. A single word will do,” Yoshi begged.

“Fine!” Rev. Tsukuda replied. “You are most welcome. Now, let us speak of one of God’s teachings. You know, of course, O-Yoshi-san, that we are taught about early rising, honesty, and (hard) work3 in this faith, and — ” Suddenly Yoshi bowed.

“Oh, thank you very much, Sensei! That was quite enough for now,” she said gratefully. “Please allow me to hear you speak again sometime.” Yoshi prepared to leave.

Thoroughly astonished, Rev. Tsukuda spluttered, “B-But Mrs. Na-Na-Nakagawa, Please! I was j-just beginning my lecture! Where are you going?” The Sensei tried to detain Yoshi but she only bowed even lower before him.

“Rev. Tsukuda, that one thing you mentioned just now was more than enough for someone like me,” Yoshi explained. “I have no head for these things and it is so difficult for me to put them into practice. If I hear too many teachings at one time I can’t keep them straight in my mind. What you just said — about rising early, being honest and diligent — I will try that for three months or maybe for half a year. Then later on, if I practice hard enough and find that I am ready to try some additional teachings, I will come again for another lecture” (Takahashi, p. 50–51).

This is a striking example of Rev. Nakagawa’s humility in action. It can also be speculated that she immediately recognized the importance of practicing early rising, honesty, and hard work/diligence and thus did not need any further clarification from Rev. Tsukuda.

She merely wished to try to put these virtues in practice as quickly as she could — truly a great lesson I personally should take to heart. Maybe I should stop being a slouch and start getting up a little early each day on a consistent basis.

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


  • Iburi, Chikara. 2009. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie.” Tenri jihō No. 4079 (1/11/2009), p. 3.
  • Takahashi, Sadatsugu. 1986. Great and Gentle Mother: Yoshi Nakagawa. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
  • Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1997. Ten no jōgi: Honseki Iburi Izō no shōgai. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
  • Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2007. “Oyasama: Kore was asa-oki, kore wa shōjiki, kore wa hataraki ya de.” Taimō 462 ( June 2007), pp. 16–17.
  • Tsujii, Masakazu. 2000. “Ichiryū manbai.” 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.

Further reading


  1. Sato sensei takes the two tens, or , to mean “jūbun ni (十分に) or “sufficiently.” It is not at all uncommon in Tenrikyo literature to attach symbolic meanings to specific numbers in this way. This tendency ultimately comes from a particular teaching from Oyasama. See Anecdotes 173 “All Days Are Lucky Days” for more or click here for Sato Koji sensei’s discussion on this selection from Anecdotes.
  2. See The Life of the Honseki Iburi Izo, Part Five: Joys and Sorrows along the Path for a few more details on Masajiro’s short life.
  3. Hataraki” (work) is actually translated here as “diligence.” The English version of the Tenrikyo Boys and Girls Association song begins with, “Rising early, being honest, and being diligent…”