30. Ten Thousandfold
Once Oyasama took a grain of unhulled rice in Her hand, and showed it to Izo Iburi, saying:
“The same is true with a human being. You sow a grain of sincerity, and it multiplies to two or three hundred grains in a year, ten thousand in the second year. Ten thousandfold, as we call it. It will be enough for sowing all over the province of Yamato in the third year.”
Translation of “Sawa’s note“
“[Based on] oral account of Yoshimatsu Shimizu.”
(I’ve decided not to translate the rest.)
Analysis of key term: Yoshinaru Ueda on ichiryu manbai
I’ve been putting off an analysis of ichiryu manbai (“a single seed multiplying ten thousandfold“; simply translated as “ten thousandfold” above) for some time1 that I hope I have not given the false impression I have something profound to say about this particular phrase. That’s because I find that I personally don’t have much to say about it. Since I can’t think of anything myself, it helps to have some respected writers to turn to for insight.
First, the late Yoshinaru Ueda sensei once wrote that we might seriously question whether a single rice grain can yield so much grain (1976, p. 34). Yet let’s go ahead and do the math (using the numbers Oyasama gives here): if we took and planted the 200 to 300 grains of rice gained in the first year instead of cooking and eating them, this would yield between 40,000 to 90,000 grains. By repeating this process once more, we would reap between 8 million and 27 million grains, truly enough grain to sow the 3,691 square km of Yamato Province (Nara Prefecture) if one wished.2 (Current strains of rice actually yield up to ten times the numbers Oyasama give here.3)
Thus, the phrase “ichiryu manbai” is ultimately talking about numbers well above ten thousand. (It’s actually a set phrase in Japanese, but more on this later.) This then brings me to an issue I have with the translation above. I consider “ten thousand in the second year” an inaccurate translation. It doesn’t take into the account of the nan [何] — “several” — of “nan-man” in the original.4
In any case, Ueda sensei goes on to declare that this factor of 1:10K+ symbolizes the providence of God the Parent and that the same also goes for our efforts on the path of single-hearted salvation. Although Anecdotes 30 happens to be describing the yield of a rice grain, Ueda sensei writes it is vital that we go deeper and engrave its underlying principle in our minds. Zero effort yields zero results. Yet one sincere effort to administer the Sazuke that allows a person to be saved by God causes the “fragrance” of the path to be spread further from person to person (ibid.).
Masakazu Tsujii on ichiryu manbai
Masakazu Tsujii sensei begins his discussion by declaring that, contrary to what he thought, ichiryu manbai was not a phrase Oyasama made up herself, but was instead a previously established one with alleged Buddhist origins.5
The Kadokawa Kanwa Chujiten offers the following usage (other than the obvious meaning that a single grain yields ten thousandfold): “the emergence of many positive results from a single good deed.” The Kojien also explains that ichiryu manbai also has the meaning of not allowing even something in a small amount to go to waste (p. 153). Tsujii sensei then also mentions that the phrase also appears in a Japanese-Portuguese dictionary put together by the Jesuits in 1603.
Considering the above information, Tsujii sensei imagines that the phrase ichiryu manbai was widely used among farmers to encourage one another to do good deeds and to treasure things even in small amounts. Thus, it was only natural for Oyasama to teach something important using the same phrase, allowing her to be easily understood and to inspire a profound emotional response in those she taught (2000, p. 10). It can also be argued that this is a lesson of us not to waste a single opportunity to do a good deed, no matter how small it may be.
Ichiryu manbai is also deeply connected with the lesson described immediately before in Anecdotes 29 regarding “early rising, honesty, and (hard) work.”
Tsujii sensei offers the following:
By placing a rice seed one by one in Iburi sensei’s hand while teaching him, Oyasama was showing that the continuation of early rising, honesty, and hard work will turn into a single seed that will multiply ten thousandfold. In other words, I believe that She taught him what “ichiryu manbai” and taking delight in the future amounts to.
Since the lesson of early rising, honesty, and hard work in addition to ichiryu manbai is simple, it can be explained even to a child. It is also possible to teach these lessons to people who have recently embraced the faith. Yet if we consider them in the context in which they were taught6, they are actually words imbued with much more depth and weight (ibid. p. 15).
In lieu of a conclusion: insight from Chikara Iburi sensei
Chikara Iburi sensei, a fifth-generation descendant of the Honseki Izo Iburi, has written that Anecdotes 29 and 30 describe events not long after the Oyamato Shrine incident in 1864. Once maintaining the lesson of ichiryu manbai was taught in this particular historical context, Chikara sensei writes:
For Izo, who found himself in a severely discouraging situation, [Oyasama’s] lesson that a single seed of sincerity sown would yield “enough for sowing all over the province of Yamato” must have been greatly reassuring, giving him something to look forward to in the future.
Those of us who live in the present also come into direct contact with unexpected knots. There may be times when we question ourselves, “Why on earth is this happening to me, despite my devotion?” and cease to move forward in our faith.
The Oyamato Shrine incident of 1864 was a great knot for followers at the time. Nevertheless, Izo remembered his indebtedness to God for being saved, put his full trust in Oyasama7, and solely continued his earnest efforts to sow seeds of sincerity….
What did Izo specifically do to sow seeds of sincerity? For clues, we can look to some of the numerous lessons Oyasama taught to Izo.
One time, Oyasama told him: “Be sure to accumulate merit behind the scenes (intoku) on this path. No matter how hard you work or study in front of others, God will not accept your endeavors if you decide not to work as hard when no one is watching or when you criticize others behind their backs.”
Izo, who straightforwardly accepted these words, was constantly mindful of this teaching of Oyasama’s and practiced it day and night. As he commuted to and from the Residence, when he came across a broken bridge or a damaged road, he would repair it without others’ knowledge (2009).
That’s all for this post…. I really don’t have any thoughts of my own to add except that it is notable that Izo Iburi went on to become the Honseki, the de facto spiritual leader of Tenrikyo, bestowing the sacrament of the Sazuke and delivering Divine Directions in Oyasama’s place after she “withdrew from physical life“on 1/26/1887 (lunar calendar). This seems to imply that great things are in store for anyone who is able to silently devote their sincerity behind the scenes to the degree Izo did.
- Next installment in this series: 31. The Measure of Heaven
*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 (January 11, 2009), p. 3.
- Kōjien, fourth printing of fourth edition. 1994. Tokyo: Iwanami Shōten.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- 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.
- Ueda, Yoshinaru. 1976. “Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den itsuwa-hen ni tsuite.” Michi no dai 65 (May 1976), pp. 26–43.
- Satō, Kōji. 2004. “Asa-oki, shōjiki, hataraki.” In Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, pp. 61–65. (Online translation: Rising Early, Honesty, and Hard Work)
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 29: Three Treasures
- The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Four — Oyasama Conveys the Teaching to Izo
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 11–14.
- [I wrote I was saving ichiryu manbai for later in my discussions on Anecdotes 4 and in note #7 of Anecdotes 15. ↩
- Year two: 200 x 200 = 40,000; 300 x 300 = 90,000
Year three: 40,000 x 200 = 8,000,000; 300 x 90,000 = 27,000,000 ↩
- See, for example, the quote from Kazuko Toyama in Tsujii (2000), pp. 9–10. ↩
- Consider how I have translated this excerpt from an Tenrikyo publication entitled Ikiru kotoba:
One time, Oyasama took a grain of unhulled rice in Her hand and said: “The same is true with a human being.” In a year, a single grain will yield between two to three hundred grains. In two years, this will yield tens of thousands of grain. Then, “It will be enough for sowing all over the province of Yamato in the third year.” There is a phrase in the Osashizu that says, “A single person can face ten thousand people.” This is God’s affirmation to us that if we only firmly resolve our minds, God will ride on our minds and work to have this come about (p. 88).
Note that the “official” translation of the phrase “A single person can face ten thousand people” differs. Compare:
I shall let you work by the truth of your mind. One person can face myriads solely by virtue of the mind. God rides on the mind and works. As long as the mind is firm, God will ride the mind and work freely and unlimitedly.
Osashizu, October 2, 1898 in The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, p. 68
- The Kojien quotes a passage from the fourth fascicle of a sutra entitled Daihōbenbutsu hōongyō 大方便佛報恩經 which I am not even going to try to translate since it’s in Chinese. ↩
- See my discussion on Anecdotes 29 for more details. What I quote here from Tsujii sensei is actually a continuation of what I translated in this previous discussion. ↩
- For a description of the events that led Izo to embrace the faith, refer to: The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part One — The Early Years and Part Two — “A Carpenter Will Appear.” ↩
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