31. The Measure of Heaven
“Izo, will you cut down a tree in the mountains and make a straight post from it?”
Izo promptly did so. Afterward, Oyasama said:
“Izo, try to place a ruler against the post,”
and She continued:
“Isn’t there a gap between the two?”
When Izo placed the ruler against the post there was in fact a gap. So he replied, “There is a little gap.” Then, Oyasama taught:
“Exactly! Even the things that are considered to be straight by all the people of the world are warped when they are placed against the measure of heaven.”
Translation of “Sawa’s note“
“Noted in Sansai no. 4 by Tametsugu Yamazawa.”
My take / research
The late Yoshinaru Ueda sensei has offered that, no matter how “straight” (or correct) we judged something to be, it would certainly turn out to have some places here and there which happen to be “crooked” (wrong) if we were to place it against the “measure of heaven.” This is especially so when it comes to ourselves if we were to subject ourselves to critical self-examination.
Thus, anyone who is aware of this lesson that Oyasama taught cannot be so confident to insist that he or she is not the least bit crooked when placed against the “measure of heaven.” Such being the case, it is vital that we fix the lesson provided here in our mind (1976, p. 35). I suppose it is a lesson that teaches us how to be humble.
Ten no jogi, the biography of Izo Iburi published by Tenrikyo Doyusha describes the same events of Anecdotes 31 as follows:
Izo had confidence in his work and was sure he shaved the post straight. Yet when he placed it against a ruler as Oyasama told him to, he saw that there was a slight gap. He began to doubt his own skill.
Oyasama then patiently explained to him:
“Even the things that are considered to be straight by all people of the world are warped when they are placed against the measure of heaven.”
Izo was deeply awed at Oyasama’s words and felt that She had taught him an extremely precious lesson.
Why did Oyasama teach Izo the lesson concerning the “measure of heaven?” There is no way for us to deduce Her intention. However, it is possible that this was part of Oyasama’s scrupulous plan to raise Izo step by step to allow him to become the Honseki (pp. 24–25).
Lastly, I offer another translation from Ikiru kotoba (Living Words) offering insight on this same lesson Oyasama taught to Izo:
Even a post that seems to have been smoothed straight will reveal a gap if it is checked with a ruler. The same principle holds true with human beings. Even things that people assert to be correct as a matter of common sense in the world at large can be warped in God’s perspective. It is important to have an attitude that seeks to judge matters with God the Parent’s teachings as the standard and humbly examine oneself in the light of these teachings at all times (p. 146).
I admit the part saying “It is important to have an attitude that seeks to judge matters with God the Parent’s teachings as the standard” kind of made me cringe a little when I just read it through again. But I am somewhat heartened when I remember that nothing God says is supposed to bring us any harm (Second Section of Mikagura-uta).
Still, this prompts me to close with one last question: What is the “measure of heaven”? It appears to be something that is far beyond the reach of human observation, not to mention human attainment. The only thing I can say with certainty is that my intuitions would inform me to be very skeptical of anyone claiming that they knew exactly what the measure of heaven is or what God’s standard amounts to.
- Next installment in this series: 32. It Depends on the Wife’s Word
*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.
- Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Ueda, Yoshinaru. 1976. “Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den itsuwa-hen ni tsuite.” Michi no dai 65 (May 1976), pp. 26–43.
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama, 29: Three Treasures
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama, 30: Ten Thousandfold
- 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.