32. It Depends on the Wife’s Word
When she was in her teens, Yasu, daughter of Rihei Matsuda of Kosaka Village in Yamato, helped cook for Oyasama for several years. Oyasama said:
“When a meal you have cooked is brought in, my heart seems to open up,”
and She enjoyed Yasu’s cooking. Her meal consisted of rice gruel with a few soybeans. When it was not busy, there were times when Yasu was alone with Oyasama. During these times, Oyasama taught Yasu many things. On one such occasion, Oyasama taught her:
“Dear Yasu, a man, any man, is what a wife’s word makes him. Even if he is a man who is apt to be called a fool by others, if his wife treats him with respect and says politely, ‘Welcome home, dear,’ when he comes home, people will say, ‘Although we call him a fool, judging by the respectful way his wife treats him, he must be a great man.’ Whether the husband becomes a great man or a fool depends on the wife’s word.”
When Yasu was twenty-three, Oyasama arranged a marriage for her into the Inui family of Shoyashiki Village. The meeting of the prospective bride and groom was held in Oyasama’s room. At that time, Oyasama said:
“God says, ‘This person and that person.’ In this way, the matter is settled. After it is settled, do not sever it. If it is severed, the one who severs it will be severed.”
Then She moved Her handsthree times, saying:
“Good, good, very good.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 25–26
Translation of “Sawa’s note“
“[Reference is] Go-zonmei no koro by Tomoji Takano and documents from Shikinori Daikyokai. Rihei Matsuda was from Kosaka, Tawaramoto-cho in Shiki County. He became the head of the Kosaka Village Confraternity as well as the vice-director of the Shinjitsu-gumi Confraternity (which later became Shikinori Daikyokai; the confraternity head was Kisaburo Maegawa).”
My take (Two central lessons)
Anecdotes 32 appears to contain two central lessons:
- “A man is what a wife’s word makes him” and
- “Do not sever” a marriage arranged by God
At first glance, Oyasama’s instruction to Yasu to welcome her husband kindly and politely when he comes home appears somewhat antiquated in this day and age when women are deservedly making significant contributions to the work force. Still, Oyasama’s assertion that “Whether the husband becomes a great man or a fool depends on the wife’s word” somehow makes me think of the first couple.
During Barack Obama’s presidential run, Michelle Obama sometimes made depreciating comments about her husband, which some observers saw as having a positive effect on him, a way to keep him grounded, down-to-earth so to speak, while the campaign was ongoing.
While Oyasama’s instruction to women is about treating their husbands with respect so people will come to have respect for them as well, Michelle Obama was in the unique position of having a spouse running for U.S. President. She used humor to offset the exponential growth in attention and stature Barack Obama was getting in a constructive manner. Although the Obamas might not prove to be the most obvious or most convincing example, I’d still like to believe that Michelle Obama’s humor did play a significant role in her husband’s election win and demonstrates the relevancy of Oyasama’s lesson that “A man is what a wife’s word makes him.”
The recent row over how the wife of the new boss of British intelligence posted personal details on a Facebook account also provokes the reflection, that yes, some forethought from a spouse is indeed very much appreciated, especially those who are subject to public scrutiny in this day and age of the Internet. (But I’m as far from a public figure as you can get. And since my wife doesn’t really surf the web, I readily concede I’m the one that needs to practice more discretion in my case.)
The second central lesson of Anecdotes 32 to not to sever a marriage arranged by God has prompted the following commentary in Ikiru kotoba:
Oyasama said these words when a marriage was settled between a man and a woman. In essence, God the Parent creates ties between married couples. In the Ofudesaki, we read: “I bring you together according to the causality of your previous lives and protect you. This settles the matter for all time” (1:74). From God’s perspective, husband and wife ought to match with the other, so we are warned against cutting this tie as a result of fallible human thinking (p. 157).
Nevertheless, reality is that even though each couple may be brought together by God’s arrangement, couples still divorce at increased rates in modern societies. God might have brought a couple together but either one or both of them have the freedom to make the decision to separate and hire lawyers if it is deemed necessary.
There are some cases when, especially when the couple has no children, divorce might even be considered a blessing. When divorce appears to be the only available option, there is a little-known view in the Tenrikyo tradition that “even divorced couples are encouraged to retain their relationship as ‘brothers and sisters’ of the path” (Sato 2004, p. 247).
Nevertheless, as Oyasama’s instruction implies — “If it is severed, the one who severs it will be severed” — she teaches that the one who decides to do the severing does so at their own risk.
An inquiry into the historical figures provides little insight (for now)
Okay, on to some geeky rambling on my part on the identity of the historical figures mentioned in this story. (The faint of heart are more than free to skip and ignore this section.) Other than a brief mention in The Life of Oyasama, I have little to go on who Matsuda Rihei is.1
Is he the ancestor of the Matsuda family who later produced the former Bishop of the U.S., Motoo Matsuda sensei?2