41. To Eternity
“Step in firmly. Step down firmly. Step down firmly to eternity.”
After that, Oyasama told Nakata:
“God has entered this residence and hardened the ground. Never let go of this property, no matter how poor you become. Continue your faith to eternity.”
Years later during the time of Gisaburo’s grandson, Kichizo, a portion of the land was to be exchanged at the village’s request. When the final approval was to be made, a boil suddenly appeared on Kichizo’s face and it became swollen. The family members were astonished and they tried to discover the cause through self reflection and consultation. Whereupon, the elders of the family* told them how the ground had been hardened by Oyasama Herself. They immediately apologized to God the Parent and sent a formal notice to the village withdrawing the exchange offer. When this was done the illness was completely cured.
*By elders was meant Shiho Nakata and her youngest sister, Katsu Uyeshima. Shiho was the wife of Gisaburo’s eldest son.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 35
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“The wife of Gisaburo Nakata’s [仲田] eldest son was Shiho Nakata [中田] . In other words, the character used to write their surname changed somewhere along the line. I imagine [the episode] must be about Senkyo Bunkyokai.”
Translation of comments
Tomo on 2009/4/8 (Wed) 8:09 p.m.: “I have a simple question. What grand church did Gisaburo Nakata sensei become head minister of? Was he a Honbu-in (Church HQ executive official)? Is there currently a church (kyokai) where the ground was hardened?”
Sawa on 2009/4/8 (Wed) 9:48 p.m.: “Gisaburo Nakata was detained along with Oyasama during Her final Hardship at Ichinomoto Branch Prison in 1886. He passed away for rebirth in June that same year. I wonder if the cause was that he damaged his health. It is said that that winter was the harshest one in 30 years (records of Osaka Meteorological Observatory).
“[His] grandchild named Takezo founded a church named Senkyo Bunkyokai. It is currently located in Toyoda-cho and I believe that its property is where the ground was hardened.”
Sawa on 2009/4/8 (Wed) 9:51 p.m.: “Addition: The [present] Shinbashira’s younger brother has inherited the Nakata surname.”
Tomo on 2009/4/9 (Thu) 8:02 a.m.: “You’re talking about the Toyodo-cho in Tenri City, right? I thought to make a visit there.
“By the way, is that read ‘Senkyo’ Bunkyokai? That’s an unusual name, isn’t it? Thank you for your quick reply.”
Supplemental information from Taimo
“Gisaburo Nakata: Born in 1831 in Toyoda Village (Toyoda-cho, Tenri-shi).
“He embraced the faith in 1833, after his wife Kaji was saved from post-delivery complications. In 1864, he receives the Sazuke of the Fan, the Sazuke of the Gohei, and the Sazuke of Complete Fertilizer (koe-marukiri no sazuke). In 1874, he receives the Sazuke of Breath.1
“In the same year, he goes with Ichibei Matsuo to ask questions at Oyamato Shrine. He subsequently accompanies Oyasama on summons to the police and prison detentions.
“He passed away for rebirth in 1886 at the age of 56.”
Yoshiharu Kishi sensei’s analysis of Oyasama’s words
Yoshiharu Kishi sensei (who was a member of the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion) has analyzed the words attributed to Oyasama in Anecdotes 41 as follows:
- “Firmly” (shikkari) is a key word among Oyasama’s instructions to Nakata Gisaburo. It refers to the state of one’s thoughts as being grounded. It is the opposite of a mind that is adrift.
- To “step” (fumi) is to plant one’s foot on a surface. It does not mean to slip.
- “Kome” (appears to be rendered as “in”/”down”) implies a forceful stepping and advancing motion. It does not imply merely stepping and remaining still.
- Kishi sensei sees “step in/down” (fumi-kome) as an absolute, forceful instruction. He does not perceive it as being a statement of intention or one of speculation on Oyasama’s part.
- Oyasama repeats the same words three times for emphasis. (Note: in the Japanese, the phrase shikkari fumi-kome is repeated three times but is translated “Step in firmly” in the first instance and “Step down firmly” for the next two.) Kishi sensei feels that it was also significant that Oyasama said these words while walking around the property of Nakata sensei’s home.
- For Kishi sensei, it is significant that Oyasama follows the instruction “Step down to eternity” with “Continue your faith to eternity.”2 He sees this as revealing a key point regarding how we are to start on a journey on the path that continues eternally.
- Lastly, it is significant for Kishi sensei that Oyasama’s instructions end with “tsuzukeru no ya de” or “[be sure to] continue.” For Nakata sensei’s faith to continue for eternity, there is an important precondition, namely to never to let go the property that God “entered” and “hardened the ground” of, “no matter how poor” his family ever happened to end up.3
Supplemental information and insight from Zensuke Nakata sensei
The Tenri jiho series that I have been using as a major reference in this Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama project includes an article by Zensuke Nakata sensei (2009), who is the six-generation successor of Gisaburo Nakata. I’d like to present the information made available in the article.
Gisaburo embraced the faith 1863 when he was 33, after his wife was cured of post-delivery complications. It is said that Gisaburo felt deeply indebted for the rest of his life and singly devoted himself to serving Oyasama thereafter.
He was born Saemon (also spelled “Sayemon”) but changed his name to Gisaburo after the inauguration of the Meiji era (1868). Oyasama continued to intimately refer to him as “Sayomi-san.” Although the “Naka” of “Nakata” was originally written with [仲], it is now written with [中]. It is unclear why this change took place.
Toyoda Village was (and still is, as a section of Tenri City) a ten-minute walk from the Residence. Gisaburo would bring a packed lunch (bento) with him and often spent an entire day working at the Residence. As mentioned above, Oyasama bestowed three forms of the Sazuke (Fan, Gohei, and Complete Fertilizer) to him in 1864.
Oyasama taught the hand movements of the Service to Gisaburo herself in 1867 (as described in Anecdotes 18/19) and he was later charged with the task to teaching these same hand movements to others in subsequent years (one account is briefly mentioned in Anecdotes 36). He would also make many trips throughout the surrounding Yamato Province and Osaka to engage in salvation work (o-tasuke) (one such example appears in Anecdotes 39). As a successor to the Nakata family, Zensuke sensei writes that Gisaburo’s sincere dedication to the path is a great source of assurance for him and his family.
Senkyo Bunkyokai was originally established by Kichizo’s son Takezo in Seoul as a result of his missionary effort on the Korean Peninsula, but the church was forced to relocate as a result of the aftermath of World War II. Although church members aspired to resurrect the church and start anew in Japan, they found difficulty in find a suitable property in the Nara area. The second Shinbashira, Shozen Nakayama, then said, “Although it is close to Jiba, resurrect the church on the property that has always belonged the Nakata family,” words which caused members to rejoice.
Zensuke sensei then offers his personal insight that the instruction “Step down firmly (shikkari fumi-kome) to eternity” perhaps could be perceived as one that urges to “fusekome,” i.e., the imperative form of the verb fuse-komu, a term is often translated in English as “sowing seeds of sincerity” but also has the meaning of dedicating oneself for the sake of the path. Zensuke sensei suggests that such acts of dedication (fusekomi) help “harden the ground” or foundation for a hopeful future.
To quote directly from his article:
Although time goes by and the faces change with the passing of generations, there is nothing more important than the foundation of an unwavering faith. I believe that this foundation of faith endures for eternity because of the dedication (fusekomi) one offers. It is possible that Oyasama taught the importance of fusekomi with the words “Step down firmly.”
He also offers some insight regarding his personal situation as follows:
Granted, I have no blood ties to my parents or to my wife since I married into the Nakata family.4 Nevertheless, I have inherited the faith of the Nakata family. Those who are connected with this household are solidly tied by bonds that are thicker than blood and are embarking on a path with an unwavering faith as the foundation….
Even in an instance where blood ties are non-existent, if the head of the household possesses a sure-footed faith and family members get along well, everyone will be able to live joyously on a daily basis. I believe that families who have embraced the faith are entrusted with the task of reflecting this to the modern world where there are a variety of recurring family problems everywhere.
I appreciate Zensuke sensei’s effort in presenting an interpretation of Anecdotes 41 that opens it up so someone like me — who didn’t grow up in a place where my ancestors always lived — can relate to it.
To elaborate, I lived 20+ years in the same condominium in Honolulu. My dad grew up in San Diego and my mother is from eastern Hiroshima. I grew up without developing a sense of community or belonging in the place where I was born. I must admit that I’m still searching for a sense of truly belonging, and I have a nagging feeling that I will never feel fully settled no matter how long I may end up living in Tenri.
Perhaps the key is to devote further efforts toward fusekomi as Zensuke sensei suggests, but without having a full sense of belonging, doubt gnaws at me, making me wonder if such efforts will end up in vain. It appears that escaping this catch-22 will remain a task that I must deal with from some time to come.
- Kishi Yoshiharu. 2003. “41 – Matsudai ni kakete.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 115–134.
- Nakata Zensuke. 2009. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 10.” Tenri jihō No. 4118 (February 22, 2009), p. 3.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō Oyasama (kyōso?) no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2007. “Oyasama: Shinjin wa matsudai ni kakete.” Taimō (January 2007), pp. 16–17.
- Fukaya, Yoshikazu. 2009. “Eternal truth (matsudai no ri).” In Words of the Path: A Guide to Tenrikyo Terms and Expressions. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department, pp. 143–144 (Click here for online version).
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 1–3.
- See my discussion of Anecdotes 35 for more information on the Sazuke of Breath in addition to Matsuo and Nakata’s questioning of the priests at Oyamato Shrine. Endnote 2 in my discussion of Anecdotes 15 contains a brief description of the Sazuke of Gohei as well as links to my descriptions of the Sazuke of the Fan and the Sazuke of (Complete) Fertilizer from other discussions of Anecdotes.
It must be noted that this was the first time I came across the Sazuke of Fertilizer being referred as koe-marukiri no sazuke in Japanese. Based on the name alone (which I have tentatively translated as “Complete Fertilizer”), I initially imagined that it was somewhat different in form as the Sazuke of Fertilizer that is generally referred to as simply “koe no sazuke.” Apparently, however, since the Tenrikyo jiten describes that Gisaburo Nakata received the exact same three grants as Chushichi Yamanaka did (p. 687), it appears that koe-marukiri no sazuke is just a variant term to refer the Sazuke of Fertilizer. ↩
- The publication Ikiru kotoba (Living words) elaborates on the significance of the instruction “Continue your faith to eternity” by adding:”Children cannot expect to be devoted in their faith just because their parents happen to be devoted. Faith is different according to each individual, each person. It is not some material asset that can be visibly handed over and received. Yet, it is possible to inherit faith. The ideal is that the teachings of this path will be handed down eternally for all generations” (p. 20). ↩
- This entire section is based on Kishi 2003 (pp. 116–117). Although Kishi sensei goes on to discuss other significant topics in this article (including the “natural term of life” of 115 years as taught in the Ofudesaki, of dying in general, and his personal experience of commuting from Tenri to Nara to visit his ailing wife in the hospital), these discussions are unfortunately beyond the scope of this post so I have decided to refrain from presenting them here. ↩
- This refers to the traditional Japanese practice of adopting a male heir through marriage. (I’m assuming that Zensuke married into the Nakata family.) Here is a link to a webpage describing the practice as it was done in the feudal period. ↩