39. Much Better
In 1874, two-year-old Narazo, the eldest son of Yahei Nishiura, contracted diphtheria and was given up by the doctor as hopeless. Yahei was convinced of the teachings through the devoted efforts of Koyo, mother of Koshiro Murata of the same village. Help from the Residence was requested. Gisaburo Nakata came from the Residence at once to save the child and Narazo was marvelously saved. Father and son then visited the Residence immediately to express their gratitude. From that time on, Yahei was a fervent believer.
One day, after coming home from the Residence, Yahei went to bed late. Around midnight, he heard a noise under the floor. Thinking, “This is strange!” he quietly got up and looked around the house. With an exclamation of surprise, a man ran away into the dark. He left behind a large bundle of various precious items taken from Yahei’s home.
Yahei was very happy. The next morning he promptly visited the Residence and thanked Oyasama from the bottom of his heart, saying, “Because of your blessing, it turned out very well for me. Thank you.”
“Would it not be much better to let the people who need them have them?”
It is said that these words made a deep impression on Yahei’s mind.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 33–34
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“[Based on] Asahi Daikyokai shi (history of Asahi Daikyokai)”
“Comment” on “Sawa’s” post
“Nishiura was from Sonohara-cho, Tenri City. He is said to have conveyed the faith to Kajiro Ueda (father of Naraito).”
Supplemental information from Taimo
“Yahei Nishiura: Born in 1844 in Sonohara Village, Yamabe County, Yamato Province (Sonohara-cho, Tenri City).
“The stunning recovery of his eldest son Narazo leads him to embrace the faith in 1874.
“In 1876, he conveys the faith to the family of Naraito Ueda when she was struck with illness. In 1887, after Oyasama withdrew from physical life, he receives ‘the Sazuke of the Kanrodai’ from the Honseki Izo Iburi.1
“He passes away for rebirth in 1899, at the age of 56.”
Supplemental information on Yahei Nishiura (1844–1899)
The Tenri jiho series that I have been turning to from time to time includes an article from Tadakazu Nishiura sensei (2008), a fifth-generation descendant of Yahei Nishiura. It offers a wealth of supplemental information, so I’ve decided to paraphrase/translate the majority of the article here.
Sonohara was a small village of a dozen or so households located along the “Yamanobe Road,” said to be Japan’s oldest. The Nishiuras were a very rich farming household.
Yahei was born the eldest son. When his father Genzaburo passed away when he was ten, he took care of his mother, two younger brothers, and younger sister in his father’s place. When he was 12 or 13, he would join in village activities as the head of his household. Upon gaining the trust of his fellow villagers for his integrity, he was selected to become the village headman in 1874, when he was 31.
It was during this time Yahei’s son Narazo succumbed to diphtheria. It became so severe that the doctor claimed he was beyond hope. Clutching at straws, Yahei had a medium of Inari conduct a prayer at the home of Sa’ichiro Murata. The medium then instructed, “If you wish to spare your child’s life, devote yourself to a Kami.”
This was an unexpected instruction for Yahei since his family had always been devoted to worshiping the gods. When he agonized over what particular god he was supposed to pray to, Sa’ichiro’s wife Koyo told him about “the living god (Kami) of Shoyashiki Village” who once been cured her of back pains.
Koyo then went to the Residence at Yahei’s request to ask for help. Gisaburo Nakata then arrived to administer the Sazuke of Breath and convey the teachings.2 Narazo then gradually recovered, greatly surprising their neighbors, who had been talking about the prospect of the young child’s funeral.
Yahei later carried his healthy son on his back to the Residence to express his gratitude to Oyasama. He recalled many years later, “Although it was my first meeting with Oyasama, when I came before Her, it felt like everything in my heart was scooped away, all my worries and such disappeared.”
Oyasama patted Narazo’s head and was greatly overjoyed that the young child had narrowly escaped death. Regarding the flat feet that the boy had been born with, Oyasama said: “I shall receive him when he becomes 20. Make sure that he does not take any wrong steps.”
After Yahei had embraced the faith, Oyasama told him, “Come whenever you can.” He observed her instructions, as it is said he worshiped early in the morning each day when it was still dark, in the afternoon after finishing up his work in the fields a little early in the day, and even at night.
When he was at the Residence,Oyasama taught him The Songs for the Service (Mikagura-uta) and showed him the Ofudesaki that she was still in the process of writing. Yahei would tie strings around his index and middle fingers to remind himself of the teachings he learned and wrote them down as soon as he got home.
Regarding Oyasama’s words chronicled in Anecdotes 39 — “Would it not be much better to let the people who need them have them?”3 — Tadakazu sensei writes that: “When he heard these words, Yahei must have disbelieved his own ears for a moment. However, as he deeply pondered over them, he probably could not help but bow in reverence as he felt his own narrow-mindedness and shortcomings compared to the vast and immeasurable parental love of Oyasama.”
This episode is said to have prompted a dramatic change in Yahei’s devotion. He subsequently exerted his sincerity behind the scenes, away from the view of others. When there was an outbreak of cholera in Tanbaichi, he distributed firewood to houses that had been quarantined. There was one occasion when he was on his way to Nara to have a new haori jacket made and encountered a person whose cart had got stuck in the mud. Yahei used the money he had brought for ordering a jacket to buy a load of straw to help the cart get out of the mud. It is said that the Divine Directions (Osashizu) from February 27, 1899 (“I have fully accepted the truth you dedicated from behind the scenes”) acknowledged Yahei’s efforts to accumulate unseen merit.
In June 1897, Narazo passed away at the age of 25. Remembering Oyasama’s words to him cautioning “Make sure that he does not take any wrong steps,” Yahei cried in despair, “I’ve allowed Oyasama’s precious instructions come to naught!” He repented from the bottom of his heart, solidified his resolve to devote himself singly to the path, and moved into the Residence in 1898 and spent the remainder of his life there.
In the concluding section of his article, Tadakazu sensei mentions that it may be difficult for those of us living in the present to grasp the essence of Anecdotes 39 with just a single reading. It also seems an impossible task for us to think in the way Oyasama instructed here. Nevertheless, he asserts that this is precisely what makes it such an important pointer on how we are to live our lives as Yoboku.
According to Tadakazu sensei, a mind that is full of self-love cannot fully awaken to the teaching contained in Anecdotes 39. In fact, Yahei was initially overjoyed that the thief left empty handed. He was in for a surprise to think that Oyasama would feel the same way. After she said, “Would it not be much better…” he deeply reflected on his way of thinking and realized that to rejoice over escaping misfortune amounted to a faith that merely sought tangible benefits over spiritual enrichment.
It is said that Yahei was further convinced of Oyasama’s divinity and felt that she was indeed the Parent of all humanity. I conclude this post with a direct quote from Tadakazu sensei:
Oyasama constantly views everything in the perspective of world salvation, the salvation of the entire human race. Further, everything in this world, whether it is money, material things, even the body and our life itself, does not belong to us. We are taught that these are all gifts that God the Parent has lent us.
Nothing is more important than for us to realize these great blessings. I believe that Oyasama is telling us that we can become genuine Yoboku that help save others when we have such broadmindedness.
Spiritual growth (seijin) refers to the progress we make to approach closer to the Parent’s intention. Children rejoice when they get something. Parents rejoice with the act of giving. To rephrase this in a more religious way, I believe it refers to the mind that rejoices at being saved and the mind that rejoices at having others be saved.
In other words, it can be said that the first step toward spiritual growth is to make the great change from a mindset that “wishes to be saved” into one that “wishes to save others” like how Yahei did when he changed his way of living after having been taught by Oyasama.
I believe this is the essence of what is being taught in this selection from Anecdotes of Oyasama.
- Nishiura Tadakazu. 2008. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 7.” Tenri jihō No. 4100 (October 12, 2008), 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. “Oyasama: motto kekkō.” Taimō 481 (January 2009), pp. 16–17.
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama,the Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 56–59.
- Click here for an account describing this Sazuke bestowal involving Yahei Nishiura. An account of the events surrounding the Uedas’ conversion to Oyasama’s teachings is described in Anecdotes 48. ↩
- Gisaburo Nakata is said to have received the Sazuke of Breath on December, 26, 1874. See my discussion of Anecdotes 35 for more information. ↩
- The publication Ikiru kotoba(“Living words”) elaborates on these same words as follows:
“It is certainly wonderful to be spared of having one’s valuable household goods taken away. However, it is even a more wonderful prospect to let someone have something if it happens to be what he or she wants by all means. One attains overflowing joyousness when one can find pleasure in any situation. We are reminded of Oyasama’s example of how She gave things away to others” (p. 118). ↩