47. Be Joyful of the Future
‘The pine tree may die, but do not worry.’
We were wondering which pine tree She meant.” Rin Masui then told of the prevailing superstitions among the people: “A pine tree that has been exorcised will die. The pine tree in the Masui residence has been exorcised, so the pine tree will die and the family is doomed. It will die out. This is what the people are saying.” Hearing this, Nakata immediately went and asked Oyasama the meaning of this talk about pine trees. Oyasama said:
“Sah, sah, do you understand? Do you understand? Although you cannot see anything today, be joyful of the future. Be joyful! The pine tree may die, but do not worry. No matter what people say, no matter what people may say, do not pay any attention to what people say.”
A few moments later, Oyasama added:
“The pine tree in the residence, the pine tree may die, but do not worry. There is joy in the future. That residence is to become an uchiwake-basho, a place of salvation.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 41
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“From Ogata Chūkyōkai no enkaku (History of Ogata Chukyokai), 1932.”
My take / research
The mention of superstitions concerning exorcised pine trees in Anecdotes 47 was initially very confusing to me. I couldn’t help but think: What causes a pine tree to become exorcised in the first place?
I was going to skip discussion on this subject until I learned more, but then it dawned on me to do the obvious: to check what the original Japanese phrase was. Lo and behold, the phrase is “o-harai-san o/ga furu,” which I would not have translated as “exorcised.” The same phenomenon is instead translated as “talismans… falling” in The Life of Oyasama, p. 74. Knowing this gave me a good idea what was going on here.
According to Tatsuzo Yamochi sensei, there was a custom that obligated the members of the house where a talisman fell (usually the home of a rich peasant or merchant) to treat their neighbors with food and drink or risk the destruction of their home.1
The phenomena of falling talismans (usually referred as “o-fuda” or wooden amulets rather than “o-harai-san” in non-Tenrikyo literature) was also often associated with “thanksgiving pilgrimages” (okagemairi) to the Grand Shrine of Ise, one of the holiest religious centers in Japan from the standpoint of both native folk belief and the Japanese imperial family.
Winston Davis mentions how the Japanese inventor Hiraga Gennai (1729–1779) stirred normally staunch Shinshu villagers in Echigo to go on a pilgrimage to Ise by using a kite to drop amulets from the grand shrine from the sky.2 It then has been noted that “In many cases… the descent of fuda was simply a hoax by young people”3 and that some perceived a fallen amulet as a “curse.”
With all this in mind, I speculate that an individual or a group of people had deliberately scattered an amulet from some prestigious shrine on the pine tree of the Masui household as a form of harassment.
To elaborate, it is safe to assume the conversion of the Masuis to a newly emerged, unconventional faith very likely led them to become ostracized from their community4, for the central meaning of the rumors being spread by people about the Masui family is clear: the rumors claimed that the family was fated to die out because their pine tree was cursed by a fallen wooden amulet.
It is possible that Rin was just one victim of such harassment regarding claims of “cursed pine trees.” Oyasama tells Rin not to pay heed to these rumors and assures her that her home is destined to become a place of salvation (uchiwake basho). Oyasama’scentral instruction to Rin here echoes verse 1, Song Four of the Mikagura-uta: “Whatever others may say; God is watching, so be at ease!”
Speculations on the meaning of uchiwake-basho
This then leads me to speculate on the central mystery of Anecdotes 47: What does uchiwake basho refer to? The translator(s) of the above selection has rendered it as “place of salvation.” In the Ofudesaki, it is translated as “places where God’s truth is conveyed” (2:16). The term appears two more times in Anecdotes of Oyasama, in 102 “I Myself Will Call on Her” and 189 “The Hearts of Husband and Wife.”
Consider these following words that are attributed to Oyasama:
Those who come will come no matter how they are stopped. This will become a place of worship. It will become an uchiwake-basho, a place of salvation.5
In this path the hearts of husband and wife are the foundation. I have discerned your sincerity which could thrust through a great tree or pierce a huge stone. One year from now, I will grant you an uchiwake-basho, a place of salvation.6
In the first instance, Oyasama visited the Matsumura residence to visit Saku, the eldest sister of her daughter-in-law Matsue, when she fell ill in 1882.7 When news of this visit spread, many people came to pay their respects to Oyasama. Efforts were made by local police in an attempt to stop people from entering the Matsumura house. However, these efforts were in vain since followers snuck and found their way inside past the police who were keeping watch.
The second quotation attributed to Oyasama was allegedly her words to Narazo and Tora Hirano not long after they committed themselves to saving others.8
What these three different historical episodes where Oyasama is described using the term “uchiwake-basho” have in common is how the property of the Masuis, Matsumuras, and where the Hiranos eventually settled are now sites of three Tenrikyo grand churches (to specifically name them, Ogata, Takayasu, and Koriyama). It is possible that the term “uchiwake-basho” referred to a future grand church?
But there are problems with this interpretation. According to some sources, there were to be either 31 or 93 of these uchiwake-basho. There happen to be 159 grand churches in existence today. The numbers just do not simply add up. Further, consider the two following explanations:
As for these uchiwake basho (“places where God’s truth is conveyed”), according to the oral tradition, Oyasama taught that 31 of these sites would each be established in within, middle, and outside (uchi, naka, soto), for a total of 93 sites. Despite how incurable an illness is considered to be, if a person visits these uchiwake basho, he or she will be saved. One of these places will be remote, but it will not do to skip it, otherwise, complete salvation will not occur. Also, although one may receive salvation before completing this course, one should not throw away one’s walking staff or wheelchair along the way, for this will make the salvation temporary; one may be cured for the moment but will return back to one’s former state. These objects instead ought to be stored at Jiba where they will be shown to inform others of these instances of marvelous salvation.9
If one were to have Service (sic) performed around the Kanrodai, visit the thirty-one places of salvation, and finally return to the Kanrodai for another performance of the Service, illness of any description will be cured. Of the thirty-one places of salvation, one will be placed in a remote place, but the practitioner must visit them all. Oyasama taught also that the blind must not throw away his staff and the cripple his wheelchair, even if he should receive divine protection during the trip.10
These two explanations are very similar, with the main discrepancy between them being the total number of sites. Putting aside the issue whether 31 or 93 is ultimately “correct,” one would easily come to the conclusion that Oyasama envisioned a Tenrikyo pilgrimage route comparable to the 33-temple route of the Saigoku Pilgrimage or the 88-temple circuit of the Shikoku Pilgrimage as found in the Japanese Buddhist tradition. But the problem with this is that I have not come across any reading other than the selections from Anecdotes that I’ve already mentioned where Oyasama is clearly granting an uchiwake-basho to a follower household.
This issue could be clarified once and for all if Tenrikyo Church Headquarters ever showed the confidence to set the 31 sites (or the total 93 sites for the three uchi, naka, and soto 31-site circuits). But I can’t imagine something like this happening anytime soon.
It is possible to argue that the numbers ought not to be taken literally. However, I do not see a pilgrimage to all 159 grand churches gaining in popularity either. Instead, I’d like to imagine that a more creative interpretation is in order here. I offer two theological speculations.
(1) The number 31 also happens to equal the number of syllables in a waka (tanka) poem. One may recall that, with the exception of two verses, the verses of the Ofudesaki are 31-syllable waka poems. It leads one to wonder: Could uchiwake-basho metaphorically refer to an Ofudesaki verse, or at least a place where the Ofudesaki is taught and conveyed?11
This potential connection with the Ofudesaki becomes even more intriguing when one takes into consideration that there are, according to my count, 21 verses that only have 30 syllables, not 31.12 The “remote place that must not be skipped” mentioned in the two explanations above might be metaphorically referring to these verses in which a syllable happens to be omitted in the original manuscript. This explanation would help reconcile two mysteries, the significance of (31 or 93) uchiwake-basho and the reason for the existence of Ofudesaki verses with omitted syllables in Oyasama’s original handwritten manuscript. Granted, that there are 21 verses with an omitted syllable (out of 1,711 total verses) as opposed to just three (which would be a perfect fit for the 93-site explanation given above) may make this speculation of mine a stretch, but the connection is intriguing nonetheless.
(2) Further, the seated service13, which is done twice a day at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, regional Tenrikyo churches, and many followers’ homes, happen to add up to 31 verses as well. To elaborate, the first section is repeated 21 times, the second section done once, and the third section is repeated in three sets of threes or nine times. 21 + 1+ 9 = 31!) The “remote place that must not be skipped” might be metaphorically be referring to the second section, which is not only done just once but is easily the most difficult section to learn and do the hand movements for.
Could an uchiwake-basho metaphorically refer to any place where the seated service is performed or even the seated service itself?
This last speculation of mine may be strengthened when we take into consideration the Ofudesaki verses that lead up the only appearance “uchiwake-basho” makes in Tenrikyo Scripture altogether. Consider:
From now, I shall begin to open a broad path. I shall make all minds in the world spirited.
Those in high places will come at any moment, spirited in mind. The appointed time has arrived.
After the tea is picked and the plants are trimmed, the Joyous Service will follow.
From where do you think this Service comes? The people in high places will become spirited.
Step by step, the providence of God will bring about every new and marvelous working.
Day after day, the mind of God hastens. What are all of you thinking of it?
Illness and pain of whatever kind do not exist. They are none other than the hastening and guidance of God.
The reason for My hastening, if you should ask, is that I desire performers for the Service.
What do you think this Service is? It is none other than the means to universal salvation.
Do not think this salvation is for the present time alone. It will be the Divine Record for eternity.
Just a word: you are saying that it is a fit or madness. It is not an illness but the urging of God.
Step by step, I have taught the truth of single-heartedness with God, but you still do not understand.
Though I desire to go forth into the open quickly, I cannot do so because there is no path.
Though I desire to open this path quickly, there is no place else to open it.
If you are sincere in desiring this path to be, ponder over everything from your innermost heart.
What do you think this talk is about? I am hastening for the places where God’s truth is conveyed (uchiwake-basho).
When this path can be seen, even a little, all minds in the world will become spirited.
The connections I have attempted to make here between uchiwake-basho and the Ofudesaki and/or the seated service are pure theological speculations on my part. I just decided to add them here for food for thought.
- Davis, Winston. 1992. Japanese Religion and Society: Paradigms of Structure and Change. Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Fukaya, Tadamasa. 1978 . Commentary on the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Tsutome (revised edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department.
- Inoue Akio and Matthew Eynon. 1987. A Study of the Ofudesaki: The Original Scripture of Tenrikyo [Ofudesaki eiyaku/kenyū]. Tenri: Tenrikyo Doyusha.
- Repp, Martin. 2006. “Reinhard Zöllner, Japans Karneval der Krise: Ejanaika und die Meiji-Renovation (Book Review).” Japanese Religions 31 (1), pp. 69–74.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenrikyō Kyōgi oyobi Shiryō Shūseibu, ed. 1999 . Ofudesaki chūshaku. Tenri: Tenri Jihōsha.
- Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department. 1993. Thoughts on a Thematic Outline of the Ofudesaki. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
- Yamochi Tatsuzō. 1993 . Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama den nyūmon jikkō, second printing, second edition. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Yasui Mikio. 2000. “Ofudesaki o gakushū suru 5.” Michi no tomo 110 no .8 (August 2000/R163), pp. 24–27.
(other Anecdotes selections with Rin Masui)
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 36: Firm Resolution
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 44: A Snowy Day
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 45: Wrinkles of the Mind
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 46: Everything from This to That
- Yamochi 1993, p. 189. While I have been able to confirm that “amulets conspicuously often fell on houses of the wealthy” (Repp 2006, p. 72) and the falling of amulets was often followed by “festivities” (ibid, p. 70), I was not able to confirm the claims that households who refused to host such festivities risked being destroyed (or at least vandalized) by others from the community in a non-Tenrikyo source. ↩
- Davis p. 68. ↩
- Repp 2006, p. 73. ↩
- Village communities such as the one Rin lived in were deeply tied to both their parish Buddhist temple and local Shinto shrine. Conversion to any newly emergent non-established faith, on top of being an illegal act at the time, would have undermined any social ties Oyasama’s converts had with their village community. ↩
- Anecdotes of Oyasama 102, p. 86. ↩
- Anecdotes of Oyasama 189, p. 149. ↩
- The events leading to Saku’s conversion are presented and discussed in Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 23: Saving from Tachiyamai Disease. ↩
- Please see The Footsteps of Our Predecessors Part 47: The Conversion of Narazo Hirano to read about the circumstances that led him to embrace the faith. ↩
- Ofudesaki chushaku, p. 22; note regarding Ofudesaki 2:16. ↩
- Fukaya p. 28. ↩
- The kanji for “uchiwake” is often written as the compound verb “打ち分け” (combination of the two verbs “utsu 打つ” and “wakeru 分ける“) which implies distributing or sharing something that has been struck or hit.
This writing of uchiwake happens to mean a draw in a game of go as well as the name of a particular type of drumming (the name probably comes from the fact that the task of hitting (utsu/uchi) the drums is divided (wakeru) among several people). It is also possible to write uchiwake as “内訳” which refers to the act of breaking down, for example, a sum of money into particular units of coinage. ↩
- I did not go through the entire Ofudesaki to count the syllables of all 1,711 verses. I know I can be anal sometimes but I’m not that anal. I only went through two lists provided by Mikio Yasui sensei (2000, p. 27). These two lists contain 26 Ofudesaki verses to which an extra syllable is added in the tradition, either to supply an omitted syllable (sometimes called ketsuji) or to allow easier reading.
The first list is one of verses in which each additional syllable was supplied by later copied manuscripts of the Ofudesaki made by Oyasama or other followers (the verses in question are 3:29, 4:48, 4:103, 4:125, 5:12, 5:79, 7:10, 14:53, 14:89, and 17:4). The additional syllable added to each of the second list of verses was supplied according to the judgment of the second Shinbashira (the verses in question are 1:67, 2:19, 3:37, 3:55, 3:94, 3:129, 3:144, 4:41, 4:16, 4:115, 7:73, 11:31, 11:32, 13:17, 13:75, and 17:31). I determined that 21 of these 26 were verses being supplied with an omitted syllable, i.e., verses with only 30 syllables in the original manuscript.
Akio Inoue and Matthew Eynon’s A Study of the Ofudesaki marks the added syllable in parentheses in the Romanized text but inadvertently omits the parentheses for the added syllable in 4:125 and does not seem to recognize the added syllable to 5:79. ↩
- See Recent Questions no. 6 for my attempt to explain the seated service. ↩