51. Family Treasure
One day in June or July 1877, Iye Murata was serving as Oyasama‘s attendant as usual, when Oyasama unexpectedly handed her a piece of red cloth prepared for a vest and said:
“Oiye, please sew this.”
Iye wondered why Oyasama told her to do the sewing, but before long, she finished the work and Oyasama at once put on the newly tailored vest.
On the evening of that day, Iye’s son, Kamematsu, returned to Jiba to worship at the Residence because of severe pain in his arm.
When told of his return, Oyasama said:
and soon after, She went to bed. After a while, She sat up and said:
“Call Kamematsu here if he still has pain in his arm.”
When he came before Her, Oyasama said:
“Sah, sah, do not wear this out. It shall be your family treasure. Whenever occasions require, put it on and pray.”
So saying, She took off the red vest and personally helped him put it on. She further instructed him:
“Keep it on and go to the Kanrodai at once to perform the service of Ashiki harai, tasuke tamae, ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 45
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“[Based on] the oral account of Suma Murata. Murata I(y)e’s husband was Ko(y)emon.”
It looks there is some inaccuracy in the translation of Anecdotes 51 above. The original does not suggest that Oyasama went to bed to sleep but instead just entered her bedroom and sat silently still on her futon as if in contemplation before she asked whether Kamematsu (Kosuke) still felt pain in his arm. (There is nothing in the original that suggests that “She sat up.” I would argue that she was sitting on her bedding the whole time.)
I also am not sure if “vest” would be a proper translation of “jinbei.”
As far as content is concerned, I cannot help but wonder if Oyasama is making a deliberate pun in Japanese: “Family treasure” or “ie no takara” can also be interpreted as “Murata I(y)e’s treasure.” I cannot help but wonder about the possibility that Oyasama is implying here Kamematsu is Ie’s treasure in life.
The episode as a whole has much mystery to it; there appears to be more going on that is actually being described, but I can’t exactly put my finger on it. But I’ll give my attempt in speculating over its religious significance.
When Oyasama gives Ie a piece of cloth to sew into a jinbei (“vest”), she wonders to herself: Why is God telling me to sew this? (This portion has been omitted in the translation above.) Oyasama puts it on as soon it is finished and Ie’s son Kamematsu shows up, having returned to the Residence due to a pain in his arm. (There is implication here that the pain is God’s guidance.1)
Although Oyasama appears to retire for the night, she merely silently sits atop her bedding for a while before asking if Kamematsu still was in pain. When he comes before her, she then gives him the red jinbei, telling him to treat it preciously as a family treasure and perform the third section of the Kagura/seated service at the Kanrodai.2
I feel that primary lesson of Anecdotes 51 is that it teaches the importance of accepting any task that is entrusted to us on our journey of faith, no matter how bizarre or unnecessary we may initially perceive it to be. Although the significance of the task may be not immediately apparent, it will nevertheless become clear in hindsight after the next generation benefits as a result.
While Ie initially complies with Oyasama’s instruction to sew the jinbei vest, she nevertheless cannot help but wonder why. It then later becomes clear that the jinbei she sewed for Oyasama would be for her son’s benefit, to become a family treasure for all generations to come.
- Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1997. Kaitei Tenrikyō jiten. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 35: The Red Garments
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 50: Kosuke and Suma
- Fukaya, Yoshikazu. 2009. “Red clothes (akaki)” In Words of the Path: A Guide to Tenrikyo Terms and Expressions. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department, pp. 48–49 (online version)
- See earlier posts from my Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama project such as 8: “By a Slight Illness” and 40: “Stay Here” regarding the theological topic of divine guidance. ↩
- I have no idea when the seated service was introduced as a form of devotional practice. The third section as quoted above was amended in 1882 to “Ashiki o harōte tasuke sekikomu Ichiretsu sumashite Kanrodai.”
However, it may be noteworthy that Kamematsu (Kosuke) Murata would later be a recipient of the Sazuke of Kanrodai on 12/8/1887 (Tenrikyo jiten, p. 880). This form of the Sazuke is different from the one administered today in that the administrant would intone the second section of the Kagura (Choto hanashi…) and the pre-amended third section in three sets of threes instead of “Ashiki harai tasuke tamae, Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto” (idid, p. 240). ↩