78. A Rich Man’s Residence
This is a story that Oyasama told Kiku Masui:
“Those who live in this Residence — if they want to eat good food, wear good clothes, and live in good houses, then they will not be able to stay in this Residence.
If only they do not think of eating good food, wearing good clothes, or living in good houses, will every daily need be met in this Residence. This is the real ‘rich man’s residence’ in the world.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 66–67
My research / take
The instruction attributed to Oyasama here touches upon what happens to be essential to human survival: food, clothes, and shelter. As Yoshinobu Chakitani sensei observes1, Anecdotes 78 may seem somewhat counterintuitive at first glance. One would more readily associate “a rich man’s residence” as a place where one can eat delicacies, wear expensive clothes, and live in great luxury and comfort.2
Yet spiritual riches appear to be promised for those who are willing to eschew these material things in order to dedicate themselves in Jiba. (It is also all the more possible to claim the statements above can be applied more generally: A life of profound spiritual enrichment awaits anyone who frees themselves from continually craving better than average food, clothes, and housing.)
However, I must say with brute honesty that my experience living in Tenri leaves much to be desired. Is this feeling of mine rooted in my own spiritual impoverishment?
While circumstances at the Residence today are easily better here than at any time during Oyasama’s physical existence (not to mention far better than in countless other places throughout the world — my heartfelt prayers to earthquake-torn Haiti), the declaration that one who seeks to have better than average food, clothes, and housing would not be able to stay in the Residence and will soon leave on their own accord is arguably very much true today for anyone who works3 for Tenrikyo Church Headquarters or at any of the many church dormitories (tsumesho) that exist in Tenri.
I will say with great confidence based on my own experience that there are little financial or other worldly incentives for one to live and work in “the Residence.”The quote above also echoes the notion that there is no end to human greed.4
In fact, a publication entitled Ikiru kotoba (Living words) elaborates on the lesson of Anecdotes 78 as follows:
The Joyous Life is not determined by one’s environment or any other condition. It actually begins when one begins to cast away the mind of greed little by little. Seeing the present state of the world — severe environmental pollution and great imbalance of wealth — there is a necessity for all of us to reflect upon our own footsteps.5
Not being able to readily eat foods that are not widely available here (bagels, Korean, and Mexican cuisine most quickly come to my mind) might seem a small price to pay in what is essentially a place free from crippling crime, social unrest, or even natural disasters. (1854 was the last time an earthquake severely affected the immediate area.) It also happens to be the sacred center of my faith. Nevertheless, I still feel the Jiba-experience still has much room for improvement, particularly for those who do not speak the Japanese language.
Jiba can prove to be a lonely place to live for someone who craves social interaction. Even though I may not be a very social animal myself, there are many times I wish it didn’t prove to be such an insular and impenetrable place. Living here with family accentuates the highs and lows at times but gives me great comfort in the long run. I should be more than grateful for what I have.
- Chakitani Yoshinobu. 2009. “Ah, Oyasama: go-itsuwa o mijika ni 1.” Yōki No. 720 (April 2009), pp. 60–64.
- 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.
(on Masui Kiku)
- Chakitani 2009, p. 63 ↩
- Chakitani sensei also suggests that the term “fujiyu” is the key that allows one to come to a fuller understanding of Anecdotes 78. (The phrase “nani fujiyu nai yashiki” — literally, the yashiki or Residence where there is no fujiyu — is translated above as “this Residence” where “every daily need” is met. I discuss the term fujiyu in detail in Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 15.) He writes that although fujiyu is often associated with lacking something material or physical, Oyasama nevertheless promises that “every daily need” will be met for anyone who is willing to overlook its outward deficiencies. ↩
- I am using the term “work,” rather loosely here, since people who “work” for Tenrikyo Church Headquarters or a church dormitory are not financially compensated to the degree as they would be in the regular workforce but provided with simple housing arrangements, the clothes/uniform they wear, and food from a facility known as Suiji Honbu (frequently shortened to “Suihon”), or the “Dining Service Center” in English. But I feel there isn’t really any other term I can readily use since something like “full-time volunteering” is awkward to use and still might not be completely appropriate or accurate. ↩
- In Song Ten, verse 4 of The Songs for the Service:
Greed is fathomless like muddy water.
When your mind is completely purified,
Then comes paradise. ↩
- Ikiru kotoba, p. 31. ↩