86. Great Salvation
Jyujiro Okamoto’s eldest son, Zenroku, and his wife, Shina, of Nagahara Village in Yamato Province, had had seven pregnancies. Of these, only two children, the eldest son, Eitaro, and the youngest daughter, Kan (who later became Yuki Kami), survived. The other five had either died early deaths or been miscarriages. The eldest son, Eitaro, was saved from fever in 1879, and as a result Zenroku and his wife became very zealous in their faith.
Shina faced a serious problem around August 1881. A messenger came from a farmer named Tarobei Imada, who owned about fifty-four ares of rice fields in Shoji Village, about four kilometers north of Nagahara Village, with the request: “We have just had our first son, but are having difficulty nursing him because of lack of milk. We realize this is an unreasonable request, but will you please take care of the child and nurse him at your home? Please agree to take care of him.”
Unfortunately Shina had no more milk of her own by then, so she could not accept this other child. They declined, saying, “We are very sorry, but we cannot take care of the child.” “But please, couldn’t you somehow take care of him?” was the repeated plea. Being at a loss for an answer, Shina said, “Then let me first ask Oyasama.” She returned to the Residence at once and was received by Oyasama, who said:
“No matter how much money you may have, or how much rice you may have in the storehouse, it cannot be given to an infant. There is no greater salvation than to care for and raise another person’s child.”
“Yes, I understand. But I don’t have any milk anymore. Should I undertake to care for child even then?” Shina inquired. Then, there were these words from Oyasama:
“If you just have a sincere desire to take care of the child, God will give whatever is needed because the gift is in the omnipotent hand of God. You need not worry.”
Hearing these reassuring words, Shina resolved to rely on God completely. So she told the Imadas, “I will take care of the child.”
The child was brought from Shoji Village at once. Shina was astonished when she saw him. He must have been fed only on rice water and sugar water. He had been one month premature, and was now a little more than three months old, skinny, without the strength even to cry, just barely able to whimper.
Shina embraced the child and tried to nurse him, but milk would not flow so soon. The child became peevish and bit her nipple. She was worried for a while because she did not know what to do.
This continued for two or three days, and then, marvelously, her milk began to flow. Thanks to her milk the child grew stronger day by day and became quite healthy. Later Shina took this robust child to the Residence. Oyasama embraced him and rewarded Shina with these words:
“Shina, you have done a good thing.”
Shina personally experienced the truth that one can receive God’s blessings by obediently following Oyasama’s words. Shina was then twenty-six years of age.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 71–72.
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“From Michi no tomo, 1973.”
My take / Insight from Gen Miyata sensei
This is actually the third time Anecdotes 86 has appeared on Tenrikyology.com in some shape or form. (Refer to “Further reading” near the bottom for the links).
The two sets of instructions attributed to Oyasama in Anecdotes 86 (“There is no greater salvation than to care for and raise another person’s child.” / “If you just have a sincere desire to take care of the child, God will give whatever is needed because the gift is in the omnipotent hand of God. You need not worry.”) are often quoted as textual support for ministers who take care of foster children.1
Gen Miyata sensei of Tenri University provides the following insight:
When Shina expressed her concern that she was no longer able to give milk, Oyasama told her: “If you just have a sincere desire to take care of the child, God will give whatever is needed because the gift is in the omnipotent hand of God. You need not worry.” Shina resolved to rely on God after she received these words. The mind of sincerity is the mind of truth, of true and pure sincerity. Such a mindset does not seek a reward but is committed to dedicating one’s best efforts toward saving others. It is a mindset that can be expressed by anyone, at any time. Such is the mindset that God the Parent wants all of us to have.
In the Ofudesaki:
When Tsukihi has ascertained your mind’s sincerity, know that I shall grant you every kind of protection.
Be convinced when you see this, whoever you may be: My free and unlimited workings are according to your mind.
Whatever I may work, I shall work all things according to your mind of sincerity.
If you truly resolve your mind and pray to Me, I shall grant you My free and unlimited workings at once.
If your mind is sincere, pray to Me quickly about any concerns. I shall respond at once.
If your mind is truly sincere, there will never be a failure in any salvation.
Just as these verses teach us, I have the feeling this selection from Anecdotes gives us an actual concrete example on the mind of sincerity and about God the Parent’s salvation.2
Supplemental information from Gen Miyata sensei and Tenrikyo jiten, kyokaishi hen3
The Okamotos were a distinguished farming family who embraced the faith in the first lunar month of 1864 not long after Sono Yamanaka was cured of an illness (described in Anecdotes 11).
Sono’s sister-in-law Rui was the wife of Jujiro Okamoto (spelled Jyujiro above). Rui had witnessed Sono’s wondrous cure before her very eyes and when she returned home, she relayed the news to her worried husband. Jujiro listened to Rui’s emotional testimony and followed her advice to embrace the faith together.
Jujiro thereafter returned to the Residence with his brother-in-law Chushichi Yamanaka. After meeting Oyasama firsthand, he became ever more steadfast in his faith and began to return to the Residence whenever he could afford to take a break from his farming.
In 10/1865, Jujiro accompanied Oyasama together with Izo Iburi, Chushichi Yamanaka, and Isaburo Nishida when she went to deal with the so-called “Sukezo incident.” He also received the Grant of the Fan (with black ribs) in 1866.
In 1872, Jujiro’s son Zenroku (born 1849) married Shina Oda (born 1856). In 1874, Eitaro was born. In 1877, Zenroku was named as the representative (kumigashira) of Nagahara Village. Jujiro became ill the same year and visited the Residence daily to use the steam bath and made a full recovery. He donated tatami mats and bedding for Oyasama’s room as an expression of his appreciation. However, Jujiro passed away on June 9 the following year (1878).
Ever since his appointment as a village administrator, Zenroku was said to not have been very diligent in following his father’s faith for a year or two. Then in 1879, cholera became prevalent in the area and his son Eitaro was stricken with the illness.4
In addition to being gravely concerned about his son, Zenroku also was also concerned about troubling his fellow villagers by being an irresponsible village administrator over the prospect his entire village might be quarantined due to Eitaro’s illness.
When Zenroku approached Chushichi Yamanaka for advice, his uncle told him: “Zenroku, God has allowed your only son become afflicted because you have not continued the faith since your father passed away. God is trying to draw you back, so you should go to Shoyashiki to worship. Do so and Eitaro will become healthy enough to eat a benben mochi (bean-jam rice cake).”
Eitaro was cured after Zenroku returned to the Residence to state his resolve to take over the faith of his father and follow it as best he could. (A Divine Direction from March 4, 1890 later reminds Zenroku of this blessing. It makes mention of “a test from a single night, the providence sufficiently appearing on a single night.”)
Later, in 1885 and 1886, many confraternities/home altars (ko 講) were established in the immediate area surrounding Jiba. Zenroku Okamoto was a regular at the Residence during this time and he approached Yaichiro Ino and Tamizo Ueda over the possibility of consolidating roughly 70 of these ko into a larger confraternity. After a series of meetings, the Hinomoto-ko was formed in November 1886 with Chusaku Tsuji as its directing minister (sokocho 総講長). Zenroku himself became the second director in 1890, which later became Asahi Daikyokai, which was founded in 1895.
Supplemental information from Tomoji Takano sensei
Here, I offer some supplemental information I got from a published translation of a book written by the Tenrikyo historian Tomoji Takano sensei:
One day, some months after the birth of his second child, Hisakichi, his wife, Shina, suffered an inflamed breast. Zenroku took her immediately to see Oyasama. Oyasama said, “Shina-san, there is no greater way to help another than to give your own milk to a child in need. Please, offer your help.”
Shina was struck speechless. Just the day before, a woman had come to her and begged her to suckle her child because she was not able to herself. But Shina had refused because she did not know her and because she was of a different village.
…She took the child the child into her care and nursed it side by side with her own son. From that evening on, Shina visited Oyasama daily for worship, taking the two infants and her first son with her. Eitaro looked forward to these visits, especially because his mother bought him sweets on the way in Tanbaichi, and because Oyasama always greeted him warmly and carefully wrapped his sweets in paper for him. Shina’s charge grew rapidly and on her visits to Oyasama, Oyasama would take the baby into Her arms and say, “Shina-san, you have done a fine thing.”5
It is unclear whether or not Takano sensei’s description is an alternative account of Anecdotes 86. The key piece of information that would illuminate this would be Hisakichi’s year of birth, which had to have been sometime after 1874 (the year Eitaro was born). 1876 or 1877 would be the earliest plausible years for me since I would assume that Eitaro had to be old enough to walk for Shina to be able to take him and the infant Hisakichi to the Residence.
It is more than possible that Takano sensei’s account and Anecdotes 86 describe two very similar events but from different years, since the latter seems to take for granted that Shina went through her seven pregnancies before she was approached to take care of the Imada infant in 1881. In fact, the Imadas may have approached Shina to suckle their child for the very reason she had already done so for a stranger from another village, as described in Takano sensei’s account. But of course, this is just pure speculation on my part.
In any case, Takano sensei’s account potentially casts some doubt on the plausibility of Anecdotes 86, which is already hard enough for any skeptic to accept since it miraculously describes Shina’s milk flowing after a few days she agreed to nurse the Imada infant. Nevertheless, I would argue that the very implausibility of such a phenomenon makes this selection from Anecdotes among the most prominent ones in the Tenrikyo tradition.
As for whether or not one ought to accept the veracity of Anecdotes 86, I shall remain silent on this matter. It is ultimately up to each reader to decide.
- Miyata Gen. 2006. “Shinjitsu no kokoro: 86 ‘Ōkina tasuke’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 105–112.
- Takano, Tomoji. 1985. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
- Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1976. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo. Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
- Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1989. Tenrikyo jiten, kyokaishi hen. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Ueda Yoshinaru. 1976. “Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den itsuwa-hen ni tsuite.” Michi no dai 65 (May 1976), pp. 26-43.
- Wakasa Kazuhiro. 2003. Hamidashi kyōkai-chō no asaseki banashi. Tenri: Yōtokusha.
- Koji Sato’s Omichi no joshiki: Great Salvation
- The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 42: “God’s Gifts Are Free and Unlimited”
*Articles briefly mentioning Hinomoto-ko
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 61: Beneath the Corridor
- The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 11: Repaying God’s Blessings
*Tenrikyo Online articles mentioning Tenri Yotokuin Children’s Home:
- “Social Welfare Convention Highlights Developing Human Resources and Helping Others“
- “First Social Welfare Convention Held in the Home of the Parent“
- Kazuhiro Wakasa sensei of recent fame quotes these same instructions from Anecdotes 86 when describing his motivation for being a foster parent (2003, p. 103). Yoshinaru Ueda sensei mentions day-care centers (takujisho) in his discussion concerning this very story (1976, p. 40). ↩
- Miyata 2006, pp. 110–111. ↩
- Information in this section is from Miyata 2006, p. 108 and Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyusho 1989, pp. 40–41. ↩
- Two verses from the Ofudesaki said to have been written in June 1879 read as follows:
Whatever I do to the body, it is not an illness but the care of Tsukihi.
The world is saying that it is cholera, but it is Tsukihi informing you of the regret.
- Takano p. 31. ↩