92. Husband and Wife Together
Shirobei Umetani was received by Oyasama one day soon after his conversion to the faith. Oyasama told him:
“Husband and wife together, have faith in God.”
As soon as he got home, he said to his wife, Tane, “Since I have just been taught that it is not good if only one of us follows this path, you and I must both follow the path together.” Whereupon Tane obediently agreed. So just as he was taught by the seniors, Shirobei and Tane filled a rice bowl with water, faced the Jiba, chanted, “Namu, Tenri-Ō-no-Mikoto,” three times, and each drank half of the water as a token of their vow that as husband and wife they would always be together in their faith.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 77–78
Supplemental information from Taimo (translation)
“Shirobei Umetani [梅谷四郎兵衞]: Born in 1847 in Higashi-Sakata, Furuichi County, Kawachi Province (Higashi-Sakata, Habikino, Osaka). He later is adopted by the plastering master Urata. In 1877, he switches his surname back to Umetani and continues working as a plasterer. He then exerts himself engaging in hinokishin plastering the walls of Oyasama’s Resting House.
“After receiving permission to establish Senba Bunkyokai, he is installed as its first minister. He passes away for rebirth in 1919 at the age of 73.”
Supplemental information from Koji Sato sensei (translation)
“Shirobei Umetani was born on 7/7/1847 (Koka year 4)… as the third son of Ku’uemon [久右衛門] and Kokin [小きん] Umetani. He was named Katsuzo [勝蔵]. In 1860 (Man’en year 1), when he was 14 (traditional count), he was adopted by Shobei Urata [浦田小兵衛] and took the name Shirobei. He married Tane Ueno in 1871 (Meiji year 4). After the death of his adoptive father in 1877, circumstances led him to leave the Urata household and he resumed the surname Umetani. He embraced the faith on the same day after his first return to Jiba on February 20. He dedicated himself to serving at Jiba immediately thereafter and participated in the stone quarrying hinokishin for the Kanrodai on May 14 (described in Anecdotes 82). This selection from Anecdotes (92) describes an event not long after he embraced the faith, roughly 10 years after his marriage to Tane.”
Supplemental information from Tenri jiho (translation)
“Shirobei, who worked as a plasterer in Osaka, was not rich by any means, but he lived happily in harmony with his family. However, his only concern was that his older brother Asashichi [浅七] suffered from an eye ailment. It is said that he paid no heed to his own matters as he went to various shrines and temples to pray so his brother would find relief from his illness.
“On February 20, 1881, Shirobei heard about the reputation of a ‘living goddess in Yamato’ and returned to the Residence for the first time.
“At first, he listened to God’s teachings from the intermediaries while casually thinking to himself, ‘It will be a great payoff if my brother is saved as a result of this.’ Yet it felt as if his soul was shaken to its core when he heard the teachings regarding ‘a thing lent, a thing borrowed,’ ‘eight dusts,’ and the ‘workings of causality.’
“While he long liked religion, he never had heard such teachings before. He made a firm decision on the spot to devote his life to this path. Shirobei immediately went back to Osaka and said to his wife Tane: ‘I was told that husband and wife ought to believe in this is path together. Please, join me in believing.’ This was the start of husband and wife embarking on the path of single-hearted salvation.”
The importance of the marital bond between husband and wife cannot be overemphasized in Tenrikyo. A translation of the entry “fufu (husband and wife) from the Tenrikyo jiten elaborates in some detail, so I will refrain from explaining this concept myself.
Examples where Oyasama is described teaching the importance of the bond between husband and wife abound in Anecdotes. (Selections 99 and 189 are among the ones that immediately come to mind.) The bond between husband and wife is also a theme prevalent in much of the work of Hisanori Kontani sensei, who had his books translated in several languages.
Further, a Tenrikyo publication entitled Ikiru kotoba (Living words) comments on the instruction “Husband and wife together, have faith in God” as follows:
Oyasama has also taught, “Husband and wife are the foundation” (Anecdotes 189) and “Husband and wife working together in hinokishin” (Mikagura-uta Song Eleven, verse 2). While we are taught that the harmony that settles between husband and wife is the basis for the settling of everything in the world, we must also value the individuality of each mind — “Even between parent and child, husband and wife, and brothers and sisters: their minds all differ from one another” (Ofudesaki 5:8).
I also would like to mention I have a quibble with the translation “obediently agreed.” “Obediently” somehow brings to mind a trained dog, and I would never ask my wife to be “obedient” to me. I find it exponentially more beneficial to me that she have a mind of her own as I trust her judgment on most matters far more than I do mine. I would have translated “sunao ni shitagota” as “willingly complied” instead but I’m not sure many feminists would see that as an improvement.
The drinks of water exchanged by Shirobei and Tane are symbolically similar the nuptial cups of sake shared at a marriage ceremony. It is also notable that they chanted God’s name three times, a number that often represents “joining and connection” in Tenrikyo.
In an amazing stroke of serendipity, I also came across an awesome quote attesting to the importance of a couple’s bond when recently reading the 2009 parenting tome NurtureShock:
Children appear to be highly attuned to the quality of their parents’ relationship…. In one study, Cummings found that children’s emotional well-being and security are more affected by the relationship between parents than by the direct relationship between the parent and the child.1
Ultimately, however, I imagine that Anecdotes 92 is important in a religious sense in the way that it encourages a married couple to have faith together for the very reason that having one parent firmly against it greatly diminishes the chances of children inheriting and believing in it themselves.
Just to give an anecdotal example, I doubt that I would have ended up where I am today if my late father had ever discouraged my mother from practicing her faith, even though some of the institutional formalities of Tenrikyo as a religious organization appeared to dampen his enthusiasm somewhere along the line.
- Bronson, Po and Merryman, Ashley. 2009. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. New York: Twelve Books.
- Satō Kōji. 2009. “Fūfu 92 — Fūfu sorōte.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 3. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 101–123. (Citation from p. 102)
- 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. 2007. “Oyasama: Fūfu sorōte shinjin nasare ya.” Taimō 468 (December 2007), pp. 16–17.
- Umetani Daiichi. 2008. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie” Tenri jihō No. 4072 (March 30, 2008), p. 3.
- Takano, Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 96–100.
- Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 82: Yoisho!
- Tenrikyo Online: Excerpts from Dust and Innen
- Nurtureshock, p. 184. ↩