103. Without Erring
Komakichi Komatsu, who lived in Osaka, returned to Jiba for the first time in July 1882, led by Tokichi Izumita, his spiritual guide, in order to offer his gratitude. This was soon after his recovery from cholera and the beginning of his faith.
When Komakichi was granted an audience with Oyasama, She personally handed him an amulet and spoke these gracious words:
“I appreciate your return from the bustling town of Osaka to the remote countryside. You are eighteen and still young. Go through life without erring. As long as you do not err, in the end, your happiness will exceed all bounds.”
Komakichi kept these words as his lifelong motto and remained constant in them throughout his life.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 87
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“Komakichi Komatsu [was responsible for] the beginning of Mitsu Daikyokai.”
Supplemental information on Komakichi Komatsu (1865–1934)1
Komakichi Komatsu was born on 2/5/1865 (lunar) in Lot 1 of Kawaramachi, Minami Ward2, Osaka City. His family occupation was carpentry. He lived in tenement housing with his parents.
In 1882, a cholera epidemic struck Osaka. As medical care had still yet to advance during the Meiji period (1868–1912), it was feared as an untreatable disease. Poor townspeople could not receive adequate care and would often be nursed at home. It was common practice to put up a yellow sheet of paper that read “cholera” at the door of a home where someone was sick.
Several people living in the same tenement housing as Komakichi had caught the disease. Police officers roped off the area and stood watch to enforce the quarantine.
In June that year, Komakichi succumbed to the disease as well. When he came home from a neighborhood meeting one day, his condition was different from usual. He was pale and felt somewhat fatigued. He quickly went to rest, but he lost consciousness that night.
Just around that time, a man nicknamed “sweet potato bear,” who sold steamed sweet potatoes in a pullcart, came, as he did every day, to draw water from the Komatsu family’s well. It was the man who would later be known as Tokichi Izumita.
Tokichi had embraced the faith by then and upon seeing Komakichi in bed, he offered some water to God and prayed. He then took the water in his mouth and sprayed it on Komakichi. Tokichi then went to the well to douse himself with water and came back to Komakichi’s bedside to fervently pray for his recovery.
It is not known how many round trips Tokichi made between the well and Komakichi’s sickbed. Tokichi’s intense salvation efforts then paid off as Komakichi regained consciousness and was blessed with a vivid recovery that same day.
The next day, Komakichi, who was thrilled about having been saved without a taking a single dose of medicine, forced himself out of bed and went with his father Kiyokichi to Tokichi’s home with some white rice and one kin (600 g) of konpeito candies as an expression of his appreciation.
However, Tokichi refused the items, saying: “I didn’t save you. It was God in Heaven who saved you. Give your thanks to Heaven instead.”
Komakichi asked how he could do this. Tokichi’s replied, “You give your thanks to Heaven by saving others as an expression of your indebtedness.” Tokichi then taught him the hand movements of the service dance and lent him a handwritten copy of the Mikagura-uta (The Songs for the Service).
Komakichi was deeply impressed at these teachings that he had never heard the likes of before. From the very next day, he would go to Tokichi’s home after work and join him every night scattering the fragrance and making salvation efforts. Komakichi was 18 at the time.3
Then, just as it is described in Anecdotes 103, in July, Tokichi took Komakichi on a thanksgiving pilgrimage to Jiba. There, Oyasama said to him: “I appreciate your return from the bustling town of Osaka to the remote countryside. You are 18 and still young. Go through life without erring. As long as you do not err, in the end, your happiness will exceed all bounds.”
Komakichi apparently could not begin to grasp what Oyasama meant by “Go through life without erring.” When he got back to his lodgings, he asked Tokichi, who explained, “Since you are still young, I’m sure it means for you to be careful and not make a mistake because of sexual desire.”
Osaka was a bustling town that was second only to the capital of Tokyo, made so by its many water routes. It could be that Tokichi shared his insight of the importance of not succumbing to the various temptations in the thriving city.
Insight from Hatsuo Komatsu sensei
However, Hatsuo Komatsu sensei, a fourth-generation descendant of Komakichi sensei, feels that Oyasama’s words contained a deeper message because of his ancestor’s personality. Although the carpenter Komakichi was originally illiterate, he learned to read and write by copying the printed characters of a newspaper in order to study Oyasama’s teachings. In the documents he left behind, one can view how he seems to have learned by meticulously copying printed characters stroke by stroke.
An episode from Komakichi’s later years as the accountant for Osaka Diocese demonstrates the extent of his serious-mindedness. He recorded in the ledger sheets minor expenses such as the cost of the lunches of each person working at the diocese. When a government officer came to examine the accounts, Komakichi even showed him the financial records for miscellaneous expenses. The officer laughed at this and said: “Well, I can imagine that you’ll write down my name and the cost of the tea you served me today. It must give peace of mind to those around you to have someone as scrupulous as yourself in charge of the accounting!”
Hatsuo Komatsu sensei goes on to write that Oyasama may have told his ancestor Komakichi not to err or make a mistake precisely because of his serious-mindedness. He asserts that Komakichi must have pledged to observe Oyasama’s instructions for the rest of his life out of his appreciation of having been saved from death.
When Komakichi returned to Osaka, his faith burned ever brighter as he scrambled about scattering the fragrance and making salvation efforts. Then, in April 1883, he became the director of Ten’e-gumi Confraternity No. 5 when he was only 19.
Just at that time, oppression from the police grew more intense and Oyasama herself had to undergo the Hardship of interrogation and imprisonment on repeated occasions. Surveillance of her followers in Osaka also grew stricter and Komakichi was detained several times over.
The first time he was taken into custody, he couldn’t even bring himself to eat. Yet when he thought of Oyasama’s Hardships, his spirits rose. (One can presume it gave him encouragement to know she was undergoing the same trials he was experiencing.) He thereafter made it a point to wear two layers of tabi socks and performed the service on all occasions so he would be ready whenever he might be taken into custody.
After Oyasama “withdrew from physical life” on lunar 1/26/1887, most of Komakichi’s followers quit his confraternity because they likely could not understand the divine intention behind this earthshaking event. Interference from the police further intensified, and Komakichi was basically alone following the faith.
His short-temper got the best of him and he allowed discontent to simmer in his mind for some time. Yet after receiving a set of Divine Directions through the Honseki Izo Iburi, he repented for his recent usage of mind. When he received the sacrament of the Sazuke, he vowed to never to lose his temper again.
When Komakichi felt pressed to revive his confraternity, he received Divine Directions on February 6, 1888, which told him: “It all depends on your mind. If your heart is sincere and if there is a root buried deep in the soil, buds will sprout.”
Komakichi felt that he needed to study the teachings on a deeper level if he were to revive his confraternity. Thus, he stayed in Jiba and learned the teachings from Chusaku Tsuji.
During his stay, legal approval to establish Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was granted in Tokyo by the Japanese government. Construction began on an annex to the Place for the Service. Komakichi then devoted his days to hinokishin while studying the teachings at night.
During his stay, his two-year-old daughter Ai succumbed to a throat condition. After receiving Divine Directions, he decided to entrust everything to God and stay until the annex was completed. In time, he received word that his daughter had been blessed with a recovery.
Komakichi had dedicated himself (engaged in fusekomi) in Jiba for six months. His hinokishin efforts had become seeds. The teachings that had by now become second nature through his efforts were now his personal treasure. His confraternity finally showed signs of growing. Then, just as Oyasama had foretold (“In the end, your happiness will exceed all bounds”4, he would establish the forerunner of Mitsu Daikyokai.
While this post is long enough as it is, I will end this section with a lengthy quote from Hatsuo Komatsu sensei.
When one looks back on Komakichi’s footsteps in this way, one can realize that he was constantly mindful of what Oyasama instructed him and kept plugging away on the road to spiritual maturity. Then, when he wavered on the path, God the Parent and Oyasama, out of their deep parental love, guided him back to the correct path.
When I think of this, I cannot help but feel that Oyasama anticipated Komakichi’s future and told him “Go through life without erring” so that he would measure up to his positive qualities and disposition without being swept away by worldly desires.
By the way, what can we suppose is meant by Oyasama’s instruction to “Go through life without erring”? I believe the clue lies in the sober and unassuming manner in which Komakichi lived.
Komakichi is said to have disliked the word “oya-fuko” (unfilial or lacking in devotion to one’s parents). He would explain: “Since being unfilial is something one not ought to do, such a thing shouldn’t exist in the first place.” He would use the expression “oya ni sowanai” (to be out of step with one’s parents) instead.
Further, towards the end of his life, he would wholeheartedly rejoice over the most mundane and trivial matters, saying: “How thankful! How unworthy I am.” He would often say to his followers: “Everything is splendid. You should rejoice.”
In other words, I must wonder if “going through life without erring” must refer to being constantly mindful of staying in step with one’s parents/the Parent, being appreciative of the various developments in one’s life, and to forge ahead with tanno.
Initially, I was very hesitant of giving my two cents here considering how massive this post already is, but here goes.
I might be stretching a bit, but I would like to imagine that Oyasama’s instruction to Komakichi that he ought to “Go through life without erring” deals with decision-making.
A recent neuroscience experiment found that adolescents were slower than adults when it came to deciding whether the following were good or bad ideas:
- biting down on a lightbulb
- swallowing a cockroach
- lighting one’s hair on fire
- jumping off a roof, and
- swimming with sharks
Adults’ responses were immediate whereas the teens relatively took their time to contemplate over each matter.
A summary of this research in Nurtureshock states: “the teen brain can think abstractly, but not feel abstractly — at least not until it’s had more life experience to draw on. And feeling like it’s a bad idea is what it would take to stop oneself from doing it.”5 The teen brain is therefore somewhat disadvantaged when it comes to making good decisions in certain contexts. (It has something to do with underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex or something or other that I don’t completely comprehend.)
Depending on the context in which it is made, a bad decision can be life-threatening. Bad decisions regarding a piece of homework (such as procrastinating from doing it or skipping it altogether) have relatively minor consequences. This is not so when impulsiveness or carelessness leads to a bad decision made behind the wheel or with the accumulative damage caused by drug and/or alcohol abuse. Of course, depending on the situation, there is always the potential for immediate consequences of drug/alcohol abuse to rear its ugly head as well.
In a certain way, I found it intriguing that Tokichi Izumita sensei interpreted Oyasama’s as an instruction related with potential errors resulting from sexual desire. To quote Nurtureshock once more (admittedly, it’s taken a bit out of context but I found it to be a great statement nonetheless), “At the very moment when experiencing an emotionally-charged excitement, the teens’ brain is handicapped in its ability to gauge risk and foresee consequences.”6
Although the consequences of a bad decision regarding sex may not be as immediate as one made while driving, it does have the potential to ruin the rest of a youngster’s life. (Becoming infected with a sexually-transmitted disease and/or unwanted pregnancy are examples that immediately come to mind.)
On the other hand, young people need to be allowed some room to make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes in contexts that are more forgiving of a bad decision. A fear of making mistakes might hold back an adolescent from fulfilling his or her fullest potential, which would be a travesty in itself.
- Bronson, Po and Merryman, Ashley. 2009. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. New York: Twelve Books.
- Komatsu Hatsuo. 2010. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 17.” Tenri jihō No. 4164, p. 3.
- Information from this and the next section have been paraphrased/translated from Komatsu 2010. ↩
- Minami Ward is now currently part of Chuo-ku or ward of Osaka City. ↩
- Refer to The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 2, “I’m Not Doing the Saving” for an alternate account of how Komatsu Komakichi was cured of cholera. ↩
- I personally favor translating this phrase (sue wa naruhodo kekko ni naru) something along the lines of, “The future will become splendid and persuade you (of the validity of my instruction).” See Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 21 for a discussion of the term “kekko.” ↩
- Bronson and Merryman 2009, pp. 146–147. ↩
- ibid, p. 144. ↩