105. This Is a Place to Be Joyful
Zensuke Uno returned to Jiba about the middle of autumn in 1882 with a group of seven persons including his wife, his children, a couple who were believers, and their child. The purpose was to offer thanks to God for saving the life of his wife, Misa, who had suffered sickness after childbirth.
They left home early in the morning at four o’clock, walked, rode a boat across Lake Ogura, rode rickshaws and then walked again. They arrived at Jiba at eight o’clock that night and were granted an audience with Oyasama through the arrangement of Risaburo Yamamoto. They were all deeply moved beyond description, especially Misa who had been saved from a long illness. Her happiness was so great she could not restrain her tears. Oyasama asked her:
“Why do you cry?”
She answered between sobs, “I feel so thankful for being able to worship a living god. I am so thankful that I cannot help my tears of joy.” Then Oyasama said:
“Jiba is not a place to cry. This is a place to be joyful.”
Oyasama continued, as She turned to Zensuke:
“Your third generation shall have clear water.”
He was overwhelmed with deep emotion at these gracious and undeserved words. He made a firm resolution from the bottom of his heart, “I am so grateful that I will work forever for the sake of the path.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 89
Translation of “Sawa’s note”
“Zensuke Uno was from Yasu-cho, Shiga Prefecture. He was the first minister of Koshinokuni Daikyokai.”
Supplemental information on Zensuke Uno (1836–1910)1
Zensuke Uno was born on 10/25/1836 in Yasu Village, Omi Province (currently Yasu City, Shiga) as the second son of Gorosuke Uno, the owner of an inn named Shimizu-ya.
At the age of seven, he studied under the tutelage of Naojiro Noguchi, an instructor of the Taoist tradition. Two years later, he distinguished himself from the rest of the students and received a thorough instruction after being assigned a tutor himself.
Zensuke was born with a sober and unassuming disposition; he tended to work silently and assiduously in any matter. As he diligently devoted himself to his studies, he is said to have wondered why human beings were created. Unraveling the mysteries of human creation then became his subject of study.
Although Zensuke devote himself to his studies day and night, after his father passed away, he left the Noguchi school in 1849 to assist his mother. He apprenticed himself at a candle making business named Wakasa-ya located on Bukkoji Boulevard in Kyoto. He served his boss well and was praised for his work ethic by the townsfolk. He was made assistant manager when he was 15.
From an early age, Zensuke’s religiosity was twice as passionate as the average person’s. He visited shrines and temples near and far. He also went to listen to sermons from scholars and eminent monks whenever he heard of them beforehand. He was still on his quest to discover the reason for human existence and the path that would best fulfill it.
In pursuit of an answer, at age 17 he made it a goal to worship daily at the Kannon Hall of Kiyomizu Temple. He would wake up while it was still pitch black outside, go to worship to clear his mind, and went home at the break of dawn. He then would show up at work on time and prepare the store for opening. It is said that Zensuke continued this regimen every day for the next 10 years.
In 1863, his boss Genbei Sasaki tapped him to become the groom of his daughter Sawa. Zensuke was appointed as the head of a branch family of the Sasakis and was given a branch business on Rokkaku Street.
The business thrived. However, in 1867, Sawa passed away from pneumonia, leaving behind a son, Naotaro. In his grief, Zensuke resumed the surname Uno. In 1869, he married Misa Mikubo from his hometown of Yasu. Ultimately, he would be blessed with four sons and three daughters.
Zensuke took advantage of the superb location of his business, which was close to the Kyogoku commercial district. He branched out with an exchange shop, rickshaw rentals, and even began dabbling in stock. Although his business was running smoothly, his wife Misa became prone to illness after a difficult childbirth.
It was in 1881 when his close friend Genjiro Fukaya (the future first minister of Kawaramachi Daikyokai) told him: “Recently, someone from Kawachi has come to Kyoto preaching fascinating sermons. They worship a joyful God that saves people with a dance. They say any illness can be cured. Why don’t you go and have a listen for yourself?”
Zensuke, his interest piqued, went and heard the Story of Creation from Rokubei Oku, the director of Tenrin-O Meisei-sha Confraternity. Zensuke was thrilled about discovering the very teachings that explained the origin of the world and human beings he had long sought after. He resolved to embrace the faith and repeatedly listen to the teachings until he thoroughly understood them.
He took his personal seal with him and joined the Meisei-sha Confraternity. Some days later, he joined Genjiro and a follower named Zensuke Sawada on a pilgrimage to Jiba. Such was the manner in which Zensuke Uno embraced the faith.
There were service practices every night at the Meisei-sha Confraternity. Many followers came to joyfully perform the service dance. Zensuke became a devoted adherent, pouring his heart into learning the teachings with his innate inquiring mind.
Misa was blessed with a vivid recovery from her illness. Zensuke was said to have gained the insight that the present was determined by how one lived one’s previous lives, that any bad seeds were definitely sown at some determined time in the past. He thought to himself: “If I were to dig into my past, God will cut the roots [born from these bad seeds]. Because God loves the world’s children, we are taught various things about our past through [the manifestation of] our causality.”
After a year, he joined Genjiro and Zensuke Sawada in taking turns delivering the sermons after the confraternity services. In 1882, he went on a thanksgiving pilgrimage with his family that is described in Anecdotes 105 to express appreciation for the blessings Misa received.
The seven members of this pilgrimage entourage were: Zensuke, Misa, eldest son Naotaro (17), eldest daughter Kon (13), second son Matasaburo (11), a neighbor named Mine Kawamura, and her eldest daughter Yoshi (10).2
Everyone who came before Oyasama was filled with emotion. Misa particularly, recalling how she was saved from the hardship of illness, could not help but cry tears of joy. In response, Oyasama said:
“Jiba is not a place to cry. This is a place to be joyful.”
Yoshikazu Uno sensei has offered that those of us living today would not likely reproach anyone for crying tears of joy, for it would be accepted as an honest expression of a person’s true feelings.
He speculates that Oyasama’s words may contain the implication that one ought not to stop at crying tears of joy as an expression of gratitude for attaining relief from illness. He suggests that what Oyasama desires is for such a person to return the favor by cultivating a mind that gains pleasure by saving others.3
Both Uno sensei and Koji Sato sensei provide the information that Zensuke had awakened to the insight that: “Jiba is said to be the Mirror Residence. It is the place where one becomes completely purified. Crying tears of joy testifies that [one’s mind] is clouded.”4 They both speculate that Oyasama must have acknowledged the insight Zensuke gained with her next declaration.
“Your third generation shall have clear water.”
This instruction is said to have caused Zensuke to immediately express his appreciation and resolve in his heart, “I am so grateful that I will work forever for the sake of the path.”
Yoshikazu Uno sensei then explains that his grandfather Haruyoshi Uno was the grandson of Zensuke. Haruyoshi sensei apparently was repeatedly told by his grandfather: “The task of the first generation is to plant seeds while the second generation must tend to the field by weeding and applying fertilizer. The seeds sprout buds and bear fruit in the third generation. Only when three generations contribute and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly can bad causality be finally severed and buds can sprout. People must continually make efforts amid hardship, piling on layer upon layer for three generations. Since you are from the third generation, you must follow the path with steadfast resolve.”
I initially did not know what to make of the declaration, “Your third generation shall have clear water.” I mulled over the possibility it was Oyasama’s message to Zensuke assuring him that if he and his descendants contributed to the path, a well on their property that had provided murky water at best would be a source of clear water within three generations. Apparently, this does not seem to be the case.
Nevertheless, after going through Zensuke Uno’s background information, I could not help but wonder if the symbolism of clear water (Japanese: seisui) had some connection to how Zensuke’s father ran an inn named Shimizu-ya and how he himself worshiped at Kiyomizu Temple daily for 10 years for spiritual sustenance. (Seisui, Shimizu, and Kiyomizu are all written with the same two Chinese characters: 清水).
I may be stretching somewhat, but I’d also like to offer the possibility that Oyasama’s declaration was promising the Uno clan both a means of livelihood (symbolized by the inn) and peace of mind (symbolized by Kiyomizu Temple) in return for their devotion.
Further, as a third-generation adherent myself, I must wonder if I am appropriately contributing my part at all. I fear that I am not making the best of my current circumstances and in danger of setting myself adrift and hampering my children from reaping the fruits of the seeds so painstakingly sown by my mother and grandmother.
- Uno Yoshikazu. 2010. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 20.” Tenri jihō No. 4180, p. 3.
- Sato Kōji. 2006. “.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 113–122.
- Information from this and the next two sections have been paraphrased/translated from Uno 2010. ↩
- The information here suggests to me that the phrase “a couple who were believers, and their child” from Anecdotes 105 is an inaccurate translation. The Japanese shinja oya-ko does not clearly reveal the number of people as Japanese nouns do not usually have forms that distinguish between singular from plural. ↩
- Such an interpretation is consistent with what is taught in Anecdotes 72 and 100. ↩
- Koji Sato uses this quote as a springboard to discuss the themes of the Mirror Residence and purification of the mind. The later theme contains considerable analysis of verses from Parts Two and Three of the Ofudesaki. ↩