107. Eczema is a Troublesome Condition
The following took place in 1882 when Tane Umetani returned to Jiba. Tane, carrying her eldest daughter, Taka (later known as Taka Haruno) who was just a baby at that time, was granted an audience with Oyasama. This baby had festering eczema all over her head.
Oyasama promptly took the baby into Her arms, saying
“Now, let Me see.”
Looking at the festering eczema, She said
“What a pity, poor thing!”
She brought out a piece of paper that She had placed under Her cushion in order to smooth out the wrinkles. Then, with Her fingers, She tore off little pieces, licked them and placed them on the baby’s head. She then said:
“Otane, eczema is a troublesome condition, isn’t it?”
Tane was startled. There was something in what Oyasama said that made her reflect, “I must learn not to be troublesome to others. Always with a pure mind I will do my best to make others happy.”
Then, with gratitude, Tane thanked Oyasama and went back to Osaka. One morning after two or three days had passed, Tane suddenly noticed that the affected skin had separated from the baby’s head, looking as if it were a cotton cap. The whole mass of skin that had been oozing with pus was stuck to the paper put on by Oyasama, and had lifted up from the baby’s head just as if a cap had been removed. Thus the baby had marvelously received a divine blessing. The new skin had already formed thinly over her head.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 91
According to Koji Sato sensei, Tane Umetani, the woman behind the scenes in the previous selection from Anecdotes, returned to Jiba to express appreciation for Taka’s birth. He also explains, “Eczema was a skin disorder that many young children in Japan suffered from before rapid economic growth allowed more of the population to receive a proper nutrition.”1 He also writes:
Nine years later, in 1891, when Taka was 12 according to the traditional Japanese count, she again developed eczema, but this time on her face, arms, and legs. When her parents requested for a Divine Direction, they were instructed, “While each and every person is born with one’s personal causality, until 15, they can be saved if their parents perceive and contribute accordingly.” Further, the Direction went on to teach, “While it is fine to teach single-hearted devotion to God, it will not do to always bring up and teach about one’s causality.”2
Honbu-in Tomimatsu Motoyoshi has offered his own unique take on Anecdotes 107 in the 2006 June Monthly Service at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
Anecdotes 107 is significant for providing an example of Oyasama’s painstaking efforts to care for the ill. Here, she is described taking the initiative of licking torn pieces of paper and placing them on the infant Taka’s head. Rev. Tomimatsu refers this as an “expression of Oyasama’s deep parental love.”
Further, Oyasama’s seemingly casual remark allows Tane to attain personal insight on her own, an “Aha!” Zen-like moment that makes her resolve to try her best to avoid using her mind in a self-centered3 way and instead work to make others happy with a “clean,” selfless mind.
The story seems to suggest that Taka’s physical condition was a form of divine guidance for Tane, when one takes into consideration of the belief that any misfortune experienced by someone under age 15 is a sign for the parent/parents to engage in spiritual self-examination. (An earlier example is Anecdotes 9.) That the mother’s resolve helped her baby achieve a recovery from the skin ailment suggest that her proactive response was precisely what God/Oyasama sought from her.
- Satō Kōji. 2004. Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
- Age fifteen (Words of the Path)
- Sato, p. 269. ↩
- Sato, pp. 270–271. ↩
- “Troublesome” is a translation of the Japanese “musai/musa-kurushii,” which can also be rendered “filthy, squalid, sordid, dirty” among others (Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary). Instead of having the connotation of having obscene thoughts as these adjectives have in English, it is more accurate to regard musa-kurushii as describing thoughts that are self-centered. ↩