Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 112

112. Amiability First of All (Japanese title: Ichi ni aisō) 

One day, Oyasama told Yoshie Iburi: 

“Dear Yoshie, amiability is required of women first of all. Cheerfully to answer, ‘Yes’, to whatever one is told, is of prime importance.” 

She added: 

“Do not do anything that would waste another person’s life. 

“Do not waste even a single vegetable leaf. 

“Leftovers will nourish you. It is not gluttony.” 

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 94

no. 112 initially may come across as a hodgepodge of instructions (four in total) Oyasama is said to have provided for Iburi Yoshie’s benefit. I imagine Oyasama must have had many opportunities to instruct Yoshie ever since she moved into the Residence with her father Izo in March 1882 (as described here in Anecdotes no. 98). Yet I would like to imagine these four instructions are somehow loosely united in theme.


In regards to the first instruction, Sato Koji sensei of Tenri University has noted that some people have used it offer support for the claim that Tenrikyo is discriminatory towards women. Sato sensei counters, “One must consider the premise that the instruction is being provided for an individual. Since Oyasama begins her message with, ‘Dear Yoshie. . .’ it is a message directed to a specified woman, Iburi Yoshie” (2004, p. 226). He then makes a case that amiability (aiso)[1] is an important trait for members of both sexes. (Warning: lengthy citation/translation ahead!) 

It is important to display good will in our interactions with other people. It is pleasant for one to reply with a “Yes,” in any situation; this is the same regardless of whether one is a man or a woman. 

In the same way, affectionate and kind words are important in human relationships. This is even more so for those of us who are familiar with the teachings of Tenrikyo and it is necessary for us to make efforts to do so.

In the Divine Directions, we read: 

Words are of primary importance, for both those who are young and old. On what is called amiability, without amiability at the Residence, it cannot be called a path. This is not limited to only men or to women. . . It is of primary importance to display amiability in one’s words; satisfaction can only be attained through words.

Osashizu, June 14, 1901

We are taught here that amiability is best expressed through words, which is important for everyone to practice, regardless of one’s age or sex. There is another Divine Direction that goes as follows:

Without the principle of amiability, the mind will become clouded. If it becomes clouded, it will rust.

Osashizu, July 30, 1894

Without amiability, the mirror through which we perceive others becomes clouded, eventually rusting and staining to the point where we cannot understand and relate with others. I hope I have argued effectively that amiability is a necessary trait for everyone, for both men and women. 

Oyasama also warned about exhausting one’s amiability; that is, becoming disaffected or discouraged (aiso tsukasashi). We are instructed that not only is it important for a believer not to have a disaffected attitude but also not to display disaffection when guiding others who are connected to the faith (ibid, pp. 226228).

Sato sensei then goes on to quote Oyasama’s instruction to a young man named Hirano Tatsujiro described in Anecdotes no. 68 regarding the topic of becoming “discouraged.”[2]

“Do not do anything that would waste another person’s life”[3] 

With some reflection, this instruction appears to be pivotal in the sense it thematically connects the first instruction with the third and fourth ones. To elaborate, the first instruction thematically deals with the notion of amiability or being pleasant with others.

According to the first of the two Osashizu passages quoted above, amiability is to be expressed through words. The first set of instructions also implies this, as it goes on to expound on the “prime importance” of answering in the affirmative when one is asked to do something. 

Literally, the second instruction (Japanese: “ningen no hogu o tsukuran yo ni shite okure“) from Anecdotes no. 112 means something like “Please make it so you do not create human rubbish[4].”

I feel it is a bit misleading to imply that the creation of this “human rubbish” is initiated by some intentional action (i.e., “Do not do anything. . .” in the translation). I instead see the second instruction as a warning against permitting any deficiency in amiability to persist because of inertia or as a result of becoming discouraged with someone, which is arguably more difficult to avoid than merely being mindful of one‘s intentions. There is an unspoken implication that amiability, as expressed through words, is what best helps prevent the creation of “human rubbish.”

This advice is consistent with the instruction attributed to Oyasama in Anecdotes no. 45 that saving minds which have become wrinkled like wastepaper “rather than discarding them, is the principle of the path.” The task of saving others is metaphorically referred to smoothing out the mind from its “wrinkled” or “crumpled” state with the “truth of the teachings.” (There is then a directive in Anecdotes no. 64 that teaches the importance of smoothing these crumples of the mind in a gentle manner.) 

If the act of smoothing out the wrinkles from the minds others is such an important task, one can imagine how the prevention of “human rubbish” being created in the first place would have an equal if not greater importance.

“Do not waste even a single vegetable leaf. Leftovers will nourish you” 

To quickly review, the first instruction deals with the “prime importance” of amiability and how it is to be expressed through the spoken word. The second instruction implies that a deficiency of efforts to maintain an atmosphere of amiability runs the danger of creating “human rubbish.” The third and fourth instructions then go in a different thematic direction from the first while still maintaining a slight connection with the second.

I believe there is an unspoken implication here that one who makes the effort of not wasting a single vegetable leaf ought to make even more efforts to prevent a human life being wasted by maintaining a sufficient level of amiability by its vocal articulation. 

Although the each of four instructions has the strength to stand on its own, it is notable they are given in the same context and are given in a specific sequence.

This sequence suggests amiability that allows one to answer in the affirmative is essential “first of all” and of “prime importance.” But that alone is not enough; a degree of mindfulness regarding this essential task is needed to prevent the creation of “human rubbish.” The third[5] and fourth instructions which appeal to adherents to value the natural resources that our life is based on, while significant, is arguably marginal in importance when they are compared to the first two.

Finally, I find the claim that eating leftovers does not amount to gluttony[6] to be a strange comment. It may have been considered unwomanly to eat nothing but leftovers in the socio-cultural context in which Oyasama and Yoshie lived. Who knows.


Satō Kōji. 2004. Omichi no jōshiki. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha. 

Satō Takanori. 2000. “Mono wa taisetsu ni.” In Oyasama no oshie to gendai — Oyasama go-tanjō nihyaku nen kinen kyōgaku kōza shirīzu 1998 nen. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 2943.

Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.

Further reading 

Sato Koji’s Omichi no joshiki: Saying “Grace” (Itadakimasu)

A Single Vegetable Leaf

Smoothing Out the Wrinkles of the Mind


[1] Sato sensei quotes from the Kojien, which defines aiso as: “The good will and affection one displays when interacting with a person. The positive manner one treats another.”

[2] The instruction in question is:

“How old are you? It is remarkable that you have followed the path this far. The path ahead of you is long. No matter what you may encounter, do not become discouraged in faith. The future is all well.”

[3] A publication entitled Ikiru kotoba (Living words) offers a commentary on this instruction that goes:

Every person is a piece of building material or equipment indispensible for the construction of the world of the Joyous Life. The Osashizu reveals that there are some pieces of equipment that are used on a daily basis and others that are only used once in a lifetime. Some are used for rough jobs while others are necessary for meticulous work. The best is brought out of people when they are put in the right position (p. 163).

[4] The original for what I have rendered as “rubbish” is hogu, which is translated as “wastepaper” in Anecdotes nos. 26 and 110; as “scrap of paper” in nos. 45 and 138. 

[5] The instruction to “Not waste a single vegetable leaf” is often quoted by writers who argue that Oyasama’s teachings are consistent with environmental consciousness. Examples include Sato Takanori (p. 40) and yours truly in a presentation in a presentation which I now find embarrassingly naïve in more ways than one four years later.

In Ikiru kotoba:

The global population is reaching seven billion people. Human societies have become highly advanced. The Earth has shrunk. Our everyday life is directly connected to the world. We exert a degree of influence and vice versa. One would like to take a straight look at the reality the Earth is now caught in before considering the insensible act of diminishing the worth of a single human being. The phrase a single vegetable leaf bears upon us with a new meaning. This is equally true when it comes to a single drop of oil (p. 154).

[6] The Japanese equivalent for “leftovers” (sutari-mono) can also mean “useless, obsolete, or outdated thing(s).” “It is not gluttony” can be alternately translated as “There is nothing indecent about it.”

Again, from Ikiru kotoba: 

These instructions also speak of the importance of taking something that has been discarded or become outdated back into the light of day. Although there may be a tendency from an economic standpoint to consider salvaging waste as stinginess, with a little ingenuity, a used product can be made anew. When one considers everything as a gift from God, one can never be accused of gluttony or greed. One is nourished when one embodies God‘s will (p. 151).