Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 122

122. As Long as There Is Virtue (Japanese title: Ri sae aru nara)

A great drought struck all of Yamato in the summer of 1883. At that time, Isaburo Masui, who was still farming in Izushichijo Village, was staying at the Residence every day to help with the farm work. By and by, a messenger from his own home came to ask Isaburo to return home, saying, “At the village people are busy drawing water into the rice fields. They are complaining that all the villagers are out doing the work except Isaburo. Can’t you come home just for a while to show your face?”

Isaburo had already resolved, “I do not care what happens to my own field,” so he flatly refused, saying, “It was very kind of you to come but I cannot leave,” and sent the messenger back home. However, later, Isaburo thought, “I am contented because I feel that it is the best thing for me to be able to put even a bucket-full of water into the field of the Residence during this drought. But if my neighbors are discontented on account of this, it will not do.” So he reconsidered, thinking, “I already said ‘no,’ but I will go back and at least show my face,” and he went to tell Oyasama his decision. Thereupon, Isaburo received these words from Oyasama:

“Even if it does not rain from above, as long as there is virtue, I shall make water rise as vapor from the ground below.”

When he went back, the whole village was in great commotion day and night with everyone busily drawing water from the wells in the fields. Isaburo and his wife, Osame, went out together to the fields and drew water until late into the night. However, no water was drawn into Isaburo’s own field; it was all drawn into the fields of others.

Osame mixed the water she had received from the water hole near the Kanrodai with the water from her house, and day and night, twice a day, she sprinkled it around her family rice field with a dried rice stalk. A few days later, Osame, wondering how her family rice field was faring, made the rounds before dawn and to her surprise found the field which she had not watered filled with water rising from the ground. Osame remembered afresh the words of Oyasama and was deeply moved with the realization that Oyasama’s words were indeed always true.

That year, the crop of the entire village was bad but the Masui family was blessed with a good harvest of about twenty-two kilograms per are.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 100-101

Translation of “Sawa‘s note”
“One dan [translated above as “are“] equals 990 square meters. One dan was said to reap one koku or the rough amount an average adult eats in a year. Three go 1 of rice a day would amount to roughly 1000 go a year or 100 sho or 10 to or one koku.”

“There are people who say it’s not good to take home water from the hand-washing facilities [temizuba] in plastic bottles (assumingly to use during salvation work). Yet since water that was drawn from a water hole near Jiba had shown efficacy to such a degree [in Anecdotes no. 122], I have recently come to believe that it really depends on how your heart accepts it even though the water is from the Tenri City Water Department.”

My take / research
I imagine Anecdotes no. 122 is religiously significant in that it provides an example of God blessing a married couple who went out of their way to assist others without the slightest heed to their own situation. Yet, as evident in “Sawa’s note,” it also possible for readers to partly attribute the Masuis’ successful harvest to the water that had been drawn at the sacred grounds of the Residence.

With the benefit of the first batch of information from “Sawa’s note,” it is possible to conclude that the Masuis’ harvest in 1883 yielded 60% more than it was expected to, which is a substantial crop indeed when considering this was during a drought-stricken year. (The original states the Masuis’ harvest equaled one koku and six to per dan, or six to more per dan than one would expect. I am not fully sure how this one koku, six to was calculated into 22 kilograms in the English translation since values such as koku and to are units that measure volume instead of weight, but that’s what I get for letting my math skills deteriorate since high school.)

The drought of 1883 is also mentioned in The Life of Oyasama. To cite a few passages:

That summer, there was a great drought in the entire Kinki region. The drought continued so long that the usually wet rice fields in Mishima Village showed cracks. The leaves and stalks of the rice plants had turned brown and were on the verge of dying. The villagers confined themselves in the village shrine and prayed for rain for three nights but to no avail. Then the villagers came to the Residence and requested that they be allowed to make a prayer vigil there. Shinnosuke refused, explaining to them in detail of the many years of strict police control disallowing worshipers or the performance of the Service, and that should the Service be performed, Oyasama would be taken away. But the villagers, having nowhere else to turn, requested that, if they could not be allowed to make a vigil, a Service for Rain be performed, if need be, on the ground of the village shrine, and they refused to leave the Residence for a day and a night. Furthermore, they said that, if the police arrived, they would tell them that they, the villagers, had requested the Service themselves and that no trouble would be brought to the members of the house. They repeated their pleas over and over again (pp. 187-188).

It is also mentioned that “1883 was a popular year for the Service for Rain” (p. 192).

Lastly, regarding Oyasama’s instruction “as long as there is virtue, I shall make water rise as vapor from the ground below,” Tenrikyo theologian Nakajima Hideo has noted that replacing the word “virtue” (the English stand-in here for “ri,” a term that baffles me on numerous instances) with “merit” (a common gloss for “toku“) would not change the meaning of what is being taught (Nakajima 2000, pp. 180-181). He writes so in the context of discussing the significance of Anecdotes no. 63.

It may be worthy to note that “ri” can also be interpreted as God’s providence or protection. The ambiguity of the meaning of ri may reflect the belief in the symbiotic relationship between God’s providence and a person’s merit. Or, without sufficient merit, full advantage cannot be taken of God’s providence, which is considered to be impartially available to all; comparable to how the Sun shines continuously even above a cloud-filled sky.


Nakajima Hideo. 2000. “Me ni mien toku.” In Oyasama no oshie to gendai — Oyasama go-tanjō nihyaku nen kinen kyōgaku kōza shirīzu 1998 nen. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 171-188.

Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. 1996 [1967]. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo (third edition). Tenri: Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.

Further reading
Sato Koji’s Omichi no joshiki: Mind of Sincerity
Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 16: The Child’s Concern for the Parent
Anecdotes of the Honseki Izo Iburi, no. 24: Oyasama’s Protection After the Service for Rain

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