Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 126

126. As the Symbol of Worship for the Fraternity (Japanese title: Kōsha no medo ni)

In November 1883, the Resting House was completed. Oyasama moved in at midnight on November 25th (October 26th, lunar calendar). On the night of the twenty-sixth, Shirobei Umetani retired to a room in the building called Konikai after he put all the tools away. He was going to go back to Osaka on the twenty-seventh.

In a short while, Gisaburo Nakata came carrying a short scarlet crepe kimono-undergarment on a small offering stand and said, “Thank you very much for your recent contribution of labor. Oyasama said, ‘This shall be the symbol of worship for the Meishin-gumi Fraternity,’ so receive it gratefully.”

Soon afterward, Risaburo Yamamoto came, holding a red garment reverently, saying, “Oyasama said, ‘Though this is one of My used garments, please make it over for your children.”‘ Yamamoto then gave the unlined silk-crepe garment to Shirobei. Shirobei, so delighted and thankful for the two presents, reached for them, only to find himself awakening from a dream.

After this, he was unable to fall back to sleep. When daybreak came, he began to get ready for the journey and after finishing breakfast, he took a rest. Then Nakata came to him, holding a red kimono-undergarment reverently, and saying, “Oyasama said, ‘This shall be the symbol of worship of the Meishin-gumi Fraternity.”‘ This message was exactly the same as that of the one in his dream. He thankfully received it, wondering whether it was still a dream. Shortly later, Yamamoto came into the room and repeated the other message in Shirobei’s dream of the night before: “Oyasama said, ‘This is My used garment, but give it to your children.’ “And Yamamoto placed the unlined red silk-crepe garment before Shirobei, who received it gratefully. Again, soon afterward, Hisa Kajimoto brought to him a set of two big rice cakes, each made of seven kilograms of rice, with a red rice cake placed on top of a white one. She said, “Oyasama said, ‘Give these to your children.’ “

Oyasama’s repeated expressions of warm parental love were imprinted in the deepest reaches of Shirobei’s heart. Furthermore, when he recalled his dream of the night before, he was strongly moved by the marvelous workings of God the Parent.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 103-104

My take
I assume the “Konikai” refers to what is called the “two-storied house” in other English publications.

Anecdotes no. 126 is a detailed account of a follower receiving a set of red clothes from Oyasama. Earlier accounts include nos. 43 and 121. Upcoming selections describing similar scenes appear in nos. 127, 149, 186, and 200.

Anecdotes no. 126 is similar to 121 in how it describes Umetani Shirobei being told to take Oyasama’s used garments and remake them into kimono for his children. (According to no. 121, Oyasama told Yamanaka Koiso to do the same.)

I cannot help but wonder — assuming that the events had truly unfolded as described above and in Anecdotes no. 123 — that Oyasama was making a play on words with the word “medo” (translated as “object” in 123 and “symbol of worship” in 126).

To elaborate, I find it to be quite symbolic a gesture for Oyasama to bestow a set of red kimono to Shirobei not long after the incident which he overheard someone slander him behind his back, making him so chagrined that he decided to leave in the dead of night before Oyasama’s cough had stopped him in his tracks. Oyasama then reproached him the next day, saying: “Shirobei, is man the object (medo)? Or is God the object? Remember that God is the object.”

In fact, this occurred while Shirobei was plastering the walls of the Resting House. After the construction of this building was completed, Oyasama presents Shirobei with a set of her red kimono, with the expressed purpose to have it serve as a medo or focal point of worship that was to be enshrined, presumably, in the altar of Shirobei’s Meishin-gumi Confraternity in Osaka.

I interpret Oyasama’s bestowment of her red clothes as described in Anecdotes no. 126 as a gesture that acknowledges her acceptance of Shirobei’s repentance for becoming upset at overhearing a cruel offhand remark and demonstrates her confidence that he would put the clothes to appropriate use as a “focal point/symbol of worship” since her lesson instructing him he ought to focus his sights entirely on God was freshly instilled in his heart.

That Shirobei had a dream that foretold the events that later unfolded save for the mochi or rice cakes he received reminds me of a few verses from the Ofudesaki.[1]

I close with a minor comment regarding the red and white mochi. I found it to be interesting that Shirobei received a red mochi atop a white one. This is because it constrasts with my second-hand knowledge that the Honbushin International Center in Mililani, HI (Honbushin is a schism of Honmichi, itself a schism of Tenrikyo) does it the other way around. They allegedly put the red mochi — symbolizing the ideal of woman to serve as a dai or foundation — below while the white mochi goes on top. However, since I did my fieldwork on Honbushin almost eight years ago and never witnessed one of their Mochitsuki Festivals firsthand, this information of mine needs to be confirmed.


[1] Consider the following verses:

Whatever you may dream, it is all by Tsukihi. The reality seen, also, is all by Tsukihi (XII:163).

There is no knowing what you may see in a dream. Hereafter, things will change and your mind will be spirited (XVI:27).

You may dream of marvelous things. Take it as a sign and begin the Service (XVI:28).