129. Healing of the Skin Disease (Japanese title: Hana-kaisen no o-tasuke)
In 1883, when Yasu, the eldest daughter of Seijiro Imagawa, was nine years old, she contracted a serious contagious skin disease of the variety that became infected with pus. Accompanied by her parents, she returned to Jiba and had an audience with Oyasama. Oyasama called to her:
“Come over here.”
When Yasu timidly moved forward, Oyasama said:
“Come closer, come closer.”
Finally, when Yasu had moved to Oyasama’s side, Oyasama moistened Her own hands with Her mouth and then stroked Yasu’s whole body three times, each time chanting:
Then, again three times and three times again, She stroked Yasu and chanted in the same manner. Yasu, although young, was overwhelmed and felt the graciousness of Oyasama with her body and mind.
The next day, when Yasu woke up, the skin disease had marvelously disappeared, without leaving a trace. Even though Yasu was only a child, she thought, “What a truly wondrous God!”
Yasu’s feeling of gratitude for Oyasama’s compassion in not minding even such a filthy condition as hers was, grew deeper and deeper as she grew older. It is said that in performing her duty as a yoboku* she always recalled this feeling of gratitude and strived to respond to the compassion of Oyasama.
* Yoboku: literally: ‘timber’, referring to those who engage in missionary work consisting of healing and spreading the teachings of God the Parent.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 106
Ikeda Shiro sensei, a professor at Tenri University, mentions Anecdotes no. 129 in a written discussion regarding Oyasama and the discrimination of people with Hansen’s disease. At the beginning of his discussion, he writes:
Just as the Hinagata [(Divine) Model] of falling to the depths of poverty contains the significance of achieving human liberation — that is, salvation — by conquering discrimination taboos, Oyasama consciously overcomes them. Such can be surmised with her proactive denial of the pollution customs associated with blood when women gave birth by offering the Grant of Safe Childbirth and denying the discriminatory customs that disallowed interaction between people with her visits to discriminated communities. When people from such communities came into the village community to visit Oyasama, this discrimination must have easily risen to the surface. Among them, it is thought that Oyasama’s involvement with people suffering from Hansen’s disease was the decisive taboo violation that caused the Nakayama family to be ostracized from their community (1996, pp. 108-109).
Among the intriguing points that Ikeda sensei brings up in his discussion is the possibility that Oyasama not only helped Hansen’s disease patients on an one-on-one basis but also made a financial contribution to the Arimichi household, which had long offered medical treatment for this particular disease in Nara Prefecture, in the second lunar month of 1852 (ibid, p. 117). If this is true, this donation coincides with Oyasama’s dispensing of the Nakayama family’s wealth (often called “falling to the depths of poverty,” which I discuss here) and precedes the passing of her husband Zenbei by nearly a full year.
Although the illness of Imagawa Yasu described in Anecdotes no. 129 is rendered in the English as merely a “contagious skin disease,” it appears to refer to a variety of scabies (hana-kaisen literally means “flower scabies”). Ikeda sensei makes a case that scabies and Hansen’s disease was seen in the same category as “polluted” illnesses, which meant there was great social stigma attached to people who contracted them. It can be argued that Yasu’s appreciation toward Oyasama for “not minding even such a filthy condition such as hers” was not because Yasu’s condition was not only “filthy” in a physical sense but socially as well.
Thus, Anecdotes no. 129 is significant for Ikeda sensei in regards to the description of how Oyasama treated a young girl with a condition that was considered “polluting” and “impure” by society by moistening her hands with her own saliva and stroking the young girl’s skin that became swollen with pus (ibid. p. 115). He also mentions there is a description of Oyasama helping cure an infant with eczema in a similar way in Anecdotes no. 107.
When Tenrikyo later began to spread across Japan, missionaries often encountered people suffering from Hansen’s disease. Ikeda sensei notes that as missionaries made efforts to bless and heal these people, they were fully conscious that by doing so, they were incorporating acts from Oyasama’s “Divine Model” into their lives (ibid. p. 116).
Ikeda Shirō. 1996. Nakayama Miki to hisabetsu minshū: Tenrikyō kyōso no ayunda michi. Tokyo: Akashi Shoten.
Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama no. 108: The Roads to the Summit Are Many
Sato Koji’s Omichi no joshiki: Transmitting the Path From a Young Age