135. With Round Minds (mina marui kokoro de)
Around the year 1883 or 1884, Kosaburo Kubo, grateful for the cure of his son Narajiro’s eye disease, returned to Jiba with his wife and son. Oyasama, wearing Her red garments, was sitting calmly in Her room. Kosaburo, his wife, and son, who had been led into the room by an intermediary on duty, knelt before Oyasama. They were awestruck by Her reverent manner and were so overwhelmed with gratitude that they could not raise their heads.
However, Narajiro, being only a child of seven or eight, began to look around without restraint. Soon the grapes placed beside Oyasama caught his eyes. As he was staring at them, Oyasama quietly picked up a bunch and gave it to Narajiro, saying:
“It is nice of you to return. Here are some grapes for you. Like these, in the world, everybody is to relate to each other with round minds. This is a path to be followed joyfully by looking forward to the delight in the future.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 110
Kubo Kosaburo (1855 – 1928) was the first minister of Tahara Bunkyokai. He served as the director of Meigen Confraternity [明元講], which was formed in Tahara Village circa April 1886. Tahara Shikyokai was established on January 13, 1890 with Kosaburo as minister. His son Narajiro was born on June 6, 1878 and took over as minister in February 1909.
My take / research: (1) “Round minds”
In my mind, Anecdotes no. 135 is the perfect example in Tenrikyo literature of a translation not being able to effectively convey the meaning and cultural connotations of a particular word or phrase. Specifically, I am thinking of the expression “round minds,” for I imagine that the meaning of this in English is far from clear. Although “marui kokoro” literally does mean “round mind(s),” further explanation is wanting here.
Marui, in addition to meaning round and spherical, also has the connotations of smooth, soft, and gentle. It also symbolizes perfection and harmoniousness [enman 円満].
The cultural symbolism of round = gentle can also be seen in the hand movements of the Mikagura-uta, in verse six of Song Five: “Forgetting away a cruel heart / Come to Me with a gentle heart.” The dancer draws with the hands a semi-circle from a position above the head to one’s sides during the singing of “gentle heart” (yasashiki kokoro).
It is said that a circle symbolizes “gentleness” because it lacks sharp corners (kado) that can poke or scrape against other surfaces. The word kado (corner) has connotations such as abrasive or rough (kadokadoshii). A person who has sufficiently rounded off their corners (kado ga/no toreta) so to speak refers to someone who is affable and social.
Theologian Nakajima Hideo also associates “round” (gentle) with the “flexibility” (or shall we say well-roundedness?) of cotton in his discussion of Anecdotes no. 26. He feels the two metaphors are pointing in the same direction in terms of describing an ideal state of mind. Since cotton can be used in multiple ways, it is an excellent “all-around” material and represents perfect harmony, just as a circle does (2003, p. 141).
Another theologian, Sawai Yoshitsugu, has written that a “round mind” refers to a mind of a person who is aware of the “fundamental reality of human existence” that he or she is being kept alive by God’s blessings/protection (2000, p. 102).
(2) Grapes as a metaphor
Although “mind grapes” from 30 Rock has morphed into a metaphor gaining much popular usage on the Internet, Oyasama is described using grapes as a metaphor in order to express a different set of ideas.
The two basic characteristics of grapes that are being applied in this metaphor are: (1) they are round — which has important connotations I’ve described above — and (2) grapes are connected to one another or tsunagari-au in Japanese (rendered as “relate to each other” in the English translation) in a bunch.
Nakajima sensei has suggested that the description of the minds/hearts of everyone being “round” and “connected to one another” evokes a vivid visual symbol of Tenrikyo soteriology.
Sawai sensei has written that these “connections to one another” does not simply refer to our daily experiences but points to connections found on a deeper level. He says this does not only refer to our connections with our spouse, parents, children, and siblings but includes the connection between humanity/God as children/Parent in addition to the brother-sister relationship among all human beings (2000, p. 103).
Further, in a Tenrikyo publication entitled Ikiru kotoba (Living words):
The third Shinbashira once explained that grapes symbolize yet another truth as follows: “Each grape developing in a cluster directly receives nutrients from the root through the stem. In a similar way, we each mature spiritually by directly receiving sustenance from God the Parent and Oyasama” (p. 114).
Lastly, I notice that the young Narajiro is described staring at the grapes in Anecdotes no. 135. I assume that grapes are not native to Japan and may have been only introduced in the modern era. It may have been possible that Narajiro was seeing a bunch of grapes for the first time. More research is needed regarding this matter.
(3) Odds and ends
Just to pick up some odds and ends from Sawai sensei’s article, he mentions that Oyasama begins by saying “It is nice of you to return.” In other selections from Anecdotes, Oyasama is described expressing similar sentiments, such as “Welcome home. I have been waiting for you” (no. 8) and “Oh, I am so glad to see you have come. God the Parent lent a hand to bring you home” (no. 44). Sawai sensei argues that what Oyasama is expressing here is clear: the illnesses that brought these people to her to be saved were forms of God’s guidance.
Lastly, he elaborates on the instruction “This is a path to be followed joyfully by looking forward to the delight in the future” by writing that the phrase “in the future” suggests faith in the path would continue on down the generations. He writes it also instructs adherents to clear their minds and to live joyously day to day while taking delight in everything one sees and hears.
After quoting a verse from the Ofudesaki, he concludes with the statement that Tenrikyo is the path that clears/purifies everyone’s minds so that they become “round,” which allows one to entrust oneself to God and live with uplifted spirits and joyfulness for all future generations.
Nakajima Hideo. 2003. “Kokoro shinkō: 26 ‘Asa to kinu to momen no hanashi’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 135-142.
Sawai Yoshitsugu. 2000. “Mina, marui kokoro de.” In Oyasama no oshie to gendai — Oyasama go-tanjō nihyaku nen kinen kyōgaku kōza shirīzu 1998 nen. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 97-106.
Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
If only the mind is purified completely, there will be nothing but delight in everything (XIV:50).