137. A Single Word (kotoba hitotsu)
Oyasama taught Isaburo Masui the following:
“Some are good within yet bad without, and there are also people with the opposite character. To be sure, anger, selfishness and irritability are unadvisable. A single word is important. One achieves harmony in the family by the way one breathes in and out to form the very words one speaks.”
“Isaburo, you are gentle and sociable to everyone outside your house. When you are home and face your wife, you become angry and shout at her; that is the worst thing you could do. Never do it again.”
Masui suspected that his wife might have complained about him, but on considering that God knows and sees through everything, he simply decided he would never get angry again. Thereafter, he was never irritated by anything his wife said.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 111-112
Supplemental information (in translation) from Taimo
“Masui Isaburo: Born in 1850 in Izushichijo Village, Soegami County, Yamato Province.
“In 1864, he traveled a distance of five and a half kilometers back and forth three times to Oyasama to save his mother from illness. On December 26, 1874, he received the Sazuke of the Kanrodai-Teodori from Oyasama, who just began to wear red clothes for the first time.”
My research / take
Masui Isaburo is best known for making three round trips from his home to the Residence to ask Oyasama to save his ill mother Kiku when he was still 15 years old. A definitive version of this tale is told in Anecdotes no. 16.
When Isaburo was 27, Oyasama said to him one day, “Isaburo, why don’t you take a wife? Do, Isaburo!” Isaburo replied, “If I took a wife, there would be children. If there were children, I wouldn’t be able to devote myself to the Path. It’s still too early.”
Oyasama said, “Isaburo-san, look at Me. I had a husband. I have children. I served My husband and brought up My children. There is no reason you cannot do the same.” Isaburo thought it over and replied, “Indeed, it is just as You say.” Oyasama said further, “Your bride is already here at the Residence.”
His curiosity aroused, Isaburo looked about and was told it was Naragiku, daughter of Manzo Nishio of his own village, Izushichijo. She was as devout as Isaburo and had come to the Residence that day for worship. Oyasama sat them together before Her and said, “It is not enough that both of you say yes. You both have parents. You must return home and receive their blessings. After that, come back here.”
The proposal was accepted by the parents on both sides and, after the arrangements had been made, the parents, bride and bridegroom presented themselves before Oyasama. Oyasama took a sip of the sweet rice wine that was brought from both houses and passed the cup to everyone concerned. Thus the ceremony was completed. Then Oyasama grasped the hands of the bride and groom and said, “Now it is settled. Since it is settled, you, Naragiku, shall hereafter be called Osame [to settle].” Thus it was that the two of them were married with Oyasama having acted as the intermediary and, thereafter, they served Her with increased devotion (pp. 22-23).
Taking into consideration that Oyasama arranged the marriage between Isaburo and Osame/Naragiku, one can presume she had great incentive to see that the couple would continually to be on good terms. Her instruction to Isaburo to never express his anger and shout at Osame/Naragiku again is described to have been effective (“Thereafter, he was never irritated by anything his wife said”), improbable as the claim may be to us. If true as claimed, this speaks volumes of Isaburo’s will to resolve such an undertaking, not to mention his ability to carry it out for the rest of his life.
According to Sawai Yoshitsugu sensei of the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, Masui Isaburo had a “cheerful and profound understanding” of Oyasama’s teachings. He describes how Isaburo instructed and inspired Matsumura Kichitaro to devote himself to the path (described in detail here).
He then relates that Isaburo tended to have an intellectual understanding of the teachings when he was still young but a few words from Oyasama caused him to change his way of looking at things, filled him with humility, and allowed him to perceive the veracity of the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed.” Sawai sensei goes on to point out that a “purified heart/mind” is needed to settle oneself so that one does not succumb to anger, which happens to be one of the “eight forms of dust.” Further, it is instructed in the Osashizu:
It cannot be said that the mind is pure if one is angered. If the mind is made pure, no matter what others may say, anger will not arise. That is the purified mind (March 22, 1887).
Sawai sensei further elaborates on the instruction “One achieves harmony in the family by the way one breathes in and out to form the very words one speaks” by mentioning how words have the power to both uplift and bring down a person’s spirits. He then mentions the rising divorce rate in Japan and suggests that “words of rejection” exchanged between a couple will slowly widen a rift in the marriage. The publication Ikiru kotoba (living words) elaborates on the same instruction as follows:
Nothing can ever be settled as long as one continues to lock horns with one’s partner. Once a couple becomes mindful of knowing when to push or pull on cue, things will then begin to “click” between them. A couple learns to make things “just right” by making the appropriate adjustments day by day (p. 169).
Our bodies are things borrowed from God. The nine instruments of the body: the eyes, the mouth, arms, legs, and so forth, were made so we can help others and live the Joyous Life. The mind is ours to make free and skillful use toward this purpose as well. With the influence of “a single word,” we have the potential to directly spread happiness to the people around us in addition to stirring up trouble and misfortune (p. 143).
Upon some contemplation, I find it a little strange that Oyasama is described warning Isaburo that becoming angry and shouting at his spouse in Anecdotes no. 137 (which I assume wasn’t intentional on his part but merely something that occasionally happened when he came home) was “the worst thing you could do” (ichiban ikan koto). I don’t know what anyone else may think, but I can easily think of a dozen other worse things a person can do other than becoming angry and shouting at someone. Just watching the nighttime news almost anywhere around the world will give you just a hint how cruel people can be to each other.
I’d like to suggest that these words of Oyasama shouldn’t be taken so literally. The exact words attributed to her may only ultimately apply in Isaburo’s context, implying that becoming angry and shouting at his wife was the worst thing Masui Isaburo was capable of but was nevertheless something he needed to stop.
I would argue this would be the most appropriate interpretation of Anecdotes no. 137. The implications of such an interpretation is that if Oyasama instructed someone to stop from becoming angry and shouting at his wife — regardless whether it was intentional or not — one must imagine how much more insistent Oyasama would have been if there was actual physical abuse involved.
Sawai Yoshitsugu. 2006. “Shinkō to kotoba: 137 ‘Kotoba hitotsu’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 2. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 135-145.
Takano, Tomoji. 1985. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 20-23.
Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2006. “Oyasama: kotoba hitotsu ga kanjin”. Taimō 448 (April 2006), pp. 16-17.