Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 138

138. You Must Treasure Things (mono wa taisetsu ni)

Oyasama endured hardships in police stations and prisons about seventeen or eighteen times. Gisaburo Nakata accompanied Her several times.

On one such occasion, She had a scrap of writing paper brought in and She made twisted paper strings out of it. With it, She wove a net basket to carry a sake bottle. It was very strong and beautifully made. When She left the jail to return home, She gave it to Nakata, saying:

“You must treasure things. You must make good use of everything. Everything is a gift from God. Now, keep this as your family treasure.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 112

Supplemental information from Taimo (translation)

“Nakata Gisaburo: Born in Toyoda Village in 1831.

“He embraced the faith in 1863 after his wife Kaji was blessed from postnatal complications. In 1864 he received the Sazuke of the Fan, the Sazuke of the Gohei, and the Sazuke of Fertilizer. In 1874, he received the Sazuke of Breath.

“That same year, he went with Matsuo Ichibei to ask some questions at Oyamato Jinja. He subsequently was summoned and detained by police with Oyasama.

“He passed away for rebirth in 1886 at the age of 56.”

My research / take

Sato Takanori, a researcher at Tenri University who specializes in environmental studies, has included Anecdotes no. 138 as an example of Oyasama making good use of material resources. Other examples would include how she smoothed out the wrinkles/crumples from used paper (Anecdotes nos. 45 and 64), which she later gave to others to copy the Ofudesaki on at least one occasion and at other times used to wrap the sacred gift in (briefly described in Anecdotes no. 110).

Further, Anecdotes no. 138 is not the first time where Oyasama is described skillfully reusing and weaving material that one would normally discard into something new. According to Anecdotes no. 124, Oyasama is said to have braided wood shavings into a cord/drawstring for a hand-sewn bag.

While these actions alone may be sufficient to instruct Tenrikyo adherents the importance of making the best use of our resources and using them with care, in Anecdotes no. 138, Oyasama is described teaching: “You must treasure things. You must make good use of everything. Everything is a gift from God.”[1]

Sato Takanori sensei writes that the ideal Tenrikyo worldview is vastly different from a kind of materialism that asserts one is free to use one’s resources in any way one pleases as long as one pays for them. (Yet I personally feel a convincing case can be made that some of the worst environmental offenders largely escape the cost of the destruction they help create.) Sato sensei argues that although technical solutions that allow us to make the best use of our resources and manage our waste are important, these must not be given priority over the ethical and moral solutions to ecological/environmental issues that Oyasama’s actions and words encourage.

It may be worthwhile to mention here that “taking good care of things” (mono o taisetsu ni shimasu) is one of the so-called “Three Promises” members of the Tenrikyo Boys and Girls Association have been pledging since 1989. (Compare this to how the title of Anecdotes no. 138 “mono o taisetsu ni” was translated as “You Must Treasure Things”).

Regarding historical details, while no date is given for the events described in Anecdotes no. 138, looking at the historical record may give us a sense when the story may have taken place.

According to The Life of Oyasama, Nakata Gisaburo went through the following “hardships”:

(1) December 25, 1874. Gisaburo was summoned by the Nara Chukyoin (or “Middle Teaching Institute,” a government body that oversaw in Nara Prefecture the so-called “Great Promulgation Campaign” that sought to make imperial Shinto the state religion of Japan). When he presented himself with Matsuo Ichibei and Tsuji Chusaku, the institute officials insisted a deity with the name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto did not exist according to the Shinto canon and commanded them to worship gods authorized by the government of Japan instead (p. 91).

(2) October 7, 1881. Gisaburo along with other followers was “taken to the Tanbaichi Branch Police Station on the grounds they were gathering and misleading many people. They were ordered to submit written accounts and were fined 50 sen each” (p. 116).

(3) February 1882. Gisaburo was served a summons along with Oyasama and others by Nara police and fined one yen and 25 sen while Oyasama was fined two yen and 50 sen (pp. 170-171).

(4) October 29, 1882. Gisaburo was summoned with Oyasama and others to Nara Police Station. Oyasama was sentenced to detention until November 9 (pp. 176-177). It is unclear from the account whether or not the group was sentenced for the same duration. This detention is detailed in Anecdotes no. 106.

(5) August 15, 1883. He was one of the performers for the Service for Rain. He is fined 62 sen and five rin while Oyasama is fined one yen in the aftermath (pp. 188-192).

(6) February 18 to March 1, 1886. Gisaburo he is detained with Oyasama during her final “Hardship” at Ichinomoto Branch Police Station. (pp. 205-212). It is said that Nakata Gisaburo passed away in June that year as a result of the harsh prison conditions he suffered made even more severe by the coldest winter the area experienced in 30-plus years.

The events described in Anecdotes no. 138 may have occurred after “hardships” (1) to (5) as given above or may refer an entirely separate incident not mentioned in The Life of Oyasama. Yet if we take the chronology of Anecdotes of Oyasama into account, I suspect no. 138 is most likely describing the “hardship” of August 1883 (5).


Satō Takanori. 2000. “Mono wa taisetsu ni.” In Oyasama no oshie to gendai — Oyasama go-tanjō nihyaku nen kinen kyōgaku kōza shirīzu 1998 nen. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 29-43.

Tenrikyo Overseas Department. 2000. Reference Materials for The Life of Oyasama. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department.

Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2006. “Oyasama: mono wa taisetsu ni.” Taimō 483 (No. March 2009), pp. 16-17.

Further reading

Tenri Forum Presentation on July 17, 2006 

Sato Koji’s Omichi no joshiki: A Single Vegetable Leaf

External link

Words of the Path: sacred gift / sacred rice


[1] The statement “Everything is a gift from God” is also a subtle allusion to the Tenrikyo tenet that the human body itself is “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” from God.