144. The Virtue Which Reaches Heaven (ten ni todoku ri)
Oyasama was detained in Nara Prison from March 24 through April 5, 1884. Chuzaburo Koda was also kept in custody for ten days. While imprisoned, Chuzaburo was ordered by a jailor to clean the toilets. When he came back to Oyasama after he had finished cleaning, Oyasama inquired:
“Koda, what do you think of having been brought to this kind of place and even having been made to clean such filthy places as toilets?”
“I think I am serving God whatever I do. So I am very happy,” he answered. Oyasama said:
“You are right. If you do something with gratitude, no matter how hard or unpleasant it may be, your virtue will reach heaven. Virtue which is accepted by God will be turned into joy. But no matter how hard or trying the work that you do may be, if you do it complaining, ‘How hard it is, how I hate it,’ the complaints will also reach heaven and be returned to you in kind.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 116
Supplemental information from Taimo (translation)
“Koda Chuzaburo: born in 1828.
“In 1881, he was assigned to promote farming in Niigata Prefecture as a member of the Horticulture and Farming Committee of the National Agricultural Affairs Commission. The following year, he embraces the faith after his daughter Riki is saved from an eye disease. He subsequently devotes himself to missionary work in Niigata.
“He acted as a guardian for the Nakayama household after the passing of Yamazawa Ryojiro.”
Koda Chuzaburo served the government as a horticulturalist and agriculturalist. He was quite educated for a man with his social background. He also was 56 years old in 1884. It would have been very likely that the jailor who ordered him to clean the prison toilets was younger than him and had come from a lower social rank than he did.
With this in mind, I feel it would have been more than justifiable for Koda to have felt that he didn’t deserve to be treated the way he was treated when we consider the social context he lived in. Yet when Oyasama asked him how he felt about ending up in prison and being made to clean filthy toilets, he replied that no matter what he was allowed to do, it was truly splendid when he considered that he was being allowed to do God’s work.
To rephrase/retranslate Oyasama what told him in response: “That’s right! No matter how trying or undesirable, anything that is done with the thought, ‘How splendid’ (kekko) amounts to virtue (merit) that reaches heaven. God will accept and change this virtue/merit into something splendid.”
Ikiru kotoba (Living words) elaborates these words with:
It is not what the substance of one’s work happens to be, but the attitude with one approaches carries it out that is important. “The virtue which reaches heaven” can be found in hinokishin efforts that are a person’s expression of joy (p. 144).
Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.
Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2006. “Oyasama: kekkō to omōte sureba, ten ni todoku ri.” Taimō 449 (May 2006), pp. 16-17.
Takano Tomoji. Disciples of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 110-114.