146. Thank You for Your Work (go-kuro-san)
In the spring of 1884, twenty-three-year-old Tokijiro Saji enlisted in the army and was in the Third Company, First Battalion of the Ninth Regiment stationed in Osaka. During that time his company marched to Yamato Province and was quartered at the Masuya Inn in the Imamikado section of Nara City.
At that time, many people were going in and out of the detached room of the inn. The inn master pointed to Oyasama, who was wearing Her red garments, and said, “That person is the living god of Shoyashiki.” And Tokijiro heard the teachings of the path from him.
Shortly thereafter, when Oyasama passed near where Tokijiro was standing, he was deeply moved by Her presence, and politely bowed his head. Oyasama quietly acknowledged this and spoke to him:
“Thank you for your work.”
The instant Saji saw Oyasama, he was awestruck with reverence at Her divine nature. The moment he heard Her voice, he was touched by a feeling of intimacy and great yearning to follow after Her.
In later years, Saji always told people about his experience, “I decided at that moment to follow the path. The reason why I, who had no mental or physical problems, came to believe in this path was entirely due to the deep impression which I received at that time.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 118-119
Supplemental information on Saji Tokijiro (1861-1928/translation from Taimo)
“Saji Tokijiro was born in 1861 in Jinbo Village, Koga Country, Omi Province (present day Jinbo, Koga section of Koga City, Shiga Prefecture).
“In 1883, he enlisted in the army. The following year, his battalion marched to Yamato. Meeting with Oyasama and hearing the gist of her teachings from the owner of the lodgings where he stayed made a lasting impression on him. In 1891, he receives sanction to establish Koto Shikyokai. He becomes its first minister after receiving prefectural authorization the following year.
“He passed away for rebirth in 1928 at the age of 68.”
That it only took a single phrase (“go-kuro-san“) to inspire Saji Tokijiro to embrace the faith may be the greatest example that demonstrates how charismatic Oyasama came across to some people. Perhaps what makes this instantaneous conversion even more extraordinary is that Oyasama used this very same phrase to greet anyone who happened to come to the Residence, be it whether the person was considered someone of great social distinction or even a beggar (Anecdotes no. 195).
Or, to put it another way, it was an ordinary phrase she seems to have used on a regular basis and not something she happened to pick because she knew it would have such an effect on this young soldier who bowed respectfully to her.
Although few Tenrikyo followers today would ever consider that they can emulate Oyasama by instantaneously converting someone in the same way, theologian Ueda Yoshinaru once stated it was nevertheless important to follow her example:
Even if it were to amount to 1/1000th or 1/100th when we make the attempt, we ought to learn from Oyasama’s virtue. Although one time would very likely never be enough, if we make the attempt to say something to someone a hundred times, that person may be motivated to follow the path. Or at least I have come to believe recently that we should commit ourselves to build upon our merit until we can make this happen. In my case, if I were to say something just once, I would probably have that person become angry at once. . . . but it would be wrong or even harmful to think this way. In all matters, I would hope that we learn from Oyasama’s virtue and commit ourselves to follow Her Divine Model, even just 1/1000th of it (p. 43).
The importance of the spoken word may be made even clearer when we consider a situation opposite from what is described in Anecdotes no. 146.
It is my understanding that one of my cousins was a good friend of a minister’s son growing up. A snide remark from the minister’s wife when he came to the church to look for his friend is said to have caused my cousin to abandon the prospect of embracing the faith entirely.
Many years have passed since then, and his father (my uncle) is now a director of a mission station. Neither he nor his three children show any signs of becoming involved in the faith to any extent.
While the number of people claiming to follow Oyasama’s path who have the power to instantaneously convert someone to the faith is infinitesimal, I believe the potential to turn someone off forever will always be there. One ought to keep vigilance by being mindful of Oyasama’s example.
Tenrikyō Seinenkai, ed. 2008. “Oyasama: go-kuro-san.” Taimō 479 (November 2008), pp. 16-17.
Ueda Yoshinaru. 1976. “Kōhon Tenrikyō Oyasama-den itsuwa-hen ni tsuite.” Michi no dai 65 (May 1976), pp. 26-43.