158. Monthly Period Is the Flower (tsuki no mono wa na, hana ya de)
Once when Rihachi Yamamoto was in attendance of Oyasama, he was asked by Her:
“Rihachi, won’t you go and look outside?”
In those days, the Residence was under heavy surveillance by the police; therefore, thinking that Oyasama was concerned, he looked around carefully but saw no one. He returned and reported, “Oyasama, there is no change outside. There are pumpkins in the field yonder and in the field hither there are many eggplants.” At that, Oyasama patted Her knee and taught him:
“That is it. Did you notice those pumpkins and eggplants? They are big, aren’t they? The plants bear fruit because the flowers bloom. Not a single plant bears fruit without its flower. Now ponder deeply. The world says woman is unclean, but there is nothing unclean about woman. Man and woman are equally children of God and there is no discrimination. Woman has a duty, a duty to bear children. Her monthly period is the flower. Without the flower there is no fruit. Understand this well. Take the pumpkin; if its big flower is gone, that is the end of it. In many things, there are flowers that bear no fruit. But to bear fruit without any flower is impossible. Ponder deeply. There is nothing unclean about it.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 127-128
I must admit that I find the description of Oyasama slapping herself on the knee and saying “That’s it!” somewhat amusing.
On a serious note, however, in Anecdotes no. 158, Oyasama is shown tackling head-on the notion that a woman’s menstrual blood was considered unclean and impure. Although it is not possible to ascertain whether this notion of defilement was native to Japan or introduced from the Asian continent, it was a belief that was well-entrenched by the Edo period, when Oyasama was born. There was even an apocryphal Zen Buddhist sutra that claimed women were destined to spend their afterlife in a “Blood Pool Hell” unless they employed priests on their behalf to make the required interventions.
By comparing a woman’s monthly period to a flower that has the potential to bear fruit, Oyasama makes a compelling case for a man who may have harbored such beliefs that there was nothing impure about menstrual blood. It may also be noted that Oyasama is described saying, “Man and woman are equally children of God and there is no discrimination” — which echoes a message from a well-quoted verse from the Ofudesaki (7:21).
Nakano Yuko. “Women and Buddhism: Blood Impurity and Motherhood.” In Women and Religion in Japan, pp. 65-85.
Takemi Momoko. “Menstruation Sutra Belief in Japan.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 10/2-3 (1983), pp. 229-246.
On Tenrikyo Online: There Is No Discrimination Between Female Pine and Male Pine by Yoshikazu Fukaya