159. The Residence: The Place for Single-Hearted Devotion to God (Kami-ichijō no yashiki)
One day, Shirobei Umetani, who had been sitting by Oyasama‘s side listening to the teachings of the path, unintentionally began to speak of worldly pleasures. “Right now,” he said, “there is a very popular play being presented at Dotombori and…,” Oyasama interrupted him here and admonished him:
“From the age of forty-one until today I have never spoken of anything worldly. God says there is no need in this Residence for any talk other than the talks of single-hearted devotion to God.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 128-129
I can’t quite shake the idea that something Oyasama had said must have prompted Umetani Shirobei to talk about this particular play that happened to be popular in the entertainment district in his abode of Osaka. Was it possible he was trying to offer his own spin on something she happened to be teaching at that moment? I find the paucity of context in this selection from Anecdotes of Oyasama particularly galling since if this was the case, this reprimand would certainly apply to me for undertaking this Blogging Anecdotes series.
However, one will never be sure what Shirobei was planning to talk about since Oyasama was quick to silence him. (Perhaps for the mere mention of what could be called Osaka’s equivalent to Broadway at the time?)
I get the gut feeling that Oyasama’s reprimand implied: “From 1838, the year when I became the “Shrine of God” (the vessel of God’s revelation) until today, I have never broached upon topics of popular discussion or indulged in idle chitchat and I expect you to do the same.” Quite a strict reprimand, if you ask me. It is somewhat thematically connected to the Tenrikyo notion of the “sage/hermit in the village.”
I can also almost hear Oyasama say, “Wasn’t it just last year when I instructed you that not man, but God is the object? Why are you so slow in applying this in your life?”
Anecdotes no. 159 persuades me that the expression “Kami-ichijo” (while the recent trend is to translate it as “single-heartedness with God,” it is glossed as “single-hearted devotion to God” above) is a matter of where one’s genuine focus should ideally be.
In this day and age when television, the Internet, and other media have exponentially increased the sheer volume of diversions and intellectual property available to us, I imagine the mantra of “single-hearted devotion to God” attracts less and less takers by the minute. I, for example, may be a wee bit too attached to my RSS feed and my need for knowing who will be starting for the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers on Super Bowl Sunday.
Sawai Yoshinori. 2009. “Kami-ichijō: 159 ‘Kami-ichijō no yashiki’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 3. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 37-48.