160. Selecting a Persimmon (kaki erabi)
It was autumn, the season of persimmons. Osame Masui happened to be in the presence of Oyasama and there was a tray full of persimmons in front of Her. In trying to select a persimmon from the tray, Oyasama looked at them from this angle and that. Observing this, Osame thought, “Even Oyasama chooses the best in selecting a persimmon.” But the persimmon that She selected appeared to be the worst of the lot. She then offered the tray with the other persimmons to Osame and said:
“Now, please take one.”
Observing Oyasama’s actions, Osame thought, “It is true that Oyasama makes Her selection, but what She chooses is different from that which we humans choose. She chooses the worst one for Herself. This is Oyasama’s parental love. She leaves the tastiest ones for Her children, wishing them to have the pleasure. This is truly the parental love of Oyasama.” Osame was impressed by Oyasama’s thoughtfulness and she ate her persimmon as told by Oyasama, while Oyasama ate another.
Osame said that she would never forget for the rest of her life the way Oyasama was on that day.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 129
Information and insight from Fukagawa Harumichi sensei
According to the research of Fukagawa Harumichi (an associate professor at Tenri University), a persimmon tree once grew on the premises of the Nakayama property. Masui Rin (no relation to Masui Osame) once mentioned in her writings that it was located on the west side of the back gate and bore both sweet and bitter specimens of fruit. Thus, one would presume that the persimmons mentioned in Anecdotes no. 160 and no. 150 came from this tree. The tree is said to have been cut down during the lifetime of second Shinbashira Nakayama Shozen (1905 – 1967).
Masui Osame, the woman who appears in Anecdotes no. 160 with Oyasama, has made earlier appearances in nos. 37 and 122. In this particular selection, it may be noted how Oyasama is said to have taught a lesson with her actions alone, for it is merely described that she offered Osame to take a persimmon and said nothing else.
To be sure, the lesson of Anecdotes no. 160 is dependent on Osame’s insight alone. Osame perceives Oyasama’s actions as an embodiment of her “parental love” that seeks to take the “worst of the lot” for herself while leaving the tastier fruits for others to enjoy.
Fukagawa sensei suggests that it was more than possible for Osame to have come away with the lesson of not judging things by their appearances alone. The persimmon that Oyasama chose may have actually been the tastiest one on the tray.
A case can also be made that different people will have diverging opinions of what constitutes a tasty persimmon. Fukagawa sensei offers that a person without a full set of teeth will likely prefer a softer, well-ripened persimmon.
Yet it must be noted that the story does not unfold in a way that easily allows for these interpretations. Osame perceives Oyasama’s actions as embodying her parental love and forethought, which makes a life-long impression on her. Osame quite possibly came away with this insight precisely because Oyasama constantly and consistently embodied such compassion and forethought in all her interactions with everyone.
Fukagawa sensei mentions that for Oyasama, the persimmon that appears to be “the worst of the lot” to Osame is the best choice because Oyasama takes pleasure in bringing joy to others. (This also happens to be a central theme in the very next selection, no. 161.) He also offers that the notion of choosing the worst for oneself can be applied to environmental efforts — taking responsibility so to avoid leaving the burden of damaged ecosystems to upcoming generations.
Finally, from a strict Tenrikyo perspective according to the belief in rebirth, Fukagawa sensei adds that when one brings joy to others by choosing the worst for oneself, one does not merely leave the best for others and one’s children. Such efforts also helps ensure that the best potentially remains in the future when one is reborn.
Fukagawa Harumichi. 2003. “Ichiban warui no o: 160 ‘kaki erabi’.” In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 31-42.