162. In Her Children’s Stead (Oya ga kawari ni)
Oyasama usually did not leave the Residence, so it was not likely that Her legs would get tired. But Oyasama now and then said:
“My legs feel heavy.”
“My legs are tired.”
On such days, without fail, followers returned to Jiba in good spirits. And all of them would say with joy, “We are so blessed that we do not feel tired at all after the long walk up here.” They did not feel tired because Oyasama had taken their fatigue from them and suffered their weariness for them. This She did because of Her love for Her children returning to the Residence, the place of single-hearted devotion to God.
Once, Iye Murata helped to farm the fields of the Residence for several days. Hard though she worked, to her surprise, she did not feel pain in her hands or lower back nor did she feel tired at all. She then told Oyasama, “I am not feeling tired although I have worked hard and long.” Oyasama said:
“Indeed not. But my own legs felt heavy every day while you worked in the fields. Your fatigue had all come to Me.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 130–131
Before going into Anecdotes no. 162, I must mention that I find the translation of Oyasama’s concluding statement wanting. The actual substance of the message has been translated accurately, but there is something about the style and delivery of the English gloss that falls flat for me. It doesn’t begin to convey the soft, gentle touch of Oyasama’s Yamato dialect. Whereas the English translation almost sounds like a complaint, the original comes across as Oyasama just making a simple statement regarding her physical state.
Admittedly, some dialects can prove quite difficult (if not impossible) to pin down and render in another language. The emotive effect of particular dialects can most easily be lost in translation.
It struck me how powerful provincial dialects can be when Hiroshima Mayor Akiba Tadatoshi spoke in “Hiroshima-ben” at the opening of his “Peace Declaration” at the 2010 Hiroshima Memorial Peace Ceremony. Although I only have a rudimentary grasp of the Hiroshima dialect, I found it emotionally overwhelming. The use of Hiroshima-ben captured the sense of horror and loss of the atomic bombing on that day so effectively that I was easily reduced into a sobbing mess as I watched the ceremony on television.
Back to the subject at hand, if I were to make my own stab of a translation of Oyasama’s reply to Murata Ie after she expressed that she was not tired from working in the fields, it would go something like: “Is that so? That’s because your weariness all came to me. My own legs felt heavy every day you happened to be out there.”
The notion that Oyasama took and bore the fatigue of returning pilgrims is also described in Anecdotes no. 139. In this story, she is revealed to have said: “Ah, I feel tired, tired. Children will be coming home from afar. Ah, I can see them coming with a vlag flying.”
Oyasama is also described to have once said to her granddaughter Kajimoto Hisa: “My legs are feeling heavy as Shuji and Kokan have come home from afar. Please massage My legs” (Anecdotes no. 110). I admittedly find this statement quite baffling because it is seems to suggest that the departed souls of her late children could experience exhaustion from traveling that Oyasama somehow bore on their behalf.
Personal reservations aside, however, I imagine Tenrikyo followers today who come across Anecdotes no. 162 in their reading may feel heartened at finding a religious explanation for the adrenaline rush that they may feel upon “returning” to the site they consider as most holy. When the welling up of emotion washes away the exhaustion of travel, it may just be a natural reaction on a pilgrim’s part to give credit for this to “Oyasama’s love for her children.”