Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 165

165. Buy Dearly (takō kōte)

Zenzo Miyata was so moved by a talk at the Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity] that he became a follower in the summer of 1885. Led by Seijiro Imagawa, he returned to Jiba soon thereafter and was received by Oyasama. Zenzo was then thirty-one years old, and running a hosiery shop at Shiomachi Street in Semba, Osaka.

Oyasama taught him with painstaking care. However, in the beginning, since Zenzo was a newcomer who had not experienced a marvelous cure himself, he listened to the teachings very casually while smoking his pipe. Then, without realizing it, he had put down his pipe and had slid forward into a deep bow. Among the words being spoken at that moment, he retained only the following:

“Merchants should buy dearly and sell cheaply.”

Zenzo could not understand its meaning at all. He thought, “If I should do business in such a manner, it would cost me my livelihood. She may be well informed on farming, but She knows little about business.” So saying to himself, he went home.

Later, when Zenzo entered his house after leaving Imagawa, his neighbor, he was struck with a sudden attack of vomiting and diarrhea. A doctor was sent for immediately but he was unable to remedy the situation. Umejiro Izutsu, head of the Shimmei-gumi [Confraternity], was asked to come by Imagawa. Sitting by at Zenzo’s bedside, Izutsu asked him, “Didn’t you complain of something on your first return to Jiba?” Zenzo then replied that he could not agree with what Oyasama had told him. Then Izutsu explained, “What God means is that the ideal of business is to buy dearly in order to please wholesale dealers, sell cheaply in order to please customers, and to be satisfied with a small profit.” Upon hearing this, Zenzo could fully understand the meaning of Oyasama’s words. He deeply apologized for harboring dissatisfaction in his mind and soon was marvelously cured.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 132

My take

It is described that Miyata Zenzo “could not understand” the meaning of Oyasama’s message for merchants to “buy dearly and sell cheaply.” In Anecdotes 104, Tomita Denjiro was just as confused by the same message. Yet it is quite instructive to compare how differently the two men responded to their initial lack of understanding.

Tomita Denjiro had returned to Jiba out of appreciation for having been saved from a critical stomach condition. He later asked someone at the Residence to elaborate and it was explained to him that buying dearly allows suppliers to prosper while selling cheaply helps please customers. By seeking to make just a small profit, a merchant could uphold “the principle of mutual prosperity with no suffering of losses in return.”

On the other hand, while Miyata Zenzo may have been inspired by the teachings as he heard them in Osaka, he appears to have dozed off as he listened to Oyasama. He was only able to catch the instruction of “buying dearly and selling cheaply” and found the idea to be absurd. He not only dismisses it entirely but concluded that Oyasama knew next to nothing about running a business.

Zenzo was struck by fit of a vomiting and diarrhea as soon as he reached home. When Izutsu Umejiro, the director of the Shinmei Confraternity in Osaka, arrived, he was able to diagnose the cause immediately. (“Didn’t you complain (fusoku shita) of something on your first return to Jiba?”) After Umejiro explained the meaning of buying dearly and selling cheaply, Zenzo repented for harboring dissatisfaction (fusoku shita) and for dismissing Oyasama’s instruction and he recovers from his sudden health disorder.

The main difference between Denjiro and Zenzo was the attitude they expressed toward what Oyasama taught them. This difference in attitude may stem from how Denjiro had returned on a thanksgiving pilgrimage for having been cured from an illness while “Zenzo was a newcomer who had not experienced a marvelous cure himself.”

Supplemental information on Miyata Zenzo (1855–1907)

By a stroke of luck, the most recent issue of Tenri jiho happens to cover this particular selection from Anecdotes. Miyata Koichiro, Zenzo’s fifth generation descendant and minister of Ikeda Daikyokai, provided some background information that I will provide here via paraphrase/translation.

In 1853, Oyasama sent her youngest daughter Kokan to Osaka to spread the name of God. Zenzo was born two years after this event in modern day Honmachibashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka City, as the third son of cotton merchant Zenshichi and Fusa.

After he lost his father when he was five and his mother when he was 13, Zenzo and his brothers all went to apprentice themselves at different businesses to learn various trades. After years of struggles, he joined his brothers when they set out on their own to open a tabi store facing Sakai Avenue, Senba’s main street. Zenzo then married Sato and was blessed with a son, Sazo. The irregularities of dealing with customers and business cohorts may have had a hand in Zenzo developing an abnormality in the stomach. Although he was seen by several reputed doctors, they all declared his condition could not be treated.

Sato then began praying intensely to the Sun for her husband (which was not a practice associated with any specific religious tradition) and his condition gradually improved by early 1885. In the same year, a cholera epidemic in Osaka claimed many lives. Zenzo began to harbor uneasiness about how his family would fair should he become a victim himself. (One could then imagine the anxiety he must have felt when he was struck by the sudden vomiting and diarrhea described in Anecdotes 165.)

When Zenzo expressed these thoughts to a dye shop owner who frequented his store, the man suggested him to attend a “Tenri service” performed at the home of a confraternity member. Zenzo saw the Tsutome for the first time and listened to two sermons. The following day, Zenzo asked the dye shop owner if he could hear another sermon from the second speaker, who happened to be Imagawa Seijiro. It is said that Zenzo was impressed to learn that Tenri-O-no-Mikoto was the Moon and the Sun in addition to being the Parent of humanity. One assumes this motivated him to make a pilgrimage to Jiba.

In 1886, Zenzo’s son Sazo and daughter Kana lost their vision due to an unexplained cause. Nevertheless, they both were blessed with a vivid recovery. Zenzo’s faith grew deeper and he was greatly moved by Oyasama’s “parental love” with each visit. As he increasingly focused on “contribution and dedication” to the path, he began to harbor a desire to quit his business and commit himself to missionary work. Yet his resolve would waver when he thought about how he would provide for his family and how he would bring the news to his employees.

A couple of years later, in 1888, Zenzo approached the Honseki Iburi Izo for guidance regarding what he should do. The Divine Direction he received essentially gave him a reprieve from becoming a full-time missionary but told him to constantly live with a mindset of a full-time missionary in the meantime.[1]

Zenzo then pledged to exclusively devote himself to the path after his son turned 20 and took over his business. He concentrated his efforts toward “contribution and dedication” as well as scattering the “fragrance” of the teachings to his business peers and other acquaintances in the evening.

Further, since he could not leave his business unattended for extended periods of time, he depended on Imagawa Seijiro to make long-distance missionary trips whenever the need arose, and assisted by covering Imagawa’s travel expenses and looking after his family during his absence. Zenzo told Imagawa, “When you travel long distances to missionary work, please serve your utmost and serve in my place as well.” Miyata Koichiro sensei describes the cooperation between Miyata Zenzo and Imagawa Seijiro to a “three-legged race.”

In 1899, the time Zenzo promised to finally carry out his pledge was impending, so he helped the main branch of the Miyata household establish a company and he liquidated his business. He and his family then moved and lived at Ashizu Bunkyokai (now a grand church). Zenzo would later serve as second minister of Ikeda Daikyokai.

Insight from Komai Shigeharu sensei 

Komai Shigeharu, the late second president of Duskin Corporation, a janitorial services company that also owns Mister Donut Japan, has once written about how he believed the notion of buying dearly, selling cheaply applies in business:

[N]ow, I have the following idea about business management. That is, so far, merchants have beaten down the price of goods and bought them as cheaply as possible. On the other hand, when they sell them, they have driven up the price as high as possible. That is because they have had an illusion that the difference between selling price and buying price is “profit.” Why is it an illusion? That is because we cannot sell goods if we do things that way. If we buy goods dearly, however, we will have as much as we wish. When I say “buy dearly,” I do not mean to may 2,000 yen to buy goods that are priced 1,000 yen but to pay the 1,000 yen with a feeling of deep gratitude by saying: “Thank you. I have been able to buy such excellent goods with 1,000 yen.” Thus, “buy dearly” means to buy something with gratitude and joy from the bottom of our heart (p. 60).

Komai sensei’s declaration that “merchants have beaten down the price of goods and bought them as cheaply as possible” brings to mind the concept of “externalized costs,”[2] which I previously touched upon in Anecdotes 104 as well.

While there is no shortage of corporations that have profited from “selling cheaply,” I imagine it isn’t so easy to find one that has explicitly made “buying dearly” a central part of their management philosophy. Entire industries tend to be spared from bearing the full costs of environmental and social damage the production process can cause.

Nevertheless, it is heartening to hear that there are some corporations like Dow Chemical that are beginning to measure and price ecosystem services in an effort to protect nature. Although this might not exactly amount to “buying dearly,” at least it is an effort to “assess dearly” the ecological assets our world still happens to have.


Komai, Shigeharu. 2003. Faith-Based Management: A Path of Loss Is Not Truly a Path of Loss. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Department.

Miyata Kōichirō. 2011. “Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete: gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie 24.” Tenri jihō No. 4219 (February 27, 2011), p. 3.

External links

Tenrikyo jiten: “Dissatisfaction (Fusoku)

Yoboku’s Guide to Tenrikyo: “Contribution and dedication


[1] Since the Divine Direction in question happens to be on the short side, I decided to make a stab at a translation of the entire passage:

June 15, 1888 

A request for Directions from Miyata Zenzo: “I desire to do missionary work, but what I should do?”

Sah, sah, sah, sah, sah, on your question, on your question. Further, you wonder: “Should I go there or stay here?” If that is your question, let Me answer you. It is not a difficult matter. Sah, sah, you ask yourself: “When should I go? When should I go?” You and your family will become spirited. Everyone will become spirited in mind. One day you will find yourself saying, “Sah, let me go today!” The moment you think so, it’s best that you sit still for the time being. Such is one Direction I give in answer to your question but always be sure to keep this aspiration in your heart.

[2] Annie Leonard defines “externalized cost” as: “Any kind of loss or damage such as illness, environmental degradation, or economic disruption caused by industries engaged in natural resource extraction, production, distribution, and disposal, but not paid for by those industries. Externalized costs may also be called “hidden costs.” She further elaborates: “The radio that Annie bought cost only $4.99, but it had many hidden costs such as the loss of natural resources, the illness of workers who breathed in toxic chemicals to produce it, the global warming gases released by transporting it across the ocean, and the low wages of the person in the store who sold it. Externalized costs are most often borne by workers, community members and the environment, rather than by industries and corporations.” (From