Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 171

171. The Mountain of Treasure (takara no yama)

Oyasama taught:

“Over a large river, there is a bridge which has no supports. If you cross over this bridge, you will be able to climb a mountain of treasure and receive something marvelous. However, along the way, because the bridge has no supports, it will sway. If you turn back because it sways, you will not receive the treasure. However, if you earnestly strive and cross the bridge without falling, there will be before you a mountain of treasure. If you go to the summit you will receive something marvelous. But since one turns back because of dangers on the way, one does not receive the treasure.”

Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 137–138

My take

It was interesting in a sense that when this selection from Anecdotes initially came up some time last week, I was in the midst of profound melancholia. It was a situation which I had to resist an increasingly compelling urge to “turn back.” Yet I must confess I didn’t find this instruction comforting in any way. It instead made me bitterly think to myself: “Treasure? WGAF about some treasure!”

That strange existentialist crisis has since passed. Now that I am in a more serene frame of mind, I do have to wonder what this “treasure” might refer to. I feel it is safe to assume that it does not mean some form of material wealth but instead functions as a metaphor for something that is held in high esteem. It might be worthy to mention that a variety of phenomena happen to be identified as “Three Treasures” in a number of East Asian traditions.

I also must wonder if the gloss “mountain of treasure” may be a bit misleading. Takara no yama could easily merely refer to the mountain where a treasure waits to be discovered. Think about it, wouldn’t one be sufficiently satisfied at reaching a “mountain of treasure”? Wouldn’t it be somewhat superfluous to climb to the summit of a “mountain of treasure”?

Setting these quibbles aside, there is still a simple beauty to Anecdotes 171 in how it has the potential of being applicable to a wide range of situations since the identity of its central metaphor has been left open-ended. Further, if we consider my initial reaction, it contains a message that remains applicable to anyone so long as one isn’t dismissive of it.

Thus, it is really quite tempting here to stop and turn my attention to the next selection, since any further investigation into what this central metaphor may specifically mean may risk undermining this simple beauty and almost general applicability. Nevertheless, I am going to continue to probe deeper because I had several interesting leads to pursue.

A phrase from the Osashizu that described the Sazuke as a “treasure for home” (kuni no takara) immediately comes to mind. It was unsurprising when I found the same sentiment repeated in The Doctrine of Tenrikyo.[1] Taking the historical context into account predisposes me to accept that this may have been what Oyasama meant by her instruction in Anecdotes 171.

Further investigation in the many instances in which the metaphor “takara” has been used uncovered the following:

In Anecdotes 15, Oyasama is portrayed referring to a grant she bestowed to Yamanaka Chushichi as “the treasure of your family and of the path”

In Anecdotes 51, before she bestowed a red jinbei she is wearing to Murata Kamematsu, she mentions how it was to become a “family treasure” (ie no takara)

In Anecdotes 138, Oyasama also instructed Nakata Gisaburo to treat a net basket she wove out of twisted scraps of paper during a detainment in prison as a family treasure.

An inquiry on what to do with Proof Amulets bestowed to owners that had passed away resulted in an instruction to family members to treat them thereafter as valuable treasures (Osashizu, May 16, 1890).

There are at least two Scriptural passages that suggest that sufficient understanding of the creation narrative Oyasama taught would uncover an unrivaled treasure (Ofudesaki X:91 and an undated 1891 Osashizu concerning a man named Morioka Denji)

The Kanrodai or the “sweet dew stand” marking Jiba, the spot believed to be the location of human conception, is described being the “prime treasure” of the faithful (Ofudesaki XVII:2–3)[2]


[1] “The truth of the Sazuke, bestowed on the sincere mind pledged to single-hearted salvation, is a treasure for a lifetime and for eternity” (p. 18).

To quote the Osashizu mentioned earlier:

“When you go home after receiving the Sazuke, you are taking a souvenir for home, a treasure for home, whose value is immeasurable” (Osashizu, December 30, 1898).

[2] I am keenly aware that the only two instances of “takara” in the Ofudesaki also contain the term Nihon. There is not enough time or space to go into a sufficiently detailed discussion of this term here other than to mention that according to an endnote in the sixth English edition of the Ofudesaki, it is a metaphor that “refers to the place settled by those whose use of mind and way of living are near the intention of God the Parent.”