177. At Least One Person (hito hitori nari to)
Oyasama always said:
“I must save at least one person a day. Otherwise, I cannot let the day pass.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 141
When one considers how efforts to emulate the Divine Model are esteemed in Tenrikyo, it may seem to be an intimidating prospect for one to emulate Oyasama’s attitude in which she could not let a day pass without saving someone.
However, before one dismisses this to be an impossible undertaking for anyone to emulate, it may be constructive to take into account a couple of things: (1) Oyasama’s position in life at the time, and (2) a reconsideration of what “saving” (Jpn: tasukeru) a person may actually amount to.
First of all, it is assumed that Oyasama had firmly established herself as a religious leader (albeit an unofficial and unconventional one) by the time she began uttering these words. She eschewed efforts to fulfill societal expectations and obligations ever since she had the transformational experience that anointed her as the “Shrine of Tsukihi.”
As Oyasama had gained a reputation for being a miracle worker, she more or less had the luxury of fully devoting herself toward saving others. Depending on one’s position or stage in life, one might not have the same luxury of devoting oneself to such a cause.
Secondly, the word “tasukeru” may mean different things depending on context. Although it is translated as “save” above, I can think of other potential substitutes: “assist,” “help,” or “provide relief.”
In Tenrikyo contexts in particular, I have found that o-tasuke—although generally rendered into a weighty-sounding “salvation work” in most publications—can merely mean efforts to administer the Sazuke or working with someone so that they may receive a blessing.
A publication entitled Ikiru kotoba (Living words) expands on Anecdotes 177 in the following way:
The love the Parent (Oyasama) has for Her children (human beings) is knows no limits. Circumstances greatly changed after She withdrew from physical life in 1887. The path became one in which world salvation will be brought about by the efforts of Yoboku who received the Sazuke from Her. It is important that believers embody Her spirit and try to do something for someone each day (p. 95).
Tenrikyō Dōyūsha, ed. 1995. Ikiru kotoba: Tenrikyō kyōso no oshie. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha.