179. God is Laughing (Kami-sama, warōte gozaru)
Once Iye Murata had palpitation of the heart. It became so severe that it troubled her a great deal. So she asked Oyasama for instructions. Oyasama told her:
“Your palpitation of the heart is God laughing. God is saying that you do not understand the divine will.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 142
The Japanese verb “warau” can both mean “laugh” or “smile.” But I must admit I can’t see how a palpitation of the heart can ever be considered amusing in the least by the person suffering from it.
Despite whether the instruction attributed to Oyasama in Anecdotes 179 has any veracity at all (never mind that the veracity of such a notion can never be ultimately resolved in any objective sense), expressing the idea that a “palpitation of the heart is God laughing” can easily descend into a kind of religiously-inspired harassment. So it may be worthy to note here that the manner Oyasama expresses this in the original Japanese has a particular “softness” that may not be easily rendered into English.
Nevertheless, although details are lacking, it may also be beneficial to take the context into account. It may be useful to keep in mind that Murata Ie had been a follower for quite some time, from as far back as 1862. Although she may not be as famous as other women in Tenrikyo history, she has already appeared in various selections from Anecdotes (50, 51, 89, 162, in addition to a very brief mention in 44).
The Tenrikyo jiten describes how she and her husband Koemon overcame ridicule from fellow villagers and opposition from relatives in how they regularly packed lunches when they went to the Residence to learn from Oyasama and help out in various ways (p. 879).
It is presumed that Murata Ie must have long taken for granted that the source of any physical disorder came from the mind (i.e., as written in Song Ten) and that anyone who requested instructions from Oyasama for an illness at that time would have likely been told something similar to what Oyasama is quoted as saying in Anecdotes 179.
Finally, although Anecdotes 179 is ultimately silent on the matter, it is also presumed that Ie was cured of her disorder. It may be noted how it reads that Ie once (Jpn: aru toki) had a palpitation of the heart. The author of this selection may have overlooked this important detail or may have felt that it was superfluous to mention this.
It is possible that Ie’s palpitations were psychosomatic. By the suggestion that Ie needed to put more effort to “understanding the divine will,” Oyasama may have helped her on the road to recovery by turning her attention away from the disorder that troubled her.
Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, ed. 1997. Kaitei Tenrikyō jiten. Tenri: Tenrikyō Dōyūsha,