189. The Hearts of Husband and Wife (fūfu no kokoro)
In the summer of 1886, Narazo Hirano and his wife, after abandoning the family occupation, were devoting themselves to missionary work in utter poverty with the resolve, “When we think of Oyasama, we never mind going for four or five days without food.” As it was summer, they had no possessions with them except the light summer clothing they wore: one cotton kimono each and a summer kimono for Narazo.
One day, when they returned to the Residence, Oyasama gave them these words:
“In this path the hearts of husband and wife are the foundation. I have discerned your sincerity which could thrust through a great tree or pierce a huge stone. One year from now, I will grant you an uchiwake-basho, a place of salvation.”
Anecdotes of Oyasama, p. 149
Although I am tempted to present a lengthy section covering the circumstances behind Hirano Narazo’s conversion, I believe I will save it for another time and keep this post as concise as I can. For the time being, I’ll just mention that Narazo was once a gangster with a notorious reputation who resolved to repay his indebtedness for having been saved from death (refer to Footsteps of Our Predecessors 47 for an account) by making a clean break with the underworld and solely dedicating his life toward the task of saving others.
Narazo soon made attempts to propagate the faith (nioi-gake), yet his notoriety stopped people from approaching him. Others began to spread rumors that he had lost his mind. After a month had passed, he was successful in “spreading the fragrance” to an old woman he found suffering in the street. Even after this, it was rare for people to come for him for help. Once, a former gambling acquaintance urinated on him from a roof. Narazo nonetheless remained calm and continued to search for people seeking relief. People who knew him previously were greatly astonished that he did not let this incident bother him.
Although Narazo had cut his gangster ties, his wife Tora still continued running a brothel. After several months into beginning his propagation work, Narazo and Tora decided to close the brothel as well. It was the 6th lunar month of 1886. They had gained a handful of followers around them by this time who would later become prominent ministers in their own right.
Horiuchi Midori writes that Narazo and Tora thereafter must have hit rock bottom since they struggled financially even after the establishment of their church, Koriyama Bunkyokai, in 1888. Nevertheless, she goes on to mention that they went about spreading the faith cheerfully and gratefully, which must have prompted Oyasama to teach them that their manner of quieting their hearts would serve as a pedestal and a foundation.
Roughly two years later, at the establishment of Koriyama Bunkyokai, the Honseki delivered the following Direction:
Sah, sah, upon your request, a divine direction. Sah, sah, I bestow, I bestow names in various places. Devotions of many years exist at this place. You need not worry. All of you come together and settle your minds. Truth must exist at a place. You will be able to accomplish everything if your minds are united. You need not hurry, you need not hurry. Those of you at various places unite your minds. If all of you come together and completely unite your minds, then I shall settle truth. It is of prime importance that all minds unite and discuss the matter sincerely. Then if your minds are in complete unity, the matter will be settled clearly.…
Osashizu, December 11, 1888
The founding of Koriyama Bunkyokai may or may not be considered the fulfillment of Oyasama’s words in Anecdotes 189 in which she promises to grant Narazo and Tora an uchiwake-basho. (As for what this uchiwake-basho may refer to, see the last section of my discussion of Anecdotes 47.)
Epilogue (Insight from Horiuchi Midori)
Instead of writing a conclusion myself, I’ll just quote at length from an article from Horiuchi Midori:
Hirano Tora purportedly gave constant attention to the future expansion of the path and thus planned from early on to do missionary work in Tokyo. I have to wonder if she always held Oyasama’s words “Edo, Nagasaki” foremost in her heart.
In early November 1899, Tora wished to fulfill this long held desire and departed for Tokyo herself. She sent for several women from Koriyama and decided to begin a large-scale missionary effort. Although she prepared to rent a place in Azabu, she fell ill after returning to Jiba in December and passed away for rebirth on the 15th.
Tora’s faith began when the life of her husband Narazo was saved. The occasion made her resolve to live her life basing her own joy on her husband’s state of mind. Tora’s constant focus was on how to help her husband and to support his efforts helping others. Tora settled harmony within her church. It is said that she was wholeheartedly committed to God; she was sincerely devoted to studying the teachings and always had the Ofudesaki and passages from the Divine Directions at her side. At the same time, she devoted her attention to a multitude of tasks each day, sparing no effort as she exhausted her sincerity looking after Yoboku and followers (Hirano Narazo den, pp. 132–134). On October 9, 1895, she received the following Divine Direction: “You have not let fulfilling your traditional role as a woman stop you from sufficiently devoting your attention and serving Me each day.” Tora acted as a mediator for the followers and Narazo, who was minister. She truly made efforts to establish harmony within the church and effectively joined people together by reinforcing in other ways the instructions Narazo would give them and encouraged them on.
Furthermore, Narazo and Tora had no children. She loved the children of church officers and followers as if they were her very own. In turn, these children loved her very much. She also had the children of church officers serve at the church as live-in help once they grew up. She frequently received Divine Directions that instructed her to nurture these “children” by having them live and work at the church. She then demonstrated the extent to which she relied on Oyasama’s instructions at all times in addition to her determination to implement what she was taught.
To succinctly put in a few words what Oyasama essentially taught her, it was, “People will grow if you nurture them.”
Day after day, circumstances spring up.… No matter what you may hear, do not feel disheartened.… To nurture is to weed and to fertilize. There will not be a crop if you do nothing after the planting or sowing.
Osashizu, October 21, 1890 (Request on the occasion of Hirano Tora’s physical condition)
Amid the many situations that may happen from now on, people will gather with their respective qualities.… People will grow if you nurture them. Unless you nurture them, they will not grow…. As people return each day, you must discern their respective circumstances. You say that this path becomes all the more difficult the more you hear. It is not difficult. It is the quality of mind that makes it difficult… To say what nurturing is, it is simply to nurture with a nurturing quality of mind.
Osashizu, March 23, 1891 (Request on the occasion of Hirano Tora’s physical condition)
An instruction with deep implications: If you are of a mind that seeks to nurture others one after another in all matters, this quality of nurturing determines whether a situation becomes clouded or clear…. People will grow if you nurture them. Be sure you listen and discern this well.
Osashizu, September 29, 1891 (Request from Hirano Narazo)
Oyasama taught married couples “Husband and wife together, have faith in God” (Anecdotes 92). From the very beginning, Tora sought to match her own thoughts with Narazo’s. Tora thereafter worked to match their thoughts with God the Parent’s and Oyasama’s, journeying with her husband on the path Oyasama taught. While they did not have any children, I believe that the church they built as a couple must have been like a large family.
Although nurturing the children of others may be different from nurturing children we ourselves gave birth to, I believe that this nevertheless teaches us the importance for “[spiritual] parents” to spare no effort in raising their “children” as a married couple, matching their thoughts with God.
Families have come to take a diverse array of forms in contemporary society. Amid such a backdrop, I sense the radiance of Oyasama’s words, “The hearts of husband and wife are the foundation” when I think of the problems between married couples and between parents and children. Irrespective of the manner what form our families may take, are we not able to raise our children and nurture people when we match our thoughts with God the Parent? I happen to believe this is what the essence of a family amounts to (pp. 14–15).
Horiuchi Midori. 2009. “Fūfu no kokoro ga dai ya: 189 ‘fūfu no kokoro.’ In Itsuwa-hen ni manabu iki-kata 3. Tenri: Tenri Daigaku Oyasato Kenkyūsho, pp. 1–17.