The Life of the Honseki Izo Iburi, Part Four

Oyasama Conveys the Teaching to Izo

Obstructions from inside and outside the path

In the 10th lunar month of 1865, Izo accompanied Oyasama to Harigabessho, where a former follower by the name of Sukezo began expounding a false teaching. He claimed that his residence in Harigabessho was the original dwelling of God and thus superior to the Jiba in Shoyashiki. Despite the fact Oyasama was nearly 70 years old, She boldly led the way up the treacherous mountain road to Harigabessho to correct Sukezo’s mistaken views.

Upon reaching their destination, Oyasama signaled to Izo and Chushichi Yamanaka,

Go and clear it away!

They responded to Oyasama’s instruction by entering Sukezo’s home and breaking the gohei he was using as an object of worship and threw it into the fire. While it took a total of seven days for Sukezo to admit his error, Izo and several others never left Oyasama’s side as She dealt with this heresy.

Another time, two Shinshu priests barged in the Residence and demanded, “How is it that you keep no light burning at dusk when you dare to assume the name of Tenri-O-no-Mikoto?”

As Kokan calmly confronted the monks and their theological arguments, Izo was in the next room, ready to spring to the rescue in case the situation escalated out of hand. According to Rev. Eizo Ueda, Izo was subsequently concerned for Oyasama’s safety and constantly visited the Residence. For this reason Izo could never bring himself to accept a job that would take him too far from Jiba and thus continued to live in an impoverished state.

Izo spent New Year’s Eve at the Residence for nine straight years beginning in 1864.1 Izo would return home after he cleaned the precincts surrounding the Jiba and offered his prayers to God the Parent.

Even during the busy time at the end of the year, for Izo, affairs at the Residence took precedence over his own. Concerning this, Shozen Nakayama has written: “We can get the understanding that these nine years in which he alone devoted his single-heartedness to God the Parent became the basis for the fact he later became the Honseki.”2

As for the rest of the year, after working throughout the day, Izo would stop by in Shoyashiki to greet Oyasama and returned home only after completing whatever needed to be done at the Residence. Beginning from about this time until 1882 when Izo moved into the Residence, he rarely missed a day of worship at Jiba for nearly 20 years.

When we look back on the history of the path, there were a significant number of people whom God the Parent had placed expectations on. However, only a few of them were able to live up to God’s expectations. Among them was Izo, who did so in a steadfast manner.

Oyasama’s direct instruction of Izo

Because Izo’s fervent daily worship at Jiba continued for such a long time, compared to other followers, he had many opportunities to be directly instructed in the Teaching by Oyasama. Anecdotes of Oyasama contains several examples of what Oyasama taught to Izo. For example, it is said that one day Oyasama asked him,

Izo-san, will you open your hand?

When he did exactly as he was told, Oyasama took three unhulled rice grains and placed them one after another in the palm of his hand, saying,

This one is for early rising, this one for honesty, and this one for hard work.

Oyasama continued:

Hold these firmly in your hand. You must make sure you never lose them.

Izo Iburi faithfully observed Oyasama’s words throughout his entire life. Years later, Oyasama instructed his eldest daughter, Yoshie, in the same teaching. While in the bloom of her youth, Oyasama gave her the following words:

Early rising, honesty, and hard work. There is a great difference in merit between being awakened and waking up someone else. Working hard and praising people out the sight of others is honesty. If you do not put into practice what you hear, you will become a lie. If you continue to work, saying to yourself, ‘Just a little more, just a little bit more’; this is not greed, it is work that comes from true sincerity.

Another time, while holding another unhulled grain of rice, Oyasama said to Izo:

If you sow a grain of sincerity, within a year’s time, a single seed of sincerity will yield two to three hundred grains. In the second year there will be grains in the tens of thousands. The providence of a single grain returning ten-thousandfold will be granted. By the third year there will be enough to sow the entire province of Yamato.

Anecdotes of Oyasama describes another lesson Izo had received. One day, Oyasama requested him,

Izo, will you go to the mountains to cut down a tree and make a straight post out of it?

Izo promptly did as he was asked and brought to Oyasama a post that he had fashioned. Oyasama then instructed Izo to check the straightness of the post with a ruler and inquired,

Isn’t there a gap?

Izo nodded and conceded that there was a gap, just as She indicated. Then She explained,

Even the things that are considered to be straight by all people of the world are warped when they are placed against the measure of heaven.

Izo was sure he shaved the post straight, but as Oyasama had pointed out, it was not straight. Initially, he may have lost confidence in his carpentry skills. But as Oyasama explained to him that the “measure of heaven” was more discriminating than any human eye could ever possibly be, Izo was deeply awed at having been taught an extremely precious lesson.

Lastly, there are teachings Oyasama conveyed to Izo that are not included in Anecdotes. Oyasama once said:

Izo, it is vital on this Path to accumulate unseen merit (intoku). No matter how hard you work or study in front of others, God the Parent will not accept your endeavors if you decide not to work as hard when no one is watching or criticize others behind their backs. The merit you might have gained will be lost if you receive an expression of gratitude for all your efforts. Miserliness, covetousness, hate, self-love, grudge-bearing, anger, greed, and arrogance: these states of mind are dusts, and these dusts happen to be the origin of illness.3

Izo took the teaching concerning unseen merit as well as the teaching of “early rising, honesty, and hard work” to heart and put them into practice. As he traveled between Jiba and his home in Ichinomoto each day, whenever he saw a dilapidated bridge or a rough patch of road, he took the time to fix it. When he noticed water leaking from a rice paddy through a mole hole, Izo paid no heed to whom the paddy belonged to; he undertook the task of filling the hole as if the paddy were his own. Such was the depth of his sincerity.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.


  • Sawai Yuichi 澤井勇一. Atarashii midori no hirogarii 『新しい緑の広がり』, pp. 19–30.
  • Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 24–25.
  • _________. The Life of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo, pp. 50–53.
  • Tenrikyo Doyusha 天理教道友, ed. Ten no jogi: Honseki Iburi Izo no shogai 『天の定規―本席飯降伊蔵の生涯』, pp. 20–22, 24–25, 41–42, 44.
  • Ueda Eizo 植田英蔵. Shinpan Iburi Izo den 『新版飯降伊蔵伝』, pp. 36, 40–42, 51.
  • Yamochi Tatsuzo 矢持辰三. Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama den nyumon jikko 『稿本天理教教祖入門十講』, pp. 133–142, 188–191, 286–288.

Further reading

Blogging Anecdotes of Oyasama 29. Three Treasures, 30. Ten Thousandfold, 31. The Measure of Heaven, 111. Being Awakened in the Morning


  1. “When the path was coming to be, step by step, there came one from here, another from over there. During that time, he spent a nine full years. Years that he spent the New Year’s Eve. His mind on that day, a day when there was no one who would come. There was no one to depend on. During those nine years, a carpenter came and settled all matters. As it took him much effort to follow Me, there was much joy on that day. How is it possible that I forget him? I certainly cannot. It was from this I said, ‘I entrust him in all matters'” (Osashizu, May 25, 1901, trial translation).
  2. Ten no jogi, p. 19.
  3. Shinpan Iburi Izo den, p. 41–42.