26. The Story of Linen, Silk and Cotton
In 1872, while staying at the house of Matsuo, Oyasama said to the couple, Ichibei and Haru, when they came to greet Her one morning:
“Both of you always wear formal clothes when you come to see Me. From now on just wear your everyday clothes. Would it not be more comfortable for you?”
When the two bowed their heads in appreciation, She taught them the following:
“Today I will tell you the story of linen, silk and cotton.
“The linen lets the breeze go through freely and does not stick to the skin. Therefore, there is nothing cooler or better to wear in the summer. However, it is too cold to wear in the winter. It is just for the summer. After being worn for about three years, it begins to discolor. If it becomes completely discolored, it is worthless. Even when it is dyed into a darker shade, the color is uneven. When it reaches this stage, it is as useless as waste paper.
“Silk, whether made into a formal coat or a kimono, is elegant. It is something everybody wants even though it is very expensive. However, do not become a person like silk. It is nice while it is new, but when it gets a little old nothing can be done with it.
“Now, when it comes to cotton, it is ordinary but is used by everyone. There is nothing that is so handy nor so widely used as cotton. It keeps us warm in the winter and it absorbs our perspiration in the summer. When it becomes dirty, it can be washed over and over again. When its color fades and it becomes so old that it cannot be worn any more, it can be used as a diaper or as a cleaning rag or even as sandals. To be useful until its original form no longer remains: this is cotton. God desires man to have a mind like cotton.”
It is said that thereafter Ichibei and his wife carved the word “cotton” in their minds and wore nothing but cotton throughout their lives.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, pp. 20–21