Around the middle of May 1868, five years from the time Chushichi Yamanaka had embraced the faith, a heavy rain had fallen continuously for many days. The river overflowed here and there, rice fields were washed out, and houses were carried away.
Chushichi suffered heavy losses. A landslide on his mountain property buried many large trees. Also, his rice fields of approximately ninety ares* were washed out.
People in his village had been deriding Chushichi’s faith and immediately seized the opportunity to heap all sorts of abuses on him, saying: “Look at him! What a fool he is! Stupid one!”
Feeling chagrined at what the villagers said, Chushichi visited Oyasama in the Residence and explained the situation to Her. Oyasama told him: “Sah, sah, that’s all to the good. That’s all to the good. Now that your goods have been carried away to the bottom of the sea, it will come to good in the future. You may wonder why your fields and hills were washed out in spite of your faith, but you must accept the situation with a heart of gratitude. You must do so. That will come to good in the future.”
Chushichi heartily thanked God that he suffered only a small misfortune instead of a calamity.
* The word “are” (pronounced the same as “air”) is a metric unit equal to 100 square meters or approximately 120 square yards.
How to Accept a Sudden Great Misfortune That Threatens to Make Us Feel Down?
by Chutaro Yamanaka, Honbu-in and
Head Minister of Yamato-makoto Branch Church
It was in mid-January 1864 that Chushichi Yamanaka—who lived in Mamekoshi Village (now a section of Sakurai City known as Mamekoshi), located about eight kilometers (5 mi.) to the south of the Residence—was granted an audience with Oyasama and listened to Her teachings for the first time.
He Began to Follow the Path When His Family Faced One “Knot” after Another
Two years previously, the Yamanaka family suffered a series of great misfortunes. Chushichi’s eldest son, Hikoshichi, was afflicted by a serious illness, and his third daughter, father, and eldest daughter all passed away for rebirth one after another. Then his wife, Sono, began suffering from hemorrhoids, and her condition progressively deteriorated. Thus, Chushichi’s family held three funerals within the space of a year, in addition to having two members suffering from serious illnesses.
Befitting someone born in the year of the Boar, he was a man of fortitude. In those days, however, it is said that he would sometimes hang his head as tears welled up in his eyes.
Chushichi’s wife was getting weaker and weaker. However, just as her condition became so critical that nothing more could be done but wait for death to come, the fragrance of the teachings was sprinkled on him, with the result that he was admitted into Oyasama’s presence.
At that time Oyasama said: “You have an innen (causality) with God and God has drawn you to this Residence. You need not worry about your wife’s condition. I will save her in an instant, but in return, you must be willing to serve God.” (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 11, “God Has Drawn You to This Residence.”) It is said that Oyasama then told him to come to the Residence daily for the next three days.
Following Her words, Chushichi started his daily visits to the Residence. Even after the third day, however, his wife was showing no sign of recovery, so he almost lost heart. Yet he pulled himself together and visited the Residence on the fourth day as well. Then Oyasama said: “God has tended you in various ways to discern your mind. It is good that you came today without giving up. I will save her. You need not worry.” Sono, who had been suffering for about two years, was completely cured in just ten days.
Even after that, Chushichi continued to visit the Residence every day. He pledged to serve God in any way required of him as Oyasama began to explain to him such teachings as the ten aspects of God’s providence and the truth of causality. As he gradually came to understand the path of Her hardships, he started bringing one sho (1.5 kg or 3.3 lb.) of white rice in a red sack whenever he returned to the Residence.
At one point, his wife and daughter suggested to him that God might be happier if he offered a five-to sack of rice (weighing 75 kg or 163 lb.) instead of just one sho at a time. Nevertheless, he continued his daily visits bringing one sho of white rice with him because Oyasama had told him, “It is good of you to come to the Residence every single day.” I think this teaches the importance of doing whatever we can each day as followers, however limited, to connect our mind with the Parent.
He Placed Top Priority on Oyasama Even If Ridiculed by Others
There is an anecdote that shows the extent to which Chushichi placed top priority on Oyasama.
It is said that in January 1865, the year after Chushichi had embraced the faith, the Yamanaka family spent a very frugal New Year’s Day in the aftermath of the Oyamato Shrine incident. It is also said, however, that Chushichi insisted to his family members that, compared with the situation in January of the previous year when his wife had been in critical condition, they were very fortunate to be all in good health, no matter how tough things might be financially, and that they should offer mochi rice cakes to Oyasama before they ate any because She was undergoing greater hardships than they were.
There is another episode. Villagers must have thought that Chushichi had absolutely no common sense according to the social standards of those days because he visited the Residence every day, leaving his family’s farm work to other people. It is said that the villagers ridiculed him, saying: “He has been possessed by a fox or a raccoon. His family is finished.” Apparently, this made him very sad. It is also said that one day the villagers openly sneered at him during a festival at the village shrine, saying, “In the neighboring villages there is no one who is more foolish than him.”
Chushichi, who ordinarily would not have cared whatever others might say, appears to have taken this quite hard. He did not feel like returning to Jiba on that day and, instead, he went out to the fields with a hoe over his shoulder. When he tried to raise the hoe to start the farm work, however, he could not get his body to do what he wanted at all. He immediately apologized, and then he was able to move his body again. It is said that he went home with the hoe over his shoulder, pulled himself together, and walked back to Jiba.
Chushichi’s human thoughts sometimes got the better of him even though Oyasama had directly given him various teachings, which seem to have firmly settled in his mind. I sense his humanity in this respect.
At every stage, Oyasama was guiding Chushichi patiently. On August 19, 1865, by the lunar calendar, She came to his house and stayed there until the 25th. That is when Chushichi was granted the Sazuke of Fertilizer. (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 12.) Oyasama bestowed it on him out of Her deep parental love to ensure that he would not have to worry about his family business while engaging in God’s work. Moreover, in the following year he was also granted a treasure referred to as “seeds of eternity.” (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 15.)
Oyasama Repeatedly Said, “That’s All to the Good.”
It is recorded that in 1868, when the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter took place, heavy rain frequently caused floods in various regions in the rainy season. It is said that the Kizu River overflowed its banks in the Yamashiro region (the south part of what is now Kyoto Prefecture), which was adjacent to the Yamato region, resulting in extensive damage.
A landslide occurred on Chushichi’s mountain property, and his rice fields were covered in mud and debris. Why did the misfortune happen despite his efforts to follow the path? Those of us who are living in this day and age may also encounter this kind of natural disaster.
When Chushichi came to the Residence to ask Oyasama for guidance, She never mentioned anything about his state of mind or conduct. Instead, She said: “[T]hat’s all to the good. That’s all to the good. Now that your goods have been carried away to the bottom of the sea, it will come to good in the future.”
I have no way of knowing how he initially took the phrase “That’s all to the good.” I imagine, however, that Chushichi accepted the situation as “all to the good” because Oyasama, whom he adored as God, had repeatedly said, “That’s all to the good.” I also think that trying to deepen his pondering based on what he had been taught by Oyasama until then ultimately enabled him to settle it in his mind that what had happened was indeed “all to the good.”
I think that Oyasama’s words in the anecdote teach us an essential point on how we should accept a “knot,” or a challenging situation, when we encounter one in our life.
Could it be that the damage to Chushichi’s property and fields was something inevitable in his life? It is not that he experienced the hardship despite his faith. Rather, he might have suffered much greater damage had it not been for his faith. It is possible to understand that he had everything to be grateful for, because it was only his property and fields that were damaged.
Furthermore, we can also interpret the phrase “your goods have been carried away to the bottom of the sea” to mean that nothing so serious will ever happen again and that Oyasama wants to teach us the importance of finding joy in any situation, trusting that a great misfortune must have been changed into a small misfortune.
Knots in life are indeed trying situations. In reality, however, knots are filled with God the Parent’s deep and warm parental love. Wholeheartedly believing this to be true, we should try to discover the blessings and delight in the knots, practice joyous acceptance, and follow the path of repaying our indebtedness to God even more earnestly. These efforts will help deepen our faith even further. This is the way we can make the best of the knots.
I think that this anecdote tells us of God the Parent’s warm parental love, which underlies whatever is happening to us.
Bamboo does not break easily thanks to its knots. Likewise, our faith becomes stronger and more resilient if we face knots every now and then. As Oyasama teaches in Her Divine Model, we would do well to continue following the path without becoming discouraged in any situation that may arise, trusting Her words “That will come to good in the future.”
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company