The Anecdote (Summary)
On the morning of the tenth day of Oyasama’s visit to the Matsuo residence in July 1872—when Ichibei and his wife went to Oyasama’s room to extend their greetings—Oyasama asked, “Would you like to have God enshrined?”
Ichibei replied, “Where would the best place be?” “Over there,” Oyasama said, pointing Her finger to where the Buddhist altar was.
It was so unexpected, like a bolt out of the blue, that Ichibei and his wife were speechless, thinking of their ancestors enshrined in the Buddhist altar. The couple exchanged glances and silently nodded their heads in agreement. Ichibei asked, “Then where shall the Buddhist altar be moved?” Oyasama said: “The ancestors will not be angry, nor will they oppose the move. Set it in a similar place in the other room.”
On the morning of the thirteenth day, Ichibei and his wife found Oyasama sitting silently before the newly completed altar. When they greeted Her, She said: “You did well. This will be fine, this will be fine.” Then She went to the sickroom of their eldest son, Narazo, who was unable to move from his bed. As Oyasama sat beside him, She said: “Your head must itch.” She took Her own comb and began to comb Narazo’s hair slowly.
Oyasama said as She returned to Her room, “Today is a nice day, a happy day, because today God is to be enshrined.” She smiled happily.
After the enshrinement was completed, Oyasama was overjoyed, saying: “God is going to be here also from today. How happy! This is truly wonderful.” Then She returned to the Residence.
The Significance of Enshrining God in Our Homes
by Noriyoshi Matsuo, Head Minister of Heian Grand Church
There have been several routes connecting Osaka and Nara since ancient times. One always needs to go over a pass no matter what route one may take. Among those passes is one called the Jusan Pass. Crossing the pass from Osaka, one walks down the path and reaches Higashi-Wakai Village (now a section of Ikoma-gun known as Wakai, Heguri-cho). The Matsuo family was engaged in farm work in that village.
In the Matsuo family, the eldest sons had been unable to take over as the head of the family for successive generations. Therefore, the Matsuos decided to adopt an heir to marry their eldest daughter, Haru. The person who was chosen as the candidate was Ichisaburo (later renamed Ichibei), the eldest son of Kichihei Noguchi, who lived in Shiraishibata Village, which is located three kilometers (1.9 mi.) from the Matsuo residence. Thus, Ichibei married into the Matsuo family on May 10, 1857, when he was twenty-two years old.
He Embraced the Faith Because His Wife Suffered from Postnatal Complications
Ichibei and Haru were blessed with two sons and one daughter. Haru’s third delivery, which took place in January 1866, was difficult, and she suffered from worsening postnatal complications. She had a high fever, and the swelling of her body would not subside easily.
In May her doctor finally described her condition as hopeless. Just around that time a merchant called Nakao, who came to visit the Matsuos, said, “I have heard that there is a living God in Shoyashiki Village who can miraculously cure any difficult childbirth-related complications.” Worrying that her condition required immediate attention, Ichibei ran the distance of sixteen kilometers (9.9 mi.) to Shoyashiki Village.
Ichibei was granted an audience with Oyasama and explained the situation to Her. She replied: “It is as if you have brought her fever here with you. Go home, and you will find that her fever has gone down. You need not worry. She will be cured soon. So it is good that you came, it is good that you came.” Handing a sacred gift (which was roasted barley powder called hattaiko) to him, She added: “Please have her take one dose of this when you arrive home, one dose tomorrow morning, and one more dose tomorrow evening. She will begin to make a gradual recovery.”
Ichibei ran back home. In fact Haru’s fever had started going down around the time he had gone off to the Residence, and it had subsided to the point where she could feel that the wet towel on her forehead was cold by the time he came home.
Haru took a portion of the sacred gift immediately and another the next morning. Then she felt well enough to eat some rice porridge.
Delighted at having received the vivid blessings, the couple visited the Residence, taking some red bean rice* and offerings with them. When they expressed their gratitude to Oyasama, She said: “Have you already come back to say thanks? It is guidance from God that brought Haru here with you today. This is good. Please come here once in a while!”
That is how Ichibei and his wife embraced the faith.
Oyasama Visited the Matsuos to Save Their Eldest Son
Ichibei was strong-minded by nature. In 1874, several years after he had embraced the faith, Oyasama said to Ichibei and Gisaburo Nakata, “Go to the Oyamato Shrine and ask about their deity.”
It is said that Ichibei vigorously argued with priests at the Oyamato Shrine. Gisaburo pulled the sleeve of Ichibei’s kimono garment to urge restraint. Yet Ichibei mistook it as encouragement so that he gained even further momentum.
Ichibei was such a bold man. On the other hand, he absolutely doted on his eldest son, Narazo. In fact, he doted on him so much that Haru wished that he would devote his attention to their other children in the same way.
Narazo, who loved studying and would sit at his desk all day long, often said: “I would like to go to Osaka or Kyoto to study in the future. I will let my younger brother be the head of the family.” Unfortunately, Narazo suffered from tuberculosis. His condition got worse, and he became confined to bed in 1872.
Ichibei and Haru visited the Residence in the hope of asking Oyasama to come to their house to save Narazo. At that time, however, She was observing a fast, so the intermediaries at the Residence, worried about Her condition, declined their request.
Although they returned home, they could not help wanting Narazo to receive even just a word from Oyasama and requested Her help again. Then She said, “I cannot say how things will turn out, but I shall go and see him.”
Thus, Oyasama proceeded to the Matsuo home to do salvation work. Then on the morning of the tenth day of Her stay, She said, “Would you like to have God enshrined?”
There had been a series of events before these words were spoken.
Oyasama arrived at the Matsuo home on July 2. In spite of fasting, She had briskly walked the distance of about sixteen kilometers (9.9 mi.).
Ichibei and Haru, worried about Oyasama’s health, prepared a hearty meal and offered it to Her. Yet She said, “I am now fasting in accordance with God’s will.” In fact, although Haru scooped up some rice with a pair of chopsticks and tried to serve Her twice, she ended up dropping the rice both times. (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 25, “Seventy-Five Days of Fasting.”)
The followers in those days surely believed that Oyasama was a living God. Even so, they must have been very worried about Oyasama, who had not eaten any meals. In response to their concerns, Oyasama clearly demonstrated that it was God who was having Her fast.
On the second day of Oyasama’s stay, Narazo felt better and went to Her room to extend his greetings. At that time She asked him, “Narazo, which do you think is more important, your body or learning?”
He replied: “My body. However, learning is also important.” Then Oyasama taught him: “Taking good care of your body is the first step for filial piety. Please bring comfort and relief to your parents.”
Visiting Narazo’s room four times on the seventh, ninth, twelfth, and thirteenth day, Oyasama combed his hair and instructed him further on each occasion.
In addition, one morning when Ichibei and Haru went to Oyasama’s room to offer their greetings, She taught them, “God desires people to have a mind like cotton.” It is said that thereafter they wore nothing but cotton throughout their lives. (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 26, “The Story of Linen, Silk and Cotton.”)
At that moment Ichibei and Haru must have made up their minds to completely rely on God and devote themselves exclusively to Oyasama. In fact, they readily accepted the instructions of Oyasama, who told them to enshrine God in the place occupied by the Buddhist altar dedicated to their ancestors. In those days people believed that their successive ancestors had been protecting the household. Therefore, it would have been considered utterly unacceptable for them to move the Buddhist altar to another place.
A Life with God as the Dependable Guide
During the thirteen days of Oyasama’s stay, Narazo received wondrous blessings. His health gradually improved to the point where, in the following year, he could help with the farm work. Nevertheless, he caught a bad cold and passed away for rebirth on July 15, 1874.
Looking back, we remember that, when Ichibei and Haru asked Oyasama to save their eldest son, She said, “I cannot say how things will turn out, but I will go and see him.”
Oyasama may have known that Narazo could not be saved. Therefore, I think that, having carefully explained the teachings to them until they could settle their minds in single-heartedness with God, She led them to enshrine God, who would become the dependable guide for their life of faith.
Responding to the parental love of Oyasama, Ichibei and Haru made a major shift to a life centered on God after enshrining God in their home.
The passing away for rebirth of Narazo was indeed distressing and sad to Ichibei and Haru. After experiencing that great misfortune, however, their faith deepened even further, and they came to visit the Residence more frequently.
Living as we do in this day and age, we tend to get swayed by the current of the times and lose sight of a way of living based on the faith.
However, we can prevent ourselves from being swayed by the current of the times if we lead our lives face to face with God each day.
Enshrining God in our home as Ichibei and Haru did will mean transforming our life into one that has God as the dependable guide. As we lead our lives centered on God, praying to God every morning and every evening, we will be able to develop a way of thinking and behaving that is single-hearted with God.
That is to say, the day when we have God enshrined in our home marks a significant milestone where we change from a life based on our human thinking to one based on the faith that is single-hearted with God.
When Yoboku enshrine God in their own homes, the everliving Oyasama must be overjoyed, saying: “How happy! This is truly wonderful!”
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company
* Festive rice dish usually prepared on celebratory occasions.