Once Oyasama took a grain of unhulled rice in Her hand and showed it to Izo Iburi, saying: “The same is true with a human being. You sow a grain of sincerity, and it multiplies to two or three hundred grains in a year, ten thousand in the second year. Ten thousandfold, as we call it. It will be enough for sowing all over the province of Yamato in the third year.”
A Life That Left Behind a “Grain of Sincerity”
by Chikara Iburi, Honbu-jun’in
Izo was born in 1833 in Mukoji Village (now a section of Uda City known as Muro Mukoji), located approximately twenty kilometers (12.4 mi.) to the southeast of Jiba. He was the fourth son of Bunyemon Iburi and his wife, Rei.
Izo demonstrated an interest in carpentry from an early age and began his apprenticeship at the age of fourteen. Several years later, he left his home for Ichinomoto Village (now a section of Tenri City known as Ichinomoto-cho) to work under his cousin’s husband, a master carpenter who went by the name “Itaman.”
His First Two Marriages Were Unhappy
In Ichinomoto Village, Izo worked hard to develop his carpentry skills, and he had a steadily increasing flow of work as time went by. He was such a cheerful and honest person by nature that the villagers became fond of him. However, Izo’s early married life seems to have been plagued by a series of troubles. His first wife, whom he married at the age of twenty-four, passed away from complications after her first delivery, and their child also passed away at the age of two.
He married again at someone’s recommendation. His new wife, however, did not do any housework at all. Instead, she started to gamble. When she ended up getting them into debt, he could not help but divorce her.
Izo felt he had had enough of married life. He was content to live a single life with his apprentices. Yet his fellow villagers could not allow “the most honest man in Ichinomoto” to remain unmarried for very long. Sometime later, he married for the third time. His wife was Osato, who would later follow the path with him.
His Wife Was Saved by Oyasama
In 1864, when Osato’s pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, she suffered from complications and was confined to bed.
Given that he had lost his first wife because of post-birth complications, how worried he must have been over Osato’s condition! It was around that time that he visited the Residence for the first time, as recommended by an acquaintance.
Oyasama was delighted and said, “I have been waiting, I have been waiting.” Izo received sanyaku through Kokan. Immediately after coming home, he had Osato partake of a portion of sanyaku. She was able to make such a remarkable recovery that she could sit up to take her meals by leaning on something on the third day.
Overjoyed at the vivid blessings, Izo and his wife talked about how to express their gratitude, and the idea of donating a shrine came to them. They returned to the Residence and conveyed the idea to Oyasama. She replied: “There is no need for a shrine. Start building something small.” Then they consulted with others who were present at the Residence. This led to the start of the construction of the “Place for the Service,” which was the first construction in Tenrikyo history.
The construction progressed in a bright and spirited atmosphere. Yet they faced the “knot of the Oyamato Shrine” after the ridge-beam was laid to complete the framework. An overview of the incident is as follows.
When Chushichi Yamanaka asked Oyasama for permission to invite the followers involved in the construction to his home to celebrate the raising of the beam of the Place for the Service, She said, “Be sure to pay your respects at the shrine when you pass it on your way.”
On the way the party including Izo came in front of the Oyamato Shrine, where, based on Oyasama’s instructions, they beat their percussion instruments with all their might, chanting loudly, “Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.”
On that day an important prayer was being conducted at the shrine by Moriya Chikuzen-no-kami, the superintendent of the Shinto priests in Yamato Province. Izo and the others were detained for three days for questioning over allegations that they had disturbed the prayer.
This incident had a huge impact on people who had been gathering at the Residence. Those who were new to the faith felt uneasy and kept away from the Residence, which resulted in bringing the construction to a temporary standstill.
Izo promised Shuji and Kokan, who were worried about the situation, that he would do whatever it took to complete the construction. He may have felt that this was his responsibility, for it was he who had proposed the construction. I think, however, that what motivated him the most to continue the work was his desire to make repayment for having his wife saved. It is said that throughout his life Izo would often say, “Oyasama saved Osato’s life when everything seemed hopeless.”
Even after the Place for the Service was completed, he continued visiting the Residence and strove to do hinokishin although he worked as a carpenter for eighteen more years until 1882, when he and his eldest daughter moved into the Residence, thus joining the rest of his family, who had moved there six months earlier.
The anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter took place at a time when the worried followers were keeping away from the Residence in the aftermath of the incident at the Oyamato Shrine. As Izo continued working at the Residence single-heartedly despite this situation, Oyasama gave him the instruction recorded in the anecdote.
To Izo, who was in a difficult, lonesome situation, Oyasama said: “You sow a grain of sincerity, . . . It will be enough for sowing all over the province of Yamato in the third year.” These words must have provided great assurance, making him feel that true joy lay ahead.
In our own lives, we may also face an unexpected knot of difficulty. On such an occasion, we might let it stop our progress in the faith, wondering, “Why do I have to face this trouble when I am following the path?”
The 1864 incident at the Oyamato Shrine was a big knot for the followers in those days. Izo, however, never forgot his indebtedness to Oyasama for saving his wife. He completely trusted Oyasama and continued sowing seeds of sincerity single-heartedly.
The seeds of sincerity steadily sprouted. In 1866 Izo and his wife were blessed with their eldest daughter, Yoshie, and in subsequent years three more children: their eldest son, Masajiro (who passed away at the age of five), their second daughter, Masae, and their second son, Masajin. Although they were not well-to-do, Izo must have recognized God’s blessings in the fact that his family was not only increasing in size but was also able to live in high spirits, compared with the situation before he embraced the faith. I think that this is why he continued visiting the Residence joyously and spiritedly with his mind focused on making repayment for the blessings.
In what concrete ways did Izo actually sow the seeds of sincerity? We can gain some idea by considering the many things Oyasama taught him.
Once Oyasama said: “This is a path to accumulate merit without being seen by others. No matter how hard you may work while others are watching, God cannot accept it if you cut corners when no one is watching or speak ill of others behind their backs.” Izo obediently accepted these words and, if he happened to see a bridge or a road in need of repair on the way to or back from the Residence, he took the time to fix it without being noticed by others. Thus, he always kept in mind what Oyasama had taught him and consistently implemented it.
Later Izo said: “Acts of merit that are done behind the scenes are small things. The attitude of thinking about the future and thinking of others may seem insignificant but will help you accumulate merit behind the scenes and bring joy to God.” A good action that is done behind the scenes does not bring any recognition or reward. Nevertheless, an unselfish action is filled with true sincerity, which is what is accepted by God the Parent.
In another anecdote, which took place around the same time as the anecdote appearing at the beginning of the chapter, Oyasama placed three unhulled grains of rice in Izo’s hand one at a time, while saying, “This is early rising, this is honesty and this is work.” Then, She continued: “Hold these three firmly in your hand. You must try not to lose them.” (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 29, “Three Treasures.”) Izo adhered to this teaching for the rest of his life as he continued sowing seeds of sincerity diligently.
I think that the teaching of “early rising, honesty, and work” tells us the basics of how to live as humans. It teaches the cornerstone of a way of living based on the teachings, which one can implement depending only on one’s state of mind, regardless of one’s position or circumstances.
The practice of faith in the path is not limited to certain times or places. Neither can it be separated from our daily lives. It would be no exaggeration to say that the faith is indeed our “way of living.” In other words, always making a point of implementing the teachings in every aspect of our daily lives is our mission as Yoboku, and this should be our way of living.
Thus, when we consistently dedicate ourselves to our daily practice of faith and become Yoboku considered trustworthy by God the Parent and Oyasama, we will be able to receive wonderful blessings.
There are many anecdotes associated with Izo in which Oyasama taught how to live as a human being and a Yoboku. Thus, the life of Izo, who faithfully implemented the teachings, can itself be considered as a “grain of sincerity” that was left behind for those of us who follow the path toward the Joyous Life today.
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company
1. Sanyaku literally means a powdered medicine. However, this was not a medicine but the sweetened and parched barley flour that had been offered to God. Because of its similarity in appearance to ordinary medicine, it was called sanyaku in those days.