(English) Insights into the Anecdotes: Yahei Nishiura (1844–1899), Anecdote 39: “Much Better”

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The Anecdote (Summary)

 

In 1874 Narazo, the eldest son of Yahei Nishiura, was saved from diphtheria. Thereafter, Yahei followed the faith earnestly.

After coming home from the Residence one day, Yahei went to bed late at night. Around midnight, he heard a noise from under the floor. Thinking, “This is strange!” he quietly got up and looked around the house. Suddenly, he heard an exclamation, “Ah!” and saw a man run off into the night. He left behind a large bundle of precious items he was trying to steal from Yahei’s home.

Yahei was very happy. The next morning he promptly visited the Residence and thanked Oyasama from the bottom of his heart, saying: “Because of Your blessing, it turned out very well for me. Thank you.” Whereupon, Oyasama replied, “Would it not be much better to give to those in need?”

It is said that these words made a deep impression on Yahei’s mind.

 

Parental Heart That “Rejoices at Giving”

by Tadakazu Nishiura, Honbu-in

 

Yahei was born in 1844 in Sonowara, Yamabe County (now a section of Tenri City known as Sonohara-cho), located two kilometers (1.2 mi.) to the southeast of the Residence. It was a small village with a dozen households, situated along Yamanobe-no-michi, which is said to be “the oldest road in Japan.” The Nishiura family was a well-to-do farming household.

When Yahei was ten years old, his father, Genzaburo, passed away for rebirth. Yahei looked after his younger sister and two younger brothers very well in his father’s place as the eldest son and showed his utmost filial piety to his mother. When he was twelve or thirteen years of age, he was already attending village gatherings as the family head.

By the age of thirty-one, he had become so trusted by the villagers due to his integrity that he was selected as the village head in 1874.

 

“Come Whenever You Can!”

It was during that time that Yahei embraced the faith. His two-year-old son, Narazo, suffered from diphtheria, and his condition worsened to the point where the doctor pronounced him hopeless.

Yahei was so desperate for his son to be saved that he arranged for an incantation to be performed at the house of Saichiro Murata, who lived in the same village. He was then told that a deity was demanding his faith if he desired to have his child saved.

Yahei had always been religious by nature, so he was somewhat taken aback by this message. While wondering what kind of god he should believe in and what practices he should perform, he heard from Koyo, Saichiro’s wife, about the “living God in Shoyashiki Village.” Koyo originally came from Furu Village (now a section of Tenri City known as Furu-cho), located near the Residence, and had been saved from a backache.

At Yahei’s request, Koyo visited the Residence and asked for help with Narazo’s illness. Gisaburo Nakata then came to save Narazo and conveyed the teachings.

After Gisaburo’s visit, Narazo started recovering little by little. It is said that the villagers, who were already thinking about his funeral, were startled to see the vivid blessing with their own eyes.

Yahei later visited the Residence, carrying on his back his son who had recovered, and expressed thanks to Oyasama. He said later: “It was the very first time I had met Her. I felt, however, as if She completely understood everything that was on my mind when I sat in front of Her so that my worries and concerns had all disappeared.”

Oyasama stroked Narazo’s head, immensely pleased with his return from the verge of death. Then regarding the flat feet that he had been born with, She said: “I shall receive him when he becomes twenty years old. Make sure that he does not take any wrong steps!”

It is said that after Yahei embraced the faith, he visited the Residence every day early in the morning while it was still dark, in the afternoon after finishing up his field work a little early, and even at night, faithfully following Oyasama’s words “Come whenever you can!”

At the Residence, he listened to Oyasama and was shown the Mikagura-uta (The Songs for the Service) as well as the Ofudesaki, which Oyasama was writing at that time. As a means of remembering what he had been taught by Oyasama, he would tie strings around his fingers, saying, “The forefinger is for this teaching, and the middle finder for that one. . . .” He then wrote them down as soon as he returned home. In the summer, when his house was plagued by mosquitoes, he covered his entire body with a kimono to prevent mosquito bites and, perspiring profusely, wrote down from memory the verses that he had been taught.

 

Total Dedication to “Limitless Kindness”

The anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter took place in 1874, when Yahei, who had just embraced the faith, often visited the Residence.

Although a thief broke into Yahei’s house around midnight, nothing was stolen. He was very pleased and thought that it was thanks to his faith. He visited the Residence at dawn and thanked Oyasama. Then, She said, “Would it not be much better to give to those in need?”

Yahei must have found it hard to believe his ears when he heard those words. Upon reflection, however, he must have become painfully aware of his narrow-mindedness and immaturity in comparison with Oyasama’s huge parental love and bowed in reverence.

After this event Yahei’s attitude to the faith changed dramatically. He began to exert his true sincerity behind the scenes. When there was an outbreak of cholera in Tanbaichi (now a section of Tenri City known as Tanbaichi-cho), he distributed firewood at night to houses under quarantine.

To give another example, one day on his way to Nara to order a new haori jacket for himself, he encountered a person whose cart had got stuck in the mud. Yahei used the money he had brought for the haori to buy a load of straw from a neighboring farm and placed it on the mud to help get the cart out.

In 1887, when Izo Iburi was in the process of being settled as the Honseki after Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, Yahei earnestly prayed for him in front of the Kanrodai every night as he was deeply worried about Izo, who was ill and was getting weaker day by day. Subsequently, Yahei became the first person to receive the truth of the Sazuke through the Honseki.

Yahei later received a Divine Direction that said, “The merit accumulated behind the scenes has certainly been accepted” (Osashizu, February 27, 1899). He spent the last half of his life accumulating virtue behind the scenes with limitless kindness in mind.

It is not hard to imagine that what had made him change his way of living was Oyasama’s words “Would it not be much better to give to those in need?”

Meanwhile, Narazo, who had been saved from the brink of death, had been busy with field work, even though Oyasama had said, “Make sure that he does not take any wrong steps!” He passed away for rebirth at the age of twenty-five in June 1897.

Faced with this significant knot, Yahei cried in despair and apologized sincerely, saying, “We have brought Oyasama’s instruction to naught.” He then resolved to work exclusively for the path and started living in the Residence the following year in order to sow seeds of sincerity for the rest of his life.

 

Moving from a Child’s Mind to a Parent’s Mind

Living in this day and age, we may find it difficult to grasp the essence contained in the anecdote “Much Better” after reading it only once.

Recent years have seen a series of scandals of greed and self-interest—such as a company’s illegal sale of rice that it knew was contaminated and a number of cases of fraudulent labeling of food products. Almost every day the media has also been reporting brutal cases such as those involving indiscriminate murderers and child-killing parents. What is taught in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter seems diametrically opposed to the reality of modern society and almost impossible for us to implement. However, this is all the more reason why the anecdote gives us Yoboku an important insight into how to lead our lives.

The anecdote cannot be completely understood by a selfish mind. At first, Yahei was very pleased not to have had his precious items stolen by a thief and thought that Oyasama would be delighted to hear about it, too. However, he reflected deeply and humbly on himself after hearing Oyasama say, “Would it not be much better to give to those in need?” I think he realized that to rejoice in avoiding misfortune amounted to a faith that merely consisted in praying for divine favors for oneself. It is said that on his way back home Yahei said to himself with total conviction: “Oyasama is indeed God—the Parent of all human beings. Yes indeed. Yes indeed!”

Oyasama is always thinking of world salvation and the salvation of all humankind. She taught us that all things in this world—including not only money and material things but even our body and our life—are provided and lent by God, so they have never belonged to us. Oyasama taught us that it is of prime importance to become aware of this great blessing and that it is this broad, open awareness that will allow us to engage in salvation work as true Yoboku.

Spiritual growth is the process of nearing the intention of the Parent. A child feels happy when given something, while a parent finds joy in giving. If we put this in the context of our faith, the former refers to a mind that rejoices at being saved, and the latter a mind that rejoices at having others saved.

It can be said that the first step to take toward spiritual growth is to make a dramatic change from a mind that “desires to be saved” to one that “desires to save others,” just as Yahei changed his way of living after he received Oyasama’s words.

This, I think, is the essence of Oyasama’s message that was taught in our anecdote.

From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company

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