One day Oyasama visited the home of Gisaburo Nakata in Toyoda Village. Oyasama hummed as She walked around the house: “Step in firmly. Step down firmly. Step down firmly to eternity.”
After that, Oyasama told Nakata: “God has entered this residence and hardened the ground. Never let go of this property, no matter how poor you become. Continue your faith to eternity.”
Years later during the time of Gisaburo’s grandson, Kichizo, a portion of the land was to be exchanged at the village’s request. When the final approval was to be made, a boil suddenly appeared on Kichizo’s face and it became swollen. The family members were astonished and they tried to discover the cause through self-reflection and consultation. Whereupon, the elders* of the family told them how the ground had been hardened by Oyasama Herself. They immediately apologized to God the Parent and sent a formal notice to the village, withdrawing the exchange offer. When this was done the illness was completely cured.
*By “elders” was meant Shiho Nakata and her youngest sister, Katsu Uyeshima. Shiho was the wife of Gisaburo’s eldest son.
Sowing Seeds of True Sincerity That Will Last through All Generations
by Zensuke Nakata, Honbu-in and
Head Minister of Senkyo Branch Church
Gisaburo Nakata was thirty-three years of age when he embraced the faith in 1863, which was twenty-five years after the Teaching was founded. The reason for doing so was that his wife, Kaji, was saved by Oyasama from post-partum complications. The couple never forgot their indebtedness and served Oyasama single-heartedly for their whole life.
In the early 1860s, the Grant of Safe Childbirth had started to open the path to all miracles of salvation, and people in the neighboring villages began coming to Oyasama to ask for wondrous salvation. Gisaburo was one of these early followers.
Joyous at All Times
Gisaburo was born in 1831 in Toyoda Village (now a section of Tenri City known as Toyoda-cho), which was due north of Shoyashiki Village. Although his name was Saemon when he embraced the faith, he changed his name to Gisaburo after the Meiji Period began. It is said that Oyasama endearingly called him “Sayomi-san.”
Toyoda Village was a ten-minute walk from the Residence. Gisaburo always visited Oyasama bringing his lunch and often stayed at the Residence all day. He received the truth of the Sazuke of the Fan, the Sazuke of the Gohei, and the Sazuke of Fertilizer in the year after he had begun to follow the path. This leads me to assume that he devoted himself to the faith from the beginning. From 1867 he was taught the hand movements for the Service directly by Oyasama and, after that, he instructed others in them on various occasions.
It is said that he was an honest and humble person who was always joyous. It is also said that he was good at reciting gidayu plays and entertained people by impersonating women.
An important event took place in 1874. One day Oyasama said to Gisaburo Nakata and Ichibei Matsuo, “Go to the Oyamato Shrine and ask about their deity.” So the two followers visited the Oyamato Shrine and engaged the priests in a discussion.
This triggered a series of incidents, including Oyasama being ordered to appear at the Yamamura Palace (Ensho Temple). This is called the “knot of the Yamamura Palace.” Starting in this period, the authorities strengthened their surveillance over the Residence year by year.
Gisaburo had obediently followed Oyasama’s instruction to visit the Oyamato Shrine. However, that visit led to a significant incident that caused trouble for Oyasama. He must have felt considerable inner conflict. Nevertheless, deep down he strongly believed that a wonderful path lay ahead and that he only needed to follow Oyasama’s teachings exactly as She taught them without worrying about the future.
Gisaburo was also thoroughly dedicated to the “Service” and the “Sazuke,” both of which were taught by Oyasama. In addition to conveying the teachings to people who returned to the Residence, he often went to various regions in Yamato and Osaka for salvation work. It is said that on those occasions he stayed at each place for several days, during which he would perform a prayer service several times a day as well as convey the teachings and give instruction in the service dance to those who gathered.
Staying Always by Oyasama’s Side
In The Life of Oyasama, we find Gisaburo’s name mentioned in relation to a number of key events, such as constructing the Place for the Service, receiving the kagura masks, and identifying the location of Jiba—events that were crucial to Oyasama’s work of revealing the ultimate teaching. He also often accompanied Oyasama when She went through the hardship of detention in police custody or prison.
I imagine that Gisaburo was involved in a number of important events in Tenrikyo history not because he was chosen by Oyasama as such but because he happened to be by Her side as he always served at the Residence and was around Her. He probably believed that, for him, the main task was to be always near Oyasama and that he could only be useful to Her if he served at the Residence. This also enabled him, I think, to listen directly to Oyasama when She imparted Her teachings as the occasion arose.
One such occasion is recorded in Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 138, “You Must Treasure Things.” When Gisaburo stayed with Oyasama in prison, She made twisted paper strings out of scraps of writing paper and wove them into a string bag. When they were released, She gave it to him, saying: “You must treasure things. You must make good use of everything. Everything is a gift from God.”
I think that his greatest joy was to be by Oyasama’s side and listen to Her teach. Surely, he completely trusted in Her, secure in the thought that, so long as he was with Her, he had nothing to worry about even in prison and would certainly be guided in the right direction. That is surely what enabled him to perform so many tasks for Her in his life.
Gisaburo accompanied Oyasama during Her last hardship in January 1886. It is said that the winter was the coldest in thirty years. Having injured his health in prison, he passed away for rebirth in June that year at the age of fifty-six. On that occasion, Oyasama is said to have remarked, “Even though I had looked upon him as fine brocade. . . .”
The way Gisaburo sowed seeds of true sincerity is not only extremely precious and reassuring to those of us who are his descendants but also a major goal of our faith.
Strengthening the Faith of the Family
It is uncertain when the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter took place. It is, however, literally a “treasure” for the Nakata family, whose faith is to last through all generations.
There is another story that took place some time after the anecdote. Kichizo’s son Takezo engaged in missionary work on the Korean Peninsula and received permission to establish Senkyo Senkyosho (now known as Senkyo Branch Church) in Seoul. However, it was forced to close down because of the war. Later, the Nakata family tried to reestablish the church in Japan. Since their house was located near Jiba, they were looking for a possible site in the Nara area.
Then the second Shinbashira, Shozen Nakayama, said: “Although it is true that the Nakata residence is located near Jiba, it has always been there since the early days. So why don’t you reestablish the church there?” The family members were delighted with his words. It is said that they were also greatly moved by his parental love, recalling Oyasama’s words “Continue your faith to eternity.”
This is just my personal interpretation, but I believe that “Step in firmly. . . . Step down firmly to eternity” can be understood as “Work hard to sow the seeds of sincerity.” In other words, the phrase means, I think, to lay the foundation for the future.
A family’s land that is handed down from generation to generation is to serve as the foundation for the family through all generations while the house that is built on the land is to be rebuilt as time goes by. Similarly, the foundation of unshakable faith continues to be of prime importance, even though time goes by and family members change through the generations. I think that working hard to sow seeds of sincerity is what will allow the foundation of faith to continue through eternity. Oyasama might have been teaching the significance of sowing the seeds of sincerity with the words “Step in firmly.”
This path, which leads to the Joyous Life, requires ensuring that the effort to convey and spread the teachings continues through all generations. To do so, we should create the firm foundation of faith at home to enable the path to be passed down from generation to generation.
Having been adopted into the Nakata family, I have no blood relationship with my parents-in-law or, needless to say, my wife. However, I partake of the faith of the Nakata family and pass it on to our children. Those who are connected to the household have strong bonds that go beyond blood relationships and are following the path with unshakable faith.
A family is the deepest human relationship because it is bonded and arranged through the causality from previous lives that is governed by God the Parent. A family—whether it is built on blood relationships or not—can live joyously and harmoniously day by day if it is built on a steady underlying faith. At the present time, when various family troubles are occurring, families with faith have a mission to reflect their joy and harmony to society.
We Yoboku have an important role in our respective times in the process of passing down our family faith from generation to generation—a role that I take to heart. I would like to “step in firmly” to lay the foundation of faith in order to ensure that this path continues through eternity.
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company