The Anecdote (Summary)
In December 1878, Togoro, father of Toshiro Yamamoto of Kasa Village in Yamato, came down with a serious eye disease. The father’s condition gradually grew more serious and became untreatable. Even incantations proved to be ineffective. Toshiro, having no other course opened to him, was in a state of deep despair when he heard from an acquaintance, “In Shoyashiki there is a god who saves people from illness.”
Toshiro’s only thought was to have his father get well at any cost. Because of weakness from the long illness and the eye disease, it was difficult for his father to walk. Therefore, Toshiro carried him on his back and walked about twelve kilometers of mountainous road. Thus he returned to Jiba for the first time.
They were received by Oyasama, who spoke these words: “Welcome home! Soon he will be saved. Out of respect for your devotion to your father, he will be saved.”
They lodged at a house in Shoyashiki Village for a little over a month, during which time they worshiped at Jiba day and night and listened to the teachings conveyed by the intermediaries. The father, even with such a serious illness, received the divine providence and finally recovered completely.
In the summer of 1880, Toshiro’s wife, Shiyu, was cured of a stomach ailment and then Kozaburo, their second son, from convulsions; Toshiro continued to follow the faith more fervently.
Also, one autumn when he returned to pray for the salvation of a sick person to whom he had conveyed the teachings, Oyasama said: “Yamamoto from Kasa, how faithfully you always come to worship! About the illness there is no need to worry.” Upon receiving these words of Oyasama he returned home and found that the sick person had already been cured.
As he continued his devotion in this way, he came to know Chuzaburo Koda quite well. Koda, who admired Yamamoto’s steadfast faith, spoke about it to Oyasama. The words of Oyasama were: “East from here, at the remote village of Kasa, there shall be worshipers from all directions. Go at once.”
Thereupon Koda went to Kasa Village with Chusaku Tsuji and conveyed these words of Oyasama to Yamamoto. Thus Yamamoto became all the more ardent about spreading the fragrance of the word of God and saving others.
Filial Piety Was His Top Priority in Life
by Michiro Yamamoto, Honbu-in &
Head Minister of Kaminogo Grand Church
Kasa Village (now a section of Sakurai City known as Kasa), where Toshiro Yamamoto was born and raised, was a remote village approximately twelve kilometers (7.5 mi.) to the south-east of Jiba. The area is now so famous for its “buckwheat noodles” that many people visit there by car especially on weekends and holidays. Yet it was an unfrequented village deep in the mountains when this anecdote took place.
The usual route to reach Kasa in the old days would pass by Hase Temple—a famous temple in Sakurai City—and cross over a high pass. The pass was so steep that horse saddles would easily slip off, and therefore it was called “Kuratori Toge” (a pass that takes saddles off). It was in this out-of-the-way area that Toshiro was born on September 4, 1850, the eldest son of his father, Togoro, and his mother, Mon.
Carrying His Sick Father on His Back
The Yamamotos were engaged in farm work and forestry on the family’s land that had been handed down from generation to generation. They faced a great knot of difficulty in 1878, when Toshiro’s father, Togoro, was struck with cerebral meningitis, which came suddenly and unexpectedly. This must have been a serious situation given the limited medical resources available and the remote location of their village.
Toshiro wanted his father to recover at any cost. He did not care what would happen to their family or himself so long as his father was saved. He sought help from a number of doctors and visited shrines and temples to offer prayers for his father’s recovery. Seemingly thanks to his efforts, his father began to improve. Soon, however, the father’s eyesight started failing, and the condition developed into a serious eye disease.
Subsequently, as we read in the anecdote presented above, in order to pray to the “living God in Shoyashiki Village,” of whom he had heard from an acquaintance, Toshiro returned to Jiba by walking along a twelve-kilometer (7.5 mi.) mountain path while carrying his frail father on his back.
When they arrived, Oyasama said to them: “Welcome home! Soon he will be saved. Out of respect for your devotion to your father, he will be saved.” About a month later his father’s eye disease was completely cured.
Toshiro, who loved his father, must have been overjoyed. Subsequently, he decided to embrace the faith, thinking that this was the path that he should do his utmost to follow. Then he started striving to save others so as to make repayment for the blessing of his father’s recovery.
Following the “Path of Accumulating Virtue without Being Seen by Others”
Oyasama often spoke gentle words to Toshiro. Whenever he returned to the Residence in order to pray for a sick person to whom he had conveyed the teachings, Oyasama said to him, “Yamamoto from Kasa, how faithfully you always come to worship!”
Touched by Oyasama’s warm parental love, Toshiro engaged in missionary activities even more fervently. Perhaps because he adored Oyasama as the Parent and became exclusively devoted to God, Oyasama said: “East from here, at the remote village of Kasa, there shall be worshipers from all directions. Go at once.” Years later, a lot of followers from far away walked over the steep pass to visit Kasa, located in the heart of the mountains.
Nurtured with Oyasama’s warm parental love, Toshiro dedicated himself to accumulating virtue without being seen by others. In this regard, the following brief story is worth including here. Oyasama’s first anniversary was conducted on January 26, 1888, by the lunar calendar. In the middle of the anniversary proceedings, however, police officers dispersed the worshipers—except Toshiro. Having returned to Jiba with several other followers, he had been cleaning the restrooms and weeding the yard as usual until the Service started. The officers might have considered him a servant. He was allowed to stay until the very end. Since he did not come home, the followers who had returned to Jiba with him were worried that he might have been taken to the police station. Yet he joyously came home late at night and said, “I was very grateful to be able to attend the Service.”
His efforts to build virtue without being seen by others continued into his later years. One day, taking along a young live-in trainee, Toshiro went to repair a road near Jiba. He did this late at night in the hope that they would not attract attention. Since Toshiro was wearing his happi coat inside out, the young trainee was curious and asked him the reason. It is said that Toshiro replied: “The moon is shining tonight. It is so bright that someone may notice me. Even if someone saw me, however, I would not be recognized with my happi coat inside out.”
A Divine Direction tells us: “Sah, sah, regarding the path of single-heartedness with God, there is a front and a back path. The back path is the path of sincerity. One thing, sah, sah, is that, as you dedicate yourself daily, sincerity is difficult to implement. The path in the shadow is hard to follow, while the front path is easy to follow” (Osashizu, May 21, 1888). In keeping with the message of this Divine Direction, Toshiro exerted his utmost sincerity to follow the “path of accumulating virtue without being seen by others” for his whole life.
A “Rope of Truth” Hung from Heaven
Having looked back at Toshiro’s spiritual journey described in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter, we can see that his conviction of faith was informed by “filial piety” and a “path of accumulating virtue without being seen by others.”
Toshiro began to follow the path for the sake of his father. However, his father, Togoro, who was the one who was saved from a serious illness, did not embrace the faith. Rather he was strongly against his son’s faith. Years later Toshiro said while pointing to his old injuries, “When I was going out to do salvation work, my father got very angry and often threw stones at me from behind.”
Since Toshiro loved and respected his parents, it would have been no wonder if he had obeyed his father and kept away from the path. Yet he did not. Instead, Toshiro always adored Oyasama and followed Her instructions to make repayment for God’s blessings with a deep sense of gratitude.
We read in a Divine Direction: “No matter how slow-witted one’s parents may be, the fact remains that children only exist because of their parents. No matter how intelligent the children may be, respecting their parents is a primary principle” (Osashizu, October 14, 1889).
Even though his father was opposed to his faith, Toshiro showed the utmost filial piety to his father and worked hard on the family farm during the daytime. After finishing work for the day, however, he engaged in salvation work, often walking rather long distances like twelve kilometers (7.5 mi.) or even twenty kilometers (12.4 mi.) to visit and help people. We can see that he was showing filial piety both to his father, his biological parent, and to God, the Parent of all humankind.
Later in his life Toshiro wrote, “Heaven pulls us up by a rope of truth.” When he desperately hoped to have his father saved, he exhausted all possible means that he could think of, such as relying on medical treatments and offering prayers at nearby shrines and temples. Yet his father’s condition gradually worsened. He was in a state of deep despair when he first visited the Residence, and Oyasama’s teachings must have seemed to him like a “rope of truth” hung from heaven.
Having become aware of the existence of God the Parent, who is the Parent of humankind, Toshiro must have resolved never to let go of the “rope of truth” while discarding common sense and human thinking. As he continued his practice of faith trusting totally in Oyasama’s teachings and placing top priority on filial piety, he must have begun to experience the genuine joy of faith. As a result, he followed the “path of accumulating virtue without being seen by others”—which is a path of true sincerity that may be hard to follow—in order to bring joy to God the Parent and Oyasama. I think that he embodied true filial piety, or devotion to one’s parents, of which Oyasama spoke.
In today’s society, strained parent-child relationships often lead to disastrous consequences, and family breakdown has long been a social issue. This situation has probably arisen from failure to respect one’s parents. I am concerned that even those of us followers of the path who know how important filial piety is may get swept along by the current of the times and that we may be insufficiently focused on the kind of faith that allows us to find joy in bringing joy to our parents as well as to God the Parent and Oyasama.
What do we hold dear now? Is it things like outward appearances and shallow human thoughts? Especially those of us who come from families that have been in the faith for a number of generations would do well, I think, to consider what we should hold dear.
Toshiro obtained a “rope of truth” through placing top priority on showing filial piety to God the Parent and Oyasama as well as to his father. We should never forget that, although invisible, it is always right in front of us, too.
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company