Insights into the Anecdotes: Yosaburo Miyamori (1857–1936), Anecdote 69: “Prefer the Younger Brother”

The Anecdote


About 1879 or 1880 when he was drawn to the Residence, Yosaburo Miyamori received Oyasama’s words: “A superfluous man with a pure heart is wanted.”

Yosaburo was the third son among nine children in his family. It did not matter whether he was at home or not. As far as the family was concerned, he was a “superfluous” man. He was by nature very obedient, honest, not greedy, and especially, was said to be a kind of person who could always accept any situation with joy. It is believed that for these reasons he was called a man with a pure heart by Oyasama.

Again, in about 1881, when Tamezo Yamazawa was sitting beside Oyasama, She said: “Tamezo, you are the younger brother. God is saying, ‘Even more do I desire the younger brother.’”


Following the Path of Worthy Hardship without Worrying about the Future

by Yoichiro Miyamori, Honbu-in & Head Minister of Meihai Branch Church


Yosaburo was born on March 5, 1857, in Higai, Kawahigashi Village, Shiki County (now a section of Tenri City known as Higai-cho), as the third son of Zenkuro Okada and his wife, Chika.

His name was originally Yonosuke Okada, and that was how he was known when he started to follow the path. A few years later, in June 1882, his name was changed to Yosaburo Miyamori when he was adopted by the Miyamori family at the age of twenty-six. Therefore, we find these two names used to refer to one and the same person in The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo. We should note, moreover, that he was sometimes called by his previous name even after his name was changed. For example, if we look at the names of the performers of the Service that was conducted on the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, we find that he was recorded as Yonosuke Okada.

Perhaps he did not care which name was used to refer to him partly because he was relatively young among the followers who frequented the Residence in those days. In fact, being nonchalant about more or less everything seems to describe Yosaburo’s character well.


Oyasama Tells Him to “Stay Here”

The Okada family engaged in farming. When he was fifteen or sixteen years old, however, he started to feel pain in his left arm, and soon he became unable to work. Although he was treated by doctors, there was no sign of recovery. He suffered from pain day and night. One day his sister, Wasa, sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings on him by saying, “Why don’t you visit Shoyashiki?” He visited the Residence for the first time in 1874 when he was eighteen years old.

During an audience with Oyasama, Yosaburo’s pain stopped immediately after She said to him, “Yonosuke, welcome home!” He was delighted. After he went home, however, his pain came back again. So he returned to the Residence the following day soon after daybreak. His pain went away miraculously. Since this process repeated itself many times, he made an inquiry of Oyasama and was told, “Yonosuke, stay here!” Thus, he became a live-in at the Residence.

I think that Yosaburo decided without any hesitation to move into the Residence partly because, as the third son, he had no responsibility for his family and partly because he felt the wondrous blessing where his arm pain vanished when he was near Oyasama.

Thereafter he almost always served at the Residence except during occasional trips to areas outside the local region for missionary work. I think that he always bore in mind Oyasama’s words “A superfluous man with a pure heart is wanted,” which we saw in the anecdote presented above.

The phrase “a superfluous man” probably referred to the fact that, as the third son, he was not expected to carry on the family line, and “a pure heart” perhaps meant that he was neither caught up in worldly thinking or keeping up appearances nor concerned about social status or reputation. I think that it was because of his nonchalant attitude to trends and common sense in society that he was drawn to the Residence and was able to receive Oyasama’s instructions in a spirit of simple openness.


Accompanying Shuji to the Jifuku Temple

Yosaburo is probably best remembered for accompanying Shuji, Oyasama’s son, when Shuji went to the Jifuku Temple on Mt. Kongo in 1880 in order to request permission to establish the Tenrin-O-Kosha, a branch of the temple, within the Residence.

In those days intervention and persecution by the authorities was intensifying, and Shuji and followers close to Oyasama were seeking ways of escaping persecution. One of their ideas was to make a request to the Jifuku Temple. Yet Oyasama objected vehemently, saying, “If you do such a thing, God the Parent will withdraw.”

Nevertheless, Shuji decided to go to the Jifuku Temple. At that time Shuji was sixty years old and suffered from leg pain. He was in no condition to walk to the Jifuku Temple alone—a journey that would take him along tough mountain paths. Because of Oyasama’s stern words, however, nobody would dare to accompany him. In the end it was Yosaburo, aged twenty-four at the time, who offered to accompany Shuji. I think that he could not let Shuji, who had a bad leg, go alone.

In an article carried in the February 1920 issue of Michi no tomo magazine Yosaburo recalled: “On the way, I carried Shuji’s belongings, and he rode in a rickshaw because he had a bad leg. However, the rickshaw could not go up the Imomushi Pass, so he had to walk. When he became exhausted, he asked me to carry even the small case holding his writing brushes and ink.” Yosaburo also wrote: “[When we stayed at a temple in Yoshino on our way,] I helped wash his back in the bath. He then said to me, ‘God flatly forbade me from taking this measure, but it can’t be helped since the police are so unrelenting.’” I think that one of Yosaburo’s missions might have been to hand down to succeeding generations Shuji’s deep adoration of Oyasama and painstaking struggles.


A Carefree and Nonchalant Person

Although Yosaburo usually served at the Residence, he also made proactive efforts to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and engage in salvation work. For example, he worked to spread the teachings in the provinces of Yamashiro (the south part of present Kyoto Prefecture) and Omi (present Shiga Prefecture). It is worth noting that, through his efforts in Yamashiro, the fragrance of the teachings was sprinkled on Jirobe Sasanishi and Chushiro Komatani, who both lived in Umetani Village. As a result of their faith Eishin Fellowship was established, which later led to founding what is now Umetani Grand Church.

There was an episode that illustrates Yosaburo’s character very well. In 1883 he went to Enshu (the west part of present Shizuoka Prefecture) with Naokichi Takai and engaged in missionary activities with him, but it was not as if he had planned to go at all. Yosaburo had been pounding rice to husk it at the Residence when he happened to see Naokichi head toward the gatehouse. Yosaburo asked him where he was going and was told that he was about to leave for Enshu to do missionary work. Yosaburo immediately decided to accompany him. Deciding then and there to go all the way to Enshu without any preparation is altogether typical of Yosaburo.

Since Naokichi and Yosaburo were around the same age, they often worked alongside each other. Takai once reminisced about Yosaburo in Michi no tomo magazine (April 1936): “One day the Honseki, Mr. Miyamori, and I went into the mountains to cut firewood taking lunch with us. When we arrived where we were heading, Mr. Miyamori said, ‘I’m hungry. I’ll eat my lunch while it’s still warm.’ And he ate it up. . . . Mr. Miyamori did not worry about what may or may not happen next.” Takai also wrote: “Once when we performed the Service for Rain, we were one female performer short. Therefore, Mr. Miyamori performed the role of Kumoyomi-no-Mikoto by wearing its female mask as well as a woman’s waist sash. After the Service for Rain was completed, police officers came to reprimand us. One of them took off Mr. Miyamori’s mask and was taken aback to see a man’s face. He said, ‘You are a man!’ and hit him on his head.” We can see that Takai, who spent a lot of time with Yosaburo, considered him carefree and nonchalant.

Yosaburo’s carefree spirit is also evident from accounts given by his family members. For example, one day when he came home from the Residence he seemed to be going straight into the chicken coop with his kyofuku robe on. His son, Tomohiko, said to him, “It is not appropriate to go into the chicken coop wearing your kyofuku robe.” Yosaburo replied, “You always worry about formality. God does not get upset if our minds are pure and clear.” And he proceeded to go in to do what he intended to do there.


“I Don’t Care What Happens to Me”

Having looked at the life of Yosaburo, what should those of us living today learn from it?

It may not be a good thing for all members of society to be totally nonchalant about everything. In fact, such a society may not function well. From a different perspective, however, his nonchalance can be seen as freedom from worrying about the future. I think that this is an important point.

There are those who worry a lot about the future—worrying, for example, that they may not be able to go to a good school unless their grades are good and that they may not be able to get a job with a good company unless they go to a good school. These people may end up painting themselves into a corner. Again, some of us who know in our heads that we need to completely rely on God to engage in salvation work may sometimes think, “I’m the one who needs to do something to save this person,” and needlessly worry about what may or may not happen. I think that we all have this experience.

I personally think that those of us whose families have been Tenrikyo for a number of generations often tend to worry about the future. We should get back to the faith of first-generation followers and follow the path high-spiritedly. Instead of enduring the hardship of worrying about what lies ahead, we would do well to experience “worthy hardship.”

I believe that worthy hardship means to work hard for Oyasama without caring what may happen to us in order to bring joy to Her. It entails following the path joyously and in high spirits while trusting in the blessings even when faced with challenging knots. My early predecessor must not have seen the difficulties he faced as hardship because of his belief that his work would bring joy to God even though what he was going through seems very tough and trying to me.

It was true that Yosaburo gave the impression of being a carefree person who took everything easy. We can perhaps say, however, that he experienced worthy hardship as he was uncompromisingly honest in trying to bring joy to Oyasama by faithfully following the path without worrying about the future at all.

It would be inexcusable for those of us who are third-, fourth-, or fifth-generation followers to always choose to follow an easy path. We would do well to experience worthy hardship without worrying about the future while making efforts to move even one step closer to the faith of our early predecessors and bring satisfaction to Oyasama.

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

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