From Shiawase o yobu kokoro by Eiji Ozaki: A Thing Lent, A Thing Borrowed (4)

Eating Is Also Tsukihi (Moon-Sun)

What follows appeared in the Michi no tomo magazine (March 1934).

* * *

In the summer of 1884, the people of Kyoto were terror-stricken by a cholera epidemic. Bringing one such Kyoto citizen with him, Fukaya, a fellowship head, departed for the Home of the Parent around midnight. It was in the heat of the day that they finally arrived. The man who came with Fukaya had no clear understanding of the teachings; he had only decided to come along, figuring that it would not do any harm to make a pilgrimage for the sake of protection.

In the early summer afternoon, hardly anyone was out around Mishima Village. The Residence seemed quiet under the scorching sun. Upon arriving at the Resting House, the man and Fukaya found Oyasama lying down in the room with the raised floor. They seated themselves in the anteroom, and an intermediary announced their arrival to Oyasama. When the two men from Kyoto bowed in a formal manner, She sat up and spoke:


Eating is also Tsukihi (Moon-Sun); speaking is also Tsukihi. Not to understand this is regrettable, regrettable.


After saying this, She lied down again. Her voice was beautiful and melodious. Fukaya was bowing with every appearance of gratitude. His companion, on the other hand, did not have the foggiest idea what She meant. He wondered whether he had heard a sermon or a song, or whether he had been made a fool of. As he felt increasingly certain that he had been made a fool of, he concluded that walking all the way from Kyoto had been a total waste of time and effort, and that Oyasama was indeed possessed by some evil spirit or other, just as rumored.

In his anger, he walked rather fast on their return journey while talking little to Fukaya. “Eating is also Tsukihi; speaking is also Tsukihi.” He repeatedly mumbled these words, which meant nothing to him. “Don’t tell me such a silly thing,” he thought, tut-tutting in frustration. “It is I who am walking now, just as it is I who eat and speak.”

Some time later, this man came down with cholera. Knowing that cholera patients were placed under extremely strict quarantine, his wife could not bear to let any doctor examine him. “The doctors are simply letting them die just like that,” she thought. “I’d rather care for my husband myself until the end. . . . Besides, who knows? He might have a chance of recovery.” She frantically nursed him. Her husband, however, was as good as dead; he could not even speak or turn over.

He thought he was going to die, too. But he wanted to drink water badly. He knew he would vomit any water he might drink. Yet he had such a thirst that he felt as if his throat was burning; he couldn’t stand it. His wife moistened his tongue by using a water-soaked brush, but that did absolutely nothing to quench his thirst. He wanted to gulp down a large glass of water. “Give me water!” he hollered in his mind and tried to make his eyes say that, too. “Why don’t you understand!” he tried to shout. But words failed him; his tongue was numb, and his cheeks twitched.

In his agony, anguish, and sorrow, he suddenly recalled those words Oyasama had spoken. “Eating is also Tsukihi; speaking is also Tsukihi.” He had asserted that it was he who ate and spoke, but now he felt that there might be a much greater power at work than his own, a power that might perhaps be called absolute. Finally, he was convinced that this must be so. He felt it inexcusable that he had, in his mind, heaped all sorts of abuse on Oyasama, who had taught such a profound truth. He felt a sharp pang of remorse. Then, suddenly, the mist that had clouded his mind cleared up, allowing him to see the meaning of Her words, though by no means completely. At that instant, his mouth obeyed his will. “Water!” he yelled.

His wife, who had thought him dead, excitedly put a pitcher of water to his lips. He guzzled water into his burning throat. Needless to say, he vomited violently, yet some water must have remained in his stomach, for his condition began to improve after that. Once on the verge of death from cholera, he eventually made a complete recovery.


Under God’s Boundless Providence

According to one of my predecessors, someone once said to Oyasama: “Now that I understand the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed, thanks to hearing it from You every day, would You please teach me something else today?” Thereupon, Oyasama apparently made a motion of slashing with a sword, saying, “In that case, would it be fine with you if I received your life right now?”

On another occasion, Oyasama is reported to have said: “You have not yet understood the truth of a thing lent, a thing borrowed. Because you told me you understood it, I thought that I might tell you something marvelous. But when I began, you were all frightened and ran away. If that is the way you are, you have not understood the true meaning of a thing borrowed. Unless you understand the truth of a thing borrowed, you cannot teach others.” (Yoshio Horikoshi, “Koro yori kikigaki,” Kyoyu, No. 140) After saying this, Oyasama apparently went on to relate the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed, just as usual.

This reminds me of the following instruction attributed to Oyasama: “If you are to teach others, you must first settle it in your mind that the body is a thing borrowed.” (“Masui Isaburo sensei shuki yori,” Kyoyu, No. 175)

The Divine Directions tell us:


People say that they cannot use the “thing borrowed” as they wish—this is evidence that it is indeed a thing borrowed. Seeing the truth in many, each of you should settle the mind in one.

Osashizu, July 28, 1888, nine o’clock, Supplement


You have heard that the human body is a thing borrowed. Within the borrowed thing, things arise that you can do nothing about. If the borrowed thing were your own, you would have complete control over it. That you do not have complete control shows that it is a thing borrowed.

Osashizu, April2, 1899, Supplement


We cannot always use the body freely or selfishly as we wish. Such is the body, which is on loan to us. When we are ill, for example, our human strength is often found to be powerless in the absence of God the Parent’s workings. At present, we human beings are enjoying civilized life, but human powers alone could not have made this possible. We were only able to build civilized life because we were given the gift of life through God the Parent’s boundless providence in the first place.

All of us live in the embrace of God, who enables us to be alive. I hope that we shall deeply savor the joy of being alive each day while remaining firmly rooted in the truth of a thing borrowed as we go along the path. The Divine Directions tell us:


You will not understand unless you grasp the little truth by hearing that the body is a thing borrowed. No matter how much you may practice your faith, you will not understand unless you understand the truth.

Osashizu, January 23, 1888


You each are aware of the thing borrowed. Though you may understand the thing borrowed, it serves no purpose unless you understand freedom, the truth of a thing borrowed.

Osashizu, October 12, 1887

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