Insights into the Anecdotes: Tamezo Yamazawa (1857–1936), Anecdote 90 “Deeper in the Second Generation than in the First”

The Anecdote (Summary)


When Tamezo Yamazawa began to serve Oyasama in about 1881, She instructed him in the following manner:


God says, “Showing innen [causality] to parents, God waits for children to appear.” Do you understand? Therefore, virtue is more deeply planted in the second generation than in the first one, and deeper still in the third than in the second. By becoming ever deeper, it will become virtue which lasts forever. It depends on the mind of a person whether it lasts for one generation only, or for two or three generations, or forever. By the continuation of this virtue, even a bad innen becomes a good one.


“A Spirit of Moderation” That Should Be Passed Down for Generations

By Shozo Yamazawa, Honbu-seinen


Tamezo was born in Niizumi Village, Yamabe County, (now a section of Tenri City known as Niizumi-cho) on January 12, 1857, the second son of Ryosuke Yamazawa.


“Welcome Back!”

Ryosuke Yamazawa was the first person in his family to embrace the faith. His elder sister, Sono, who was married to Chushichi Yamanaka, once suffered from hemorrhoids and, after being in a critical condition at one point, she was subsequently blessed with a full recovery. Impressed by this salvation, Ryosuke started to follow the path. It is said that Ryosuke sometimes took his son Tamezo along to the Residence when he was still a child.

One day—while the Place for the Service was under construction at the Residence—Tamezo headed to the Residence on behalf of his father, carrying his younger brother on his back and tiered boxes containing food offerings in his hands. When they arrived there, however, he stumbled and fell, and the boxes flew from his grasp. Oyasama’s youngest daughter, Kokan, came out of the house and consoled the children, saying: “You must be Ryosuke’s boys. Welcome back, welcome back!” This is an episode that Tamezo often recounted when recalling his early childhood.

Tamezo’s personality is described in “A Profile of Tamezo Yamazawa” (in Japanese)—which was written by Tamezo himself and is included in Fukugen, no. 22—as follows: “Tamezo started to go to a private classroom in January 1865 at the age of nine to learn reading and writing. Yet his teacher closed this classroom for personal reasons in June of the year when Tamezo was twelve years old. After that, he read at night and, during the day, helped his father and elder brother with the farm work. He also loved to visit a teacher to further his learning. Because he worked hard during the day and studied at night, his parents were happy and satisfied with him.” He seems to have been a gentle and hard-working young man.

Tamezo entered a teachers’ training college in Sakai, Osaka, in November 1877. However, he suffered from beriberi in June the following year, so he had to stop studying and return home. He went to see a doctor and took medication. However, there was no sign of recovery.

Ryosuke was worried and suggested to him that he ask Oyasama for salvation. Yet Tamezo felt that it would be awkward to go because he had not visited the Residence since he had started studying.

Finally, however, Ryosuke persuaded Tamezo to return to the Residence on October 26, 1878. His uncle, Chushichi Yamanaka, happened to be there and ushered him into the presence of Oyasama. She gently said to him, “Welcome home,” and went on to explain the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed. She then breathed upon him.


Moving into the Residence Because of His Father’s Illness

After that, Tamezo visited the Residence whenever he could find the time because he desperately hoped to be saved. However, his condition was not improving very much.

One day he asked Chusaku Tsuji about it. It is said that Chusaku said to him: “That is for the best. If you were vividly blessed with a full recovery from your illness, you would be tempted to go back to school soon. God is pulling you back like this because God desires to teach you the truth of the path.”

Later, Tamezo started to recover gradually. While he felt grateful for the vivid blessing, he was unable to forget the teachers’ training college. In those days the college had a special course whereby one could be qualified as an elementary school substitute teacher after taking its classes for one month. He decided to follow the path at his own pace while working as a teacher, and he took the entrance examination. However, a cholera epidemic was raging in the summer of 1879, and the college was closed all of sudden four or five days after he returned to school in Sakai.

Soon after the cholera abated, Tamezo, who was then back home, received a notice about the reopening of the college. The day before he was to leave for Sakai, however, Ryosuke returned home from work leaning against his eldest son for support. Ryosuke was suffering from cholera-like symptoms. He had severe vomiting and diarrhea so that he could not even swallow saliva let alone drink water. Tamezo took him to the Residence immediately. Oyasama cut a slice from a sponge cake that happened to be at hand. She took a bite of it and gave the rest to Ryosuke saying, “Try it.” Yet he could not eat it at all.

He stayed at the Residence for a few days. However, his condition did not improve, and he returned home on the fourth day. The following day Chusaku Tsuji visited Ryosuke, who was bedridden, and explained the teachings carefully to the whole family, who had gathered around Ryosuke. The family members then resolved firmly that from that day on they would not rely on Ryosuke for the family’s work and that he would dedicate himself to serving at Jiba.

Tamezo also thought that, because his father’s illness began the day before he was to leave for school, it must have been guidance intended primarily for him. So he decided to abandon the idea of going to school and devote himself to learning the teachings of the path. It is said that the family members then performed a prayer service and had Chusaku administer the Sazuke to Ryosuke. As a result, he wondrously recovered from his illness. Thus, Ryosuke started to serve at the Residence single-heartedly, and Tamezo began to engage in the work of the path.


The True Sincerity of Each and Every Person

It was in the ensuing period that Tamezo received Oyasama’s words we read in the anecdote presented above. Having looked at the family’s faith journey, we can understand that Oyasama drew not only Ryosuke but also his son Tamezo through the father’s illness.

The anecdote teaches the attitude appropriate for families following the path for two, three, or more generations.

Tamezo was Ryosuke’s second son, so he was not in a position to succeed his father as head of the family. This meant that he had more freedom in deciding his future. Oyasama drew him to the Residence, saying, “Even more do I desire the younger brother.” (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 69, “Prefer the Younger Brother.”) She then taught him to continue his parents’ faith and accumulate everlasting virtue.

We are thus taught the importance of continuing the faith for generations. At the same time, faith is said to be an individual matter. We are often taught that we should ourselves sow seeds of sincerity in a way that allows us to receive the virtue that our forebears accumulated. We need to make personal efforts to sow seeds of sincerity while never forgetting our forebears’ efforts if we are to receive everlasting virtue.

In about 1881, when Tamezo received Oyasama’s words in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter, the authorities were stepping up surveillance of the Residence, and the neighbors’ attitudes were strongly negative toward the path. It is said that, each time Tamezo returned to the Residence, the villagers would tell him things such as, “You are a fool” or “You are going to be cheated.”

It was in these circumstances that he listened to Oyasama’s words that urged that the path be followed for endless generations. Other words he received from Her included the following (which are recorded in Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 133, “Consider the Future Long”):


If you think the future is short, you must hurry. However, if you think the future is long, you need not hurry.


Haste will not result in being early. Slowness will not result in being late.


Tanno [joyous acceptance][1] is true sincerity.


Oyasama often seems to have taught him the importance of following the path steadily by looking forward to the joy that lies ahead.

My grandparents are Tamezo’s grandchildren. They sometimes talk about him after a meal, saying things such as: “He was quiet and warm”; “We are taught that constancy is sincerity, and he certainly had the same attitude to everyone, both at home and outside”; “He was very modest”; and “He was a person of joyous acceptance.”

Tamezo later said in the Tenri Jiho newspaper (January 5, 1933):


Oyasama once told me: “This path is a favorable, trustworthy, and exquisite path. It is also a difficult path.” This means that the path becomes a favorable, trustworthy, and exquisite path to those following it for a long period of time so that they can never stop following it even if they are told to do so. She added, “It is also a difficult path.” This means that it may be a difficult path to those who have just embraced the faith. What is difficult is “moderation.” Implementing “moderation” is hard and, for this reason, it is all the more important to constantly put that into practice. We should try to accumulate virtue while practicing moderation until the season comes for flowers to bloom. When the blooming season comes, . . .  the truth of virtue will appear.


In today’s society, people seek maximum efficiency and convenience. Yet each of us would do well to exercise moderation while ensuring that our progress is steady as well as feeling grateful that the path continues to nurture us generation after generation.

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

[1]. A footnote in Anecdotes of Oyasama explains that the word “tanno” means to “rejoice in the perception of God’s love in all life’s experiences.”

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