The Anecdote (Summary)
In the spring of 1882, Koiso Yamada, who was expecting a baby, returned to Jiba. Oyasama told her: “This time, it is a test. When you come back to Jiba after childbirth, do not stop at Mamekoshi (where Koiso’s parents, the Yamanakas, lived) or at any other place. Come straight to this place. This is the true parental home.”
At eight o’clock on the morning of May 10, while the rest of the family were out in the fields, Koiso suddenly felt labor pains. It was so sudden that she only had time to take off her apron and place it on the tatami mat to lie upon before she gave birth to a chubby girl. It was a wondrously easy and clean delivery followed only by the afterbirth. When the family returned home for lunch, the baby, newly clothed, was already in bed.
The husband and wife, as instructed by Oyasama, returned straight to Jiba two days after the childbirth. It had rained heavily the day before, and the roads were still muddy. Ihachiro, the husband, carried the baby in his arms, and Koiso wore rain clogs. They passed by Mamekoshi but did not stop even at her parents’ home. Although they walked more than twelve kilometers, Koiso had no discharge or any other problems. It was a marvelous pilgrimage without mishap.
Waiting for them, Oyasama said, “It is time for Koiso to arrive.” She was so pleased to see them that She personally held the baby in Her arms, saying: “I will name her. As this baby grows up, the path shall flourish, and keep on flourishing forever. Thus with the meaning of eternal prosperity I will name her Ikue.”* And so the baby was named Ikue.
* “Iku” from “ikusue” meaning “eternity,” and “e” from “ei” meaning “prosperity.”
The Unshakable Conviction of Single-Heartedness with God
By Tadakazu Yamada, Honbu-in
I am not sending her to be married. Rather, I am sending her to the southern half of the province to spread the teachings as none have spread [them] there yet. However, it all depends on her heart.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 84, “In the Southern Half of the Province”
This was a remark that Oyasama made before Koiso Yamanaka married Ihachiro Yamada on May 30 (May 3 by the lunar calendar), 1881. At that time Ihachiro was thirty-four years old while Koiso was thirty-one.
“A Silent Instruction” Full of Parental Love
The Yamadas lived in Deyashiki, Kurahashi Village, Toichi County, Yamato Province (now a section of Sakurai City known as Kurahashi-Deyashiki). They were engaged in farm work and devoted to a religious tradition centering on Kobo Daishi. As for Koiso, the daughter of Chushichi Yamanaka, she was drawn to the Residence in 1878 at the age of twenty-eight after Oyasama told her, “Come soon, come soon!” She served by Oyasama’s side for three years.
During that time, Ihachiro proposed to Koiso. After he was rejected twice, Oyasama eventually said, “I am sending her to the southern half of the province to spread the teachings,” and gave Her approval to their marriage.
Koiso’s parents were worried because Deyashiki was deep in the mountains. Yet Koiso said: “We have heard what God said. I will marry him.” Thus she married Ihachiro.
Ihachiro realized that this was not an ordinary marriage and that there must be a profound intention of God beyond human thinking. So he decided that he and his wife should keep following the true path together, focusing solely on Oyasama’s teachings.
After their marriage, Ihachiro and Koiso frequently returned to Jiba, listened to Oyasama explain the teachings, and further strengthened their faith in the path.
Ihachiro became so well versed in the teachings that it was later said of him, “Ask Mr. Yamada for instructions on illnesses and other troubles.” This was because he wrote down in detail what he heard from Oyasama between 1881 and 1887 and had a vast amount of writings recording Her teachings.
There was, however, a one-year blank in his writing. After the entry recording Oyasama’s words on April 9, 1884, his writing stopped. He only wrote, “God says nothing at all,” in his diary. He struggled and agonized over why he could not receive Her words until, finally, he realized that he had taken Her instructions lightly—thinking that She spoke on the same themes every time, such as “the Story of Creation” and “a thing lent, a thing borrowed”—and had become negligent in writing down Her words faithfully. He heartily repented of his attitude and decided, “From now on, I will write down each and every one of Oyasama’s words without missing a single one.” It seems that Oyasama accepted his sincerity, for She spoke to him on March 28, 1885, for the first time in one year, thus enabling him to restart writing. The one-year hiatus was Oyasama’s “silent instruction” full of parental love although it must have been tough on him.
Receiving One Blessing after Another As Oyasama Said
It must have been very hard for Ihachiro and Koiso to spread the teachings in Kurahashi Village and neighboring villages in the face of their family and relatives trying to keep faith in Kobo Daishi. However, the couple’s missionary work, especially Koiso’s salvation work, was tremendously successful in fulfilling Oyasama’s words “I am sending her to the southern half of the province to spread the teachings.”
The anecdote “In the Southern Half of the Province” tells us that people started coming to Koiso one after another for help as her reputation began to spread throughout the neighboring villages, with many saying that a woman with disabled legs stood on her feet and that a girl who had been blind regained her sight” (Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 84).
A few months after Koiso became famous, the couple and those who were saved by them were so high-spirited that they formed a group named “Okagura-gumi.” When they worked to save a person suffering from a serious illness, they would perform the Dance with Hand Movements to the Twelve Songs seven times a day at the patient’s bedside. Through the group’s efforts, wondrous blessings were shown one after another.
Ihachiro and Koiso established a fellowship named the Shinyu Fellowship only seven months after they got married—on December 17 (October 26 by the lunar calendar), 1881. Ihachiro received permission from Oyasama to serve as its head. The anecdote entitled “Do Not Stop on the Way,” which appears at the beginning of this chapter, took place a few months later. It is said that Koiso told people about the wondrous blessing of the Grant of Safe Childbirth, saying, “My labor was as smooth as a hen laying an egg.”
“A Test” on the Couple’s Minds
Having looked afresh at these anecdotes, I feel that they provide those of us living today with some important pointers about marriage and married couples, perhaps because Ihachiro embraced the faith through marriage. For example, Oyasama said (Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 84): “I am not sending her to be married. Rather, I am sending her to the southern half of the province to spread the teachings as none have spread [them] there yet. However, it all depends on her heart.” That is to say, Koiso did not marry into the Yamada family in an ordinary sense but did so to engage in missionary work. This suggests that we should approach marriage in the spirit of single-hearted salvation. At the same time, however, Oyasama places priority on one’s own resolve by saying, “[I]t all depends on her heart.”
In the title anecdote, Oyasama says, “This time, it is a test.” Ihachiro and Koiso were shown God’s vivid protection because they completely relied on Oyasama’s teachings. I believe that this “test of safe childbirth” was Oyasama’s way of testing their single-heartedness with God. Moreover, I think that, with the words “the true parental home,” She taught them to ensure that their faith remained single-hearted with Jiba without change for the rest of their lives.
There is a story of how Ihachiro, who firmly pledged his unshakable faith, began to work exclusively for the path. Facing various troubles and receiving “Divine Directions,” one day he realized that it was time he devoted himself exclusively to salvation work. In order to become single-heartedly dedicated to the path, he closed down his family’s farming operation and sold everything including his house, fields, mountain forests, and household effects. The sale lasted for three days. During that time he served boiled satoimo and konnyaku on skewers as well as a lot of Japanese rice wine to those who came to the sale. This way of changing his life into a life completely devoted to the path was thoroughly characteristic of Ihachiro, who always sought to follow Oyasama’s Divine Model.
A little before this event, Ihachiro adopted out his fourth daughter, who was in her ninth year, thinking that, unlike the boys, she might not be able to grow up properly in difficult living conditions. Furthermore, when his first daughter married at the age of sixteen, Ihachiro had his five family members—namely his mother, wife, third son, and younger sister as well as her child—move in with the first daughter’s new family because he was afraid that they might become an encumbrance to his work of single-hearted salvation. Later, as his church’s situation improved, he welcomed them back one by one although it took eighteen years before the last family member returned. His wife, Koiso, later said, “I spent many sleepless nights thinking about our daughter who was forced to be parted from us, her voice weeping with loneliness and sadness still ringing in my ears.”
Ihachiro went through a journey that was arduous beyond description. He often told his children, “Because I love you so much, I am giving away our property completely.” He may seem like an unloving father, but he was trying to follow Oyasama’s Divine Model with unshakable faith focused on single-heartedness with God. In reality, he was a calm, gentle person who was referred to as “a master of tanno or joyous acceptance.”
From Itsuwa no kokoro tazunete—gendai ni ikiru Oyasama no oshie, published by Tenrikyo Doyusha Publishing Company
. Satoimo is a variety of taro grown in Japan, and konnyaku is made from the roots of a yam-like plant called konjac.