Insights into the Anecdotes: Zensuke Uno (1836–1910), Anecdote 105 “This Is a Place to Be Joyful”

The Anecdote (Summary)


Zensuke Uno returned to Jiba about the middle of autumn in 1882 with his wife and three of their children, as well as a follower and her daughter. The purpose was to offer thanks to God for saving the life of his wife, Misa, who had suffered sickness after childbirth.

Leaving home early in the morning at four o’clock, they walked, crossed Lake Ogura in a boat, rode rickshaws, and then walked again. They arrived at Jiba at eight o’clock that night and, on the following day, were granted an audience with Oyasama through the good offices of Risaburo Yamamoto. They were all deeply moved beyond description, especially Misa who had been saved after a long illness. Her happiness was so great that she could not restrain her tears. Oyasama asked her, “Why do you cry?” She answered between sobs: “I feel so thankful for being able to worship a living god. I am so thankful that I cannot hold back my tears of joy.” Then Oyasama said: “Jiba is not a place to cry. This is a place to be joyful.”

Oyasama continued, as She turned to Zensuke, “Your third generation shall have clear water.” Zensuke said, “Thank you very much.” He was overwhelmed with deep emotion at these gracious and undeserved words. He made a firm resolution from the bottom of his heart: “I am so grateful that I will work forever for the sake of the path.”


The Gifts from Heaven in Response to a Totally Purified Mind

By Yoshikazu Uno, Head Minister of Koshinokuni Grand Church


Zensuke was born on October 25, 1836, the second son of Gorosuke Uno, the owner of an inn called “Shimizuya” in Yasu Village, Omi Province (now Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture). When he was seven years old, he began studying under Naojiro Noguchi, a famous Taoist scholar in Omi. He became the leader of a study group at the age of nine and was thoroughly trained by Noguchi.


Impressed with the Teaching of the Truth of Origin

Zensuke was a person of high morals and integrity and made steady and earnest efforts in any endeavor. While studying very hard, he was confronted with the question, “Why did God create humankind?” His study now became focused on solving the mystery of human creation.

Zensuke spent day and night studying. In 1849, however, his father’s passing led him to leave Noguchi School to help his mother. He became an apprentice with “Wakasaya,” a candle wax shop on Bukkoji Street, Kyoto. He served his master well and worked so hard that he was described as “a model apprentice” in town. He became a head clerk at the young age of fifteen.

Zensuke, who had been a religious person since his childhood, visited many shrines and temples near and far to worship and tried to attend every sermon—wherever it took place—that was delivered by a famous scholar or Buddhist monk. “Why were human beings born in this world? How should we live our lives to fulfill the true way of living as human beings?” Seeking answers to these questions, he decided, at the age of seventeen, to worship in Kannon Hall of Kiyomizu Temple in Higashiyama every morning. It was in the spring that he made the decision. He got up when it was still dark, went to worship to cleanse his mind, and came home around dawn. Then he went to the shop, which was nearby, and made preparations to open it for the day. This became his routine. It is said that he continued this “training” for ten years without missing even one day.

Zensuke won the confidence of the shop owner, Genbei Sasaki, and married his daughter, Sawa, in 1863 when he was twenty-eight. He was adopted into the Sasaki family. Genbei set him up in business by helping him establish a branch, which was named “Wakazen” and which was located at 14 Yaoya-cho, Teramachi Nishi-hairu, Rokkaku Street. Although the shop enjoyed prosperity, Sawa passed away for rebirth in 1867 due to pneumonia, leaving behind their first son, Naotaro. Zensuke was desperately sad and had his name restored to the Uno family register. Subsequently, in 1869, he married Misa Mikubo from his hometown, Yasu Village, and they were blessed with four sons and three daughters.

Its close proximity to Kyogoku, a commercial center in those days, enabled Wakazen to expand beyond its candle wax business into money exchange and rickshaw rentals. Wakazen also became active in the stock market. While the business was doing well, however, his wife, Misa, suffered from postnatal complications and tended to be sick.

It was in these circumstances that Zensuke encountered the path. Genjiro Fukaya (later the first head minister of what is now Kawaramachi Grand Church), with whom he had been acquainted, introduced him to it in 1881, by saying, “Someone from Kawachi is giving unusual sermons in Kyoto lately. He talks about a god of joy who saves people through dance. He says that any illness can be cured. Why don’t you listen to his sermon?”

Zensuke became interested and listened to the teaching of the truth of origin being explained by Rokubei Oku, head of Tenrin-O Meisei-sha Fellowship. The teaching gave him the long-sought answer to his question about the origin of humankind and the world. He was impressed and felt that this was the teaching of the origin that he had been longing for. He wanted to follow this God and listen to the teachings until he totally understood them.

The next morning he brought his personal seal to formally join the Meisei-sha Fellowship. Several days later he returned to Jiba together with Genjiro and his follower Zensuke Sawada. Thus, he embraced the faith when he was forty-six years old.


Bringing His Whole Family to Jiba

The practice of the service performance was conducted every night at the Meisei-sha Fellowship, with many followers practicing the Dance with Hand Movements joyously. Zensuke followed the path sincerely and, due to his naturally inquisitive mind, eagerly absorbed the teachings.

In time Misa received a vivid blessing of being cured of illness. It is said that Zensuke realized at that time: “Whatever happens to us today is the result of the causality from our previous lives. The causal seeds must have been sown before. If we just dig them up, God will cut off the roots. Because God loves us, the children, God trains us in ways appropriate to our respective causality.”

By 1882—the year after he embraced the faith—he had progressed in faith to the point where he took turns with Genjiro and Zensuke Sawada delivering an opening talk before the sermon after the service at the fellowship. In the autumn of that year, as we read in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter, he and his family returned to Jiba to express their thanks for the blessing of salvation his wife received. The pilgrimage group comprised seven people altogether: namely, Zensuke; his wife; his first son, Naotaro (seventeen years old); first daughter, Kon (thirteen); second son, Matasaburo (eleven); their next door neighbor, Mine Kawamura, on whom Zensuke had sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings; and her first daughter, Yoshi (ten).

They were all deeply moved when they had an audience with Oyasama. Misa especially was so overcome with emotion that she could not stop sobbing for joy. Then Oyasama said to her: “Jiba is not a place to cry. This is a place to be joyful.” After that, the members of Zensuke’s family continued to further deepen their faith, remembering the delight of seeing Oyasama.

In 1884, Zensuke withdrew from the Meisei-sha Fellowship with several other members including Genjiro after an indiscretion by Fellowship Head Oku. When this situation arose, they requested and were granted an audience with Oyasama and told Her, “The five of us will follow God at the sacrifice of our lives” (Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 141, “Buds Burst Forth from a Knot”). They were then given permission to establish the Shido-kai Fellowship with Genjiro as the head. Despite many hardships, Zensuke sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings and engaged in salvation work and, trying with utmost sincerity to assist Genjiro, he helped lay the foundation of Kawaramachi Grand Church.


Transforming the Mind to Rejoice in Saving Others

Getting back to the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter—“This Is a Place to Be Joyful”—we might have thought that Oyasama’s words to Misa were somewhat unexpected. Those of us living today may not think that crying with delight deserves reproach. Rather, it may be seen positively as an honest expression of one’s feeling.

There are times in our lives when things get tough or when a sad event happens. At such times, those of us who are Yoboku often visit our parents or our churches to share our feelings and worries or return to Jiba seeking salvation.

Misa cried in front of Oyasama because she recalled the hardship that she had previously gone through. Oyasama, however, said to her, “This is a place to be joyful.” If we ponder deeply over these words, we realize that She may have meant that one should not just cry with delight—saying “How grateful I am!”—after having been saved from illness but rather turn one’s attention to making repayment for the blessing. In other words, I think that Oyasama desires us to experience the joy of helping save others rather than to cry tears of gratitude for our own salvation. It is said that, when Zensuke heard Oyasama’s words, he realized: “It is taught that Jiba is the Mirror Residence, where our minds are to become completely clear and pure. Crying indicates that the mind is still muddy even if one is crying with joy.” Perhaps Oyasama accepted his realization because She said to him, “Your third generation shall have clear water.”

My grandfather, Haruyoshi Uno—who was a grandson of Zensuke—said that Zensuke had often told him: “The first-generation followers sow seeds, the second-generation apply fertilizer, and the third-generation see the seeds sprout and bear fruit. Causality lasts three generations. Only after three generations of whole-hearted contribution and dedication will undesirable causality be cut off, resulting in the seeds sprouting. We, as human beings, have to continue making painstaking efforts of contribution and dedication for three generations. Since you are a third-generation follower, you would do well to follow the path earnestly.”

The fourth verse of Song Ten of the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Service, tells us: “When your mind is completely purified, / Then comes paradise.” Those of us who are Yoboku would do well to be grateful for the parental love that drew us to the path, to listen to people’s worries and grief with the mind of saving others, and to convey the joy of faith through our regional churches. We would like to return to Jiba with true sincerity, gratitude, and joy together with people we have reached out to. I feel sure that it is a completely purified mind that will allow us to receive gifts from heaven.

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

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