Insights into the Anecdotes: Genjiro Fukaya (1843–1923), Anecdote 142 “Narrowness Holds the Promise of Joy”

The Anecdote (Summary)

This is a story from when Genjiro Fukaya—who was deeply grateful for the teachings, which he felt should be spread by any means possible—was growing ever more spirited in his devotion as he went around sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and doing salvation work.

In those days, Genjiro had no spare clothes, no charcoal to burn, and even no food for the day unless he was blessed with the workings of God the Parent. Despite the narrow circumstances, he refused to let his spirits down, and Oyasama would always say to him when he visited the Residence: “Narrowness holds the promise of joy. Do not be dissatisfied with what is small. As truth accumulates, small things grow great. Even a large pine tree was once small. Enjoy small things. In the future, large buds will sprout.”


A Life with Extraordinary Joyousness

by Motohiro Fukaya,

Staff Minister of Kawaramachi Grand Church

Genjiro was born in Shin-no-machi, Sanjo-kudaru, Furukawa-cho, in what is now Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, on February 17, 1843. His father Genbei—born in Atsuta-sho, Aichi-gun, Owari (now in Nagoya City)—left for Kyoto for training when he was still young. He later opened a blacksmith’s shop in Kyoto named “Tangen.”

Genbei hoped that Genjiro would become a merchant. Genjiro, however, chose to become a blacksmith because he thought that being a merchant would entail making a lot of deals and being suspicious whereas a blacksmith could simply focus on making his wares, which his customers could decide to buy or not based solely on the value they saw in them.

Genjiro, who took over his father’s shop, became so accomplished that he was known in as far afield as Nagoya as “a master hatchet smith.” Also, because of his firm conviction that his customers should decide whether or not to buy his wares based only on the value they saw in them, he was nicknamed “honest blacksmith Gen.”

Since his teens, he had performed cold water ablutions early every morning while praying for family prosperity, which he hoped would make his parents feel at ease and happy. He kept the money he earned from his work in the morning but used all the income from his afternoon’s work to bring joy to his parents. His filial piety was famous among the neighbors.

Facing Potential Blindness

It was in September 1881, when Genjiro was thirty-eight years old, that he embraced the faith. He was invited by a neighbor to visit the house of a Tenrikyo follower. There he was impressed with the teaching that “fire and water are the two primary aspects of God’s providence” because of his line of work.

Joyful and cheerful by nature, he felt attracted to the joyous faith in which followers danced to cheerful songs and musical instruments. On the following day, he sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings on a friend. He began to frequent the follower’s house as well. He and his wife started to follow the path.

One day, six months after Genjiro embraced the faith, a red-hot iron chip flew into his right eye while he was hammering in his forge. He faced the potential of losing his sight in that eye. Covering his right eye, he went upstairs and knelt in front of the altar. He pledged, “If cured, I would work for God for the rest of my life even if attacked with fire or water,” and performed the service. Then the pain eased, and the iron chip fell out of his eye. Immediately he returned to Jiba. While he was listening to the teachings, his eye was completely cured, with the sight in his right eye being restored.

Genjiro’s faith was now firmly settled. He received sanction to establish Shidokai Fellowship in March 1884 and became its head. Later, he received the truth of the Sazuke, the Divine Grant, in 1887. Thereafter, he strove even more earnestly to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and help save others.

Efforts to Rejoice in Whatever Happens

As indicated in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter, life became increasingly difficult for him and his wife soon after Genjiro established a fellowship. It was around that time that he received Oyasama’s words: “Enjoy small things. In the future, large buds will sprout.” Later he also received a Divine Direction that said, “For now, you should pay attention and resolve to rejoice” (October 1887). Such words of encouragement from God the Parent and Oyasama helped his faith to grow stronger.

There is a story that illustrates how things were in Genjiro’s life in those days. One day, it was arranged that several followers would come for a visit the next day and stay the night. However, Genjiro had pawned not only his blacksmith’s tools but also much of the bedding. Moreover, they had nothing to serve for breakfast. His wife, Hana, was worried, but he said to her: “No problem, no problem. There is nothing to worry about. God will take care of everything for us.” Then he went to sleep. Hana could not sleep at all that night. The next morning, however, someone came to place an order and paid a deposit of five yen. This enabled the couple to prepare breakfast as well as get the tools and bedding out of pawn.

On another occasion, while Genjiro was working hard, he tripped over a hammer and hit his forehead hard on an anvil. He immediately shouted: “Ouch! How grateful! How grateful!” When people around him asked why he said grateful, he replied, “I am grateful that I am able to feel pain.”

In his later years, Genjiro’s eyesight weakened, but he never seemed sad about it. Instead, he seemed to be rejoicing. “God’s blessings are great,” he said. “The eye that got injured when I was working as a blacksmith began to fail later than the other.”

These stories tell us how thoroughly Genjiro believed and relied on what Oyasama had taught him as he continued to rejoice in whatever happened in life.

God Enters Us through Joy”

Inspired by Genjiro’s joyous and positive faith, a lot of people came to embrace the faith one after another. One day, a woman who had been trying to conceive for some time without success came to Genjiro. He gently said to her: “You must have accumulated a great deal of merit in your previous life. Therefore, you do not have to go through the troublesome task of caring for a child in your present life. Please find joy in each day as you go through life without decreasing your merit.” The woman was delighted and said, “Nothing could have made me happier than those words.” She was soon blessed with a child.

Also, Genjiro once encouraged a person who had personal problems, saying: “That is tremendously good. God sprinkles dust on you because God has full confidence in you and desires to help you achieve greatness in the future. If you sprinkle dirt and dust on the soil around the bottom of a tree, it will grow to be a large tree. We should become a person on whom dust is sprinkled. Yet, whether or not dust is sprinkled on you, you should never allow your core to rot. If you do not, people will start to rely on you as though you are the only one who can help them. Find joy. Be spirited!”

In this way, Genjiro would always treat people gently. Yet, he sometimes appeared to be admonishing people. When, for instance, a head minister who came to visit him said to him modestly, “I cannot receive blessings because of my lack of virtue,” Genjiro said sternly: “You should not say such a thing. Phrases such as ‘lack of virtue’ come out of your mouth because you think that you can try to make the path grow through your own efforts.” Then the next moment, his face relaxed into a smile as he explained carefully: “You should say, ‘I have been able to come back once again thanks to divine blessings.’ God’s blessings are granted when we serve joyously without forgetting even for a moment that whatever we do is only possible because of God the Parent and Oyasama. However, we tend to forget this and think that we are doing things by our own power. Then feelings of dissatisfaction and worry will arise. To ensure that these feelings do not gain the upper hand, we would do well to rejoice each day in the blessings of God the Parent and Oyasama. This will enable us to be wonderfully blessed in the end.”

In his later years Genjiro repeatedly said things such as: “You cannot help those suffering from an illness receive a blessing without helping them find joy. They will not be saved if you make them feel discouraged. God enters us through joy.” The phrase “God enters us through joy” captures the faith and conviction of Genjiro, whom people adored, calling him “Thankful Gen-san.”

I believe that Genjiro’s extraordinary joyousness came from these words from Oyasama: “Enjoy small things. In the future, large buds will sprout.” It seems to me that joy and brightness naturally welled up in him because he completely believed that God would surely give him what was best for him even in what a human mind would normally consider a difficult and painful situation.

These days we hear so much about various family-related problems including domestic violence and divorce as well as children’s school refusal and social withdrawal, not to mention child abuse. In society at large, there is employment insecurity due to organizational restructuring during the economic downturn while over thirty thousand people kill themselves annually. Many people feel a sense of entrapment and fall into the darkness of the mind because they have no dependable spiritual guide.

God the Parent created this world and humankind to see us live a joyous life and to share in that joy. God has since been protecting and guiding each of us with unchanging parental love. We would do well to once again take it to heart that conveying this truth is the primary mission of Yoboku. I believe that joy and hope will fill our hearts no matter what difficulty we may face so long as we totally rely on God the Parent and Oyasama.

It is of prime importance to trust completely in God the Parent and Oyasama and enjoy following this path joyously while looking forward to the future, as Genjiro did. We would do well to engage sincerely in salvation work by helping people wandering about on the mind’s dark paths to become spirited through conveying the Parent’s intention to them so that they may proceed along the path together with us toward the Joyous Life.

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

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