Insights into the Anecdotes: Chuzaburo Koda (1828–1903), Anecdote 144 “The Virtue Which Reaches Heaven”

The Anecdote (Summary)

Oyasama was detained in Nara Prison from March 24 through April 5, 1884. Chuzaburo Koda, arrested alongside Oyasama, was kept in custody for ten days.

While imprisoned, Chuzaburo was ordered by a jailor to clean the toilets. When he came back to Oyasama after he had finished cleaning, She inquired, “Koda, what do you think about having been brought to this kind of place and even having been made to clean such filthy places as toilets?” “Whatever I do, I feel truly blessed knowing that I am serving God,” he answered. Oyasama then said: “Exactly. No matter how hard or unpleasant a task may be, do it with a feeling of being blessed, and your virtue will reach heaven. Virtue that is accepted by God will be turned into a true blessing. But no matter how many hard or trying tasks you may complete, if you do each task while complaining, ‘How hard it is! How I hate it!’ it will be your complaints that reach heaven.”

Joyous Acceptance Is a Virtue That Reaches Heaven

by Yoshihiko Koda, Honbu-jun’in

Chuzaburo was born on February 22, 1828. At the age of five, he was adopted into the Koda family in Kita-Higai Village (now a section of Tenri City, known as Higai-cho-kita). When he was still young, he became village elder (toshiyori), taking over from his father-in-law. After serving as village head (shoya) and village headman (kocho) as well, he was appointed village representative (sodai) when he was forty-eight years old.

Through His Daughter’s Eye Disease

Chuzaburo was very compassionate and caring toward others—so much so that his family members were often astonished by his actions. He loved to offer things to others. His family grew vegetables and other crops, his family’s yield being two to three times higher than others’ in the village. If fellow villagers said to him when he was coming home after harvesting his crop that their eggplants had withered or their pumpkins had failed, he would share his crop so that he would often come home empty-handed. It is said that he would tell his astounded family that they always had something or other to cook and eat at home.

A remarkable aspect of his life before he embraced the faith was his work as an agricultural engineer. In the history of Japan’s agricultural practices, the early Meiji Period1 was a time when innovative farmers were active in various regions throughout the country. They contributed to the increase of agricultural production through improving existing techniques and promoting innovative practices. Chuzaburo contributed to improving the quality of rice and cotton seeds. He experimented with seeds obtained from different regions and distributed to the villagers those that showed good results. His efforts were recognized when he was appointed as a member of the Seed Section of the Agricultural Society of Japan as well as a member of Osaka Prefecture’s Committee on Agricultural Affairs Information. In April 1881, he was invited to the Agricultural Experiment Station in Niigata Prefecture as an instructor.

Meanwhile, Chuzaburo was deeply concerned about the eye disease of his second daughter, Riki. Since he had no agricultural work during the winter months in snowy Niigata, he took leave and returned to Yamato Province at the end of the year. By that time, Riki’s eye condition had worsened considerably, and it looked as though she might soon lose her eyesight. How desperately worried Chuzaburo must have been about his daughter, who was gradually losing her eyesight!

During this time, Yonosuke Okada (later renamed Yosaburo Miyamori) of the same village sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings on him. With desperate hope, Chuzaburo and his wife, Saki, brought Riki to the Residence for the first time on March 5, 1882, and stayed there for seven days.

On the third day, in her ardent desire to have her daughter saved Saki prayed, “I will offer one of my eyes as a sacrifice, so please save at least one of my daughter’s eyes.” From that night on, Saki gradually lost the sight of one eye. In exchange, Riki gradually regained sight in one eye, until it was fully restored.

Chuzaburo was overjoyed with this wondrous blessing and decided to follow the path. He subsequently received the following words from Oyasama: “There is a bridge of the path which is eight hundred kilometers long, and there is no one but you to cross that bridge.” Although he was in the early stages of his faith, he began striving determinedly to convey the teachings and engage in salvation work as an Arakitoryo (pioneer of the path) in Niigata Prefecture, where his employer required him to work. (See Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 95, “The Path of Eight Hundred Kilometers.”)

“Wondrous Blessings” Bestowed One after Another

It is said that Chuzaburo’s behavior drastically changed after he embraced the faith. Let us look at a few of the stories about him from that period.

One day in early spring, when Chuzaburo heard that the crops were being attacked by insects, he went to the affected area and started to pray to God the Parent in the middle of the field. Those present were astonished and laughed. It was no wonder because an instructor from the Agricultural Experiment Station suddenly started a curious dance in the middle of the field—a sight they had never seen before. By the following day, however, all insects in the field had disappeared.

On another occasion, some of his students suffered from cholera, which was prevalent in Niigata Prefecture at the time. Chuzaburo prayed to God the Parent and gave them water that had been blessed. Then they were wondrously saved.

As these stories of his salvation work became known in the community and neighboring villages, one hundred and several dozen households embraced the faith over a period of six months.

There is a story that tells of his ardent and sincere salvation work. There was a rumor in Niigata villages at the time that “a ghost appeared on the Shinano River before dawn.” What people thought was a ghost was actually Chuzaburo, who got up every morning when it was still dark and plunged into the river to purify himself before singing the Songs of the Service in front of God’s shrine.

Meanwhile, the Residence faced increasing persecution and harassment by the authorities. After Oyasama’s son, Shuji, passed away for rebirth, Shinnosuke, who would later become the first Shinbashira, served as head of the Nakayama family, yet he was still young. Although Ryojiro Yamazawa supported Shinnosuke as a guardian, Ryojiro himself became sick. Someone with expertise in dealing with external relations was needed. Thus, Chuzaburo was recalled and he returned to Yamato Province in January 1883. Thereafter, he dedicated himself to serving at the Residence until 1903 when he passed away for rebirth.

Serving God” at All Times

His detainment in prison that is mentioned in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of this chapter occurred because two police officers who had suddenly come to the Residence found offerings as well as caught him writing a manuscript that he called koki (divine record).

When Oyasama asked him, “Koda, what do you think about having been brought to this kind of place and even having been made to clean such filthy places as toilets?” he answered, “Whatever I do, I feel truly blessed knowing that I am serving God.”

In the dialogue between Oyasama and Chuzaburo we find no sense of dissatisfaction or perseverance in the face of adversity. Rather, we feel a sense of warmth and natural joy. In The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, Oyasama says to those worried about Her detention by the authorities: “You need not worry. At this Residence, you have only to do as God the Parent says to do” (chapter 9, “The Hardships of Oyasama”). Indeed, She went through every kind of hardship cheerfully and spiritedly.

Chuzaburo, who was serving Oyasama by Her side, must have heard these teachings of Oyasama and seen Her live as She taught. Therefore, it must have been that, even if his body was detained, his mind was not, and to him the space he shared with Oyasama was the world of single-heartedness with God so that his attention was focused entirely on Oyasama, who demonstrated the Joyous Life through Her own example. Therefore, no matter what he might have been ordered to do, he considered it as “serving God” and felt “truly blessed.”

What those of us living in this day and age can learn from Chuzaburo’s life journey is the importance of always basing our thoughts and actions on God the Parent’s intention. True joy will never come from self-limiting, selfish thoughts. Even if we have received a great blessing, we often do not notice it. Rather we may continue to be driven by self-centered greed for this and that and for others to do this and that for us. As a result, we may feel dissatisfied with even the smallest task, thinking, “Why is it me who has to do it?” even though we could easily complete it if we were in a different frame of mind.

On the other hand, if, as Chuzaburo did, we can set our minds to accept everything as serving God, a humble mind that God desires of us will allow us to rejoice and to feel blessed no matter how hard or how unpleasant things may be, wherever and whoever we may be. I think that Oyasama utilized “prison,” “Chuzaburo,” and the task of “cleaning the toilets” to teach not only people in those days but also those of us in later generations that such a humble mind could become the “virtue that reaches heaven.” Being imprisoned and forced to do labor must have been a very unpleasant experience for Chuzaburo. In spite of it all, however, reading this anecdote makes me feel warm and cozy inside.

Although those of us who are followers know the teachings and put them into practice in our daily lives, we may sometimes find ourselves feeling dissatisfied. At such times, reading this anecdote can help clear our minds of whatever is clouding them and make us feel as if Oyasama were gently telling us: “Whatever you do, do it with a feeling of being blessed. . . . Virtue that is accepted by God will be turned into a true blessing.”

Chuzaburo dedicated himself to serving at the Residence until he returned his body in 1903 at the age of seventy-six. The last Divine Direction that Chuzaburo received contains the following words: “Listen well and practice joyous acceptance. This is not for one time only. If you fully practice joyous acceptance during your lifetime, the virtue will last for endless generations” (Osashizu, August 10, 1901).

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

1. The Meiji Period was 1868–1912.

Share this article:

Comments are closed.