Life of Oyasama Chapter 2

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The Life of Oyasama
Chapter One
The Shrine of Tsukihi (1837–1838)
Chapter Two
The Early History of Oyasama (1798–1837)
Chapter Three
On the Way
(1838–1852), (1853–1854), (1862–1864)
Chapter Four
The Place for the Service (1864), (1865–1866)
Chapter Five
The Salvation Service (1866–1882)
Chapter Six
The Identification of the Jiba
(1869–1873), (Jan–Nov 1874), (Dec 1874), (1875), (1876–1877)
Chapter Seven
Buds Sprout from Knots
(1878–1880), (1881)
Chapter Eight
Parental Love
(pp. 121–124), (pp. 124–131), (pp. 132–137), (pp. 137–146), (pp. 146–157), (pp. 157–165), (pp. 165–168)
Chapter Nine
The Hardships of Oyasama
(Jan–Sep 1882),
(Oct–Dec 1882),
(Jan–Jun 1883), (Jul–Dec 1883), (1884), (1885), (Jan–Apr 1886),(May–Dec 1886)
Chapter Ten
The Portals Opened
(Jan 1–11, 1887),
(Jan 12–13, 1887),
(Jan 18–Feb 18, 1887)

Life of Oyasama Chapter 2 presents the contents of Chapter Two of The Life of Oyasama as published by Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. The title of the chapter is "The Early History of Oyasama." The content below is equivalent to pages 8 to 17 of the print edition.



Oyasama, Miki Nakayama, was born in Sanmaiden Village, Yamabe County, Yamato Province, on the morning of April 18, 1798.[1]

Her Father and Mother

Her father, Masanobu Hanshichi Maegawa, had been invested by his lord with the rank of musokunin, samurai without stipend, and was privileged to wear a sword and to bear a family name. He also held the influential post of head of a group of local villages. Her mother, Kinu, had come from the Nagao family of the same village. She was a lady of modest disposition, particularly excelling in the art of needlework.

Her Childhood

From about the age of three, Miki's behavior was already so different from that of other children that Her neighbors spoke highly of Her as being a remarkable child, surpassing other children of Her age. When She was about six, She began to sew and to spin cotton thread by imitating Her mother. She knit money pouches and sewed small bags for holding rice bran, which She took pleasure in giving to the neighborhood children.

At the age of seven, whenever She found a child screaming and stamping its feet, She would give the child sweets given to Her by Her parents and would rejoice when the child stopped crying. At the ages of eight and nine, She would play with the small children in the neighborhood during the autumn harvest while their parents were busily occupied with their farm work. There was not a parent who did not admire Her conduct.

Her father taught Her to write with a brush and, from the time She was nine until She was eleven, She attended a private school for children at a neighboring village to learn to read and write.

Miki never took lessons in needlework but mastered the art by Herself, simply by sitting beside Her mother and watching her work. She was able to make handicraft items, duplicating what She had seen but once. <Link to Anecdotes of Oyasama 1>

By the age of twelve or thirteen, She not only cut and made garments out of wide bolts of cotton but was also able to weave with more dexterity than the average person. It was during this same period that Miki, having been brought up in the tradition of a pious family, came to memorize and recite the Buddhist hymns known as the Jodo Wasan.

Bright and clever by nature, Miki eagerly learned everything that came Her way and became proficient in many skills. She was an obedient and dutiful daughter, always willing to help Her mother.

Her aunt Kinu, who had married into the Nakayama family of Shoyashiki Village and had long expected much of her niece because of Her extraordinary talents, asked Miki’s parents to give Her in marriage to her son, Zenbei. Miki’s parents told Her of this proposal but, having long cherished the hope of becoming a nun because of Her delicate constitution and Her strong spiritual yearning, She was reluctant to give a favorable answer. Later, however, She agreed to the proposal, yielding to Her parents’ earnest persuasion that the essence of womanhood consisted in being married and serving her husband with love and fidelity. In consenting to the offer, She expressed one desire:

Even after I have gone there, I hope I shall be allowed to chant prayers to the Buddha when My work for the day is over.


Finally, on September 15, 1810[2], dressed in a colorful long-sleeved kimono, Miki left Her home in a palanquin followed by attendants carrying Her trousseau in five loads and entered the Nakayama family of Shoyashiki Village. She was then thirteen years of age.

After Her marriage, Miki lived happily with the Nakayama family, devoting Herself to Her husband, never once opposing his will, and discharging Her duties to the Nakayama parents with all Her heart. One day, Her father-in-law asked if She could shave him. She brought out a razor and whetstone and, after sharpening the razor expertly, She handled it so competently that he exclaimed happily, "How skillful you are!"

She was simple and modest in Her choice of clothes and coiffure and did not attach undue importance to Her appearance. For instance, at the age of fourteen, when She made Her first visit back to Her parents' home in the year following Her marriage, She wore Her hair in a style that was common among women in their thirties, while Her colorful long-sleeved kimono was that of a young girl. This led the villagers to whisper among themselves, "What a peculiar combination!"

She put Her whole heart into the household work, rising early in the morning to lead others in preparing breakfast. During the day, She busied Herself with the cooking, washing, sewing, and weaving. When the farming seasons came, She participated in all sorts of field work, transplanting rice seedlings, weeding the rice fields, harvesting rice, and sowing and harvesting barley. In later years, She said:

In My childhood, I was not very healthy, but I came to do all sorts of farm work. The only exceptions were the plowing of rice fields and the digging of ditches. In all other work, I did twice as much as anyone else.

Thus, She did all kinds of farm work, except those two heavy tasks, which were done only by men.

In those days, the people in that area grew a lot of cotton. When the season to uproot the cotton plants came around, She worked at it twice as hard as others. Although She was a woman, She pulled more than half an acre a day. On the average, a man was said to be able to pull less than half an acre a day, whereas a woman would average less than one-third of an acre. She also worked at the loom. She could freely weave fabric of a most complicated splashed pattern of Her own design. She would often complete it within a day, whereas it took an average person two full days of work.

She was regarded highly by Her relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors because of Her thoughtfulness. She also treated the servants and farmhands with deep consideration. She always spoke kindly to them and was willing to do anything on their behalf. For instance, on days when they were resting from their labors, She would send them on picnics with lunches that She had made for them Herself. Her parents-in-law, impressed by the way She handled Herself, entrusted Her with the management of all household matters when She was sixteen years old.

While She devoted Herself to the management of the household and also to the family occupation, nothing gave Her greater joy than to visit temples and listen to sermons from time to time. Thus, in the spring of 1816, She was initiated into the mysteries of the Jodo sect at the Zenpuku Temple of Magata Village at the age of nineteen.

In every respect, She was a perfect wife, but She was late in having a child. That was the one thing that weighed on the minds of the members of Her family.

About that time, a housemaid named Kano was in favor with her master, Zenbei. She took advantage of her position, growing more willful and presumptuous each day. Finally, one day, she served Miki a bowl of soup that she had poisoned, thinking that by doing away with Miki, she might step into Her place. Miki ate the soup, knowing nothing of the poison, and before long was in violent pain. The family was greatly alarmed and immediately began to nurse Her, doing the best they could, and, at the same time, they tried to find out the cause of Her sudden illness. When they discovered that it was due to the intrigue of their own housemaid, they were astounded and angered. But Miki spoke to them with labored breathing:

This is nothing but the cleansing of My stomach by the gods and the Buddha.

At this, the family was pacified. Deeply touched by Miki’s generous heart, the housemaid awoke from her dream of delusion and expressed her profound regret for what she had done. She repented from the bottom of her heart and, soon after, retired from the Nakayama household, leaving their service of her own accord.

On June 11, 1820, Zenyemon, Her father-in-law, passed away for rebirth at the age of sixty-two.

Birth of Shuji

In the winter of that same year, Miki became pregnant, and on July 24 of the following year, at twenty-four, She gave birth to their first child, a boy. The newborn child, who later went through many years of hardship together with Oyasama, was first named Zenyemon and later renamed Shuji. Zenbei's delight was beyond compare since he was blessed with his first child and, moreover, a male heir. Bright joy permeated the whole house, and they lived even more happily than when they were first married.

While She was pregnant with Shuji, Miki put forth all Her energy in discharging Her filial duties. Even though Her own body was heavy with child, She carried Her aged mother-in-law on Her back, not only around their own premises but also when taking her to visit people in the neighborhood.

She gave birth to Her first daughter, Omasa, on April 8, 1825, and to Her second daughter, Oyasu, on September 9, 1827. The following year, on April 8, 1828, Her mother-in-law, Kinu, passed away for rebirth.

For Zenbei, these children were the joy of his life. He was deeply concerned about their welfare. When he remembered, in the fields, that he had left home without covering the well, he returned home immediately to put the lid on it, lest his youngsters should fall in. He was also highly considerate of others. For example, on a summer day, when he was making rounds to inspect the condition of the water in his rice fields, he noticed a mole hole in the dike of another man’s field. He immediately proceeded to fill it up to prevent the leak of precious water. Often, he worked so intently at this kind of activity that it would be nightfall before he realized it.

Both Miki and Her husband applied themselves diligently to their family occupation from dawn to dusk. Miki's tasks as a loving mother increased as the family was blessed with one child after another. She sat working at the loom all day with Her baby on Her back and did needlework till late at night with the baby at Her bosom. Both Miki and Her husband were compassionate and were always delighted to help others.

On one occasion, a poor man broke into the storehouse and tried to steal a sack of rice. The servants caught him in the act and, having seized him, were shouting noisily that they should take him to the authorities. Miki, awakened by the noise, stopped them and said:

He must have been driven by poverty to steal. I pity such a mind.

She forgave the man and gave him the rice.

Another time, a farm hand, whom the family had hired for the autumn harvest, proved to be exceedingly lazy in spite of his robust body. He was coldly ignored by the others because he shirked his duties no matter how busily the others worked. Miki did not forsake him but persistently strove to guide him, always greeting him in an affectionate way:

Thank you for your efforts.

At first, the man presumed on Her kindness and remained as idle as ever. But, after a while, he realized that he had no excuse for being so idle and began to work, till at last he became an unusually hard worker.

Once toward the end of autumn, a beggar with a grimy baby on her back stood at the gate and begged for alms. Miki warmed up some rice gruel at once and gave it to her along with some clothes. But after a moment, She said:

I have made a gift to the parent, but to the baby on her back I have given nothing. How hungry it must be!

Miki took the baby into Her arms and gave it Her breast.

As Miki had plenty of milk each time She gave birth, She would always offer it to babies who were suffering from a lack of milk. When She was thirty-one, there was a family in the neighborhood who had lost each of their five previous children and were having trouble in raising their sixth, a baby boy, due to a lack of milk. Miki could not bear to see their suffering and kindly took him under Her own care. However, the child was unexpectedly stricken with smallpox. In spite of Miki's wholehearted nursing, the illness developed into "blackpox" on the eleventh day. The doctor gave up on the child, declaring that there was no hope of recovery. But Miki could not give up and said to Herself:

I cannot let him die under My care.

So, She started a hundred-day prayer, walking barefoot to the village shrine each day. She prayed earnestly to all the gods of heaven and earth.

Perhaps this is an unreasonable request, but please save the child under My care, who is now critically ill with smallpox. In return, I offer the lives of My two daughters as substitutes, retaining only My son. If that is not enough, I shall also offer My own life upon the completion of My prayer.

The baby's condition improved daily until, at last, he recovered completely. Later, in 1830, Her second daughter, Oyasu, passed away to be received by God at the age of four. Her third daughter, Oharu, was born on the evening of September 21, 1831, and Her fourth daughter, Otsune, was born on November 7, 1833. But Otsune passed away for rebirth in 1835 at the age of three. Then, on December 15, 1837, Her fifth daughter, Kokan, was born.

According to Her later comments, Oyasama explained that God felt it too cruel to receive two lives at one time in accordance with Her prayer. Therefore, God received the life of one, then returned the soul to be reborn, and then received it again, thus fulfilling the receipt of two lives.

Afterward, Miki remained as deep as ever in Her benevolence and as far reaching as ever in Her charity, liberally giving such things as homespun cotton cloth and rice to the poor. Her acts of charity grew more frequent, and the quantity of alms grew larger, as the people's lives grew harder and harder due to the successive crop failures and famines during the 1830s.

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  1. June 2, 1798, by the Gregorian calendar.
  2. October 13, 1810, by the Gregorian calendar.

External link to Japanese text of Chapter Two

第二章 生い立ち