The following is a translation of an excerpt from Ishizue: Kashihara Genjiro no shinko to shogai (Cornerstone: The Faith and Life of Genjiro Kashihara) by Teruo Nishiyama. Note: This translation is a provisional one and may need to undergo further revision.
How Genjiro Embraced the Faith
At age 16, Genjiro left Umezono Academy and began helping in the fields. Raising indigo was not easy work. It proved difficult for the frail Genjiro to work as much as a typical full-grown man. His brother Eki’emon, robust in body and health, scolded Genjiro, saying: “It doesn’t matter how much you’ve studied. People will laugh at you if you can’t work as much as the average person.”
Eki’emon had this tough side to him but was also an older brother Genjiro could greatly depend on. Eki’emon had converted to Tenrikyo at age 18 when they were both studying classical Chinese.
According to Vol. 5 of Tomoji Takano’s Tenrikyo dendoshi (the missionary history of Tenrikyo), Tenrikyo spread to Shikoku in 1879 when Unosuke Tosa — who became the first minister of Muya Grand Church — was introduced to the teachings when he was in Sangeya, Osaka. The path then spread from Muya to Tokushima. By 1890, there were followers in the area around Furukawa.
Eki’emon embraced the faith after Ko’emon Amano, who lived in the house east of the Tenmas, spread the fragrance to him. It appears that he was partly motivated due to the poor health of his mother Koto. Eki’emon, who had a copious amount of entrepreneurial spirit, rapidly progressed in the faith. By age 19, he already showed enough strength in his conviction that he became one of Muya’s dispatched representatives while under the service of Fusajiro Oe, a confraternity director in Kawauchi Village, Itano County. (Fusajiro Oe later became such a central figure at Muya Grand Church that he was often referred as its vice-head.)
However, Eki’emon remained reserved at home as his father Katsuzo was a devout practitioner of Ontakekyo. This was likely because of the authority of the head of household loomed large back then.
Yet, an opportune occasion presented itself in June 1890. Genjiro, perhaps due to the exhaustion from laboring at something he was not accustomed to, fell ill (typhoid). He had a high fever for 12 days and fell unconscious. The doctors declared his case to be beyond help. Katsuzo then gathered with his companions from Ontakekyo, subjected himself to water ablutions with them, and engaged in intense prayer sessions for three days and three nights. Despite their offerings of prayer, there was no change in Genjiro’s condition.
Eki’emon had resolved to save his brother through Tenrikyo even before these prayer sessions began. Yet forcing a competition with his father would lead to disharmony in the home. He kept watching the situation as he considered a way to receive God’s protection. In his delirium Genjiro called Eki’emon and pleaded with him to save him through Tenrikyo. Seeing this, his conviction deepened that his younger brother could be saved now that such a wish stirred in his heart.
Eki’emon did not receive the sacrament of the Sazuke until two years later,when he was 20 years old. Therefore, the specifics about how the events unfolded after the brothers were finally united in mind are unclear. It is imagined that Eki’emon firmly resolved to work for God’s sake for his entire life. As Genjiro wasn’t fully conscious, there probably wasn’t much talk about making a specific resolve on his part. Nevertheless, due to Eki’emon’s verve and sincerity, Genjiro became better with a single prayer.
This marked the beginning of Genjiro’s faith. He experienced with his very being that there are such things as miracles and wonders in the human world.
There was much to admire about the teachings of saints and sages he learned. However, when he was at the brink of life and death, the teachings of saints and sages proved utterly powerless.
Why did Tenrikyo enable such a miracle to occur? Eki’emon told him that God the Parent created human beings and could therefore do anything as long as one had a heart of sincerity. If sincere, God would surely accept.
This was talk from a world Genjiro was completely unfamiliar with. Here, a desire to explore this unknown grew inside him.
- Next installment in this series: His Lifelong Path