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.
The Beginning of Myodo Auxiliary Church
The encounter between Unosuke Tosa and Tomokichi Kashihara is among one of the most dramatic episodes in Tenrikyo’s history. A playwright would quickly pounce and incorporate the scene in one of his plays. It was a duel that pitted man against man within a religious context.
It is imagined that Unosuke had great confidence, but should he had lost to Tomokichi’s paralysis spell, it would have been a truly serious prospect for him to accept his defeat and surrender with good grace.
Unosuke silently raised his fist in the air, daring Tomokichi to strike him. They stood breathlessly still like statues. After some time had passed, Tomokichi opened his mouth to speak. What came out were not the words of a paralysis spell but the following concession, given with a smile: “I realize that incantations and magical rites will not work against you. It is just as you say; the age of incantations and magical rites has passed. I believe that your faith that saves people through the power of true sincerity is the religion of the future.”
Tomokichi detected the spirit of self-sacrifice in the Unosuke’s raised fist and sensed the man he was facing was a genuine defender of God. At that moment he pledged to follow Unosuke and became a believer in Tenrikyo.
Neither an illness nor some other trouble motivated him to embrace the faith. It is imagined he could have lived a tranquil life if he decided to have continued to live as a fishmonger. Yet Tomokichi’s natural assertiveness was that he knew no other way but to devote himself entirely to a path he believed in and was reborn on that day as a marvelous Yoboku of God.
Tomokichi’s life as a Tenrikyo follower spanned just seven years. Tomokichi had nothing on his mind other than God and Rev. Tosa during those seven years. Nothing else took precedence.
Wondrous instances of salvation occurred one after another and the number of followers surged. When enough donations were collected to establish a church, Tomokichi instead dedicated his sincerity by channeling the funds to the construction that built Oyasama’s gravesite on two separate occasions. When followers complained, he said that building a church shouldn’t be their goal. He insisted that the true path amounted to using any resources one had at hand to serve God. Tomokichi was crystal clear about what he felt was the right course and had an authoritarian streak when it came to pursuing it.
Despite such a stormy beginning, Myodo Auxiliary Church was finally established in 1892. Tomokichi then took on a bizarre position. Although it appeared to be a given that he would become the head minister since he has connected the church’s several hundred followers to the path through his salvation efforts, he had something different in mind.
Tomokichi wanted Terauchi to become head minister, for he claimed that the congregation would not have grown until it was today if Terauchi had not spread the fragrance of the teachings to him. Tomokichi felt it was only right to work and serve under his beck and call.
Yet Terauchi declined because the degree to which Tomokichi applied himself to the faith was already on an entirely different level than his. So every means available was exhausted to convince Kunizo Masaki, the man who in turn spread the fragrance to Terauchi, to become head minister. Tomokichi became a member of the board of directors.
This was nothing less than astounding. A typical person would have considered the congregation as people he had helped save. Yet Tomokichi did not harbor such a thought and dedicated himself to serving Rev. Masaki.
Even when he went to Muya to worship, he had Rev. Masaki ride in a rickshaw while he walked in his straw sandals. He also rented a house near the church in Nobori-cho. He didn’t show the slightest desire of enjoying a carefree life and instead devoted himself to serving God.
Rev. Tosa revered Tomokichi as the greatest missionary in Awa and relied on him more than anyone else.
- Next installment in this series: Tomokichi Kashihara’s Twilight Years