Cornerstone: Chapter 5-3

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.

Guidelines a Religious Worker Should Follow in Life

When Genjiro served as a seinen for Rev. Tosa, rather than learning about the teachings, Genjiro instead learned the way he ought to conduct himself and what kind of attitude he should have towards life as a religious worker.

Naruto was not a farming village. Also, Rev. Tosa was formerly a sailor. Yet the lifestyle he led at Muya was deeply influenced by a farmer’s way of living. There was nothing particularly special about it.

Diet was centered on wheat and barley. He made it a rule not to partake of alcohol. Still, when he could not avoid hosting someone who drank, he limited himself to three sake cups.

He wore only cotton and straw sandals. He aimed for austerity and simplicity. Anything that was deemed unnecessary for living was eliminated. He was also strict with himself by practicing early rising and practicing sexual monogamy.

All these things basically add up to a form of asceticism that anyone can practice. All one needs is the motivation to follow them through. These things amount to the bare minimum a religious worker ought to observe. It is important to make small efforts each day, which compound exponentially.

Although this is my personal speculation, I believe that with this way of life, Rev. Tosa intended to proactively establish the guidelines a Tenrikyo person should follow in life.

It is a formidable challenge to resolve the issue of providing food, clothing, and shelter for a class of professional religious workers at the formation of a religious organization. An examination of history reveals the religions that have resolved this issue in some form or another all have attained greatness and endured.

Both Buddhism and Christianity have resolved this issue with its asceticism and simplification of lifestyle. Asceticism is a means of strictly suppressing ones’ material and physical desires. The pinnacle of such asceticism is the prohibition of marriage. Although this prohibition derives from doctrine, it nevertheless can be thought of as a practical matter involving food, clothing, and shelter.

By taking a spouse, a religious professional is subject to notions of household, financial strains, and emotional friction. Any carelessness on one’s part can cloud or dull the spirit. Such are the most common pitfalls a person may be susceptible to.

Among the organizations that have been most uncompromising in their asceticism and simplification of lifestyle is the Roman Catholic Church. An examination of the lives intended for its priests and monastics reveal that the Catholic Church demands anyone willing to commit to the path of God to abandon all worldly desire. Chastity, poverty, and obedience are known as the three counsels of perfection. This appears to be an attempt to severely deny the human tendency to seek the comforts of middle class life.

There are no obvious ascetic practices or religious laws in Tenrikyo. Oyasama once taught: “Do not become a mountain hermit. Rather, become a sage of the village instead.” However, in actuality, it is more difficult to become a sage of the village than a mountain hermit. This is because living in a social situation presents a complex maze of situations where one ultimately may be led to compromise one’s principles or succumb to self-indulgence and self-deception, saying, “Ah, just doing this won’t hurt.”

What Rev. Tosa cautioned against most was such tendencies toward self-indulgence. Although it is easy to live self-indulgently, one will later be struck down by bad causality as a result. A path of bad causality will not only bring oneself down but bring down one’s descendants as well.

One’s daily life becomes important if one is to correct the human tendency toward self-indulgence. Although one may be able to save others despite drinking in excess and sleeping in, one can never save oneself.

This was the idea behind the Spartan tone set at Muya that also forged Genjiro’s philosophy, personality, and attitude toward life. Depending on one’s perspective, it can be said that the tone that was set at Muya during its early years was most straightforwardly evident in the course Genjiro took.