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.
Genjiro wrote and published about ten books in his lifetime. In the publication Innen to tatakau (Battling one’s causality), he wrote the following:
My adoptive father Tomokichi, who established Myodo, died at the age of 44. The causality of 20-odd years on the narrow path of being unfilial to my parents led to his untimely death. After this, I was unable to escape the proverbial fate of being poor in money but rich in children. Further, whether it was because I was not resoundingly successful in my missionary work, or because I was away from my family for a long time, or because marital harmony was lacking, I received God’s profound warning when my wife lacked breast milk. I then readied the following six weapons to battle this bad causality:
- Early rising for 50 years
- Lifelong sexual monogamy
- No alcohol or tobacco for 50 years
- Prohibition from seeing the sights for 50 years
- “Rising sun” lunches for 50 years
- Wear nothing but cotton for 50 years
I readied these six weapons. If I had let my guard down while propagating Tenrikyo, I certainly would have died young.
Genjiro wrote this in 1951, so it meant that he had observed these for much longer than 50 years. It would be more appropriate to say he observed them for his entire life.
Genjiro had practiced early rising before becoming Tenrikyo, yet when he became a seinen at Muya, he began rising an hour before morning service. He never took up smoking. It is imagined these two things were comparatively easy for him to practice.
“Prohibition from seeing the sights” meant not going to see theatrical shows or going sightseeing. Genjiro’s stance was that anyone walking God’s path did not need time off for leisure activities.
In the past, there were few forms of entertainment, the main form being theatrical events. But Genjiro never stopped by the Sennichimae amusement quarter when he went to Osaka. He never even participated in the famed Awa Odori in Tokushima that beckoned everyone watching to become “dancing fools.” According to Kashihara family members, he once watched some television for a short moment. The only pleasure he allowed himself was composing Kanshi poetry, which was something he could enjoy alone and it cost nothing. In this way, he declined to indulge in pleasures that entranced the eyes.
“Rising sun” lunches were packed lunches of rice with a pickled plum in the middle. When Genjiro went on his mission tours visiting his congregation, he took his rising sun packed lunch with him while wearing a pair of straw sandals. He never treated himself to an ice cream cone along the way. His other meals were very simple — rice with a bowl of soup and a side dish.
There is no difference in satisfying one hunger, be it eating an expensive steak or barley, brown rice, and pickles. For Genjiro, eating was not an issue of pleasing the eye or the palate; it was an issue of satisfying one’s stomach.
What is a missionary? A missionary is someone who is content with a simplified lifestyle and a subsistence level of living while seeking to save others. Unless one follows Oyasama’s path, one does not become a spiritual parent. Genjiro saw no reason for anyone who lived an easy life and sought pleasures to be able to nurture any spiritual children.
It is easy for us to believe we can regain our energy by eating a fancy meal; that a rich diet leads to an enriched spirit. Yet he felt that anyone who could not be healthy unless they ate well did not have the right constitution to become a religious worker.
Genjiro’s last “weapon” of wearing nothing but cotton amounted to being content with plain clothing. Genjiro, who regarded himself as a missionary on the front, did not allow himself to sit idly by and wear silk or wool clothing. Most of his clothes were coarse and hand-woven. Since he wore straw sandals, he had to tuck the back of his kimono in his sash. He could only do this because he wore cotton. He made it a point to only carry the barest essentials — perhaps a watch, footwear, a hat, and an umbrella at most.
Even in Tenrikyo, there were two — urban and rural habits — when it came to diet and clothing. As in the social climate of the day, there was an undercurrent that desired to rise from rural to an urban lifestyle.
Genjiro’s code of wearing nothing but cotton unmistakably placed him in the rural category. He could not bring himself to cultivate the fields wearing a silk haori coat or a hakama skirt. He felt the groundwork for Muya’s path was laid by wearing hand-woven cotton and straw sandals. Realizing that there was no limit to the wild mountain depths that the teachings still needed to reach, he could not bring himself to wear a habutae silk coat or a Sendaihira hakama.
Already by the late 19th century, there were people who claimed that anyone wearing nothing but cotton was behind the times. There were quite a few who agreed. For missionaries are human too. It is much better to wear hakama like they do in the cities and live where the food is delicious. Yet if one did so, one would loath actual hardship while preaching its supposed virtues.
Genjiro saw egregious examples of some head ministers reverting to their former occupations such as farmers and storekeepers just so they could afford to buy clothes for their families and liquor for themselves. He thought they did so because they lacked unshakable conviction.
One day, Genjiro received three silk Western-style umbrellas from an elderly Rev. Tosa. He ended up not using them since he knew we would have been apologetic if someone were to ever ask about them.
Genjiro felt there was something hypocritical about telling followers not to wear good clothes while one wore good clothes. There was no way that for the congregation to gain strength while showing a golden wristwatch in front of missionaries who lived a hand-to-mouth existence. There are others who think that it is not a misuse of the mind to believe God will work on one’s behalf as long as one has virtue or that when one can wear anything that happens to be a gift. Genjiro did not allow himself to be colored by such utilitarian “give-and-take” ideas.
He never once considered himself as a person with virtue. He feared the depths of his bad causality. He was afraid of letting a hundred days worth of good deeds to evaporate into thin air.
According to Genjiro, virtue amounted to making the effort to serve God and help save others as a disciple of Oyasama despite any hindrances one may encounter. He had no issues in regards to being unable to indulge when it came to food and clothing.
Genjiro upheld the code of lifetime sexual monogamy to prevent being led astray by sexual desire. He was especially strict concerning this rule. There was a red-light district in Tomida-machi near Myodo Auxiliary Church. Although it would have been a shorter walk if he had passed through it, Genjiro avoided heading where sensuous songs were being sung and played and instead went out of his way to take the long way home. Even when he went on mission tours to visit his congregation, he never stayed at any house where a woman was by herself. No matter how late it was, he walked up to 12 kilometers (7.5 mi.) to the next suitable home where he could stay. He truly kept himself pure when it came to being true to his wife.
Sexual desire and liquor are intimate companions. Genjiro was born into a family that liked to drink. Although he didn’t necessarily dislike drinking, he became a teetotaler after the birth of his eldest son Yoshinori. Oyasama is said to have taught, “While you may consume liquor, don’t let it consume you.” Knowing how easy it was to be consumed by liquor, Genjiro made efforts to decline it.
One cannot be ambiguous when declining liquor. One is unable to keep away from the bottle with any consistency without a firm determination not to drink.
- Next installment in this series: What Makes a Nation Great