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.
Muya Grand Church was last among Tenrikyo’s churches that underwent a full-scale construction.
When Muya was first established in Saita, Naruto City, its worship hall was comprised of a four-mat (7.44 m2 or 80 ft2) and an eight-mat room. The pillars were 12.12 centimeters (4.772 in.) square. The construction is said to have cost 370 yen and lasted 33 years.
When Myodo underwent its first sanctuary construction, volunteers brought down lumber from the mountains and cut them into 18.18-centimeter (7.158 in.) square pillars. Tomokichi Kashihara intentionally set aside the donated lumber and used pillars the same size as Muya’s. He couldn’t even begin to consider constructing a church grander in scale than his parent church.
Rev. Tosa believed that he could not begin a full-scale construction that Muya may have deserved until the construction of the Sanctuary of Church Headquarters was complete.
The head minister’s residence at the church in Saita had no entrance space. There was an office under a canopy and no restroom inside. For a long time, Rev. Tosa had to take an umbrella to use the restroom on rainy nights.
As a result of this situation, however, is that none of Muya’s subsidiary churches had to go through bankruptcy because of undergoing a large construction. Their missionary strategy exclusively concentrated on expanding the faith in new areas.
Muya’s path mainly expanded in agricultural areas. The spirit of Muya missionaries who wore cotton and straw sandals suited the character of farming villages. One could not cultivate rough land while wearing silk clothes. One had to sow seeds, carefully tend to the crop, and patiently wait for the harvest.
Since such was the guiding principle behind Muya’s missionary effort, churches belonging to the Muya lineage on every count lacked the grandeur of others that based themselves in the cities. Even donations were usually 1 or 2 sen and no more than 10 to 20 sen at most.
Rev. Tosa placed great value on these donations, avoiding extravagant expenses so he could pass them on to Church Headquarters. In Tenrikyo’s early years, there was a membership fee to be paid by followers. Rev. Tosa always made it a point to cover 1,000 household’s worth of membership fees more than the actual size of his congregation and never failed to pay the fees.
Rev. Tosa would pass on the same thin envelopes containing the donations he had received from his followers to the accounting office of Church Headquarters. Rev. Shobei Masuno, who looked after the accounting, saw the expressions of faith from each follower from these farming villages and said, “Muya’s path must be difficult, but there is delight in the future!”
Rev. Tosa expressed his faith through a filial-like devotion to Jiba and a perseverant affection that he used to tend to his followers. What were his thoughts regarding donations? Here is a quote attributed to him: “If you preach about the importance of donations, you must work so followers can receive blessings worth ten times more than they donated. If you do not have the conviction to bring about such salvation, then it is irresponsible for you to ask for donations.”
Although there was certainly more to Rev. Tosa’s philosophy on donations than this, one nevertheless easily concludes that he placed greater value on people than money and material things.
Genjiro, who was nurtured under the tutelage of Rev. Tosa, went on a missionary expedition because he thought about nothing but spreading God’s path. Even after he took over as the head minister of Myodo Auxiliary Church, he had no worries about church matters such as accounting since he had the cooperation of Rev. Hayashi and other senior church officers. After Genjiro became head minister, Myodo’s growth was such that it gained 1,000 member households in one year.
The Secret Directives inaugurated a dark age of tribulations. A Divine Direction urging the construction of a Sanctuary for Church Headquarters was like a light at the end of the tunnel.
The executive officials of Church Headquarters resolved not to undo the thongs of their straw sandals1 until this great task was accomplished.
“Not to undo the thongs of our sandals.” Genjiro was inspired by both these words and the spirit it embodied. He felt that it exactly expressed the conviction he held on an ordinary basis.
- Next installment in this series: Genjiro’s Resolution Leading to the 30th Anniversary of Oyasama