Cornerstone: Chapter 14

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.

Promoted to a Headquarters Executive Official

On April 25, 1937, Genjiro was promoted to a Headquarters Senior Official. He was a unique candidate to be singled out for such a promotion. He was 63 years old. It was the 48th year since he embraced the faith.

At this juncture, Genjiro went from going on mission tours to churches belonging to Muya and Myodo lineages to churches across Japan belonging to all church lineages.

His first nationwide mission tour irrespective of church lineage took place during the preparations for Tenrikyo’s Centennial. The mission tour was to be done by three teams in May that year. Genjiro was teamed with Headquarters Executive Official Keizo Murata.

The Shinbashira gave the six officials selected to go on this mission tour the following caution on their departure: “I will not go out to say that officials on a mission tour ought to refrain from consuming alcohol. Just do not let alcohol consume you.”

Tears came to Genjiro’s eyes when he heard this. He had to receive such an entry-level warning at his age because officials were not trusted to refrain from alcohol. His were tears of regret and disappointment.

Mission tours did not merely require a minister to go and give talks. Genjiro had always told himself a minister went out on a mission tour to be tested.

A minister who is to expound on Oyasama’s Divine Model cannot gain people’s trust if he were to drink alcohol in excess and sleep in the next morning. No matter how much one expounded on the teachings, it meant nothing unless a minister gained people’s trust. Otherwise, the minister would have failed the test.

A minister on a mission tour was always tested, both by God and human beings.

Genjiro braced himself for the task ahead.

On August 26, Genjiro was appointed the superintendent of Hokkaido and Karafuto Diocese Office. Yoshinori was appointed the principal of Tenri Middle School the very same day. Both father and son shouldered important church duties.

In 1938, Genjiro went on two mission tours to Korea and Manchuria with Headquarters Executive Official Yoshitaka Matsumura.

Then, on April 18, 1939, Genjiro was appointed a church officer of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. On that day he was granted the honor of being able to dress in the service kimono and enter the dais of the Main Sanctuary as a Service performer. He expressed his feelings of gratitude in the June issue of Michi no tomo as follows:

Appointment to a Headquarters Church Officer

I was suddenly appointed a Headquarters church officer on April 18, the day of Oyasama’s Birth Celebration Service. I was allowed to enter the dais of the Main Sanctuary that morning. I wondered if it was a dream.

I gave out my first cries on October 5, 1875, on the northern banks of Yoshinogawa Bridge that spans the Yoshino River stretching from Tokushima City to Muya-cho. My family was widely involved in agriculture. Because I was weak physically from childhood and unsuited to farming, I aspired to get a good education. I did not go to middle school but specialized in the Chinese classics instead.

I studied under Shibun Okamoto, a disciple of Sokken Yasui. I specialized in learning the entire canon of Chinese classics until I was 16.

That summer. I became severely ill. Abandoned by doctors, Tenrikyo saved me.

This year marks the 50th year since then. I am in the middle of drafting a retrospective on the past 50 years, hoping to have it published. During the last 50 years, I nearly lost my life on seven occasions. I fell seriously ill three times, escaped from a ship sinking during a mission tour three times, and a car I was riding in almost drove off a cliff. Members of my family have experienced about a dozen miracles.

In the winter after I turned 18, I became Muya Branch Church’s first seinen. We did not even have a name for what a seinen did back then.

For three years I fetched drinking water, cleaned the Western-style lamps, worked the mortar-pestle machine to hull grain, and cleaned the church precincts all by myself. I was also practiced giving sermons when I was appointed to do the zenseki.1

Rev. Unosuke Tosa taught me, “It’s useless to deliver sermons to followers who were converted by others.” I received the Sazuke and was appointed a minister. Just before I left to go on a missionary expedition, Rev. Tomokichi Kashihara, senior church officer at Myodo Auxiliary Church, grew seriously ill and I received a proposal to marry his daughter and become his heir. He passed away for rebirth seven days after I was married.

We conducted his 50th-day memorial service on the 45th day. I then departed in my straw sandals on a missionary expedition to Karatsu in Kyushu. I was 21 at the time.

I was determined not to return alive until the path was laid there.

In Karatsu City, I ate barley with rice and wore straw sandals. I circled Saga Prefecture looking for sick people. Although I found a few, because I did not speak the local dialect and was a stranger, for 40 days I had no success spreading the fragrance.

On my 60th day, I spread the fragrance to a person who had not stood up for three years. The person stood up on the third day. In five months, I gained between 50 and 60 follower households and had two people attend the Besseki lecture. In eight months I had 10 people attend the Besseki lecture. In a year and four months, I gained 200 followers.

I then fell severely ill. I returned to Tokushima and suffered for six months. After I made a complete recovery I became the head minister of Myodo Auxiliary Church at age 26. Myodo had only three subsidiary churches at the time of my recovery. 1935 was by 40th year since I became head minister.

I was saved seven times in the 50 years since I embraced the faith. Of course, this was possible because of the grace of God the Parent and Oyasama. Yet it was also possible because of the teaching of single-hearted salvation that Rev. Unosuke Tosa always instructed me. When we think of why God has saved those of us who have a deep causality, our lives are for the purpose of attaining this, which is God’s intention.

God once taught: “Sah, the sweeping. I need brooms. I need many of them. Ones that prove easy to use, I shall use forever. Ones that prove awkward to use, I shall use just once.”2 I believe that this means God tests us whether or not we are worthy to be used as instruments.

From 1900 to 1908, I was tested as the head minister of Myodo Auxiliary Church. For 18 years between 1908 and 1925, I was tested as the head minister of Myodo Branch Church. For nine years between April 1925 and October 1933, I was tested as the head minister of Myodo Middle Church. For 14 years from 1933 until today, I have been tested as the head minister of Myodo Grand Church. This includes the testing I have undergone as a headquarters senior official since April 1937 and as the superintendent of Hokkaido Diocese since August the same year. In addition to this, I have before me the immense test of having become the superintendent of the diocese overseeing Kyoto and four surrounding prefectures and a headquarters church officer. My test includes the following exam questions:

  1. Do I have anything to be ashamed of when my life as a Tenrikyo minister and a Yoboku is compared with the Divine Model of Oyasama?
  2. What kind of example do I set as head minister for my subsidiary churches?
  3. Although Oyasama Herself set an example of sacrifice, teaching first generation followers to make efforts to save others, head ministers today are not carrying this out. There are an increasing number of weak-willed people, reversing the gains that have been made so far. What can we second- and third-generation followers do to fundamentally reform these negative trends?
  4. Presently Tenrikyo merely make its voice heard while the inner substance grows weak. Top ministers have lost the missionary spirit, are caught up in maintaining outward church formalities and have a slackening the sense of urgency to maintain a single day’s sincerity over a thousand days. How can we improve this situation?
  5. Regarding the war situation, the Japanese general public aspires to annihilate themselves for the sake of the nation. How are Tenrikyo ministers supposed to set an example of this?

I am sure there are innumerable other subjects God is testing us in other than these five subjects. The seven times I escaped death in 50 years were seven tests.

Both God the Parent and the general members of Tenrikyo are the exam monitors of the five subjects I outlined above. Will I pass this test or not? Complacency is my worst enemy.

Translator’s notes

  1. This can potentially refer to a talk given after the morning service on a monthly service day or a sermon given before the minister’s monthly service sermon. It is possible it is pronounced “maeseki.”
  2. Quote of passage from Osashizu, March 15, 1887.