The following is a translation of Part 7 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the July 2003 (No. 415) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. Note: This is a tentative translation may require further polishing and revision.
Part 7: An Apology
Kikutaro Shimamura ran a marine products business in Osaka. He converted to the faith in 1888 after being saved from two major illnesses. He resolved to save a thousand persons as his expression of gratitude for being saved by God the Parent from certain death.
He took a temporary break from his business, and returned to his hometown of Kochi to begin his missionary work. Kikutaro paid no heed to living in abject poverty and solely devoted his efforts toward searching for ill people so he could pray for their recovery. His dedicated, intense prayers led many ill people to recover one after another, and the path spread like wildfire in the area surrounding Kochi. About six months after he began his missionary work, a shudansho1 was built in 1889 through the efforts of the people he helped save.
One night some time later, circa 1891, Tokujiro Ono 小野徳次郎 and Ushimatsu Kamohara 蒲原丑松 were on duty, staying at the shudansho. As the frost grew heavier with morning approaching, they suddenly heard the sound of hand claps coming from the shrine altar.
As they wondered who would be here on such a cold night, they saw Kikutaro bowing deeply in concentrated prayer. The pair surmised, “He surely must be here to pray for someone with a sudden illness….”
They waited until Kikutaro finished his prayer before they asked what brought him here. He went on to say: “I am sorry to cause such a fuss in the middle of the night. I’m ashamed to say this, but I dreamed that I had become angry at my wife, who was complaining about having so many things to do, and this made me almost strike her. Even though it was a dream, how pathetic is it for me to dream that I would even dare lay a hand on my wife’s body, a precious thing borrowed from God! I am supposed to teach everyone about the importance of tanno and the path of Oyasama’s exemplary model, but how can I settle the teachings in my mind when it is filled with so much dust? I could not fall asleep again after thinking this, so I thought to come and make an apology to God the Parent and Oyasama. Please forgive my intrusion at this hour.”
Up until this point, Ono and Kamohara naturally had profound respect for Kikutaro more than anyone and saw him to be a man of great virtue. Yet they were greatly moved once again at the depth of Kikutaro’s sincerity and single-heartedness to God that motivated him to travel the 2.2 kilometers from his home to the shudansho to apologize for something that transpired in a dream. As they watched Kikutaro return home after apologizing to them for the so-called trouble he caused, they exchanged their feelings to one another with tears in their eyes.
“Didn’t we see a living god?”
“That’s just it. Kikutaro is truly a person of the path. I would gladly sacrifice my life for his sake.”
Being that they had the peculiar quirks unique among the sons of Kochi, Ono and Kamohara were not the kind of men who could be talked into seeing the light through doctrine or be impressed with difficult teachings. More likely than not, their hearts were struck by the sincerity in which Kikutaro always strictly applied his single-heartedness with God as the standard for his actions.
Reference: Tenrikyo Kochi Daikyokai Shiryobu 天理教高知大教会史料部. Tenrikyo Kochi Daikyokai shi, vol. one.
- Next installment in this series: 8. Steamed Sweet Potatoes (Yamada, Taemon)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Rev. Kikutaro Shimamura 島村菊太郎 (1858–1911) later went on to become the first head minister of Kochi Bunkyokai 高知分教会 (branch church) in 1891. Now known as Tenrikyo Kochi Daikyokai 天理教高知大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 260 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 403 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Lima Kyokai in Peru, Sunhan Gyohae (church) 順韓教会, Sungyeong Gyohae 順京教会, and Haman Gyohae 咸安教会 in South Korea, Los Angeles Central Church in L.A., and Kochi Makoto Church in Honolulu.
Former branch churches of Kochi Daikyokai include Takaoka, Kawanoe, Shigeto, Aiyo, Ino, and Ochi grand churches.
This story almost helps confirm an earlier hunch of mine that the doctrine of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” played an extremely important role for early Tenrikyo followers as the basis for ethical behavior. In the Ofudesaki:
So long as you remain unknowing that the body is a thing borrowed, you can understand nothing at all.
To elaborate on how this teaching forms a basis for ethical behavior in Tenrikyo, if we were to seriously consider that “our” bodies are lent to us by God in order to live the Joyous Life, would we use it to hurt or harm others? I speculate that if all followers truly understood the implications of this teaching and incorporated it in our lives, much suffering could be avoided. It is so easy to take this teaching for granted—we might “know” it in our heads, but it rarely plays a significant role in the routine of the day-to-day lives of most followers (myself very much included).
This story also demonstrates how a follower who exemplifies the teaching (naruhodo no hito) has the power to convince and inspire others. It is Rev. Kikutaro Shimamura’s actions that inspire the loyalty of Revs. Ono and Kamohara rather any elaborate sermonizing on his part. Somehow, this concept too, is lost on many. There are already too many religionists out there who may talk the talk but prove themselves incapable of walking the walk, thus giving their traditions a bad reputation. (A cynic would call these people hypocrites; I would like to avoid this rush to judgment and instead say such is human nature. Human beings are living embodiments of multiple contradictions, after all.)
Actions do speak louder than words! It really takes effort and focused consistency to become a person who exemplifies the teaching on an everyday basis. While it may be beyond the ability of most of us to reach Rev. Shimamura’s level, we are nevertheless obligated to make the effort and try the best we can.
- A shudansho (集談所 literally, “a place to gather and discuss”) did not need authorization from the local government office (which was required for a branch church, i.e., a bunkyokai or shikyokai), but only required authorization from law enforcement officials to allow followers to gather and conduct services or listen to sermons. Though shudansho were not formally registered with Tenrikyo Church Headquarters, they were nevertheless significant during the late 19th century in that they often were established as a preliminary step before founding a branch church (Tenrikyo jiten, pp.412–413). ↩