The following is a translation of Part 23 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the November 2004 (No. 431) issue of Taimo 大望, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 23: Praying on a Streetcorner in Beijing
Gunki Sato 佐藤軍紀 was part of the first graduating class of Tenri Foreign Language School in 1925.1 In 1928 he went to Beijing and began propagating the teachings of Tenrikyo.
Sato walked the streets of Beijing every day to look for anyone suffering from illness. One day past noon, searching for a place to take a short break, he entered the janitor’s room of the Dogakukai (同学会, the only language school in Beijing that taught Chinese to foreigners at the time).
The janitor Cui 崔 had just finished cleaning up after lunch and took a place near the fire to light a smoke. Sato and Cui were exchanging idle conversation when another Chinese man entered and began to talk to Cui in a carefree manner. Cui immediately introduced the man to Sato, saying, “This is Laosi 老四, my fourth younger brother.”
The three were having a pleasant chat when Laosi asked, “How long have you been coming to this school? Your Chinese is excellent.”
His older brother then explained, “This gentleman is a Tenrikyo minister from Japan.”
Sato took this opportunity to inquire: “Do you know someone living in your neighborhood or elsewhere who is suffering from an illness of any kind?”
Laosi thought for a moment and turned to his brother with an inquiring look on his face. “The old couple, the Wangs who live across from us… they’ve been suffering from illness for a long time. It is possible that they can be cured?”
Sato became serious as well, saying, “Yes, they can,” and asked them to lead the way so he could spread the fragrance.
The Wangs who Sato was introduced to had suffered from syphilis for a long time. It was the first time Sato entered a Chinese home to administer the Sazuke. He wrote down the surnames and given names of the couple in his notebook and asked them to believe in God and resolve that they will do a good deed each day from now on.
Sato then immersed himself in administering the Sazuke. When his prayer was over, he noticed that several adults and children had gathered from the neighborhood to watch Sato from the doorway and windows.
Then, the mother of the Cui brothers entered, and asked Sato if he could pray for her as well, saying that she could not lift her arms since morning. Sato asked her to lift her arms, but no matter how much she tried, she could not raise them higher than a single foot (30 centimeters). Sato immediately began administering the Sazuke.
Once the prayer was over, Sato asked Mrs. Cui to lift her arms again and she was able to raise them to the height of her shoulders. Mrs. Cui could only utter “Ah….” in her amazement at what had just happened. Sato too was at a loss for words at this miracle. Forgetting he was in the presence of others, he merely stood still as warm tears streamed down his cheeks.
Reference: Sato Gunki 佐藤軍紀. Odo ni inoru 『黄土に祈る』.
- Next installment in this series: 24. “Destined to Be Saved”
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
The Rev. Gunki Sato 佐藤軍紀 (1904–1945) became the first head minister of Tenrikyo Subun Kyokai 天理教崇文教会, founded in 1936 in Beijing. Subun Kyokai was originally a church under Kawaramachi Daikyokai until 1944, when it became a church directly supervised by Tenrikyo Church Headquarters.
Subun Kyokai has its property confiscated after Japan’s defeat in World War II and would be eventually relocated to its present address in Kyoto. (It is now called Subun Bunkyokai 崇文分教会.)
I’ve also received recent news that the reference source cited here (Odo ni inoru) is being reissued by Tenrikyo Katsujo Bunkyokai 天理教葛上分教会 (a branch church of Shikishima Daikyokai 敷島大教会) with a limited run of 500 copies.
- Tenri Foreign Language School is the precursor of the present Tenri University. ↩