The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 28

The following is a translation of Part 28 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the April 2005 (No. 436) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 28: “I Resolve to Implement the Spirit of Single-Hearted Salvation”

Kichitaro Matsumura of Byodoji Village, Osaka, loathed anything that defied reason. He found the rough, uncultured behavior of the followers around him distasteful and secretly ridiculed those who had faith. While his parents and younger brother were devout followers of Tenrikyo, Kichitaro’s attitude grew colder as their devotion grew deeper. His mother Saku told him over and over: “When you were younger, you always played near Oyasama each time we returned to Jiba. She even held and carried you on one occasion.” Nevertheless, Kichitaro could not bring himself to accept the faith.

One day, Chusaku Tsuji and Gisaburo Nakata came from Jiba to convey God’s teachings to the Matsumura household. As he listened to their talk with his parents, he found it to be full of nonsense and far-fetched claims. Unable to sit and listen in silence any longer, he argued back at them. Kichitaro arguments proved to be so logically consistent that the two missionaries were at a loss on how to respond. Kichitaro laughed inside, thinking: “See? Who’d believe in such childish deception?”

Circa the spring of 1886, the 20-year-old Kichitaro collapsed after succumbing to consumption. While his parents and younger brother encouraged him that this was precisely the occasion to have faith, Kichitaro’s feelings didn’t change in the least. He felt faith was unnecessary for something that could be cured by a doctor.

However, three months passed without any sign of recovery. His condition instead worsened with each passing day. The doctor who had so much confidence after taking his case could only express uncertainty. Kichitaro’s life eventually was in danger and his convictions began to waver.

When he said, “Okay, I’ll give faith a try,” a fellow confraternity member who was sitting nearby said to him: “You certainly say strange things for someone who always insists on logic and reason. Will a fellow human being take you seriously if you asked for something in such a ‘wait-and-see’ manner? God isn’t any different. Isn’t it natural that you will not be saved if you pray with such a mind-set?”

Kichitaro always felt that faith was not to be taken causally and religion had no value unless it was substantial enough to stake his life on. Upon finally finding the determination to believe, he threw away the medicine he had been taking until that point and declared: “I resolve to implement the spirit of single-hearted salvation and devote myself solely to the path for the rest of my life.”

A prayer service was conducted immediately. Kichitaro’s consumption disappeared in just a week.

Reference: Matsumura Kichitaro. Michi no hachiju-nen.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.

Supplemental information

The Rev. Kichitaro Matsumura 松村吉太郎 (1867–1952) later went on to become the first head minister of Takayasu Bunkyokai 高安分教会 (branch church) in 1888. Now known as Tenrikyo Takayasu Daikyokai 天理教高安大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 369 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 354 fukyosho (“fellowships” or “mission stations”), including Soksun Gyohae (church) 速鮮教会, Sunhwa Gyohae 宣和教会 and Chirwon Gyohae 漆原教会 in South Korea and Utah Church in Ogden. (The Romanizations of the Korean church names are my rough guesses.)

Former branch churches of Takayasu Daikyokai include: Tohon, Ogata, Sumoto, Miyako, Nishinari, Minami, Otori, and Furuichi grand churches.

Further suggested reading

Refer to Anecdotes of Oyasama 190, “This Path” (pp. 149–150) for another story on the Rev. Kichitaro Matsumura.