The following is a translation of Part 40 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the April 2006 (No. 448) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision. (This is part two of a two-part series [see part one])
Part 40: The Faith of Choe Jae-Han (2 of 2)
Choe Jae-Han (the first head minister of Won Nam Seong Gyohae) was brought back to life after Rev. Hideno Kimura’s administering of the Sazuke. Still, he had lost much of his vision and his arms and legs were bent inward, making him look like a cicada nymph.
Nevertheless, he thought to himself, “What can I do to repay the favor to such a god that saved a person like me from death?”
He asked Rev. Kimura this and she answered: “If you wish to express your appreciation to God, what you should do above anything else is to save others. But, Choe-san, you are still physically unable to step outside in your condition. So, how about beginning by ‘spreading the fragrance’ or conveying the blessings God has bestowed you to everyone who visits you?”
Jae-Han’s home was located on a road in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture. Pedestrians constantly walked the streets outside. Jae-Han opened all the sliding doors to the entrance of his home and sat on the doorsill even in his disabled state, turned to the people passing by, and shouted in a loud voice: “My fellow city residents! Have faith in Tenrikyo. No matter how difficult your prayer may be, I have been told that there is no prayer that will go unanswered if you have faith in Tenrikyo. I encourage you all to have faith as soon as possible and embark on the path to right your causality before you commit wrongs like I have and are forced to suffer an accursed disease.”
By all consideration and from the perspective of common sense, Jae-Han ought to have been resting in bed. However, upon having been taught that “spreading the fragrance” was a way to “serve God,” he unhesitatingly implemented what he was taught immediately as he was persuaded and convinced that spreading the fragrance was the closest means available to him to attain the highest good in his current condition.
When he woke on the morning of the third day, he was startled when he noticed that his legs were sprawled outside his bedding. His legs were spread out. He was able to do bending and stretching exercises. And, he was able to move both his arms which he had no free control over the night before. Tears welled in the eyes of Choe Jae-Han, a man society had derided as a devil. Shaking with emotion, Jae-Han turned to the pedestrians walking the streets and shouted: “Everyone! Please look! My arms and legs have stretched out like this! God’s protection has blessed me so that I can move them like this!”
His joy of being brought back to life was followed by this encounter with God’s dynamic life force that allowed him to move his stiffened arms and legs at will. Jae-Han was unmistakably bathed in God’s blessings in a mere three days, igniting the hot flame of faith in his heart.
During this time, Rev. Kimura visited Jae-Han at his bedside each day, traveling over 50 kilometers from Genwa Bunkyokai in Nara. Jae-Han made an offering each time she came by to administer the Sazuke each morning and afternoon. The offerings consisted of the money he earned hand-over-fist as gambler. He was able to freely move his curled and hardened fingers once he had completely dispensed of it through his offerings.
Reference: Yamamoto Soseki. Kaisei no bokensha: Choe Jae-Han.
- Next installment in this series: 41. Bamboo Brooms (Higashida, Naka)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Choe Jae-Han (崔宰漢/최재한) went on to found Genhaku Bunkyokai (元博分教会) in Hakata in 1954, which was later relocated to South Korea in 1968 and renamed Won Nam Seong Gyohae (元南星教会). Won Nam Seong Gyohae currently oversees 37 branch churches, including three in Japan.
While the above reference is a good read, it is out of print at the moment. There happens to be a moviein Japanese based on it that is still available and it would be a great project to dub it in English or Korean with English subtitles. Some of the cheesy music needs to be taken out though.
Rev. Choe happens to be mentioned in an old article by Shimazono Susumu in the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. That’s a pretty prestigious peer-reviewed journal, whoo-hoo! It must be noted that he happens to be referred as “Choi Jae-Whan” in the article. Korean is just one of many languages that prove to be difficult to romanize/render in the English/Latin alphabet. I’ve always struggled on how to do it properly myself; I still don’t know the best way to render 元南星/원남성: Won Nam Seong? Won-namseong? One nam sung? This wouldn’t be an issue if everyone could read Korean, considered by many as the most logical writing system on the planet.
The following Ofudesaki verse happened to come up during one my daily readings and it struck me how it could be applied to Rev. Choe’s situation (although, historically, when it was written, is considered to have been directed to Oyasama’s daughter Kokan):
What do you think of this salvation? You will be able to go out of doors in three days.