The Footsteps of Our Predecessors 62

The following is a translation of Part 62 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the February 2008 (No. 470) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.

Part 62: A Resolution to be Single-Heartedly Dedicated to God

The Shiwaku Islands in the Seto Inland Sea comprise 28 islands of various sizes. The islands are renowned for their panoramic, scenic beauty. The name “Shiwaku” is said to have derived from “shio-waku” (literally, “gushing current”), which describes the swift ocean currents that flow between these islands. One of the central islands of Shiwaku is Honjima. In 1896, the man who transmitted the path to this island was a missionary named Eisa Sato.

Eisa Sato was an eloquent speaker with a good education. He spread the teachings and reaped significant results as he went from the Hokuriku region to Niigata and the Sado Peninsula. However, after a series of troubles and illnesses, he was on the verge of death before he awakened to genuine faith. His first destination once he resumed his missionary work was Honjima.

Each household on Honjima rejected Eisa as he made his rounds propagating the teachings. Yet upon meeting Koma Okuma (whose husband Matsujiro would later become the first head minister of Keijo), the tide turned greatly in his favor. One day, Koma’s younger brother Yoshizo Katayama (later, the second head minister of Honjima), who until then had refused to adopt the faith, requested that he be saved.

When Eisa arrived at the Katayama household, he immediately administered the Sazuke and conveyed the teachings. Yoshizo offered the best resolution he could muster, saying, “I shall dedicate ten days of each month to serving God.”

However, Eisa said to him: “Do not offer just ten days. Offer all your days to God. What is wanted from you is your single-hearted willingness to offer the rest of your life to serving God.”

Yoshizo then angrily countered: “Sensei, you’re being too harsh. If I offer my life to God, who is going to support my family?”

Eisa left and pondered over the matter while subjecting himself to cold water ablutions. Once thinking the matter through, he resolved to discard every ounce of his ego in order to have Yoshizo discard every ounce of his ego as well.

During this time, Yoshizo’s condition suddenly worsened until it became critical. To Koma, turning to God was her one and only hope to save her brother. She summoned Eisa and pleaded him to save Yoshizo. However, he responded, “I will not administer the Sazuke as long as he does not resolve his mind,” and left.

Yoshizo showed no willingness to do as he was asked and Koma went after Eisa. She searched the beach with all her might for a sign of his presence in the dark of night. In the darkness and between the sound of the crashing waves, she saw someone praying to God in a sad voice: “I willingly offer my life. I also offer the lives of my wife and children. Please save the life of this one man, Yoshizo Katayama.”

Koma then pleaded with Eisa to administer the Sazuke on her brother once more.

Koma then threw herself on the tatami, screaming and crying. Eisa and the Katayama family began to cry as well. Yoshizo was struck with deep emotion. He said: “Koma, I was wrong. From today onward I shall consider sensei’s words and yours as the words of God,” and declared his resolution to be single-heartedly dedicated to God thereafter. His fever went down and his pain vanished that night.

The path that was born on that day later led to the founding of Honjima and Keijo grand churches. The absolute sincerity of a single missionary led to the Path to be transmitted to world.

Oyasama once said: “It is important, first and foremost, to resolve the mind.” She requested Her followers to discard human thinking and become of a mind that is single-heartedly dedicated to God. However, people are weak. People tend to think only of themselves and waver in the face of unavoidable situations. However, God hastens us with urgency in such times of inner conflict to replace our minds with one that completely entrusts oneself to God. A resolution of the mind consists of one’s promise to God and determination to carry it out after subjecting oneself to the limits of self-contemplation.

References: Takano Tomoji chosaku-shu, vol. 2 (Okina hata-jirushi) (A portion of which has been translated into English and published as The Missionary by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1981)

Nakanishi Shiro. Katayama Yoshizo shishi.

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

Supplemental information

Rev. Yoshizo Katayama [片山好造] (1869–1942) later went on to become the second head minister of Honjima Shikyokai  [本島支教会] in 1905. (Honjima was actually founded as a fukyosho [布教所] — a “fellowship” or “mission station” — but was promoted into a shikyokai or branch church with Rev. Yoshizo’s installation as head minister.) Now known as Tenrikyo Honjima Daikyokai [天理教本島大教会] (grand church), it currently oversees 193 bunkyokai (“branch churches”) and 145 fukyosho.

Honjima “kyokai” (churches) outside Japan include:

  • Brazil: Honpaku (Ribeirão Pires, SP)
  • Canada: Toronto
  • U.S. mainland: California (Los Angeles), Capitol (Alexandria, VA), Hollywood (Los Angeles), Illinois (Chicago), Marina (San Francisco), Midwest (Des Plaines, IL), NC (West Sacramento), New Los Angeles (Covina, CA), Pacific Coast (Monterey Park, CA), Pasedena, Portland, Seatac (East Edgewood, WA), Seattle, Southern Pacific (Los Angeles), Terminal (Los Angeles), Western (Lodi, CA), and Wilson (Norco, CA)
  • Hawaii: Castle (Kaneohe), Hawaii Shima, Hilo, Honolulu, Kaimuki, Kakaako (Hilo), Lanai (actually in Honolulu), Maui, Oahu, Open (Mililani), Puna (Keeau), Taitan (Aina Haina), and Wailuku

(I have also included a few “non-functioning” kyokai or kyokai presently without a presiding minister in the list above.)

I have no further information on Rev. Eisa Sato [佐藤栄佐] other than his date of passing, 1905. A quick glance through Tenrikyo jiten, kyokaishi-hen (Tenrikyo encyclopedia, church history edition) suggests his birthyear was 1869 but I am unable to confirm through other sources at writing.

Further suggested reading

Takano, Tomoji. The Missionary (published by the Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department in 1981); see pp. 24–37 for a alternate account of the same events described above.