The following is a translation of Part 69 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the September 2008 (No. 477) issue of Taimo, pp. 34–35. This translation is a provisional one at the moment and may require further revision.
Part 69: “If the Spirit Lives, the Body Will Live”
In 1893, Kichitaro Matsumura contracted a severe case of dysentery. He suffered from diarrhea several times a day, which left him emanciated in a blink of an eye. Although he went to see a number of doctors, they all concluded that his case was beyond help. The first Shinbashira took the time to visit Kichitaro and said: “Matsumura-san, you’ve really lost weight. Do you have anything to tell me while you have the chance? I’ll listen to anything you have to say.”
To Kichitaro, the first Shinbashira’s words hit him harder than the grave declarations he heard thus far from his doctors. He resigned himself to his death, thinking, “I’m done for….”
A few days later, Isaburo Masui visited him. “Matsumura-san, how are you doing? Oh, I see you’re asleep.”
He heard the familiar voice of his good friend who he became intimate with not long after his conversion to the faith. Yet Kichitaro did not have the willpower to reply, he pretended that he was asleep.
Kichitaro’s wife Nobu informed Isaburo: “He isn’t asleep. He’s just pretending.”
Isaburo then began imparting the following: “Matsumura-san, if you allow your spirits to fail, your body will fail as well. If the spirit dies, the body dies. If the spirit lives, the body will live. The body is a thing borrowed from God the Parent. You have no reason for concern.”
These short words made a strong impact on Kichitaro. It was the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed, which he heard a million times over the years. He usually let it go in one ear and out the other since he heard it so frequently and thus never attempted delve a step further to ponder its profound meaning. Yet at that moment, he thought, “That’s so true.”
Suddenly, he opened his eyes and saw the lights on the altar. One of the three lights made a faint sound and went out. Seeing this allowed Kichitaro to make the following observation: “A light will go out once it runs out of oil. People will die once their time runs out. However, by adding oil, a light’s flame will continue to burn. People too must have a way to extend their life. Although our time on earth is limited, God the Parent exists for eternity. If I allow myself to be reborn with Oyasama’s mind and spirit, a miracle may happen.” Kichitaro then made the following pledge to God the Parent: “As of today, the man named Kichitaro Matsumura is no more. I shall be reborn as a God’s timber.”
At that moment, Kichitaro felt hot blood rushing through his veins, which filled him with a sense of renewed vitality. He then had Nobu, astonished as she was, to bring out his kimono. He eventually made his way to the second floor, tumbling and stumbling all the way before Masui with his hands clasped in gratitude and tears falling down his cheeks.
“It is just as you said. My body returned to life after I renewed my spirit. Thank you! When you return to Jiba, please let the Shinbashira know that I’ve gotten better.”
Kichitaro is said to have completely recovered and never fell sick again.
References: Matsumura Kichitaro. Michi no hachiju-nen.
- Next installment in this series: 70. Offer What Happens to Flow Down (Part 1 of 2)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
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, UT. (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.