The following is a translation of Part 74 of the series “Senjin no sokuseki” (Footsteps of Our Predecessors) from the February 2009 (No. 482) issue of Taimō, pp. 34–35. This translation is a preliminary one and thus may require further revision.
Part 74: “My Pedestal to Discipline the Live-ins”
In March 1908, the eldest son of Akiyo Shirokihara graduated from primary school and she had finished closing her business. So she began working at as a live-in at Tohon Shikyokai. Her husband Meikichi had already started living at Tohon, and was engaging in missionary work at the time with Kurakichi Nakagawa, the eldest son of Tohon’s head minister.
Head Minister Yoshi Nakagawa was quite delighted when Akiyo moved in, saying to her: “Shirokihara-san, I am so glad that you have come. I have been waiting for this day. Your husband and son are doing their best. Since I am sure you intend to do so as well, I won’t hold back I if I ever feel you need any disciplining.”
Rev. Nakagawa instructed her: “Now, all spiritual training begins with sweeping and wiping. But such cleaning are ordinary tasks. If you merely do what is ordinary, you will only receive ordinary forms of God’s protection. Since you have the potential to receive even grander forms of God’s protection, you will work in the kitchen. The mindset of everyone who serves here all depends on the mindset of the cook alone. To work in the kitchen amounts to creating the foundation of a mindset that seeks to save others.”
At the time, Tohon’s congregation was expanding and the number of live-ins also increased gradually until there were roughly a hundred living at the church. However, as meals amounted to just soup and one vegetable in addition to rice, it was not an easy job to make everyone happy.
One time, Akiyo burnt the rice. Rev. Nakagawa disciplined her, saying: “You do not enough sincerity in your heart. The intention of Tsuki-Hi, God the Parent, is embodied in each grain of rice. The rice was bought by donations from followers who make offerings even though they are having a rough time out of their devotion to God. Anyone who allows a single rice grain to go to waste does not understand the sincerity of others!”
Another time, Akiyo neglected to close the pickle barrel tightly and a hungry live-in stole some pickled radish. This time too, Rev. Nakagawa disciplined her: “How many times have I told you to close the pickle barrel tightly!? What’s the meaning of leaving the lid open like this!?” Rev. Nakagawa stomped her feet on the wooden kitchen floor and scolded in a voice so loud that her words echoed to every corner of the church.
“I’m sorry!” Akiyo merely bowed profusely and apologized.
Several days later, Rev. Nakagawa called Akiyo to her room. “Forgive me for the other day. I know that you didn’t leave the lid open like that. But you know, if I found and scolded the person who stole the pickled radish, he or she would leave. I knew that you wouldn’t run away, so I scolded you, using you as a pedestal.1 The person who really did it must have heard me somewhere. He or she must be feeling guilty, don’t you think? You are my pedestal to discipline the live-ins.”
Further, Akiyo once found some dried squid in a cupboard that was covered with mold. She washed the mold away with water and prepared it and served it as shiokara. The live-ins were very happy, but there was a heartless person who complained, “How sad God is, to see the attention of missionaries diverted away from their dedication to saving others to what they eat.”
However, Rev. Nakagawa was said to have been very happy, as she said: “You took something that was spoiled and made others happy after making the best use of it. That’s what o-tasuke is all about. You’ve done very well.”
Rev. Nakagawa thus instructed Akiyo Shirokihara in this manner on the mindset of single-hearted salvation on a daily and consistent basis.
Reference: Honshiba Daikyōkai shi, vol. one.
- Next installment in this series: 75. The Tears of a Grand Church Head Minister (Kashiwagi, Kuraji)
*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.
Rev. Akiyo Shirokihara 白木原アキヨ (????–1935) later went on to become the second head minister of Honshiba Senkyosho 本芝宣教所2 in 1918. (Her husband Meikichi served as its first head minister from its founding in 1912 to his passing in 1917.)
Now known as Tenrikyo Honshiba Daikyokai 天理教本芝大教会 (grand church), it currently oversees 119 bunkyokai and 146 fukyosho, including Amazônia Kyokai in Para, Brazil.
Former branch churches of Honshiba Daikyokai include Hon’e and Honriyo grand churches.
Further reading (On Rev. Yoshi Nakagawa)
- Takahashi Sadatsugu. 1986. Great and Gentle Mother: Yoshi Nakagawa. Tenri: Tenrikyo Overseas Mission Department.
- I took some liberties with the translation here. The original for “pedestal” here is “dai” (台),which is usually translated into “foundation” in Tenrikyo literature. Although I translated an earlier instance of “dai” in this way (i.e., “kokoro no dai-zukuri” as “creating the foundation of a mindset….”), I felt that the phrase “foundation to discipline” sounded a little strange. Not sure if “pedestal” is any better though. ↩
- “Senkyosho” 宣教所 literally means missionary or propagation office. All “senkyosho” that had not been promoted to bunkyokais or “branch churches” were done so shortly after WWII. ↩