Cancer Shrinks in the Face of Gratitude

This is a translation of an article written by Shigeo Okazaki, former head minister of Motowanishi Branch Church, for Tenri Jiho newspaper’s column entitled “The Ofudesaki, My Companion along the Way.”

If only the mind is purified completely, there will be nothing but delight in everything.

Ofudesaki XIV:50

Tenrikyo is a path focused on purifying the mind. When our mind becomes pure and clear, we can joyously accept anything that happens, perceiving it as embodying the “truth of heaven.” This allows each day of our life to be filled with joy.

The converse is also true, for the key to purifying our mind lies in joyous acceptance, as well as selfless and thankful action, which we call hinokishin. We are taught that these practices can lead to the blessing of the Joyous Life, where there will be freedom from illness, death, and weakening and where the natural term of life will be fixed at 115 years. Thus we read in the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Service: “When your mind is completely purified, / Then comes paradise.”

In the year 2000, when I was 75, I handed the responsibility for our church over to my son and started working to establish a residential home for elderly people with dementia–which was something our church’s founder had wished to do but could not. Two years later, Group Home Dandelion, as it is called, opened with a capacity of 18, and I became its director.

In 2004, however, a routine check-up showed that my tumor markers were well beyond the normal range. Further tests, for which I had to be hospitalized, revealed that I had prostate cancer of a very late stage that was not treatable by surgery. I was told that I could spend the short remainder of my life at home until the onset of pain, when I should go into the hospital, where my life would end.

Later, when the cancer began to press on my urethra, I needed urinary catheterization. Yet I felt happy and grateful that, in contrast to my father’s premature death and despite a fortuneteller’s prediction of a short life for me, I had been able to live to be 80, thanks to this path. My mind was at peace, and I was prepared to die with joy. I wrote a note to express my gratitude for all the blessings and for all the kindnesses given to me over many years, and I put my affairs in order. I was ready.

Strangely enough, however, the cancer began to shrink spontaneously, thus bringing me back from the verge of death. “One thing common to all those who have overcome cancer is a sense of gratitude for it,” writes Professor Toru Abo of Niigata University School of Medicine. He seems right about my case, at least. Joyous acceptance–however imperfectly I may have been implementing it–has, I believe, proven to be a “truth that connects” as I have been trying to live up to the teaching: “When your mind is completely purified, / Then comes paradise.”

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