One time, while Sadahiko Izutsu was on duty at the Main Sanctuary, he said to Tsuchisaburo Itakura, “You have undergone hardships many times in police stations and jails. It’s a wonder that you were able to continue in your faith under such circumstances.” Tsuchisaburo Itakura replied, “During my third visit to the Residence three police officers came and threw us into the Tanbaichi Branch Jail. That whole night we discussed the idea of quitting the faith. However, I thought I would wait until I could see Oyasama one more time. So I returned to the Residence. When Oyasama saw me, She smiled and said compassionately: ‘Thank you for your trouble last night.’ Just these few words of Oyasama made me resolve to undergo any hardship any number of times.”
This is the story Izutsu heard from Tsuchisaburo Itakura in 1931 or 1932, when the Main Sanctuary consisted only of the North Worship Hall.
The Path Followed by Leaning on God Single-Heartedly
by Tomoyuki Itakura, Honbu-in
If you go east from Onji Kintetsu Railway Station in Yao City, Osaka, and pass by Chuka Grand Church, you will soon reach an area where the birthplace of Tsuchisaburo Itakura is located, an area to the west of Mount Shigi. The Itakuras were an old family. Although records from earlier times were lost in battles, the family traces its lineage back to the year 1700. It is said that the Itakuras were a wealthy farming family that was deeply respected by the villagers.
Receiving Words of Appreciation
Tsuchisaburo was his parents’ second son. He was well-educated and was trusted by his elder brother. Unfortunately, his brother suddenly suffered from scrofula—a form of tuberculosis that affects lymph nodes in the neck—around the time when the brothers were preparing to succeed to the family business together. Desperately hoping for his recovery, Tsuchisaburo exhausted all possible medical treatments and visited various shrines and temples to offer prayers. His brother’s condition, however, showed no sign of improvement.
Tsuchisaburo then heard a rumor that the elderly mother of Kanbei Inui of Tatsuta Village (now a section of Ikoma-gun known as Tatsuta, Ikaruga-cho), Yamato Province, was possessed by a God and that any illness no matter how serious would be cured if she offered a prayer. Soon he visited Tatsuta and had prayers offered by her. Yet his brother not only failed to improve but also began to suffer from an eye disease. So he gave up on her ability to heal his brother. Later, however, Tsuchisaburo heard another rumor purporting that “the Tatsuta woman’s God actually resides in Shoyashiki of Tanbaichi, Yamato Province.”
Thus, Tsuchisaburo crossed mountain passes and visited Jiba for the first time with desperate hope. That was in August 1876, when he was seventeen years old. It is said that he became interested in the teachings that he was hearing for the first time. During the course of a number of returns to Jiba, he began to feel that he should do his utmost to follow the path. I wonder how many people in those days embraced the faith because they had been inspired by the teachings. After he started following the path enthusiastically, he was increasingly away from home as he frequently returned to Jiba or engaged in salvation work.
In those days, this path was not widely understood by society. Therefore, his brother and relatives strongly criticized Tsuchisaburo, who, in their view, was becoming heavily involved in a dubious religion. It is said that villagers heaped abuse on him as well. Despite all the opposition, however, his faith became even more fervent. He spent much of his time doing salvation work rather than working in the fields, where his tasks were performed by tenant farmers.
It was in such circumstances that, as we read in the anecdote appearing at the beginning of the chapter, Tsuchisaburo was arrested by officers from Tanbaichi Branch Police Station one day when he returned to the Residence. Throughout the night he and other followers discussed whether they should quit the faith or not. When he returned to the Residence the following day, Oyasama expressed Her appreciation, saying: “Thank you for your trouble last night.”
After that, Tsuchisaburo continued commuting between his home in Onji and the Residence. Later he moved into the Residence. He worked for Church Headquarters until 1937, when he passed away for rebirth at the age of seventy-eight during his visit to Yamana Grand Church.
Mind That Overcomes Great Knots
We have never heard that Tsuchisaburo suffered from any serious illness in his life. Yet I think that he faced a number of family difficulties. He was blessed with eight children but, after his eldest son was adopted by the main family of the Itakuras, Tsuchisaburo lost five sons and a daughter one after another. The seventh son, who was born and raised in Jiba, succeeded him as the head of the family.
Especially when his fourth son passed away for rebirth at the age of twenty-five, it seems that he was badly depressed because he had had high hopes and expectations for him. However, he is said to have pulled himself together by pondering over the Divine Model of Oyasama, who had lost most of Her children before Her withdrawal from physical life.
Thinking along these lines, I think that Oyasama’s words of appreciation quoted above must have made his faith firm and unshakable for the rest of his life. The fact that Tsuchisaburo and others were thrown into jail was not known to anyone else. Oyasama, however, saw and knew everything and had warm words for him. Therefore, he must have been convinced that God was always watching over him.
Occasionally we human beings face significant knots of difficulties. They could be manifestations of the dust of mind of the person concerned or of the causality that he or she is born with. I also think that they happen because of the Parent’s desire to train the person concerned and his or her family members as well as those around them. No matter what happens, however, an unwavering conviction that God the Parent and Oyasama always see and know everything and protect us will ensure that we can develop a frame of mind that allows us to overcome even very great knots.
Everlasting Joy Flowing from Continued Efforts
As I have already noted, Tsuchisaburo—who was his parents’ second son and was the first Itakura to embrace the faith—lost six of his children while they were young. My grandfather, who was the second generation of the family to practice the faith, lost two wives and two children. Furthermore, my father, who was the third generation and the eldest son, suffered from a serious illness called chronic kidney failure from the age of forty-one. Although medical facilities were not as they are today, regular dialysis allowed him to continue to perform his duties for the path for twenty-six more years.
I believe that the Itakura family has a profound causality because we have experienced considerable difficulties. What I have realized is that, no matter what occurs, our first priority should be to find joy in the situation we are in. After Tsuchisaburo established a branch of the Itakura family, my father was the first eldest son to succeed his father as the head of the family. Considering the causality of the Itakura family, this was something for which we feel very grateful even though he suffered from illness. In fact, I rather think that, thanks to his illness, our family members were able to make progress, however limited, in spiritual growth.
I am the fourth generation of my family to follow this faith. I also suffered from a serious illness in 2011 and was hospitalized for six months. I knew that God was telling me to correct my misuse of the mind. I must say, however, that I was a little worried that I would pass away for rebirth. What helped me emotionally at that time was the faith. I also think that I am indebted to the virtue of several generations of ancestors who followed the path. The faith enabled me to pull myself together just when I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by fears about my illness.
We often hear that most Japanese people today are atheists. There may also be some Yoboku who cannot effectively convey the teachings of the path to their children. Could it be that the current situation has arisen because we are giving less and less appreciative attention to what we are blessed with, living as we do in a time of abundance?
If we do not pass our faith on to the next generation, that will be the end of it. I have strongly felt that there is something that cannot be seen unless the faith continues for a number of generations. Faith may be a matter for the individual. However, it is also true that a path can only be called a path if it continues. If it does not continue, I am afraid that our causalities may not be transformed.
The idea of quitting the faith may occur to anyone and make his or her commitment waver—as it once did to Tsuchisaburo. Yet if we continue following the path, instead of quitting, we will be shown the true blessings of God. I believe that the joy of faith that continues through endless generations will emerge if we strive to continue the faith in all situations.
Knots of difficulties will produce buds if we overcome them—although it may take time for buds to sprout. The most important thing in this regard, I believe, is to rely totally on the Parent and follow the path with joy. Oyasama will surely be delighted to see us Yoboku continue our faith in this way, and She will say, “Thank you for your trouble.”