This is Part 4 of a 5-part series on in interview with the Arakitoryo newsletter and America’s Pioneer of Tenrikyo, Keigo Morishita. Please check back on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you missed them. On this part, Keigo Morishita explains on his missionary work in New York and the construction of the New York Center’s new Shinden (sanctuary).
Missionary Work in New York
I helped establish a church and opened a dojo at mission headquarters. Rev. Yoshinori then told me, “Go to New York to do missionary work.” Yet if I were to go, I would be leaving my wife Yaeko, my two children from my first marriage, and two younger children at Brotherhood. Still, I believed that I managed to accomplish what I did in the U.S. thanks to Rev. Yoshinori. So I said yes.
Bishop Fukaya told me: “Can’t you wait just a little more? Your children are still so young…” Yet I decided to go, saying, “I’m going because my grand church minister told me to.”
Rev. Yoshinori had a friend in New York so I was under his auspices. Still, I had nothing to rely on doing missionary work in New York. I first went to the office of a Japanese-American association. I went to introduce myself, “I’m a Tenrikyo missionary and I will be living here. I’ll appreciate any help you can give me.”
Someone there then said: “You know, we had some founder of some other religious group come here before and he left saying he couldn’t do missionary work in a place like this. Why, to do what you’re doing when you’re so young! Good luck to you.” I wondered to myself if it really was such an uncompromising place. Yet in the Osashizu, it says:
You place seeds on a rock. If the wind blows, they will scatter away; birds will come to take them. Such seeds will not sprout. I have buried the seeds that have been sown wholeheartedly with sincerity. Even if they are dug up with a hoe, while they may not sprout there, they will sprout elsewhere.
Osashizu, September 30, 1890
The seeds you sow with sincerity are sure to sprout. That is why I pushed forward, thinking to myself, “Damn it, I’m going to do this!” At the time I rode the subway and sprinkled the fragrance among Japanese-Americans from morning to night. A few of these people agreed to attend the Besseki lectures. It was just that my family I left in Los Angeles weighed heavily on my mind.
It was then when the second Shinbashira stopped by in New York from an official visit to Brazil. He had some books and some valuable items with him so he was looking for someone who could deliver these things to Bishop Fukaya. Yet he had a hard time finding someone to go to Los Angeles on such short notice. It’s a six-hour flight. Since there was no one, I told him I would be willing to go and he said: “Oh? Will you go for me? Be sure to get some money from (Michio) Takahashi.” I was so thankful. I didn’t have any money so I was going to go into debt to cover the travel expenses.
The second Shinbashira then called Bishop Fukaya: “Fukaya, how are you? I’ve got some luggage filled with books and all sorts of other things. I need to leave for Europe. I’m going to have Morishita take them to you so could you bring them to Jiba in April?” Towards the end, he said, “Morishita looks like he’s lonely for his wife.”
I was greatly moved at his parental love which seemed to see straight into the depths of my heart. To tell the truth, that I was going to be able to see Yaeko and the kids even when I had no money made me so happy I was on the verge of tears.
When I returned to Brotherhood, I saw that Yaeko gave her utmost serving at mission headquarters where there were few people to help out. She also filled in my absence at the church and raised four kids. Yet she had weakened physically. She said she was going to do her best and be able to manage, but I felt she wasn’t going be able to keep it up physically. So although I was regretful about not being able to fulfill what my grand church minister asked of me, I pulled out of New York after a year there.
Still, my year there did not go to waste. I believe that it was a time to sow seeds that would lead to good things in the future.
Thirty years later, after I had my son take over as head minister, Rev. Masahiko Iburi, who was the Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs until recently, appointed me as minister of New York Center while he was still the head of the Overseas Department. I was 75 at the time. My eyes were going bad; I was losing my hearing and wore dentures. I asked Rev. Iburi, “What on earth do you expect me to do?” He answered, “If you do salvation work, that’s enough.”
Although I had doubts what this old geezer could do, I felt that if I was going to do it, I was going to give it my all. The first step was to open a dojo for the occasion of the 30th memorial year of the second Shinbashira. Next, I thought to have a new sanctuary be built.
I announced the sanctuary construction in 2001 and asked our followers and friends in New York to lend their cooperation. The goal we set was to raise $500,000. At first, we had a hard time raising the funds. I then gave it some contemplation.
I hear that you lack twelve thousand. What kind of path will it be with such feeble hearts?
Osashizu, March 13, 1907
If you set about spiritedly, God will become spirited. If God becomes spirited, God will make the entire world spirited.
Osashizu, May 30, 1907
These are Divine Directions that dealt with the construction of the North Worship Hall.
God had hastened the construction of the Main Sanctuary just when the finances of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters were stretched quite thin. They were told to believe in the workings of the everliving Oyasama and to devote themselves to their duties while leaning on Her. One wonders what our forebears were feeling inside. Yet they made the following resolution: “We, the head ministers of all subordinate churches, have made a firm determination to put our every effort into the construction, not letting up even to take off our workshoes.” They then pressed forward and completed the construction.
I thought to myself: This is the spirit that we need to have. I then visited each Yoboku one by one and tore up and down the East Coast in the name of salvation work and asked for donations for the construction.
When you have such a mindset, your salvation efforts show results. There were people who weren’t even Tenrikyo who donated a lot of money. In the end, we were able to raise twice more than we initially resolved to. The sanctuary in New York is the crystallization of the sincerity of our followers and friends in the U.S. So everyone who has seen the sanctuary says what a great accomplishment it was.
Although you should listen to what others say to some extent, there are times when you need to make a resolve with firm conviction despite what others may say. This is part of my style. Yet while I had assumed I was staking my life on this construction, it really was my wife Yaeko who staked her life on it. She passed away in July 2008 just before the sanctuary was completed. Then, my son Jiro, who had made the upper dais and shrines for the sanctuary, passed away for rebirth in 2009 at the age of 48.
Still, everything unfolds according to God’s blessings. You can’t just push away these knots with a “No.” You have to think about how you are going to guide those who have been left behind. Thankfully, Jiro’s wife Kay became the head minister. We were blessed with the presence of the bishop, his wife, our grand church minister, and Myodo young men association members at the installation service. Many people came and it was a lively event.
I too have many things left to do. I believe that no matter what happens, I must devote myself to allow buds to sprout from knots.
* This is a translation of Arakitoryo No. 240 (August 26, 2010), pp. 68–87. It is a part of the “Living In the Cause of Single-Hearted Salvation” Interview Series. TR Translation Staff
* The interviewer was Seiichiro Nishi (head of publications, Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association).
External Link: Tenrikyo New York Center
Keigo Morishita Interview Series
- Part 1 – “Fools Are desired By God”
- Part 2 – “You’re a Good Man”
- Part 3 – “To the Far Ends of Earth”
- Part 4 – “New York”