OUR dissemination work in the regions outside the city of Tokyo began with the Ibaraki Chapter, in Ibaraki Prefecture, founded in 1947, and moved farther afield to Shizuoka, Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, and Nagano prefectures. The program was not planned and organized as it is today but consisted of teaching trips to various areas for the opening of chapters or the completion of training halls. We took advantage of such occasions to call together believers in the local area for sermons on the Law and for leadership training. It is true that, before 1947, I had gone to Myoko Sensei's home village in Saitama Prefecture to teach; but that did not actually fall into the category of dissemination work for Kosei-kai. Sometimes I made the trips when Myoko Sensei received divine revelations that a member in such and such a place was suffering. At other times, it became necessary to go in order to satisfy written requests for guidance on the part of the regional chapters themselves. Because all our work was concentrated in the general region of the Kanto district, around Tokyo, things were fairly easy. Teishiro Okano, one of the directors, and Hiroshi Naganuma, the head of the first chapter, frequently made teaching trips. They would leave for Ibaraki Prefecture at noon, visit three places or so, and return on the last train, which brought them to Tokyo at one or two in the morning.
I distinctly recall the first teaching trip we made to Ibaraki. In those days, there were no taxis. We spread grass matting and one cushion in the bed of a half trailer attached to a bicycle. Myoko Sensei rode there, and I walked along behind. It was winter. I wore a double cloak - somewhat like an Inverness - over my ordinary kimono and had a white scarf around my neck. At the time, my hair was cropped very short, like that of a Buddhist priest. I did not let it grow out until after Myoko Sensei's death.
The head of the Ibaraki Chapter was Nobuyo Nozaki, one of the pioneers of early regional dissemination work and one of the shining leaders in the history of our organization. A few years ago, she joined me and some other members in a pilgrimage to thirty-three revered temples in the Tokyo area. But she had put on so much weight that she could not make it up the mountains without being pushed and pulled. Convinced that she was disqualified to guide and teach others if she could not follow her own leader up a mountain, she consulted her doctor and lost twenty-five kilograms. When I heard this I was pleased, but not amazed, at her sincerity, for the same devotion has shown itself in all her activities in the chapter. The coal mines in the district where she lives began to suffer financial depression when petroleum became the major source of energy in Japan. One after another, the mines closed, and the population began to fall off. Mrs. Nozaki insisted that hard times like those demand intensified teaching of the Buddha's Law for the sake of the salvation of the people. Thanks to her efforts, as the general population in the region decreased, the membership of the Kosei-kai chapter increased.
Another of my vivid memories of early regional teaching missions involves a trip to Fujinomiya in March, 1953. We were returning from Mount Minobu in a torrential downpour along a narrow road. On our way, we stopped to give guidance and to teach at a local training hall. Hiroshi Naganuma was carrying Myoko Sensei on his back. (He and Okano always accompanied us on our teaching trips. Naganuma became famous as the man who carried Myoko Sensei on his back. If he juggled her or treated her in the least roughly, she complained: "I'm not a piece of luggage, you know.") About one thousand people had gathered. Since not all of them could get in the building, large numbers stood under umbrellas in the rain as they listened to the lectures.
In the earliest days, on our teaching journeys, we always rode the third-class railway coaches with their cramped, wooden-backed seats. Later, arguing that third class was too uncomfortable, the leaders bought second-class tickets for us. For a long time, I was strongly opposed to the purchase of an automobile. "Religious people should go on foot to teach. We're not aristocrats!" I insisted. But as the teaching campaign spread all over the country, the limits of my activity expanded; and schedules became very tight. It was no longer possible for me to cling to this attitude.
In 1949 or 1950, we bought a large German car that seated six or eight people. In this we launched a planned regional teaching program. Dissemination teams including some of the top leaders of the organization took turns traveling afield in the automobile. Sometimes their campaigns carried the teams as far away as Kagoshima, in the southern part of Kyushu, and kept them on the road for as much as a month.
We always put up in the homes of members. Our stay was almost always no more than a short night's sleep. Sometimes there was no time for a bath. It was not unusual for us to dry our underwear as we drove along, since, if we washed it out the night before, it often would not dry before we had to depart to meet the next stop on our schedule. And on our arrival at the next place, we usually had to begin teaching or holding hoza sessions without even stopping for a gulp of tea.
We were all deeply sincere, and so were the members we visited. It made no difference that we arrived late at night. There was always a large group waiting for us. With students as earnest as this, the dissemination teams had to stay on their toes.
Usually our meetings were held in the offices of the local branch or chapter. But when these places were too small, we held them in Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines. Sometimes temples or shrines were good enough to request that we meet in their precincts. Holding Kosei-kai hoza sessions in Shinto shrines is an example of the early budding of the spirit of religious cooperation.
People in the regional areas met Myoko Sensei with overwhelming enthusiasm, many of them nearly in tears. Because of their trust in her spiritual powers, they would call out her name. Indeed, usually two or three people were cured of illnesses by merely crying "Myoko Sensei!" The simple act of paying reverence to her restored speech to the mute. I realize that people who believe only in Western-style scientific medicine may laugh at what I say, but the facts remain the facts.
The universal determination of all our members was seen in those people who took turns of duty in the Tokyo headquarters. At the time, we operated on a system in which duties were assigned on a rotating basis according to chapter affiliation. For instance, people in the Tochigi and Fukushima prefectural chapters were affiliated with the second headquarters chapter. They came to the headquarters when it was the second chapter's turn to be on duty. Members affiliated with the third chapter came all the way from Kyoto. In spite of the length of time they had to travel, they went straight to work on arriving. We did not even have adequate luggage storage for them. But no one complained. They undertook training and tasks diligently and were happy even to be scolded by the leaders. If it was their good fortune to see Myoko Sensei from a distance or - even better - to speak to her, these members nearly fainted with excitement. In fact, on one occasion, a person did faint when she saw Myoko Sensei, a living human being, ascend the platform to deliver a talk. This person had firmly believed Myoko Sensei to be a buddha. Although this was an extreme case, many members entertained a very similar feeling.
All our members did everything they could to make us comfortable when our travels brought us to their homes. Some went so far as to buy new bedding for us. A fisherman partitioned off a part of the work area of his house and made a bath for us there. His house had formerly lacked one because his family had used the public baths. It was a simple affair, with only a tub. The cold wind whistled through the cracks in the walls. But we were deeply grateful that he had taken the care to make it for us.
The officers of the headquarters education group were not the only people to take part in dissemination activities. Leaders from chapters and ordinary members traveled as far as northeastern Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu to offer guidance to relatives and acquaintances. They joined us in teaching in various towns and villages and were so intent on sharing the saving way of the Law that they refused the most ordinary demonstrations of hospitality. They sacrificed their family lives, cut corners to save money enough for travel expenses, and carried their own food. Their fervor to share the teaching and their great compassion exceed all my powers of description. It is thanks to the efforts of members like these that gradually the light of the Law spread throughout the Japanese nation as Kosei-kai developed from liaison offices to training halls.
Here I would like to make some comments about Gensho - originally Gennosuke - Sano, a pioneer in dissemination work in the Kansai district (which includes the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and the surrounding areas).
Until he joined Rissho Kosei-kai, Mr. Sano had worked for a manufacturer of wooden buckets, which were made in Aomori Prefecture and sold in Tokyo. At the time, World War II was in its most violent stages. Metal was unobtainable for civilian use; but because of the air raids, every family tried to have two or three buckets handy for use in fire fighting. This meant that the wooden buckets sold very well.
His wife was ill, and the couple became members of Kosei-kai in the hope of curing her. I analyzed his name and told him that the company for which he worked would be in trouble in its second year. Although he half doubted me because of the prosperity the company was enjoying, he gave up his position as business manager. It was a good thing. Two years later, the manufacturer of wooden buckets was sued for faulty merchandise. The buckets were made of plywood, which was sound enough as long as it was wet but which leaked badly when allowed to dry out.
Although he had been a materialist, Mr. Sano soon became a man of tremendous religious faith. Intelligent, good at calculations, and blessed with a cheerful disposition, he soon accepted the position of administrative director of the headquarters. Then he became the head of the first chapter and soon the general director of our organization. Because of his warmth, generosity, and seriousness, he did everything he undertook well.
He was eager to pioneer a Kosei-kai organization in the Kansai district. In spite of his frequent requests to be allowed to undertake the task, I refused permission because I felt that Kosei-kai was not yet strong enough for such a step. Nonetheless, he persisted; and in late March, 1950, I consented. His intention to do this work was so pure and strong that before receiving permission he had sold his house, earmarked two hundred thousand yen for the dissemination fund, and had copies of the Lotus Sutra mimeographed at his own expense. On hearing this, I was deeply moved by his strong will and his spirit of service.
He and his second wife (his first wife had died, and he had remarried a lady introduced to him by Myoko Sensei and me) and their three-year-old daughter left Tokyo for the Kansai area, where they moved into a handsome house in Ashiya, between Kobe and Osaka.
At first the lack of members caused them serious uneasiness. But soon they made contact with Mrs. Noriko Okabe, who had been a member when she lived in Tokyo and had maintained a tenuous connection by paying dues of ten yen a month after her move to Kobe. Mrs. Okabe, a widow, had lost her second and third sons in the war and lived with her eldest son and his wife. Sano's fervent teaching soon helped these people form a deeply dedicated Kosei-kai family, which became the kernel from which a whole range of faithful groups grew in Osaka, Kobe, Wakayama, Himeji, Okayama, and Hiroshima.
It was owing to the efforts of Gensho Sano and his wife that the circle of the Law was widened to include the Kansai district. Many people who worked with him have left testimonials to Sano's kindness and effectiveness and to the consideration and economy of his wife. After laying the foundations for the Kansai organization, Sano returned to the headquarters, where he served as an advisor. In 1974, he died, at the age of eighty.
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