IN ITS first period, Rissho Kosei-kai (or simply Kosei-kai, as we often call it) was purely a layman's organization: its leaders - Myoko Sensei and I - ran ordinary businesses. Kosei-kai membership dues were twenty sen a month. Sutra scrolls and registers for ancestors' names cost fifty sen, and a set of prayer beads cost one yen and thirty sen. Since we could not afford to make bulk purchases of prayer beads, we asked Shishin-kai, which had recently been formed by former members of Reiyu-kai, to sell them to us in the quantities we needed. The overwhelming majority of our new members were people who were seriously ill, who had mentally ill relatives, or who for economic or other reasons could not call on the services of doctors. In the eyes of the general public, we were no more than a milkman and a vendor of sweet potatoes conducting some mysterious religious rites in an upstairs room over a milk shop. Obviously, only desperate people at their wits' end came to us.
It was easy for us when people joined on their own initiative. Going out and winning new members, on the other hand, was hard work. My own approach was to convince by means of direct presentations of the truth of the Buddha's Law. Myoko Sensei had her own, different system. Instead of teaching doctrine, she told people, "Unless you give it a try, you'll never know the happiness it can bring. The milkman has come bringing good news to you. Lend an ear to him. An illness like yours will be cured in no time." Her words were so convincing and her own faith so apparent that what she said always had a powerful effect. When she saw that the family she was dealing with lacked money to pay for sutra scrolls, name registers, and prayer beads, she tactfully slipped them the needed amount.
Mentally disturbed people recovered as a result of the religious faith we taught. Soon word about the effectiveness of our method got around. A person who had been helped would bring his friends and relatives; and before long, the number of members increased considerably. Of course, we still counted ourselves in hundreds; but we were well-known for the attention and care we gave our members. Indeed, we leaders were constantly called for assistance. The case of Mrs. Hoya illustrates the situation. Whenever she was in any kind of trouble, she immediately sent us a telegram. At once, Myoko Sensei and I would be on our way to the fairly distant Kita Tama district, where she lived. Later, when Mrs. Hoya became the head of Kosei-kai's Toshima Church, she said with a repentant voice, "I was a graduate of a prestigious girls' school and thought nothing of abruptly summoning a milkman to help me. I see now how thoughtless it was of me."
Another early member who was associated with a renowned girls' school was Masae Okabe. When we first met her, she was still a charming girl wearing the student's middy blouse. She was very diligent in attending our meetings and was able to persevere in our strict training, as I had thought she would be. Not only did she persevere, but she went on to become the head of a Kosei-kai church.
I was called Mr. Niwano and Myoko Sensei, Mrs. Naganuma by all the members of the organization except Matsuko Goto. This young lady had long been buying sweet potatoes from Myoko Sensei, to whom she referred as "Auntie." She continued this practice in training meetings and guidance programs until one day Myoko Sensei remarked to her, "Don't you think it's about time you dropped that 'auntie'?"
Matsuko Goto provided guidance for Yoshihisa Uematsu and his wife Fujiko, who lived in Yokosuka. Mrs. Uematsu was ill with pernicious anemia. About one month after the founding of Rissho Kosei-kai, Mr. Uematsu joined us. One hot summer day about three months later, Myoko Sensei and I went to visit his ill wife in Yokosuka. As we sat by her bed discussing respectful service to ancestors and the Buddha's Law, her husband brought us flavored crushed ice that he had purchased at a nearby shop. Myoko Sensei said, "Give some of that to your wife." Handing the ice to the woman herself, in an utterly confident voice, Myoko Sensei went on, "If you eat that, next month, you'll be able to come to the Tokyo headquarters by yourself." Still lying in bed, Mrs. Uematsu ate the ice and said that it tasted good.
Two days later, to our surprise, she unexpectedly appeared in the headquarters - that is, the second-floor room over my milk shop. She explained that her husband, who worked at the naval arsenal, was unable to get time off and that she had come alone. We welcomed her and, in a way that combined praise and encouragement, told her that she had a great deal of life-force within her and that the Buddha had summoned it forth.
She returned safely that day; but thereafter, whenever she felt bad, she had one of her neighbors telephone us to come at once. Because we were determined that we must cure her, we always went. But the distance between Tokyo and Yokosuka and the number of times we had to change from train to bus and from train to train made each trip a day-long task. This meant that, on days when we were to go to her house, I had to get up earlier than usual to finish my morning milk deliveries and then to hurry home again to make my evening rounds. Myoko Sensei and I made these trips almost every other week.
But our efforts were rewarded, for Mrs. Uematsu's health gradually improved. From March of the following year, she was able to come to Kosei-kai headquarters by herself. Traveling all the way from Yokosuka every day because of her great devotion, she, with Matsuko Goto, provided guidance to twenty-three households in six months. She had recovered from her illness; and her personal testimony, presented at the time of the completion of our small headquarters building in Wada Honcho, was probably the very first use of this instructional method in Kosei-kai.
Though there were cases like hers, most of the new members joined as an alternative to seeing a physician and abandoned their faith the moment their illnesses were cured. In a sense, this is not surprising. A well man does not go to see the doctor daily. A person in good health does, however, have a regular physician on whom he calls at the first sign of disorder. Similarly, many people, though not frequenters of temples and churches under ordinary conditions, rely on the assistance of religion in times of frustration, worry, or insecurity. This is important. It is the second phase of faith.
People who wish to take very good care of their health do not wait for disorder to manifest itself but constantly remain in contact with their regular physician and never overlook health-control programs that prevent the occurrence of illness. This obviously is the best way. Faith, too, ought to be regarded in this way. The individual should keep the teachings of the gods and buddhas in mind all the time, should refrain from selfish thoughts and actions, and should live always in accordance with the law of the universe.
I have said that many of our new members left the group as soon as their illnesses were cured or their problems solved. But I am certain that these people, too, had attained the second stage of faith. I even have proof.
When Myoko Sensei's spiritual revelations - about which I shall write in greater detail later - became a subject of discussion necessitating a police investigation, the detective in charge visited many of our members and ex-members. He told me that, whereas former members of other religious organizations generally abandon faith entirely on withdrawing from the group, our ex-members continued to worship and to read the sutras. He respected us for this; and I found his remark profoundly encouraging, because it showed that our policy of expedience did not stop at the achievement of immediate goals, but led to profounder truths.
In the year before the founding of Rissho Kosei-kai, the so-called China Incident, the beginning of warfare between China and Japan, occurred. Less than three weeks after the founding of Kosei-kai, the enactment of the National General Mobilization Law signaled initial preparations for fighting. In 1939, with large-scale military operations between Japan and the Soviet union at a place called Nomonhan, on the Mongolian-Manchurian border, the abrogation of the commercial treaty between Japan and the United States, and the promulgation of a domestic law for drafting personnel services, the nation approached the brink of World War II.
The conditions of daily life throughout the country grew steadily worse. In those days there was nothing to compare with present health insurance. A protracted illness - like tuberculosis, which was prevalent - meant almost certain financial ruin. We realized that the times were wrong for lengthy, careful doctrinal presentations and that we would have to use more direct methods with new members. Our ideals remained unaltered; but as a new, small group without persuasive powers to influence the masses, we had to offer teachings of expediency to comply with the pressing needs of the people. Our first step in this direction was in the tradition of Reiyu-kai: healing illnesses.
Having Myoko Sensei at my side was an incalculable blessing. Her powerful spiritual abilities saved countless people from sickness and unhappiness. As a woman who had suffered much, she was able to strike chords of deep sympathy in other suffering women. Ivory-tower scholars and critics may criticize the kind of activity we pursued, but their censure would be less severe if they left their studies to go into the streets themselves to offer help where it is needed.
The innumerable people of the world all have different mental abilities, emotional experiences, and environmental conditions. To save all of them, one must have what, in Buddhist terms, is called the expedience or tactfulness to meet all occasions. Some people interpret this tactfulness as self-seeking, but in doing so they merely reveal the superficiality of their views. The correct way to save the masses and to bring peace to the world is first to relieve suffering and then to guide in the way of the Buddha's Truth to perfection of the personality. Expedience is a correct means to attain ultimate truth.
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