I Will Never Give Up Praying,
I Will Pray till the Very End
By the Rev. Yoshihiro Adachi
KonkoChurch of Toyohashi
(From the December 2017 issue)
A Dark Side of me Appears, and…
There is a Japanese proverb, “If the water of a stream is too clean, fish will not dwell in it.” Just as fish will not dwell in an overly clean stream, I am afraid that people will not be saved if they only say positive words to our Divine Parent. In our daily lives, we inevitably deal with people, things, money, sickness and various events. Good things happen in our lives, and so do bad ones. Sometimes, we even encounter an event that makes us feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. But we cannot help living in a world where raw natural events exist alongside diving blessings. I believe that, as long we pray about the things we find ugly or dirty, as well as the things we find positive and beautiful, we will be led to true blessings of Kami.
When the current Faith Movement, “Movement to Live a Life of Mutual Reliance (aiyo kakeyo) between Kami and People,” started, many of us volunteered to recite the words of the movement orally so that we could remind ourselves of our movement’s goals. At first, I hesitated to recite the fourth line, “Let us pray for, help, and guide people by activating our kami/god-like heart,” because I always said to myself, “It is very difficult for us to activate our kami-like heart. We need to tirelessly discipline our hearts over and over again in order to make this happen.”
I hesitated at the fourth line of the movement words because I wasn’t very confident in what I was saying. I wasn’t confident because I am aware that I easily obsess over events and problems that happen in my daily life, and that I often find selfish, egotistical ways of thinking arise in my heart. In other words, I recognize the appearance of “a dark side of Mr. Adachi” in my heart. This dark side of myself whispers sweet-sounding words of selfishness to me, and I am charmed by them.
Kami never seems to overlook me when I am in this kind of state. Kami has me realize that I am being mistakenly hooked on those fascinating words of self-centeredness from my own mind. These words can come from anywhere, such as from the mouth of my wife, the mouth of my parents, or through things that happen to people around me. What Kami makes me realize does not always please me. More often than not, it makes me feel sick and say, “Yuck!”
But even if I feel disgusted with what Kami makes me realize, I can still see that Kami has a grand and deep affection for me. It is like Kami is saying, “You must travel this path in order to become happy. You may find it quite tough to go through the dark tunnel, but I tell and ask you to endure and persevere.” Kami, our Parent Deity, teaches me (and also other children of Kami) tough lessons with a loving hand.
“I have you go through this in order to take you to a state of total relief and comfort.”
We do not recognize this right from the start. It will take time. But we come to realize it little by little.
Once I am awakened to Kami’s deep affection for us, a heart of gratitude and apology is born inside me and things often go naturally and smoothly. I often perceive that Kami’s workings are far beyond my understanding, expectations and imagination. When this happens, the notion of, “I am truly thankful. How great Kami’s workings are!” is born and this belief takes root in my heart. When this attitude is there, it means that I am newly given a “heart to feel/perceive Kami.” I personally interpret this as “kami/god-like heart” or “kami gokoro.” I needed a lot of time to finally realize all these things, and therefore I felt like the fourth line of the current faith movement’s words was urging us to move too quickly. And this was why I had hesitated to recite the fourth line of the movement’s words in the beginning.
A Resolution I Just Couldn’t Give Up
I have been spiritually trained by Kami before. Kami trained me through a member of our church, who sought Sacred Mediation with me.
On one morning, after the daily morning prayer service, a church member came over to the church with an unusually serious look. This person is a lady in her sixties and she usually comes to worship once a month. Here, I will refer to her as Mrs. A. Mrs. A has a daughter who is already married, and her daughter gave birth to a baby boy a few months before. The new grandma was happy for her grandson’s growth, and she often merrily spoke of her appreciation at the Mediation Seat. On that day, however, Mrs. A looked totally different from her usual self.
Unlike her, I was my usual self on that morning and I frankly asked her, “How is your grandson?” Then Mrs. A responded, “Well, as a matter of fact, I just heard from my daughter that…” she started with a gloomy, monotonous tone of voice. According to Mrs. A, her daughter recently took her baby son to the hospital for a regular checkup. The doctor who examined the baby boy said to his mother, “It seems that your baby has difficulty in responding to sounds. I strongly advise you to take your son to a specialist ear doctor at an early convenience.”
Following the kind recommendation, the young mother took her baby to an otolaryngology clinic. According to the clinic’s doctor, Mrs. A’s grandson appeared somewhat insensitive to sounds, and he seemed to have more difficulty in responding to them with his left ear. Yet the doctor kindly added, “The left ear of this little boy is insensitive to sounds maybe because he is simply very young. Why don’t we observe him for one more month?”
Mrs. A and her family spent another month worrying about the child. The young mother then took her baby to the clinic again. The ear doctor checked the baby’s ears and said, “I don’t really know what the cause is. After several hearing tests I performed on this little boy, however, I feel compelled to inform you that he doesn’t seem to hear sounds with his left ear. I’d strongly recommend that your baby boy has a detailed medical examination of his left ear. However, he is still much too young to go through such an examination. I therefore would like to give him a detailed examination after he becomes one year old. I also must inform you that you may need to be prepared for the worst scenario where your baby may never regain his hearing ability in the left ear during his lifetime.”
Hearing the otolaryngologist diagnose her little son that way, the young mother was deeply disappointed. Since then, she had been teary and gravely depressed every time she saw her child. Mrs. A encouraged her, saying, “You have to remember that you are the mom of the little boy. You must not show him sadness. So hang in there, my dear daughter. I know you can do it!”
Mrs. A gave a pat of encouragement to her daughter in this way, but Mrs. A herself also had many tears in her eyes despite herself as she saw an innocent smile of her lovely grandson. She and her daughter, spent many days in this way.
Mrs. A spoke to her husband about this subject. Mr. A said to her, “It’s not like our grandchild will lose hearing in both ears. Even if our little prince goes deaf in one ear, he will still have another ear that can catch sounds. He will probably have difficulty hearing because of one deaf ear, but it doesn’t mean our grandson will totally be secluded from a world with sounds. I’m sure that he will be all right.”
Her husband’s words were greatly relieving. She soon let her daughter know Mr. A’s words. Her daughter happily accepted the words, saying, “Thank you! I will meet the challenge with a positive mind.”
Mrs. A was happy with her daughter’s positive reaction, and she came over to the church’s Mediation Seat and said, “My daughter has been invigorated thanks to my husband’s words. I am also cheered up, and I have made up my mind to face this difficulty with courage, Reverend Andatsu. Both my husband and daughter are positive and courageous, and so I sincerely would like you to pray to our Divine Parent that our grandson will be able to live his life without too much difficulty, even if he will lose his hearing in his left ear.”
When she spoke these words, she sounded quite confident, and I knew she really meant what she said.
The Words I Hadn’t Thought I Would Ever Say
I earnestly listened to Mrs. A’s story. While I was listening, I was thinking that I would probably say to her, “I understand that you are all in a very tough situation. Let us pray to our Parent Deity together, so that your grandchild will receive divine blessings even if he can hear sounds only with his right ear.” The words I actually uttered, however, were totally different. What I did say to her was, “Are you really all right even if your grandson will be deaf in the left ear for good?”
I spontaneously said these words totally despite myself, and I was surprised with my own words. After saying so, I knew that I’d said something quite severe to Mrs. A. Hearing my words, her facial expression changed in a second. It looked as if she wanted to tell me, “How dare you give me such cruel words!”
Mrs. A looked very grim. With her eyes wide open, she responded strongly, “How could I be all right with it? Of course I will never be all right! Everybody wants both of their ears to work normally!!”
I heard her say so and then said to her, “I totally agree with you. We all want our ears to function normally. The doctor has not identified the cause of your grandson’s hearing difficulty in the left ear. Maybe he will go deaf in the left ear for good. However, the boy’s doctor says that he is not quite sure that it will definitely happen, doesn’t he? If so, why do you give up on the little boy’s left ear already? I am sure that you had to work so hard in order to prepare yourself mentally for the worst scenario against your grandson’s ear. I understand that. However, may I ask you one thing? When you were preparing yourself mentally, did you trust our Divine Parent enough? Your grandson’s deafness in the left ear has not been destined yet. Then why should you make yourself believe that it will surely happen? There is still much possibility for his recovery.”
I had this riot of emotion arising from the bottom of my heart, and it was expressed in these words. Mrs. A’s expression became milder at my words.
I continued to speak, “Who on earth can keep hope alive when the boy’s parents give it up? Who is going to remain hopeful when the boy’s grandparents lose sight of hope? I want to talk about you in particular, because you are a member of the Konko Faith. You should never give up relying on our Parent Deity. You should never stop praying for the best outcome. You ARE praying, but the way you pray is not enough, I believe. You are saying to our Divine Parent that you will be satisfied as long as your grandchild can hear with his right ear. You are praying that your grandson will be allowed to get by in his life with that normal right ear. It is not enough!! Your prayer needs to be for the sake of your grandson in a true sense. You need to pray to our Parent Deity that your grandson will be able to hear with both of his ears and that he will have a carefree growth from now. And you must continue to pray to our Parent Kami for these things. When a situation surrounding your grandson becomes extremely severe, we will inevitably have to adjust the way we pray to our Divine Parent. But it’s not the time yet. Besides, I strongly believe that Kami will prevent such a painful situation from happening. I will pray to Kami tooth and nail from now. Let us pray together, so that your grandson will receive Kami‘s blessings without fail.”
All of these words reflected my true, honest feelings on this matter.
Mrs. A listened to me quietly and with concentration. Then she said, “I see. I understand what you say, Reverend Adachi. If that’s what you say, then I will not give up. Please relay my wish to Kami that my grandson will hear with both ears well.”
Just as I previously mentioned, this was a person who came over to our church only once a month, and she bothered to ask for Sacred Mediation much less often. It was the first time she had brought this kind of grave problem to the Mediation Seat. She still looked worried, but at the same time, I found some sort of conviction and relief in her face.
After she left the church, I quietly reflected upon what I had said to Mrs. A and the conversations we had had at the Mediation Seat. I said to myself, “The words I uttered to her must have been the words of Kami. I am sure about this, because they were the words I had never intended to say. I conveyed Kami‘s words to Mrs. A, so I need her to receive Kami’s blessing at any cost.”
I said these things to myself as if I were preaching to myself. “This is faith training not only for Mrs. A, but also for me,” I thought, and I made up my mind to train myself.
Since then, I was enthusiastically committed to my faith training, and it was so I could help Mrs. A receive Kami‘s blessing for her grandchild without fail.
“I Cannot Be Too Thankful for Kami“
Days went by, and the baby had his six-month health check. His left ear saw little improvement. The result of the medical examination worried the baby’s family even more. For the next six months until he became one-years-old, the family members intentionally communicated with the infant, talking to the baby’s left ear. They made a noise near the baby’s left ear, too. At each attempt, the family was either happy or sad to see the little infant’s reactions to those sounds.
At the church’s Mediation Seat, Mrs. A said, “Our baby sometimes behaves as if he heard sounds with his left ear. But he sometimes shows no reactions, which makes us feel discouraged. We’re having mood swings day in, day out. I, however, recall your words often, ‘Who on earth can keep hope alive when the boy’s parents give it up?’ I cheer myself up with these words and resume praying to our Parent Deity.”
I welcomed her words of honesty and said, “That’s fine, that’s a good approach. Even if your heart moves from the sun into the shade, the bottom line is that you remind yourself to direct your heart to and have a deep trust in our Divine Parent. Our Parent Deity never does things to us that are totally meaningless. I will not give up, and I ask you to keep holding on to your hope.”
Days and months passed by. Mrs. A’s grandson was soon going to have a detailed medical examination in a large general hospital. One day around that time, Mrs. A came over to the Mediation Seat of our church, saying, “The result of this upcoming detailed examination will determine what we should expect for our grandson. I truly would like our Parent Deity to bless my grandchild and give him two healthy ears.”
When she uttered these words of request, she was in total composure. I was impressed with her serenity.
According to Mrs. A, she went to the hospital with her daughter and grandson on the examination day. When she saw her little grandchild connected to multiple cords that were attached to medical equipment and devices, she felt so sorry for the one-year-old infant. She couldn’t keep tears from filling her eyes. But she then said to herself, “It is not me but him that is going through the hardest stuff right now. I can’t let myself feel that I’m the saddest one, looking at this little boy.”
She pulled herself together and was able to observe the medical examination of her grandson in composure with her daughter, the baby’s mother. Mrs. A visited our church later and told me these stories.
Another month went by. It was time for the baby boy and his family to receive the result of the medical check on his left ear. Obviously, I am not a part of their family, but I still was somewhat anxious and nervous as well. Early in the morning on that day, I was already anticipating that Mrs. A would come sometime in the afternoon. I had this attitude: “OK, now listen up, Yoshihiro. No matter what may happen, it happens amidst the arrangements of our Parent Deity. I am sure that Kami will take good care of the baby boy so that all of the people around him will be relieved in the end. I should never be panicked no matter what sort of examination results Mrs. A may bring here later on. I know I am supposed to conduct Sacred Mediation with her, keeping enough composure.”
With these things in mind, I was praying to our Divine Parent.
On the afternoon of the same day, Mrs. A actually visited our church. Before approaching the Mediation Seat, she gave an earnest prayer for a long time at the altar and then at the altar of the deceased spirits (mitama altar) as well. She finally came over to the Mediation Seat.
As soon as she looked into my face, she merrily said, “We have just received a blessing from our Parent Deity! My grandson hears sounds with both of his ears. No malfunctions on his ears have been detected. Thank you very much, Rev. Adachi!!”
Mrs. A was so delighted that her eyes were filled with tears when she uttered these words of joy and appreciation. In my heart, I also made a shout of joy: “Thank you very much, Konko-sama! Thank you very much, Tenchi Kane No Kami-sama!”
Mrs. A and I exchanged words of enormous delight, saying to each other, “How kind our Kami is! How affectionate our Kami is! Kami has truly listened to our request about the child and awarded a blessing onto the little boy.”
With great care, taking my time, I then spoke to Mrs. A about how important and pleasant this faith experience would be for the boy and his entire family for many, many years to come.
Mrs. A said, “My daughter (the baby’s mom) may not understand the spiritual importance of this experience yet. But I sincerely hope that she will comprehend it someday. I understand that before trying to make my daughter see, I should have better understanding of the positive impact this experience conveys to each of us in the family. And I would like to be ready to tell this faith experience to my grandson when he grows up, receiving a blessing of Kami.”
Saying so, Mrs. A was very happy and excited, being seriously motivated for the first time to hand down her faith to her daughter.
According to Mrs. A, the doctor who examined her grandson was amazed with the examination result. The doctor said, “The left ear of this baby boy was deaf without doubt. I have no idea why a physical handicap of nature has been cured. There is a rare case where a baby in its mother’s womb accidentally receives ascites of the womb into its ears. In your grandson’s case, maybe this sort of things may have happened.”
Hearing this explanation by the doctor, the religious grandma of the baby thought, “You may not know why, but I do. The left ear of my grandson became normal because he was given Kami‘s blessing. Nothing else brought this wonderful event to him.”
Four years have already passed since this detailed medical examination, and this child is now able to grow up as a totally healthy boy, receiving Kami‘s blessings.
Kami that Doesn’t Taboo Impurities
Through this experience, I realized the difficulty of letting someone know of Kami’s wishes for people. In other words, Kami‘s profound intentions and arrangements for people. I learned with this experience that it is important for us to have an earnest attitude to ask why our Divine Parent sometimes imposes problems and trials on people, Kami‘s beloved children, even though Kami hopes nothing but to save people. By equipping ourselves with this attitude, we can, and we should, earnestly seek Kami‘s true feelings and intentions for us. If we work on this, we will gradually have prayers and a lifestyle that allows us to realize Kami‘s heart and to live up to Kami‘s expectations for us. And if we succeed in this, it will mean that we are actually putting the fourth line of the current faith movement, “Let us pray for, help and guide people by activating our kami/god-like heart,” into practice.
The Founder of the Konko Faith imparts, “Till now, there have been only kamis which tabooed impurities. If impurities are tabooed, people cannot be saved. The kami I believe in does not taboo impurities. You must understand this.” (GI: Ichimura Mitsugoro 1-3-1) Just as the Founder teaches this way, we must receive Kami‘s blessings upon each of the raw, dirty things, the events of impurity that happens to our respective lives. I would like to be totally myself, being exactly who I am. I want to always direct my heart to Kami, our Parent Deity, who does not taboo impurities. I say these things, because I would like to make efforts every single day, so that I will be allowed (by our Divine Parent) to do goyo (selfless service) to help save people.