“The life of faith I have walked”
I was born at Number 63, Hashiba-cho, Asakusa, Tokyo, into a family running a modest secondhand store. My father’s name was Okada Kisaburo and I was his second son.
My father raised me well even while our family lived in extreme poverty. But how can I explain this? I was frail and sickly by birth. Despite my weakness, I held a vague and shadowy dream – a dream yearning for something distant and far, far away. This led me to like painting, and when I finished my primary schooling at the age of 15 to 16, I entered a preparatory program of a fine arts school.
But what can I say? I was born unfortunate to the end. Soon after, my eyes started to have trouble. This eye disease was particularly vicious, lingering and obstinate, so much so that I had to give up pursuing my dream of becoming a painter, something that once kindled the heart of this young boy. At that moment, my heart was engulfed by sheer darkness –so dark that I almost felt like I was falling head first with my feet tied together into a deep, never ending ravine. Despair. Despair! I was in utter despair. I was in deep despair beyond help.
Just as the eye disease seemed to have recovered, I contracted pleurisy. When the pleurisy appeared to be alleviated, I was diagnosed with pleurisy for the second time. I completely lost all hope in life. I did not want to live any longer. Worse still, what knocked me down brutally – for me who was entering his adolescence with such a feeble and oppressed life – was lung disease. First, it was pleurisy. Then, it was lung disease.
I want to live. I want to live. That was all I could think of. This made me visit a doctor. My heart already ached for the poverty-stricken life of my father and mother, and what is more, I was required to take expensive medications. I cried and cried. Tears welled up in my heart and I had no way of stopping them.
But how miserable I was who was forsaken by God! Even though I was able to get a diagnosis from Dr. Irisawa, a leading figure in the medical world at the time, it was too late. There was no chance for my lung disease to be cured.
“Young boy…you must give up.” The doctor didn’t actually utter these words but I knew it full well, and I thought to myself, “The only hope for surviving is through a miracle.”
In my endless despair, I yearned for something, perhaps a light, somewhere in the distance, barely discernable. My heart unconsciously looked up at it. This compelled me to quit all my medications and meat-eating that my doctor recommended. I went on a strict vegetarian diet and let my illness run its own course. Then, how strange and mysterious. Day after day, my health began to improve, and before I knew it, illnesses that caused me so much suffering were completely gone.
Looking back, my youth was so hollow and empty, just like a spring that has no blooms. At the age of 25, right after my father died, I started a small business selling various goods. And, this, this…how mysterious my life was! Somehow the business gained success and I immediately earned about 50 thousand yen. But soon afterwards, I failed miserably and lost about 100 thousand yen. Furious debt collectors were pressing me to pay back. For this, I couldn’t think any longer. I became dizzy and blank. Then, my wife had to be confined to her bed because of typhoid fever – my wife who was five months pregnant. At the time, we were raising three children, and, without my wife, I did not know what to do with them just like a man who was travelling in darkness, not knowing where to go. But heaven was not yet finished tormenting me. After suffering from a raging fever and dying agony for a few days, my wife died, leaving me and our children behind.
Suddenly, my soul longed for a faith. Faith! Faith! I thought that faith was the only way to be saved from the suffering of my heart, body and life. Deeply, so deeply had the harsh reality of life surrounded me and my heart like a thick ice wall. At the very least, I wanted to look up at the warm light of faith somewhere in the sky above me. This act in itself relieved my soul that cried with grief and pain over my life with three children by my side who missed their mother and were weeping unceasingly.
“You are seeking faith? Well, I recommend Tenrikyo, then.” My acquaintance said this to me at the time, but my heart was not captured by it.
One of my relatives was a monk of the Nichiren school and was the head priest of a temple at Mount Minobu. Whenever he came over to Tokyo, he stayed at my home. He advised me to start over my life embracing a glorious soul and begin a brand-new day as a follower of Nichiren. Despite all these advice, I didn’t feel like pursuing any of the faiths of the established religions. How miserable my heart was. I yearned and yearned for a religion – for a faith. So much so, that while with one arm I held my children tightly, with the other completely outstretched, I was grasping for something, yearning. Yet none of the religions seemed to bring me salvation. My heart wandered in a vast, endless expanse of wilderness.
Having said that, in reality, I couldn’t raise my children by myself while running the business on the side, and so I married Yoshi, my second wife. She immediately became pregnant – about six months after the marriage. But when she was five months into the pregnancy, she contracted lung tuberculosis. Instead of her looking after the children, I needed to look after them all. The economical damage! The mental blow! The collapse of my family! I despaired of my life so heavily, I even thought that there was no one in this world more miserable than I. I will never forget it – all of this took place in the year 1920.
Around that time, I saw an advertisement in a newspaper and bought a book entitled Critiquing Omoto. Searching for a faith, my heart so strongly sought a rope that could be held on to. This heart of mine tried to comprehend the true identity of this unknown new religion called Omoto.
And then, I felt drawn by something. Every character! Every sentence! Every page! I cannot list all of these things in detail, but something, some kind of inexplicable force seized my heart and pulled me in.
After a while, I saw a newspaper article and came to know that Omoto was going to host a lecture meeting in Kanda, so I went to listen to the talk. I believe the name of the speaker was Toru Yoshihara. Then, with every word Mr. Yoshihara spoke and as the moments of listening to each of the words uttered from his mouth came together, I thought,
“It must be Omoto…Omoto must be the faith that I sought and sought for such a long period. Omoto will save me.” I clearly heard these voices that hit my heart. How bright was my mind at that moment when I realized that I was really going to be saved.
During this time, besides being taken to court for fraud, I was also being sued for seven to eight other matters. Bailiffs were always searching my house – I was living in a hell-like state. But for someone whose soul was saved, nothing could overpower me. So, I left my cases to lawyers and rushed to Ayabe where the headquarters of Omoto was located. What I wanted in all sincerity and earnest was salvation, a faith. Making the window of the train my pillow and while half asleep, half awake in the darkness, I worried of my desperate financial circumstances. However, at the very bottom of my heart, I had a strong and unwavering conviction of faith that burst out like a flaming fire.
After paying a visit to Ayabe, I returned home. Immediately, I received a miracle from God. My wife Yoshi completely recovered from her illness the next day. And now, she is well and sound, being a mother of five children.
Five years ago, I went bankrupt, but now nothing is able to shake my strong conviction that I am protected by God always. Just a little while ago, my finances returned to their normal state and now, at the age of 39, I lead a calm and peaceful life.
Everything, absolutely everything, was because of God’s grace.
I was saved by the power of His blessing, by the warmness of His saving hand.
Over time, day after day, my faith has grown much deeper and firmer. Three years ago, I received a revelation from God. And now, today, at this moment, the state of my mind is transcendent, subtle, pure and spontaneous. Things earthly and secular cannot even approach it. Within me is a perfectly round and soft light and I breathe calmly with my spirit and body.
Looking back, half of my life was indeed full of difficulties and grief. But I feel that it is because of those sufferings that I was able to gain the happiness that I have now.
The Collected Works of Mokichi Okada, Writings vol. 1, pp. 11-16, November 1, 1930