CRY FROM THE SOUL
- Want to be Saved, Want to Help
November 16, 2003
Reverend Motoo Tanaka
It has been thirty-one years since I first came to Hawaii,
and I can still recall how moved I was to see such beautiful
sites throughout the islands. Hawaii is a paradise.
I have since visited several times and my heart has
been always embraced with the aloha spirit of the Hawaiian
When people live in a peaceful and quiet paradise like
environment such as Hawaii, they are easily susceptible
to take for granted the harsher aspects of nature and
life. It has been noted that, when people face a crisis
situation of a life threatening nature, they are suddenly
made aware of the true nature of themselves that has
been dormant and asleep within the deep recesses of
the heart. Another distraction which might easily camouflage
the true nature of life is our constant desire to gain
satisfaction through superficial self-interest.
A young man, who has been coming to my church daily,
has had a nasal inflammation and difficulty in breathing.
Day after day, he would make the following request:
"Please ask Kami or God for a cure for my nose."
Then one day, he came and made a different request.
He said, "Reverend, I am being transferred to another
department of the company. My boss harasses me and seems
to hate me. Please pray to Kami that I might be moved
back to my former department as soon as possible."
He continued making this new request for a number of
days. One day I asked him, "By the way, what happened
to your nose problem?" He replied, "No, no,
Reverend, now is not the time to be concerned about
A short time later, he came and made a new request.
"Reverend, there is a cute girl in the new department
where I work. She seems to be interested in me, but
is dating another man. My heart is painful. Please pray
to Kami that she might become my girlfriend." As
before, he made the same request about the young girl
day after day after day. A short time later, I asked,
"By the way, what happened to the problem with
your boss?" He replied, "No, no, Reverend,
now is not the time to be concerned about that problem."
As seen from the episode above, we often times complain
about things that are very much superficial in nature
without realizing the true nature of our relationship
to Kami and life itself. We are bestowed with the heart
of Kami. It is important to awakened to this truth,
manifest the Kami in our soul, and begin to live a Kami
life. If we listen, we can hear the spiritual voice
from deep within our soul, beseeching each of us to
manifest the Kami in our daily life bringing us happiness,
and in turn, making our world a place of peace and happiness
The following are actual life episodes and serve as
examples of the nature of our relationship with Kami
and the meaning of life.
The Great Hanshin Earthquake
(a) Want to Help People
The first series of examples are centered around
the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
On the front cover of a weekly magazine's special edition
featuring the great Kobe City earthquake disaster, I
noticed the headline in large letters, which stated,
"I WANT TO HELP PEOPLE." Seeing this headline,
I thought to myself, "Yes, this is it! This is
a message to myself." It reminded me of the Founder's
"It is a human being that helps suffering people."
"It is a human which help others."
When confronted with the news of the earthquake disaster,
I could not stay still. I felt something prodding and
moving within me. I concluded that it was Kami. The
Kami within me, which seeks to help those who are suffering
and in need of help, was urging me to do something.
By realizing this wish, people are able to manifest
their true selves. They are able to become a Kami to
others by helping their fellow human beings.
How to Accept the Crisis
The Great Hanshin Earthquake took place about
nine years ago. More than 6,000 people died. During
this crisis, I carried emergency relief articles on
my back and visited a number of Konko churches, which
had been destroyed or damaged and tried to aid the numerous
victims of Kobe City. In such a chaotic situation, I
tried to provide encouragement and offered prayers for
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Kobe City, I was
dumbfounded by the way houses lay destroyed. A wooden
house fell upside down like a toy box. The first and
second floor of a two-story house had become almost
indistinguishable giving the appearance that it been,
all the time, a one-story house. Tall buildings fell
down sideways while remaining almost intact, others
collapsed from top to bottom like an accordion, while
others were twisted like a corkscrew. Streets and pavement
were ripped apart. On some streets, the stores on one
side were virtually all destroyed or damaged while on
the other side, not one bit of damaged could be found.
While serving warm soup to people in front of one of
the Konko churches, people related their experiences
during the height of the earthquake. One woman, with
tears in her eyes said, "I lost everything. Why
only me?" Although the earthquake was strong and
destroyed many houses, many people were still able return
to their homes without seeking emergency shelter.
The Great Hanshin Earthquake left many people homeless.
Businesses were lost, property was destroyed and people
lost some or all of their possessions. Yet in this tragedy,
I recall one storeowner, who had lost both his store
and his home, say with a smile on this face, "I
am lucky because the most precious thing was left to
me. It's my family."
More recently, while watching news coverage of the Southern
California fires, I was again reminded of that storeowner
in Kobe City. A television reporter was interviewing
a woman, who cried and said, "I lost my house,
baby goods, photo albums of my life. Everything."
In another interview, an old man was heard stating,
"What I lost is just a house. Just a house. Our
family is OK."
What was lost and what was saved and how these are interpreted
depends on the heart of the person.
(c) The Light of Hope
The next example related to the Great Hanshin Earthquake
concerns the light of hope.
Five years after the earthquake, a memorial monument
referred to as the "the light of hope" was
constructed in a park at the center of Kobe City. An
eternal flame burns and a poem is carved on the stone
base. It reads:
"What the earthquake took away
Lives, A Job, The Fireside, Our Home Town and Sweet
"What the earthquake left
Kindness, Sympathy, Bonds and Friendship."
The earthquake did take away something yet it also left
something as the poem states. How we interpret what
was taken and what was left again, depends upon our
hearts. Konko Daijin taught, "Everything will turn
out good by your heart." "Divine favor depends
upon one's own heart." Since Kami works on us so
that we may be saved, we will be able to find a divine
message from anything. " Misfortunes are a blessing
A College Student
The third example from the Great Hanshin Earthquake
concerns a college student..
A female college student from Kobe, who has been coming
to my church, returned to her home, which had been damaged
in the earthquake. Upon her return to Tokyo, she said,
"This time, I experienced how precious water is
and understood more how grateful I should be. We need
water even when we use a toilet. It was my daily task
to go the river and bring back a bucket of water. Drinking
water is to preserve life. So, I got it from a water
For the first time, she realized the value of the water
she has been drinking without much thought. She was
grateful for water only when it became so difficult
to acquire. She related that enjoying a hot bath was
almost like being in heaven. She commented, "Daily
life in the aftermath of the disaster was inconvenient,
but it was joyful, too." Before the earthquake,
she merely greeted neighbors as a form of courtesy or
public ritual, but since the earthquake, the relationship
with neighbors became more meaningful. She shared meager
necessaries with neighbors, they helped each other,
they worked together to live, and she came to realize
that all people were lively and pleasant. She thought,
"Ah, human beings exist to help each other."
She found a deeper meaning for life through an earthquake
The Natural Thing is a Grateful Thing
In the aftermath of a disaster such as an earthquake,
the superficial concerns we have and hold are quickly
dissolved, revealing the issues that are truly important
for all to realize.
When water poured out from the faucets and hydrants
for the first time since the earthquake, people shouted
In Japanese, it is expressed as, "Arigatai."
When they express their thanks to others, they say "Arigato."
"Arigatai" or "Arigato" originally
meant "hard to exist." We ordinarily assume
it is natural to get water from a faucet or hydrant
and that it is continuously provided by the city. A
natural disaster such as an earthquake disrupts the
unnatural flow of water, since people assume water is
provided by the city and comes from pipes, faucets and
hydrants. Water actually comes from rain and snow on
the mountains, through rivers to lakes and man made
reservoirs. We cannot live without water. Water is life.
Through emergencies, we come to realize the truly important
concerns of people and life, such as the importance
of having water.
The Natural Thing
Unrelated to the Great Hanshin Earthquake, yet still
exemplifying the idea of wanting to be save and wanting
to help is the following story of a young doctor and
the poem he composed.
In the late 1990's, the economic balloon in Japan burst,
resulting in a variety of responses among the populous.
Some were surprised that one of the largest companies
could file for bankruptcy. Employees lost their job
and their families were turned adrift. Some were concerned
about how they could maintain the lavish lifestyles
they had become accustomed to living. On the other hand,
the wife of one security company worker said. "I
know what happiness is. True happiness is not to go
to a pleasant place, nor to travel abroad, nor to go
to a high-class restaurant. Happiness is when all the
family members are healthy and to be able to have dinner
together with laughter…"
To liberate oneself from the idea that one is unhappy
without money or unhappy without traveling to a nice
place, is to achieve true happiness and understanding
of the meaning of life.
I would like to read a poem titled "Atarimae"
or "A Natural Matter of Fact." This poem,
by a young medical doctor, was written three weeks before
his death from cancer. In it, he describes what truth
is as he suffers from cancer and faces death.
They have a father.
They have a mother.
They have two hands and two legs.
They can walk alone to a place where they want.
They can take anything they wish.
They can hear. They can speak.
They are more than happy since they can do these things.
However, nobody is pleased.
They say with a smile it is a matter of fact.
They can eat.
They can sleep. And a new morning will come again.
They can breathe deeply.
They can laugh. They can cry. They can scream.
They can run around.
Those are all matters of fact.
They are never pleased with such wonderful things.
Those who are grateful for these things are those who
It is a matter of fact.
( From "To Asuka and the unborn my beloved child"
by Dr. Kazukiyo Imura)
(a) Support for Poor Children
The next several examples relate to my experiences in
I have visited Cambodia eight times since 1993 in order
to promote a Non-Governmental Organization or NGO project.
Cambodia is now creating the basis for a nation, which
had been thoroughly devastated by twenty years of civil
war. More than two million people were systematically
killed by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol
Pot, in what many call genocide, similar to what occurred
in World War II and in Africa.
During this horrible period in Cambodian life, in order
for a family to survive, a wife might have to become
an informant for the Khmer Rouge against her own husband,
while the husband would be secretly doing same against
his wife. At the same time, the children would also
be forced to become informants against their parents.
Such was the maddening situation for many Cambodians,
which resulted in family divisions in loyalty and trust,
leading to the collapse of the community.
An estimated ten million mines are still buried throughout
the country. These lightweight bombs float in water
and many rise to the surface during the rainy season.
Many women and children have be victims of exploding
mines as they enter their own rice fields to work.
Since so many people of the middle and upper classes
were killed during the genocide, Cambodia has a long
road to travel before reaching a sound national system.
When I first visited Cambodia in 1993 with a Japanese
NGO group, I saw a swarm of poor school children. I
organized a "one meal one yen" movement to
raise money to provide meals to children in the countryside.
The "one mean one yen" program encourages
people to donate one yen every time they have a meal.
We had hoped to raise enough money to invite a Cambodian
child to Japan, but were unable to do so as of this
writing. In the meantime, we continue to encourage as
many people as possible to donate under the "one
meal one yen" program. One yen is less than one
cent. If we keep up our efforts, we will be able to
donate about ten dollars a year. Through this program,
we can also offer a school lunch to children to help
them attend school. Since the start of this project,
the number of the students attending class has increased
one and a half times.
The education project was started first at the poorest
primary school. The children at this school were much
smaller than Japanese children of the same age. Five
years after the nutrition program was initiated at the
school, the NGO from the U.S.A. visited the school.
They discovered the health condition of the school children
was the best in this area.
In order to rebuild a country, education is a very important
element. I wanted to support an educational program.
Projects have been promoted through the Konkokyo Peace
Activity Center, including a scholarship program, haircutting
and cleaning program, and loan program for the improvement
Museum and the Killing Field
The second Cambodian related experience concerns a museum
and the infamous Killing Field.
There are two locations I never fail to visit every
time I go to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The first is Toul
Sleng Massacre Museum and the other is the Killing Field
where countless numbers of people were killed.
Toul Sleng was a high school. The Khmer Rouge converted
the school into a prison for the intellectual class
and their families. Terrible torture and slaughter took
place at that location. Today, the walls of numerous
rooms are covered with the pictures of the countless
people who were imprisoned, tortured and killed. I could
still see the bloodstained floor and the stale smell
of blood on the floor seemed real rather than imaginary.
I saw the countless remains of real human bones, belonging
to the unknown dead, stacked upward toward the sky in
the school tower. There is also a huge mountain of clothes
worn by terrified Cambodian citizens stained with their
Every time I have gone to Cambodia, I cannot help but
to ask myself, why human beings can do such a foolish
thing. Visiting Toul Sleng High school, I sometimes
feel as though I can hear the people still hopelessly
screaming for help.
In the next moment, a Cambodian stands before me with
a beautiful smile called the Khmer smile. How could
such a beautiful Khmer smile give way to the cruelty
and barbarism of the genocide which occurred here?
The tragedy is that such cruelty and barbarism is not
limited to Cambodia. Every person and every people has
both a bad heart and a Kami heart or a good heart.
Meeting Mother Teresa
The next example relate to my experiences in India.
I met Mother Teresa ten years ago in Calcutta, India.
She was 82 years old at the time. Mother Teresa devoted
herself to the poorest people and is regarded as a contemporary
Saint by people. She won the Nobel Peace Prize with
Mother Teresa was very short in stature. She wrapped
her body in the sari of simple white cotton with three
blue lines. She walked towards me with bare feet. The
toe bent outward by the hallux valgus and seemed to
She looked so tired. She had been hospitalized in Rome,
due to a broken rib, and it was my understanding that
she had just been released three days earlier.
She greeted me, "Welcome all the way from far Japan.
She was a divine beauty. I shook her hand and noticed
her hand was very thick and strong like a physical laborer.
When I handed a donation, she signed her name on the
receipt and added, "May God bless you." I
offered to do volunteer work, and she replied saying,
"Sister will tell you what to do." And she
gave me a strange name card. On the card, there were
The fruit of SILENCE is Prayer
The fruit of PRAYER is Faith
The fruit of FAITH is Love
The fruit of LOVE is Service
The fruit of SERVICE is Peace
Mother Teresa had already been active at the Missionaries
of Charity, Home for Dying Destitutes for several decades
in her effort to show everyone that even the poor were
loved by God. She also desired to provide a lasting
memory for each of the poor that at least once in their
lives, someone did care and love them. I felt I really
met Mother Teresa through the volunteer work I would
Home for Sick and Dying Destitutes
Early the next morning, I attended Mass at Missionaries
of Charity. Mother Teresa knelt down at the rear of
the mission with the other Sisters and offered prayers.
After we had a humble breakfast with a slice of bread
and a tea called Chai, I was assigned to go to the institution
called "Prem Dan" which is about an hour walk.
'Prem Dan' is a Sanskrit phrase meaning 'Gift of Love.'
On the signboard, the English letters were written as
"Missionaries of Charity, PREM DAN, Home for sick
and dying destitutes."
As soon as we arrived at the location, I tucked up the
pants, wore a long apron, and started to sweep a huge
room. We piled up beds on the corner of the room, poured
water and brushed off the excrement with a palm bloom,
scattered disinfectant on the floor, brushed again,
poured the water, and mopped the floor. I perspired
from every pore.
Then, I held a patient who could not move and carried
him to a big water tank. I helped him stand, took off
his clothes, and poured water in order to wash his body
with soap. I washed him with my right hand while holding
him with my left arm, after which I was thoroughly soaked.
Our work continued. We washed lots of clothes, prepared
food, helped feed those who could not feed themselves,
and washed the soiled dishes. It was hard physical labor.
Meeting Konko Daijin
As I was moving about serving lunch, I came across
an old man. He was sitting down and I guessed he was
in his 60's. As we looked into each other's eyes, I
noticed his eyes seemed to be beckoning me to his side.
I squatted next to him and asked, "What do you
want?" He put his hand on his chin, rubbed and
uttered in a low almost inaudible voice. "Do you
want me to shave you?" I asked. Suddenly, the young
man sitting next to the old man replied in English,
"Yes, yes. He says he wants to be shaved."
I went to the Sisters and borrowed a disposable safety
razor. It seemed to have already been used several dozen
times for it was hard to shave. After lathering with
soap and water, I began to shave the old man's face,
carefully scrapping the rusty non-easy-to-shave safety
razor up and down his cheek. The old man closed his
eyes and stretched his chin. His face expressed a sense
of feeling comfortable and clean.
At that moment, I was overcome with uncommonly strong
emotions. I was moved to tears. I began to recite the
following: "Ikigami Konko Daijin Sama, Ikigami
Konko Daijin Sama." I had the feeling that I was
shaving the Founder's beard. I was overcome with joy
at having the glorious opportunity to shave the incarnated
Konko Daijin in India.
I was able to meet Konko Daijin far away from where
he lived and in a different time from when he lived.
I have come to a higher realization that I can now meet
him in daily life, any place, and any time. I came to
realize that I may even be able to find Konko Daijin
in my child or in my wife or in anyone.
Kami and Man
A Cry from the Soul
I felt the importance of what Konko Daijin was trying
to teach when he said, "All human beings are beloved
children of Kami or God."
We can have the Kami experience such as I did through
any activity in our lives. Kami is trying to help and
save people in every activity of life. It is the aim
of the Konko faith, "To awaken the Kami in oneself.
To realize Kami in daily life." We can have the
Kami experience through our practice of helping others.
The cry or the sound from all the souls of our neighbors
is to be saved. My soul does the same. My soul cries
that it wants to be saved. Every time I come back from
my volunteer activity in Cambodia, I have been taught
as well as helped by Cambodian people. They are politically
and economically in the worst situation, yet they have
something important which Japanese have lost. They are
helping each other with a smile. As one helps others,
one is helped by those same others and at the same time.
One cannot help others without being helped in return.
It is our lack of awareness that prevent us from realizing
this basic truth. To want to be saved and to help others;
both are a cry from the soul.
Become a Kami by Helping Others
There are good and decent people who, for some unknown
reason, often times become dissatisfied with themselves.
They are not satisfied with their respective family,
society or political situation despite their honest
and caring efforts. They live with a simmering anger
within themselves wondering what else they should do
to make their life meaningful.
When they see someone in trouble and know in their heart
that they should and can help very easily, they, instead,
turn a blind eye. They cannot seem to muster even the
smallest amount of courage to provide a simple helping
hand to another human being. These decent and good people
continually feel they should do something as a human
being and yet seem to be waiting for something. They
I think many of these people are on the verge of awakening
their true selves or on the verge of awakening the Kami
that has laid dormant for many years. These people may
not know what it is, but something is about to be born.
They may even be wondering what resides within them.
The critical point is for one to be able to truly and
sincerely separate that which is selfish from that which
is selfless. When a person thinks or acts egotistically
or keeps someone else in a subordinate situation, there
is a sense, even if it the smallest sense, of guilt,
remorse or self-hatred. However, if this same person
were to see someone living a more fulfilled life, he
is moved, both emotionally and spiritually. Should he
be kind others, his life would be more enlightened.
Should he be helpful to others, his life would be more
enlightened. Should he save others, his life would be
Such a person lives like human being meaning that a
Kami or divinity is born within him. Do we not wish
to live such a life.
Just as a hen pecks an egg from the outside to help
it hatch, a person with faith is aware of the Kami that
exists within and needs to help others outside of himself
in order for the Kami within to be born. This can be
accomplished at home, at work at any location and situation.
You can help your friend's Kami be born. We want to
practice and realize the teaching, "Help others
and become a Kami."
In conclusion, let me say that religion clarifies the
ultimate meaning of human life. Konko Daijin said, "I
am teaching about the relationship between Kami and
Konko Daijin revealed to us the relationship between
Kami and man, and that Kami's wish is to be saved through
human work and man's desire is to be saved through Kami's
blessing. Thus, both Kami and man can exist because
of the other's support. Kami is saved by man's support,
and man is saved by Kami's work. Both are in an interdependent
This relationship between Kami and man is analogous
to parents and children. Without parents children cannot
exist, and parents would not be parents without children.
Likewise, all human relationship, be it husband and
wife, employer and employee, merchant and customer support
each other, help each other and need each other. All
human beings are helping each other. We should think
of the phrase, "I can live because you exist."
All the souls wish to be saved and at the same time
want to help others.
If your child is unhappy, you can't be happy. Similarly,
Kami says, "If a man is not saved, Kami can't be
saved." As a Parent Kami one would say, "If
a man is saved, Kami would be saved."
In the 'Kami Prayer' used in the services, this relationship
is stated in this way:
In heaven and earth is the Life that nurtures all
In heaven and earth is the Truth that orders all
For this wondrous Form
For these wondrous Works
Let us praise Tenchi Kane no Kami
Let us praise Kami of heaven and earth.
As is said in this prayer, our Parent Kami is the
'Kami of heaven and earth.' Man is allowed to live in
the blessings of the Great Universe. Man is a small
universe yet part of the Great Universe at the same
time. The origin of a small universe is one with that
of the Great Universe. Through the mutual working of
a small universe and the Great Universe, a harmony of
the whole universe and world peace will be fulfilled.
The relationship between the wish of the Great Universe
that wants to help man and the wish of a small universe
that wants to be saved and wants to help others is the
Way Konko Daijin seeks to fulfill.
The basis of the Konko faith is "Kami is Kami because
of man, and man is man because of Kami. There will be
eternal prosperity through aiyo kakeyo or mutual interdependency."
The aim of Konkokyo is to realize that world.
It may be easy for you to understand "Man is man
because of Kami" since most religions teach this.
Kami, however, reveals, "Kami is kami because of
man," and "Kami cannot save man only with
Kami's power. Kami saves people through man's work."
Thus, "If man is not saved, Kami would not be saved,
Kami is the Universe itself and exists within you as
The Kami that is within you is often surrounded by selfishness.
If the shell of selfishness is broken, the pure light
of a Kami will shine from within. Man is like a gemstone.
When you polish it, it will sparkle like a diamond,
just as Kami's light shines.
Through the Kami that is born in man, Heaven and Earth
will appear in this world. Just as Kami's wish can be
fulfilled through Konko Daijin during his times, we
can also realize world peace and human happiness through
our faith practice in our time. By listening and responding
to the Kami within us, we will be able to mutually fulfill
the relationship that links Kami and man. By listening
to the cry from our soul that is Kami's voice, we awaken
our inner Kami and ourselves.