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Founder of Aikido (18): Master Onisaburo Deguchi

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #47 (April 1982)

We would like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

Onisaburo Deguchi

Problems started then, too, as a matter of fact, for Onisaburo immediately met resistance from those around him to the methods he adopted to spread the faith. I’ll refrain from going into detail on this point since it is not the main line of our story, but briefly, the conservative way of thinking and ignorance of others in the religion resisted his abilities as a businessman and his foresight, which were somewhat ahead of their time.

For example, he took the necessary legal steps to officially establish the new faith as a religious organization. For convenience sake, he set up Kommyo Reigakkai in the form of branch organizations under the umbrella of the already well established Inarikosha. He established a headquarters and local branch offices, rules and by-laws; he found people to act as officials, and issued executive orders to members making their activities official.

In this way he set up a concrete organization as a religious body. His efforts were resisted, especially by the old Konkokyo leaders who complained of losing control of the group. Finally, Nao, herself, got angry and (speaking for the Gods) she criticized the placing of her Ayabe Omoto under the Inarikosha as “A big mistake.” In protest, she locked herself up in a place called Yusen Mountain in a gesture much like an episode from the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest chronicle, when a goddess locked herself in a cave in protest.

Then again, when Onisaburo later took the liberty of rewriting Nao’s “messages from the gods,” replacing some of the syllabary symbols with the standard Chinese characters, he caused another outburst of anger among the “old-timers.”

70 Years of Omoto, the official history, also contains a record of the criticism of the master’s life style which took place at the time. Compared to the honest and “straight-laced” personality of Nao, the free and uninhibited behavior of Onisaburo appeared unsuited to the religious life of a servant of god. Nao was a person who wouldn’t even throw away the wilted leaves of turnip greens. Even in the winter, if she was performing some service for God, she would never use any form of heater. In the coldest weather, she would purify herself by pouring buckets of cold water over herself repeatedly. From Onisaburo’s point of view, this ablution ritual of the religious officials was unnecessary; he felt that for bodily purification a warm bath was better. The real question was one of purification of the mind. He felt that no number of icy purifications of the body insured a pure mind (kokoro). At that time among religious groups there was almost an air of competition surrounding the act of pouring water over yourself in mid-winter and it was this attitude that the Deguchi thought degrading.

Nao’s revelations which spoke against wearing western clothes and shoes or eating meat were outbursts against the influx of western European civilization and modern capitalism and were accepted quite literally by the common belivers who then followed the injunctions to the letter. Recalling this situation, Master Onisaburo Deguchi in his latter years recounted that, “For about the first 10 years after the founding of the faith, the Main Hall in Ayabe was a gathering place for absurd superstitions… The faithful and the self-appointed “loyal retainers” would make all kinds of noise, but had no concept of the overall picture. They just confused the situation…”

But the master, following his own beliefs, continued in his organizing efforts and developed the teachings of the religion through a pair of books entitled The Founding of the Spherical Jem (Tama no Ishizue) and Drops from the Writing Brush (Fude no Shizuku). The first step toward Omoto’s becoming a faith able to claim the largest number of intellectual members compared with other religions was this “newness” of Master Deguchi. Even so, his ultimate goal of having Oomoto recognized officially as a religious organization was still not possible.

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