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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder Of Aikido (05)

by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #76 (December 1987)


Departure From Hokkaido

When Morihei went to the Kushiro region on a farm inspection trip he received a wire sent care of the Kamiyubetsu village office informing him that his father was in critical condition. According to the message, his father, Yoroku, was seriously ill in his home town of Tanabe. Shocked, Morihei hurried back to Shirataki and hastily prepared to depart for Kishu province alone.

Morihei had no way of knowing that the day he left Shirataki preoccupied over his father’s illness would be his last day in this village which he had helped to carve out of the wilderness by devoting all of his energies.

While on the train to Osaka from Hokkaido he heard stories about the Omoto religion from a man who happened to be sitting next to him on the train. As a result of this conversation he was to make a complete detour. While chatting to Morihei this stranger mentioned that there was a great old woman in Ayabe in Tanba province (present-day Kyoto) who would rebuild the world and who could cure any illness. [1] Morihei kept repeating to himself, “… rebuild the world…. cure any illness”. Although he was anxious to arrive home praying that his father would somehow recover, he could not ignore what he had heard. Something weighed upon his mind.

In those days there was no railway to Tanabe. One had to go by ship from Osaka. He didn’t think that such a long time had passed since he had seen his family but in reality many years had gone by since he had left for Hokkaido. Although there is a saying that flowers are the same every year unlike men, he wondered how his parents and sisters were getting along. He worried about his father’s condition after hearing the news that he was seriously ill. These worries plagued him constantly on his way back home.

Morihei made the decision to change trains at Kyoto for Ayabe. He met Onisaburo Deguchi and requested that he pray for his father’s recovery from his illness. However, Onisaburo told Morihei that his father was “alright as he was”. Morihei later understood the meaning of these words to be that his father had lived out his natural life. He stayed at the Omoto Headquarters for several days and returned to Tanabe only to find that his father had already passed away.

The Omoto religion Morihei came to know was not only a religion which cured illnesses. Its teachings were broad and its doctrine profound. It was very different from existing religions. It clearly explained the laws of heaven and earth and the existence of the kami (deities). It moreover offered explantions of the divine world, the spiritual world and the phenomenal world beginning with the simplest to the most advance concepts in such a manner that anyone could understand. Morihei felt as if he had arrived at a completely different world. Yet even a strong-willed man like him was unable to overcome the grief of his father’s death.

Morihei and his father were living in two different worlds -the world of the living and that of the departed. While praying for the happiness of his father’s soul, Morihei thought about the world beyond the grave he had heard described at Omoto and could see it clearly. As a child he had seen spiritual places when taken to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples for worship by his parents and grandparents and so he had already acquired religious faith. But this faith was nothing but a vague, ideological belief. For hundreds or even thousands of years no man of religion had or could give an explanation of this subject of the afterworld that was intelligible to the general public. Morihei learned the true nature of the spiritual world at Omoto for the first time and what he had vaguely understood now became clear.

This understanding is essential to be able to discern between right and wrong. Morihei had grasped something important he had to learn in order to live his life as a human being. What he experienced during his four or five day stay in Ayabe changed his life completely.

Morihei was a man of unusual will power once he made up his mind to do something. With the death of his elderly father he came to understand the nature of the spiritual world which had heretofore eluded him. He made up his mind to act.

He decided to present an area of land amounting to about 120 acres [2] which he had taken great pains to cultivate as well as his house to Sokaku Takeda, his master of jujutsu.

From the point of view of the average person it was a very wasteful thing for Morihei, who had even been called “King of Shirataki” in Hokkaido, to give away everything without hesitation to another person. Although most people work in order to satisfy their worldly desires and to increase their assets in an attempt to have a peaceful and comfortable life, Morihei and his wife did not leave any lingering affection to anything and left Hokkaido penniless [3].

What made him do such a thing? There must have been some exceptional content in the Omoto teachings which he as a human being had been longing for of more value than his enormous assets in Hokkaido which he gave away. Just what was it?

Chapter 3 - Omoto Period (1) Mind And Body

Morihei, who had returned to Kishu from Hokkaido, moved to Ayabe with his wife Hatsu and family. However, before describing that period I would like to mention the reality of the spirit and body which Morihei came to understand through his association with the Omoto religion as the church’s teachings had a great influence on the development of his character and, in later years, on his aikido.

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