July 18, 2012

The Baha’i Movement in Japan – by Tokujiro Torii, 1931

“O my friends! Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence, neath the shade of the tree of life, planted in the all-glorious paradise? Ye all hearkened in bewilderment, as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: “O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me nor with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly hopes and desires. If ye but sanctify your souls, ye would, at this present hour, recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance shall unto all of you be made manifest.” (Baha’u’llah, Persian Hidden Words,” verse 19)

That radiant morning is not forgotten! It was on a day in August, 1916, that I found the eternal Light which I had sought and sought with a longing heart for a long time. At that time I was living in a town by the seashore where the beautiful Mount Fuji could be seen on the horizon. There came a messenger of the Kingdom of Abha and lifted up the veil of my soul. She taught me this simple truth that, “Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty, heavenly, ancient, imperishable and everlasting.” She brought a new light into my heart, a new thought into my mind and a new ideal into ray life. Every word she spoke to me was wonderful and luminous. It dispelled the darkness from my soul, brought fragrances to my heart like the breeze from the green fields, and made my inner sight keener and fresher than ever. This messenger who made me see the Sun of Reality was indeed Miss Agnes B. Alexander, my beloved spiritual mother from Tokyo.

Since that bright morning of my spirit, everything in the world has changed for me; the world into a beautiful garden; strangers into brothers and sisters; sorrows into joy; despairs into hopes and even evil into good. Everything stood in its beauty and perfection in the hands of the creator. I can never, never forget that blessed day, but I must confess that this glorious state of my heart could not be everlasting. Sometimes it withers like a flower in the sun; sometimes darkness covers it over, sometimes it: becomes faded and weak, and now and then sorrows and sadness oppress it heavily. But, praise be to God, how often it encourages me to recall that radiant mom! How often the melodious music of these Holy Words strengthen my faded heart! I know the light is real existence and darkness is non-existence.

In November 1914 Miss Alexander first came to Japan, sent by ‘Abdu’l-Baha saying, “While there be engaged in spreading the fragrances of God.” So she has been here with us these years working alone for the Cause and sowing seeds of light with steadfastness and unselfishness. Wherever she goes the fragrance of the love of Abha is diffused. She has no will and desire of her own, but is a perfect instrument of God that goes anywhere if it is His will. For a long time she has been far away from her home and dear ones. We cannot help thanking her for her love and self-sacrifice. We hope that you will all pray for her and also for this land she loves, so that her seed-sowing may bear beautiful flowers and fruits. She has traveled not only to various places in Japan, but also to Korea and China carrying to the people the Glad-Tidings everywhere she went and she has made connections and unity among Baha’i friends in all parts of the world.

I want to mention here some Baha’is who have visited us and assisted Miss Alexander. Before her coming the late Dr. G.J. Augur was in Tokyo. He loved Japan so much that he never forgot us even until his death in Hawaii. In 1919 Mrs. Ida A. Finch came from America and stayed in Tokyo for over three years. Last year, 1930, Miss Martha Root made her third visit to Japan. She was for two months with Miss Alexander in Tokyo where she often spoke at different gatherings and once through the radio under the topic: “The Progress of the Baha’i Movement in Five Continents.” Last summer, 1931, Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler visited us on her way to Australia. These noble friends are never forgotten. I know that without the Baha’i Revelation we would have been strangers to each other forever. How wonderful it is for us to be in unity as one family through the light of the Sun of Truth, all attracted to the Center of the Covenant of God! May God bless those never forgotten joy-bringers!

In Japan we have many Esperantists, most of whom are interested in the Baha’i Teachings, as they have similar ideas such as world peace and the brotherhood of mankind. Miss Alexander speaks Esperanto and has attended the conventions every year and so the Baha’i Teachings are widely spread among the Esperantists. Last October when we held a special meeting for the blind Esperantists, in Kyoto, she gave a beautiful talk about, “The Baha’i Movement and the Blind in Japan,” which I translated into Japanese. I think one of the most efficient ways of promoting the Baha’i Cause in Japan is to have as many Baha’i books in Esperanto as possible, and also it is very important for us to have books which explain the teachings thoroughly and profoundly, because Japanese young people like to study radically and systematically, otherwise they are not satisfied. We hope that Baha’i Esperantists will make an effort to have Baha’i literature translated into Esperanto as Lidja Zamenhof has done.

You will surely be interested to know that ‘Abdu’l-Baha wrote 19 Tablets in all to us, the Japanese Baha’is, and that five of these were to the blind. How abundantly He descended His bounty upon us the blind in Japan! He wrote of blindness in my first Tablet dated December 27th, 1918, as follows: “Although materially speaking, thou art destitute of physical sight, yet, praise be to God, spiritual sight is thy possession. Thy heart seeth and thy spirit heareth. Bodily sight is subject to a thousand maladies and ultimately and assuredly will be obscured. Thus no importance may be attached to it. The sight of the heart is illumined, it discerns and discovers the Divine Kingdom and is everlasting and eternal. Praise be to God, therefore, that the sight of thy heart is illumined and the hearing of thy thought responsive.”

How much these precious words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha encourage the blind and will forever strengthen and comfort them! We have printed and distributed among the blind the following braille publications: “A Letter to the Blind Women in Japan,” by Agnes B. Alexander, translated by Mr. K. Nakamura, the blind editor of the Japanese braille weekly, 1917. “Seek and it Shall be Given You,” compiled and translated by Tokijiro Torii, 1917. “What is the Baha’i Movement,” translated by T. Inoue, 1929. “La Bahaa Revelacio,” in Esperanto, 1929.

My first book, above mentioned, I am now revising and before long it will be republished. It seems true that the blind are more thirsty and longing for the truth than the sighted, and I dare say that only those who live in darkness will see the real true light, because the light always appears out of the darkness. It is our supplication that we may have more Baha’i literature in braille and I ask your prayers also for God’s assistance. With the help of my faithful wife I have copied into braille some of the literature, such as, “Hidden Words,” “Book of Prayers,” “Seven Valleys,” “Book of ‘Iqan,” “Tablet of Ishraqat,” “Suratu’l-Haykal,” the last half of, “Some Answered Questions” and other writings.

Since the year 1916 Baha’i booklets that have been published in Japanese are as follows: “What is Baha’ism?” by Dr. G.J. Augur, 1916, “A Letter to the Women of Japan,” by Agnes B. Alexander, 1916. “Religion of Love,” compiled and translated by Japanese young men, 1917. “The Most Great Peace,” translated by D. Inouye, 1917. “New Civilization,” by K. Torikai, 1917. “Mashriqu’l-Adhkar,” Translated by D. Inouye,” 1918. “The Baha’i Revelation,” translated by D. Inouye, 1920. “The Call,” by Agnes B. Alexander, translated by T. Torii, 1920. “What is the Baha’i Movement?” translated by T. Inoue, 1929. Also in English, “Tablets to Japan”, compiled by Agnes B. Alexander. Besides these publications a monthly magazine entitled, “Star of the East” was published in 1920 and 1921, and many articles have been written for magazines and newspapers.

We are very happy that the book, “Baha’u’llah and the New Era,” by Dr. J.E. Esslemont will soon be published in Japanese. Mr. D. Inouye, a Buddhist priest of Kobe, has willingly undertaken this great work as a memorial to his beloved daughter who died last June at the age of sixteen. Let us pray for his dear daughter and for his service of translating.

His Majesty our Emperor received seven especially bound volumes of Baha’i literature which were presented to him by some American Baha’i ladies as a token of their congratulation at the time of his coronation. Our Emperor loves peace and amity among the nations. However, it may seem especially in these days of fighting in Manchuria, that the Japanese people are war-like nation. This is an error, although the government, or body-politic may seem sometimes to be so, we love the peace and justice of the world. The Baha’i principles are accepted with content, rather we have the same thoughts and hopes though we do not name them Baha’i. There are many religions in Japan today but there have never been battles among them. They are all living in peace and harmony.

In closing I must express my great regret in not being able to write all my thought and feeling because of my poor knowledge of English. I hope, though, what I have wished to say can be understood.

As for myself, I have been blind since I was three years of age. At present I am a teacher of the school for the blind in Kyoto. I know it is not worthwhile to be sad because of blindness for often it keeps me from material prejudices and superstitions. Rather, I would say, blest are the blind for they can see the light of truth. As long as I live I hope to be able to serve my fellow beings. It is my desire some day to visit the Holy Land as ‘Abdu’l-Baha wrote me in his second Tablet dated June 11, 1920, “Whenever the means of travel is secured, thou art permitted to come. I am supplicating God to strengthen thee and make thee grow like unto a lily in the Garden of the Kingdom.”

Accept my hearty Baha’i love and greetings to you who are all the one family of the Baha’i world. (The Baha’i World 1930-1932)