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The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service 2011

May I begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the efforts you are devoting to the tasks of the path in your daily lives. Today so many of you have assembled for the Autumn Grand Service, having traveled from near and far; please accept my deep appreciation. The Service having been duly concluded, I want to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your attention while I deliver this talk.

The primary significance of performing the Autumn Grand Service today, the day of origin of the Teaching, is to return to the origin of the Teaching and take to heart once again the purpose for which this Teaching was founded. Another part of the significance is to pledge to make fresh progress with a fresh mind to fulfill that purpose.

The purpose for which this path was founded is to “save all humankind,” as is clearly indicated in what is sometimes called the “declaration of the founding of the Teaching.” If we go back further to what led to the founding of the Teaching, we see that the purpose of the path is to fulfill God the Parent’s intention in creating humankind—the intention “to see the Joyous Life of humankind and, thus, to share in that joy.”

Despite the unwavering parental love with which God the Parent has nurtured us human beings over a long time since creation, our ignorance of the intention of the Parent of Origin led us to abuse the freedom of mind, which we were endowed with as something we could use as our own. Consequently, we were in a state of confusion and distress and were beset by conflict. Taking pity on that human condition, God the Parent became openly revealed at the arrival of the promised time by taking Oyasama as the Shrine and began to teach the ultimate teachings for world salvation.

The verb “save” in the phrase “save all humankind” does not mean helping people out of difficult circumstances merely by providing money and other material things. Rather, it refers to teaching people a path whereby they can attain salvation through correcting the use of mind that is behind all problems including illness and, thereby, transforming their way of living. To succeed in helping people in this way, it is necessary to convince them that illness and other problems result from repeatedly using the mind in ways that are not in accord with God the Parent’s intention. Furthermore, it is necessary to explain what uses of the mind are not in accord with God the Parent’s intention as well as what God’s intention is.

Another thing that we should note about the purpose of the path is that this path was opened to save “all humankind. ” God intends to save all human beings impartially and without exception. This is truly a profound and far-reaching intention. When the Teaching was founded, people in the local province of Yamato probably had no idea what the phrase “all humankind” meant, because their world, I suspect, was practically confined to their home province.

Nonetheless, the first words that God the Parent spoke in the human world already made it quite clear that God’s intention was to impartially save all people throughout the world. Such is God’s intention because God is indeed the Parent of all humankind.

In order to extend this path to all corners of the world, including all low valleys as well as high mountains, large numbers of people who work as Oyasama’s hands and feet are required. In addition, mission facilities where those people can be based as they strive to spread the teachings and save others are necessary. In today’s terminology, those people are Yoboku, and their facilities can be seen as churches, mission stations, and so forth.

When people blessed by Oyasama with recovery from illness or a solution to problems visited the Residence to express their gratitude, She would often encourage them to help others be saved. As those people went around telling others about their joy of having been saved in the hope of helping them, there emerged groups of people sharing the joy of faith in more and more communities, and some of those groups began to organize into fellowships. In addition, people began to be drawn to Jiba to serve at the Residence. In that period, I think we see early examples of serving at Jiba and at places that would now be called churches.

More than 170 years after the founding of the Teaching, the path has spread to the point where churches and other mission facilities now exist not only in this country but also in various other parts of the world. At the Home of the Parent, progress has also been made in establishing a framework for studying and explaining the teachings and in improving organizational aspects of Tenrikyo. Also, Church Headquarters’ precincts have gradually been expanded, with material construction having advanced considerably.

Yet, regardless of how physical appearances may have changed, we must never forget that every change that has taken place has been intended to contribute to fulfilling the ultimate purpose of the founding of the Teaching, namely, to save all humankind. What this means is that every activity of each one of our churches needs to be linked to the work of bringing salvation to the world and of achieving the Joyous Life. The same applies to all the tasks that we perform at Jiba.

It is fair to say that the founders of many churches began to follow the path as a result of the joy and elation that they felt at having been saved from the pain and suffering of illness or other troubles. Having understood the truth of the teachings, they started spreading the teachings with the single desire to respond to the great blessings they had received and fulfill the intention of the Parent. As these followers’ efforts led to an increase in the number of people embracing the path, they desired to enhance and improve their facilities for practicing faith by receiving a symbol of worship of God and to further develop those facilities as places for salvation. Thus, after having discussions with the people involved, they applied to Jiba for, and received, permission to establish their churches.

It goes without saying that the mission of all Tenrikyo churches is single-hearted salvation. Thus, our churches perform the service, which is a fundamental means of single-hearted salvation, and strive to spread the teachings and save people. Our churches, which originate from the joy of having been saved by God, are facilities for salvation work and for spiritual growth. They are also to serve as models of the Joyous Life in their local communities—models that embody the joy of salvation work and the joy of being saved.

Our churches were established with such great enthusiasm and high hopes. As time goes by, however, some of them end up forgetting their original purpose and neglecting their core duties as a result of going through many twists and turns, although other churches continue to flourish and grow.

The period in which many of the churches that exist now were established—namely, the period between 1888 and 1945—was a difficult time when it was impossible for our predecessors to convey the teachings exactly as Oyasama had taught them. Nevertheless, burning with the desire to make repayment for the blessings they received, they went out to spread the teachings and extend the path not only in this country but also overseas while bearing Oyasama’s Divine Model in mind as their spiritual support.

Today, there are undoubtedly difficulties that did not exist in the past. There may be times when you find it hard to be spirited. I hope, however, that you withstand and overcome all difficulties by making a point of recalling the Divine Model of Oyasama, who—no matter what situation She was in—always remained joyous and spirited, with Her heart filled solely with parental love for all human beings, Her children. Please recall your predecessors’ hardships, as well. To save all humankind, our churches are absolutely indispensable. Please keep firmly in mind the aspirations and hopes of the founders of your churches and continue serving in your role with pride and with a sense of mission while looking forward to the broad path that lies ahead.

Living as we do in an age characterized by a strong tendency to be indifferent to religion and faith, we may perhaps say that conflict and suffering are increasing precisely because of a lack of a dependable guide. There are many people who need our help. I therefore hope that you squarely deal with the difficulties facing present-day society while performing your tasks with the conviction of faith.

In order for our churches to fulfill their mission, it is obviously vital for their head ministers to be fully aware of their role and responsibilities. Yet Yoboku, who are key members of the church community, also need to do their work by “adding flesh to the core”—that is, by assisting their head ministers.

The term “Yoboku,” literally “useful timber,” is part of a construction metaphor referring to building the Joyous Life World and essentially indicates human resources useful for realizing the Joyous Life. Today, we use this term “Yoboku” to refer to people who have received the truth of the Sazuke. So when we include this meaning, we may say that the mission of Yoboku is to build the Joyous Life World by using the Sazuke to help others be saved.

Regarding the attitude that Yoboku should maintain in their daily lives, the second Shinbashira often spoke about Yoboku’s Three Guiding Principles. They are the “spirit of single-heartedness with God,” “attitude of hinokishin,” and “unity of mind.”

Single-heartedness with God means to let go of human thinking and be in complete accord with God the Parent’s intention as we follow the path. Although it is not easy to remain in complete accord with God’s intention, the main thing is to always maintain the spirit of trying to follow the path in accord with the divine intention and of making every possible effort to near that intention. The core of the divine intention, as I said before, is the Parent’s desire to save all human beings and let them live the Joyous Life. It was to fulfill that desire of the Parent that the teachings were given. In order to be in accord with God’s intention and near that intention, we need to learn the teachings first. Once you become Yoboku, I hope that you make it part of your daily lives to use the Ofudesaki, which was written personally by Oyasama—as well as to read The Doctrine of Tenrikyo and The Life of Oyasama—so that you can always bear the core teachings in mind. It goes without saying that just studying the teachings will not enable you to internalize them. An attitude befitting Yoboku will gradually become your own as you strive to live in a manner based on the teachings by always basing your thoughts and choices on the teachings in the course of daily life.

At present, there seems to be a growing enthusiasm for reading aloud and learning by heart the ten aspects of God’s complete providence and an explanation of the eight dusts. These are basic teachings that are familiar to us. If we learn them by heart, fully savoring what they teach and deepening our understanding of them, we will realize how rich the content of those teachings is. I think that not only can we let these teachings serve as spiritual nourishment for our own lives but we can also use them as a dependable guide and source of topics when we work to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and to help others be saved.

Hinokishin refers to offerings that we make through physical actions. In the Mikagura-uta, we read:

How remarkable this carrying of earth is,
When it serves as a contribution [kishin] to God!
Mikagura-uta XI:7

The term “hinokishin” consists of two elements: hino (daily) and kishin (contribution). Kishin generally means contributing money and material things to temples and shrines, but this verse says that actions such as carrying earth will also be accepted as kishin. Thus, regardless of whether or not one has any money or material things to contribute, hinokishin can be done by anyone so long as the mind of true sincerity is there. Hinokishin can come from the sense of joy we feel at having been saved from the sufferings of illness or other problems. It may also come from the sense of gratitude we feel for the great blessings we constantly receive every day. It is something we would do well to make a point of doing in the course of daily life.

Hinokishin is also mentioned in the following verses:

Husband and wife working together in hinokishin;
This is the first seed of everything.

Forgetting greed we work in hinokishin.
This becomes the first fertilizer.
Mikagura-uta XI:2, 4

These verses teach points that we must not forget concerning hinokishin.

Apparently, the activities of the Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps and the hinokishin efforts made in various facilities and at large events such as expositions have been highly evaluated by society at large. Yet that, I think, is only possible because of the unnoticed practice of hinokishin, a practice that is an integral part of followers’ daily lives of faith. Let all of us who are Yoboku make sure that we implement hinokishin in our daily lives.

As for unity of mind, we can find a model for it in the way the instruments of creation worked in the beginnings of origin. Having understood the intention of God and melted into the heart of God, those instruments worked toward the common goal of creating humankind by fulfilling their respective roles while maintaining harmony among themselves. Their workings provide the best model for our unity of mind.

Unity of mind does not mean that everyone does the same thing. Rather, it means that everyone fulfills his or her own role properly while working in harmony with the others to achieve one common goal. Also, the phrase “to achieve one common goal” does not simply mean that all people involved have the same opinion. We read in the Divine Directions:

From now on, all of you must unite your minds. This is the prime truth. The truth of your mind must be in complete accord with the truth of the path.
Osashizu, July 20, 1902

As indicated by this passage, it is of primary importance for each person involved to be in accord with the truth of the teachings and the intention of God the Parent. Only then can our unity be accepted by God. A Divine Direction says:

If you bind yourselves together in a unity of minds, I shall provide any blessings for you.
Osashizu, January 19, 1898

I believe that, even today, the Three Guiding Principles continue to provide us Yoboku with reliable guidance on our daily use of the mind and our effort to follow the path.

This year will long be remembered as the year of the earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan. The giant quake and tsunami devastated coastal areas in the northeast—mainly in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures—and caused many people to lose their lives. More than seven months have since passed, and some progress has been made in removing wreckage and debris and providing temporary housing for displaced people. Yet I think that there is a long way to go in terms of reconstructing towns and rebuilding people’s lives and livelihoods.

We cannot help praying from the bottom of our hearts for the devastated areas to be reconstructed as soon as possible and for those affected by the disaster to make a speedy recovery, both physically and emotionally.

In April and May, I visited dioceses affected by the disaster and had opportunities to speak to local followers and listen to their voices. I was deeply moved by the way those people, despite having been affected themselves, were trying to help others around them. There were those who experienced the great pain and sadness of losing their church buildings or family members but who, far from being disheartened, were rising to the challenge in the spirit of having buds sprout from the knot. They left a tremendous impression on me.

Although the reconstruction process will be long and arduous, I feel sure that those people will continue working not only to restore their own churches but also to provide a dependable guide for followers and emotional care for people in the local community at large.

As for those of us who have not been directly affected by the disaster, we must not consider it as someone else’s problem. It is important to take it as our own concern.

There are people in the world who bear a grudge against Heaven, saying that no true God would have let this disaster happen. Again, there are those who accept the disaster simply as a physical phenomenon that can be explained in terms of the movements of the earth’s crust.

However, when it comes to those of us who have faith in Oyasama’s teachings, it is important, I think, to accept it as a stern way in which God the Parent is telling us something and to ponder deeply over it because we are taught that natural disasters can be seen as expressions of God’s regret and anger. While we cannot necessarily generalize about how to interpret what God is saying to us, I think we would do well to begin by reflecting critically on ourselves, asking ourselves whether or not we have been living in a way that fails to accord with God’s intention. We should then do whatever we can in our daily lives to ensure that we live in a way that will help us near God’s intention.

Looking back, we see that, sixteen years ago, the Great Hanshin Earthquake occurred the year before the 110th Anniversary of Oyasama. At the Spring Grand Service, which came a few days after the quake, the former Shinbashira concluded his sermon by saying: “[T]he final year to put the finishing touches on our anniversary activities began with what we might interpret as a severe guidance from Oyasama, who hastens the performance of the Service. If we interpret it in this way, we should be able to summon up two or three times the spiritedness that is presently possible for the victims of the earthquake—who suffered loss of life, sustained injuries, lost their homes, or feel too depressed to do any work—and do our utmost in working on the path of repayment even taking it upon ourselves to do their part.”

This year’s disaster claimed far more victims, and this year marks the halfway point between the previous anniversary of Oyasama, namely, the 120th Anniversary, and the next one, the 130th Anniversary. I cannot help thinking that this is not a coincidence and that this disaster embodies even sterner training than we received sixteen years ago. I cannot help feeling that God the Parent is strongly urging us to take a fresh and critical look at the present condition of the path, which, through perfecting the Service, is intended to lead to the reconstruction of the world into the Joyous Life. I feel that God is urging us to correct what needs to be corrected in the way we follow the path on the basis of the teachings and in the light of the Divine Model so that we can perform our tasks in a way that accords with and responds to God’s intention. In this sense, then, I believe that we really must focus our mind much more sharply as we perform our tasks.

The anniversaries of Oyasama are not something that we conduct as a mere regular event that comes once every ten years. Rather, they represent junctures whereby we set ourselves a goal toward which all of us in the Tenrikyo community work together in unity of mind while conducting anniversary-related activities in the hope that we can show the everliving Oyasama the results of our activities and a new level of our spiritual growth and, thereby, bring joy to Her.

If we are to observe an anniversary of Oyasama in an appropriate way, I think we need to nurture and develop an appropriate attitude and strength for conducting our activities that will lead up to the anniversary—which is to say, we need to check and enhance our preparedness for properly conducting our anniversary-related activities. Thus, I would like to ask you to critically examine the way things are now in the light of how our churches and Yoboku ought to be and how they ought to perform their tasks. If you find anything at variance with what it should be, or if you find any shortcomings, please make necessary corrections and improvements. With this in mind, please strive to perform the tasks that you should be performing in the course of your daily lives.

On this occasion of the day of origin of the Teaching, I would like to ask all of you Yoboku, including those of you who serve at Church Headquarters or regional churches, to return once again to the origin of the teachings, to reflect deeply on why you are practicing this faith and what you should be doing in relation to the original purpose of the teachings, and to correct what needs to be corrected in your way of handling the mind and performing your tasks so that you can make sure you have a fresh mind and are in high spirits for your journey from tomorrow.

Having shared some of my thoughts with you, I now want to conclude my sermon. Thank you for listening.

Category: Sermons

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