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The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service 2014

May I express my sincere appreciation for your efforts in returning to Jiba for the Autumn Grand Service for the 177th year of the Teaching. May I also thank you all most sincerely for the painstaking efforts you are devoting to the cause of the path in your daily lives.

I am truly delighted that we have been able to perform the Autumn Grand Service splendidly, commemorating the day of origin of the Teaching. I would like us to take this opportunity to return our thoughts once again to the significance of the fact that on October 26, 1838, which marked the arrival of the time promised during creation, the path of single-hearted salvation leading to the Joyous Life, the purpose of the creation of humankind, was opened. I would like us, thereby, to renew our pledge to follow the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model. May I ask for your attention as I wish to share some of my thoughts with you?

It was with the words “I have descended here to save all humankind” (The Life of Oyasama, chapter 1, “The Shrine of Tsukihi”) that God the Parent became openly revealed in this world by taking Oyasama as the Shrine to lay the path that would reconstruct the world into the world of the Joyous Life through saving all people in the world without exception. Not only did Oyasama convey God the Parent’s intention, but She spent fifty years showing through Her own example a model of how we should follow this path.

What is consistent throughout Oyasama’s Divine Model is Her parental love for Her children, all human beings—a parental love that is singly intent on saving all Her children as soon as possible.

Therefore, we can say that all the activities and elements of the path should be in accordance with the ultimate goal of saving all humankind and realizing the world of the Joyous Life.

Our churches, in particular, are indispensable mission facilities in various countries and communities for helping promote this path that will save all humankind. We read in the Ofudesaki:

Though I desire to go forth into the open quickly, I cannot do so because there is no path.
Ofudesaki II:13

The verse indicates that, even though God the Parent desires to openly show divine workings, this cannot be done if there is no path that makes it possible. It is implied that God the Parent wants us to quickly lay the path that starts at Jiba and reaches all corners of the world. Mission facilities required for the path of single-hearted salvation in various countries and communities can be said to be what we now call local churches.

In June this year, the former Shinbashira, who had guided the Tenrikyo community for some thirty years, passed away for rebirth. While serving as the Shinbashira, he consistently called for the enhancement of church substance. In order to ensure that all our churches truly fulfill their roles as training centers for single-hearted salvation and as models of the Joyous Life in their local communities, he repeatedly emphasized the importance of performing the service and carrying out activities to spread the teachings—these two constituting the essential mission of each church.

The reason, I think, was that he was concerned that, although some churches were continuing to grow over time, others seemed to be losing sight of the original purpose for which they had been established or to be lacking in the substance befitting their original purpose. In fact, these issues continue to require our attention even today. With this in mind, therefore, allow me to say a few words about the mission of a Tenrikyo church.

The beginnings of our churches can be found in the fellowships, or brotherhoods, that originated from Oyasama’s instruction: “Form fellowships” (The Life of Oyasama, chapter 7, “Buds Sprout from Knots”).  The Mikagura-uta says:

Since firmly we are determined to believe,
Let us form a brotherhood.
Mikagura-uta V:10

I feel that this verse strongly embodies the Parent’s desire to urge us to take a proactive attitude toward practicing our faith. I believe that the fellowships came about naturally as those who were overjoyed to receive wondrous blessings or greatly inspired by the teachings sought to express their gratitude by working to help save others, which is a way of making repayment for the blessings received.

The term “church” was first used during the movement to obtain official recognition, which started in about 1885 with the aim of enabling the followers to perform the service and carry out activities to spread the teachings more openly. As it turned out, it proved difficult to gain official permission from the local authorities for either purpose.

After difficulties arose in relation to the First Anniversary of Oyasama, our early predecessors changed their approach and applied to Tokyo Prefecture for official recognition. In April 1888, they were finally able to gain official permission to establish the Tenrikyo Church, although as a church directly supervised by Shinto Headquarters, something that was unavoidable given the social conditions of the time. Soon after that, however, the following Divine Direction was delivered:

There is a vast difference between the truth of the Jiba and the truth of the world. . . . Because the one truth exists at the Jiba, peace will reign in the world. The Jiba exists, therefore peace will reign in the world.
Osashizu, July 2, 1888

This Divine Direction taught the importance of the truth of Jiba. In fact, the followers were repeatedly urged to move Church Headquarters to Jiba promptly. Fortunately, their application to move the headquarters was successful and, in November of the same year, a ceremony was performed to open Tenrikyo Church Headquarters at Jiba. Subsequently, two applications to establish branch churches under the direct supervision of the headquarters were submitted within the same year, and eleven more applications in the following year. Since then, fellowships formed in various local communities have been established as churches one after another with the result that today there are some 16,000 Tenrikyo churches within this country and overseas. Regarding the local churches, a Divine Direction tells us:

The truth of Church Headquarters and the truth of the churches: these are a single breath. Unless you settle this unity in mind, Heaven cannot work.
Osashizu, December 13, 1906

As indicated by this Divine Direction, the local churches can only perform their functions effectively when they receive the truth of Jiba and work in unity of mind with the headquarters.

Originally, Oyasama’s permission to establish Church Headquarters was given during the tense dialogue between Oyasama and the first Shinbashira prior to Her withdrawal from physical life in 1887. When Oyasama was urging the implementation of the Service, the first Shinbashira was concerned that the police’s response to a Service performance might endanger the health of Oyasama, whose physical condition was deteriorating. The first Shinbashira said to Her: “If You permit us to establish Church Headquarters, we shall do as God directs” (The Life of Oyasama, chapter 10, “The Portals Opened”). Oyasama gave permission in response to the pledge to implement the Service.

The followers asked for and received Oyasama’s permission to establish Church Headquarters in order to make it possible to openly perform the Service without having to worry about anything. The fact that Oyasama urged the followers to implement the Service despite the extremely difficult circumstances indicates the great importance of the Service. This applies also to local churches that receive the truth of Jiba. The Service is the fundamental component of the path of single-hearted salvation, and the mission of our churches is, first and foremost, to perform the service in high spirits and in unity of mind in order to have God the Parent become spirited.

The other aspect of the essential mission of our churches is to spread the teachings. That is to say, to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and engage in salvation work. Sprinkling the fragrance and helping save others bring the greatest joy to God the Parent and Oyasama as we can see from the fact that when our early predecessors who had been saved by Oyasama asked Her what they could do to make repayment, She almost always told them to save others. Also, in order to save all humankind, it is necessary to spread the teachings throughout the world. Our churches are facilities for conveying and spreading the teachings and places where people who seek salvation and those who have been saved can gather and make spiritual growth.

Performing the service and spreading the teachings are like the two wheels of a cart. We can speak of the two as being one. In order to perform the service properly, it is necessary first to spread the teachings to attract people and then to provide them with guidance and care so that they can participate in the performance of the service. Conversely, the basis for being able to have God the Parent work for us when we spread the teachings or try to help save others is to perform the service in a way that is acceptable to and brings high-spiritedness to God the Parent.

When head ministers, other Yoboku, and indeed all followers belonging to their churches strive to fulfill the essential mission of a Tenrikyo church—namely, sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping save others, as well as performing the service in unity of mind—it becomes possible to be blessed with having the churches serve as models of the Joyous Life in their local communities and as vibrant and joyous training centers for salvation, where many people come together.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the first Shinbashira. I would like to take this opportunity, therefore, to say a few words about his life.

The first Shinbashira was born as the third son of Sojiro and Haru Kajimoto in 1866. Even before his birth, Oyasama was saying that he was to be “Shinnosuke . . . the Shinbashira” (The Life of Oyasama, chapter 4, “The Place for the Service”). She thus foretold that he was to serve as the core of the path, that is to say, as the Shinbashira.

In his childhood he frequently visited Oyasama. At the age of fifteen, he began to live with the Nakayama family, and in 1882—when the police were keeping the Residence under increasingly tight surveillance—he became the legal head of the Nakayama family at the age of seventeen. In fact, the surveillance was so intrusive that he wrote in his records that over the three years starting in 1882 he was only able to drowse, reclining on the bench with his clothes on, because the police came at all hours of the day and night to investigate. It was under such circumstances that he made painstaking efforts to protect Oyasama from whatever measures the police took.

After Oyasama withdrew from physical life, he took all responsibilities for leading the Tenrikyo community while basing himself on the Divine Directions, not only in terms of the activities within Tenrikyo but also its dealings with the authorities and others. Even though Tenrikyo was still under the supervision of Shinto Headquarters, it grew by leaps and bounds during the nine years or so following the official recognition of Church Headquarters, which made it possible to openly spread the teachings.

Alarmed by Tenrikyo’s rapid growth, not only did the public begin to malign Tenrikyo, but the government also intensified its efforts to control Tenrikyo. Severe consequences resulted from the Home Ministry’s 1896 directive, in particular, which forced Tenrikyo to change the divine name of God and the way it performed the Service.

Despite these difficulties, the first Shinbashira managed to lay the framework for Tenrikyo as a religious organization by establishing Church Headquarters, instituting the Besseki system, completing the Book of the Besseki, founding Tenri Seminary, compiling doctrinal books, establishing the diocesan system, establishing the Women’s Association, and obtaining sectarian independence from Shinto Headquarters. He also accomplished what is known as the Taisho Construction, referring to the construction of buildings such as the Main Sanctuary, which consisted of what is now the North Worship Hall. In addition, we must not forget that he wrote a biography of Oyasama, which essentially served as the basic text when Kohon Tenrikyo Oyasama den (The life of Oyasama, foundress of Tenrikyo—manuscript edition) was later compiled.

After achieving the longstanding goal of sectarian independence in November 1908 and completing the Taisho Construction in April 1914, the first Shinbashira passed away on December 31, 1914, about a year before the 30th Anniversary of Oyasama. He was forty-nine years old.

We are told that the first Shinbashira often encouraged young men by saying: “I wept a thousand times. You can weep a hundred times” (Kohon Nakayama Shinnosuke den [Biography of Shinnosuke Nakayama, manuscript edition], chapter 2, “Oyasama no hizamoto de” [Under Oyasama’s parental care]). Starting when he was young, he went through a journey of tremendous difficulties and tribulations with perseverance and with a firm conviction of faith.

We may say that the 30th Anniversary of Oyasama was the first one that involved pre-anniversary activities at the level of the entire Tenrikyo community. If we look at the Divine Directions, the earlier anniversaries of Oyasama seem to have been focused more on enhancing the procedures for observing an anniversary of Oyasama and on making preparations for receiving and accommodating followers. For example, although permission was requested to build a new sanctuary for Oyasama prior to the 10th Anniversary of Oyasama, it was not granted. Instead, the reply given in a Divine Direction said:

I am the Parent. You are My children. To give complete satisfaction to My children is what pleases Me. When the children mature, they will value their Parent and say, “How delightful, how delightful.”
Osashizu, November 14, 1895

The Divine Direction implied that land should be purchased to build facilities where followers could stay—which were to be the forerunners of the present-day followers dormitories.
Yet, in the few months leading up to the Honseki’s passing, some eight years prior to the 30th Anniversary of Oyasama, the so-called hundred-day Divine Directions provided plans for building the Main Sanctuary in preparation for that anniversary. This was something totally new. In response, our early predecessors pledged to work to spread the teachings and help save others, making every possible effort without letting up even to take off their work shoes. Their work, I believe, can be said to serve as an exemplary model for us to emulate as we prepare for the anniversaries of Oyasama. The crucial point was that material construction was preceded by spiritual construction.

During the period of the second Shinbashira, who succeeded the first Shinbashira, the path grew and expanded, and the construction of facilities at the Home of the Parent made progress, despite the government’s continuing control. These developments were achieved through the special efforts made in preparation for each anniversary of Oyasama. The “Double-the-Membership” drive led up to the 40th Anniversary of Oyasama. The 50th Anniversary–related activities were conducted under the slogan “Spiritual Rebirth of the Human Race” and included what we call the Showa Construction, which comprised building the present South Worship Hall and Foundress’ Sanctuary. Subsequently, the growth of the path stalled before and during World War II. After the war, however, the second Shinbashira promptly announced the endeavor for Restoration. He began by restoring the Service to the way it should be, returned or redistributed the Three Scriptures to local churches, and started work on the compilation of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo based on the Scriptures, thus trying to enhance doctrinal accuracy to ensure that the teachings could be conveyed exactly as Oyasama taught them.

During the period of the third Shinbashira, the East and West Worship Halls were constructed and the upper dais of the Main Sanctuary was remodeled as preparations were made for the major juncture represented by the Centennial Anniversary of Oyasama. These projects completed the four-fronted Residence, and this is still fresh in our memory.

Material construction projects such as the construction of the Main Sanctuary—which were undertaken in preparation for the anniversaries of Oyasama—provided opportunities for all followers to make progress in their spiritual construction. Construction in Tenrikyo does not merely mean constructing buildings. Rather, the crucial part is to make progress in spiritual construction through material construction. In fact, spiritual construction should precede material construction. Also, as we engage in material construction, our spiritual construction can progress as well. Further, buildings completed through material construction can provide places for further spiritual construction. That is why construction in this path is seen as spiritual construction.

In 1853, when the Nakayama family’s main house was demolished, Oyasama said: “Now I shall begin to build a new world. Celebrate the occasion with Me!” (The Life of Oyasama, chapter 3, “On the Way”). The phrase “build a new world” refers to building the Joyous Life World through the spiritual construction of all people in the world. This means that our material construction should be carried out in a way that helps build the Joyous World.

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our predecessors, we are now blessed with such facilities as the Main Sanctuary that comprises all the four worship halls; we may say that Tenrikyo’s material construction has already made considerable progress. Our responsibility is to work for the blessing of being able to enhance our inner substance as befits the outer form that embodies our predecessors’ true sincerity. It is our duty to use these facilities to help us make further progress in our spiritual construction.

Construction in this path is spiritual construction. It is construction for salvation. As we work for material construction, we can make further spiritual growth and can be shown wondrous instances of salvation. I hope that we make full use of the completed facilities to ensure that what we call “endless construction” does not stall.

Since announcing Instruction Three, I have taken every opportunity to ask all Yoboku to engage in salvation work and keep their minds focused on salvation work. As I said at the outset today, this Teaching was given in order to save all humankind; this is the true aim of founding the Teaching. To have faith in Tenrikyo means to make the true aim of the Teaching’s founding our core guiding principle. So we are taught to pray for and work for the salvation of all people throughout the world, not merely for our own happiness or the happiness of our own families. God the Parent says in the Ofudesaki:

To My sorrow, no matter how deeply you have pondered, you have no mind to save others.
Ofudesaki XII:90

God the Parent laments how we get caught up in our self-centered imaginations and urges us to replace the mind. We are then told:

To explain what kind of mind it is to be: it is none other than to save the world single-heartedly.
Ofudesaki XII:92

Salvation work is what most accords with God the Parent’s intention. It is the foremost way to make repayment for blessings we receive. Furthermore, the Ofudesaki says:

Ponder from your innermost heart to understand. Through saving others, you will be saved.
Ofudesaki III:47

This verse indicates that salvation work is not solely for the benefit of others but also helps us be truly saved ourselves. It should be taken as our own concern.

If we look around us, we may find people who require our salvation work because of illness or other problems. Salvation work can take a variety of forms. It can be done by anyone as long as there is a willingness to do so.

During the present season, I hope that all Yoboku without exception engage in salvation work by doing whatever they can and especially what only they can do. As for those of you who serve as church head ministers, I want to ask you to provide guidance and care appropriate for each Yoboku under your care as well as to play a proactive role in setting an example of salvation work.

Between March and June this year, the Oyasama 130th Anniversary Yoboku Gatherings were held in various locations in order to encourage the implementation of salvation work, which is the spirit of Instruction Three. It has been four months since then. More than half of the “three years, one thousand days” season has passed, and we will soon be moving from the middle to the last part of the season.

The remaining year and three months leading up to the 130th Anniversary will be crucial for our anniversary-related activities. Therefore, Church Headquarters will conduct official visits to all directly supervised churches in November and December as we prepare for the final year of the pre-anniversary period. These visits are intended for church head ministers and others who ought to take the lead in the pre-anniversary activities.

Let all of us carry out our pre-anniversary activities thoroughly so that we will not feel regret later. I hope that at the time of the anniversary we can show Oyasama a new level of spiritual growth and the fruits of our pre-anniversary activities as a result of our decisive efforts. I now want to conclude my remarks by asking all of you to continue working in unity of mind and in high spirits.

Thank you very much for listening.

Category: Sermons

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