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The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2018

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all of you for carrying out the tasks of the path in the course of your daily life. Thank you also for returning here for the Spring Grand Service today despite the severe cold weather. Having duly concluded the Service, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I ask for your kind attention?

The date January 26, on which the Spring Grand Service is performed, is the date when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. Regarding the truth of the twenty-sixth, which is also related to the founding of the Teaching, the second Shinbashira quoted the following Divine Direction at almost all Grand Services:

[C]oncerning the twenty-sixth, the principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth.

Osashizu, February 29, 1896

He explained that it was out of Her parental love for us human beings that both led Oyasama to reveal the Teaching in 1838 in Her role as the Shrine of Tsukihi in order to save all of us throughout the world and motivated Her to open the portals and step out to level the ground throughout the world in 1887. What is consistent throughout the fifty years of Oyasama’s Divine Model is Her parental love for Her children, all of us human beings, which seeks nothing but our salvation, or the parental love that is singly intent on saving us all.

On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, Oyasama was listening contentedly to the sounds of the Service, which our early predecessors finally brought themselves to perform with a firm resolve, even risking their lives. At the same time the Service came to an end, She withdrew from physical life.

Chapter 10 of The Life of Oyasama, entitled “The Portals Opened,” which centers around the dialogue between Oyasama and the first Shinbashira, describes how the followers came to resolve to perform the Service despite the possibility of arrest due to the strict surveillance by the authorities. The day of the Spring Grand Service provides all of us with an opportunity to remember the intention of the Parent contained in the instruction given at the end of Her Divine Model and take a step forward with a fresh mind to respond to the expectations of Oyasama, who continues to guide us by virtue of Her eternal life.

Although fully aware of the need to perform the Service, which Oyasama had been hastening, those close to Her were unable to bring themselves to implement it because they could easily foresee that, once they performed the Service, police officers would rush to the scene and arrest and imprison Oyasama, who was then quite aged.

Some of you might feel impatient at seeing those people unable to listen to Oyasama and implement the Service. Yet those were the days when the Tenrikyo community was just starting to organize itself as a religious group, which had yet to be officially recognized. Our predecessors must have had many worries and troubles that were beyond our imagination as we are fortunate to have the systematized teachings and a well-developed organization today. The first Shinbashira was only twenty-two years old at that time. Even when the followers came to him, saying, “Let’s perform the Service,” he could not readily agree with them when he considered Oyasama’s condition as well as the great consequences his decision would have for the future course of the Tenrikyo organization.

After there was some change in Oyasama’s physical condition on January 1, 1887, the followers asked for God’s directions and held repeated discussions. It was in the early hours before daybreak on January 13 that the first Shinbashira went to Oyasama’s bedside and made one inquiry after another until he came to an understanding about the performance of the Service.

The first Shinbashira started out by telling Oyasama: “It is difficult to perform the Service because of the civil law” and “Please give us a directive that will uphold both the directions of God and the laws of the country.” He went on to request a postponement to allow enough time to properly learn the Service and expressed a wish to build an institute. Oyasama responded by saying:

But I say, “Now!” Because I say, “Now,” you must do it now. Time is pressing. Do you understand?

The Life of Oyasama, p. 228

The first Shinbashira made a further inquiry: “[A]re You urging us to . . . perform the Main Service at any cost?” Oyasama replied:

If there are no difficulties, the mind cannot be truly set.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 229

She then encouraged him to ask Her until he fully understood.

The first Shinbashira requested Oyasama’s recovery as well as permission to establish Church Headquarters. He then made an inquiry about the three points that he was most concerned about. Finally expressing what had been deeply bothering him, he said: “You taught us that the souls of the instruments and models of human creation were born at this Residence, that You descended to this Residence because it is the Jiba where the creation of human beings and the world began, and that the souls of the rulers and our souls are the same. If we are asked about these points, how are we to answer? We do not know. We cannot defy the law.”

Those three points are all related to the Truth of Origin. The first point is that those whose souls are causally related to the instruments in the beginning of the world were drawn to the Nakayama family, including Oyasama, who had the Causality of the Soul. The second point refers to Jiba or the Causality of the Residence, for Jiba is the place where human beings were originally conceived and also the place where God the Parent descended because of that causality, with Oyasama as the Shrine. The third point is that the rulers, referring to those of high social status, and the followers were not different in terms of the soul.

The Truth of Origin is a fundamental teaching that provides a basis for other teachings, because it explains when, where, how, for what purpose, and by whom human beings were created. The written acknowledgment submitted to the Shinto Headquarters a year before in May 1886 states: “The doctrine of creation is to be based upon the two books of the ancient chronicles” and “Man is the lord of all creatures. Man is not to be confused with the souls of fishes and shells.” From this, it is clear that the Truth of Origin was regarded as incompatible with the ancient chronicles called the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, on which State Shinto put a great emphasis.

This problem continued until the 1930s and 40s. Under wartime restrictions, which sought to control religious thoughts, the Tenrikyo community had to stop preaching anything based on the Truth of Origin and was forced to omit several Mikagura-uta songs that contain words and expressions related to the Truth of Origin.

After the first Shinbashira made an inquiry about the three points, Oyasama taught kindly and in simple terms:

Sah, sah, because Tsukihi exists, the world exists. Because the world exists, things exist. Because things exist, your bodies exist. Because your bodies exist, law exists. Although the law exists, to resolve your minds is primary.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 231

In other words, God the Parent (Tsukihi) created the world, in which all things came to be. Among them were human beings, who made laws. By indicating the order of how things came to be, Oyasama taught the followers that, although they said they could not perform the Service because of the law, it was of prime importance for them to resolve to be in full accord with the intention of God the Parent, who is the origin of everything. This does not mean that they did not need to comply with laws. Rather, She taught them that the intention of God the Parent and the law of the country are of a different order and cannot be discussed in the same terms. Her instruction was to understand the basic principle or the order of things and to make decisions accordingly.

I believe that Her instruction is not meant only for the followers back then in 1887. Oyasama must have foreseen the severe circumstances that the Tenrikyo community would face subsequently, including the suppressive measures resulting from the Home Ministry’s directive in 1896. Through that instruction, She sought to teach us the frame of mind that we should always maintain in any age and under any circumstances.

Even today when we no longer need to worry about legal restrictions or interference by the authorities, this instruction is still applicable because it is the unchanging basis of pondering and decision-making for all time. In any age, there can be a number of things that make us hesitant to implement the teachings such as social customs, the current of the times, concern about appearances, human obligations, cravings, bad habits, and temperament, although they are not necessarily imposed upon us like laws. There are times when even a small thing can cause an inner conflict with our life of faith. The aforementioned instruction of Oyasama provides us with a point of reference for our pondering and reflection even in such everyday life situations.

In any case, the main cause of one’s deviation from God the Parent’s intention is a selfish, greedy mind or self-centered imagination that asserts that all is well if the present is well for oneself, because such a state of mind is caught up in immediate concerns and cannot look to the future. Unlike those external pressures mentioned above, such states of mind are invisible, internal motives, which are not readily noticeable to oneself.

I believe that Oyasama’s instruction that I quoted earlier was indeed meant to instruct us on the spirit of single-heartedness with God—which She taught by emphasizing the importance of the Service and by urging its performance. In one sense, it indicates the frame of mind that is required of the people performing the Service and also the basis of pondering that anyone can use when a crucial moment is at hand. In another sense, it is what we as followers of the path should always maintain in the course of our daily life.

From January 13, there was some relief in Oyasama’s condition. From January 18, the followers doused themselves with cold water in rites of purification and performed the Service every night, sincerely praying for Oyasama’s recovery. However, on the night of February 17, Her condition worsened. An inquiry was made through Izo Iburi. Then there was a Divine Direction, which said:

Sah, sah, I shall begin to level the ground completely. Sah, sah, with the portals opened, opened, I shall level the ground all over the world. Sah, I shall step out to level the ground. Sah, sah, shall I open the portals and level the ground? Shall I close the portals and level the ground?

The Life of Oyasama, p. 234

At this, all who were present, without fully understanding what was meant, replied, “Please open the portals and level the ground.”

The following day, February 18, being the twenty-sixth day of January by the lunar calendar, was the day on which the Service performance had taken place each month. The people at the Residence did not know what to do, and they made an inquiry as to the intention of God. Then there was a Divine Direction, which sternly told them:

Sah, now, at this time, I am in haste. Some of you say, “Respond to God’s will at once.” Others say, “Be prudent.” Still others say, “Wait awhile.” Sah, sah, concerning the one thing, do you fear the law, the law? Do you fear God or do you fear the law?

The Life of Oyasama, p. 236

In addition, Oyasama’s condition grew extremely critical. Now their resolve was firm. Prepared for a possible arrest, they began performing the Service boldly with musical instruments included.

Several thousand worshipers had assembled for the Service that day but, strangely enough, police officers that people had expected to rush to the scene never showed up, allowing the Service to be completed without mishap. However, Oyasama, who had been listening to the cheerful sounds of the musical instruments contentedly, withdrew from physical life at the same time the Service ended.

The followers—who had finished performing the Service and therefore were buoyed in high spirits and confident that Oyasama would get better—fell into a state of utter shock and despair. No one did anything but cry, their heads bowed, unable to muster even the strength to speak. Yet when they regained their senses, they made an inquiry for Divine Directions. The following encouraging words came:

Because of My love for you, My children, the Parent shortened Her life by twenty-five years to step out and save the world from now. Observe well. Observe well what the path has been and what the path will become.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 240

They were told that, even though Oyasama had withdrawn from physical life, She would continue to work for world salvation and that Her workings would be manifest in physical, visible form.

The followers finally found solace in those words. In fact, instances of wondrous salvation were shown one after another when the followers administered the Sazuke, which started to be widely bestowed after Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life. Becoming increasingly convinced that those instances of salvation gave proof to the workings of the everliving Oyasama, the followers became more and more spirited in carrying out salvation work.

Before Oyasama withdrew from physical life, She sternly hastened the performance of the Service. That is because the Service is the fundamental component of the path of single-hearted salvation. The Ofudesaki systematically records the entire teachings while focusing them around the arrangements Oyasama was making for the completion of the Service. In pace with the progress toward the completion of the Service, Oyasama also carried out the construction of the Kanrodai.

In the Ofudesaki, we read:

To construct this Stand, Tsukihi is making preparations for the performers step by step.

When the performers are fully assembled, the Stand, also, will be completed of its own accord.

Ofudesaki X:29–30

These verses refer to the relationship between the construction of the Kanrodai and the assembling of the Service performers. The phrase “When the performers are fully assembled” makes it clear that a prerequisite for the completion of the Kanrodai is not the assembly of sufficient numbers of any people but is the assembly of sufficient numbers of the performers who are in accord with God the Parent’s intention.

In ensuing verses, we read:

If only this [Stand] is surely completed, the Service each month will be done without error.

If only the Service is done without error, the Gift of Heaven, also, will be given without fail.

Ofudesaki X:33–34

These verses tell us that, when the Kanrodai is “surely” completed, not just physically but also spiritually, the Service will also be completed. When the Service is completed, God will sufficiently provide the Gift of Heaven or God’s providence. Thus, the completion of the Kanrodai, the completion of the Service, and the providence of God the Parent are deeply related to one another.

In the Ofudesaki’s Part XVII, we are instructed:

If only this Stand comes to completion, there will be nothing that cannot be realized.

Ofudesaki XVII:10

So long as the Kanrodai is completed, any wishes can be realized. The ensuing verse tells us:

Until then, the heart of everyone throughout the world must be swept clean.

Ofudesaki XVII:11

This verse makes it clear that, before completing the Kanrodai, God must sweep clean the hearts of all people in the world. These verses coincide with Section Three of the Mikagura-uta, which says:

Sweeping away evils, hasten to save us.
All humankind equally purified,
The Kanrodai.

Mikagura-uta, Section Three

Part XVII of the Ofudesaki is said to have been written around 1882. The grounds for this inference can be found in the following two verses:

Therefore, I began to set up the Kanrodai. It is for the place of the true origin.

Ofudesaki XVII:36

Despite this, it was taken away by My children who knew nothing. Behold My regret!

Ofudesaki XVII:38

These verses express God’s regret over the confiscation of the two completed layers of the stone Kanrodai. Following this incident, the phrase “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai” (The Kanrodai which purifies all humankind equally) was altered to “Ichiretsu sumashite Kanrodai” (All humankind equally purified, / The Kanrodai).

In the Ofudesaki, we read:

What do you think this path is about? It is solely about the Kanrodai.

Ofudesaki XVII:2

As indicated in this verse, the course of the path can be summed up in the construction of the Kanrodai.

In the Ofudesaki, the Kanrodai is also referred to as the pillar. The following verses are concerned with the construction of the Kanrodai:

If only the pillar is firmly established, the whole world will truly settle.

Ofudesaki III:13

When the pillar is set up in Nihon, you shall no longer fall ill, die, or become weakened.

Ofudesaki X:11

These verses tell us that, once the Kanrodai is established, God will provide the workings to bring about the settling of the world and to protect us from illness, death, and weakening.

Consequently, the completion of the Kanrodai is not merely about its physical construction but also about the completion of the Service, which brings about the sufficient blessings of heaven, good health for all human beings, and the settling of the world. In other words, the completed Kanrodai symbolizes the world of the Joyous Life, so desired by God the Parent.

From this vantage point, progress in the construction of the Kanrodai reflects progress in the construction of the Joyous Life World and in the spiritual construction of human beings.

In May 1882, under the government’s religious policy, the two completed sections of the stone Kanrodai were confiscated on the grounds that Tenrikyo misled people, using rituals that were forbidden by the law. The incident appeared to be due to solely external factors. Subsequently, the followers performed the Service every day as they were hastened by Oyasama. One night, there was the following revelation:

Sah, sah, inside the Residence, inside the Residence, the filth is unbearable, unbearable. God will clear it all away, clear it away.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 175

A few days later, articles including the mandala and all of the implements for the Service were removed by the police. Within that year, the steam bath and the inn were both closed down and the Tenrin-O-Kosha was dissolved. Based on all that took place, the confiscation of the Kanrodai can be seen as a knot or difficult situation through which God cleared all the expedient measures based on human thoughts that did not accord with God’s intention.

The construction of the stone Kanrodai, which had begun in the previous year 1881, came to a halt when the stonecutter suddenly disappeared after completing only the two bottom sections of the stone Kanrodai. In Chapter 7 of The Life of Oyasama, we read:

On the surface, this incident seems to have happened by mere chance. But when considered in the light of the verses in part ten and elsewhere, which teach that the Kanrodai will be set up upon the spiritual maturity of humankind and the assemblage of the Service performers, it can be said that it was still too early to purify the minds of humankind, still clouded by the smoke of the Buddhist fire rite. Thus, even this unexpected “knot” was in fact an expression of the serious impatience of the parental heart, urging the children, far too slow in their spiritual growth, to attain spiritual maturity rapidly.

The Life of Oyasama, pp. 117–118

Last July, which was exactly half a year ago, the upper sections of the Kanrodai were knocked down. The two bottom sections that remained at Jiba reminded me of the confiscation of the Kanrodai, which took place after the construction of the stone Kanrodai had come to a halt. The tenons that connect one layer with another were broken, making it impossible to put them back together even for the time being until its replacement. To me, that situation appeared to tell us that we were lacking some connections among our hearts. I saw the incident as God’s instruction for us to become one in mind.

Unity of mind requires that we work together toward the same, shared goal while fulfilling our respective roles, helping one another.

What we are striving to achieve is the salvation of all human beings in the world, thereby realizing the Joyous Life World as intended by God the Parent and Oyasama. Therefore, we must spread the teachings all over the world and through endless generations. We need to nurture more and more Yoboku who will strive to realize that intention of God the Parent, thus increasing the number of active Yoboku. It is not too much to say that the activities at each church including the activities of association chapters are all for the purpose of developing and increasing such human resources. This is because churches are established and the activities of each association’s chapters are organized in order to ensure steady progress toward the goal of the path. In this sense, all is well if those activities are carried out in unity of mind.

Although each of us may work hard to fulfill our own respective roles that are given to us, we may end up being caught up in the immediate concerns or the concerns only for ourselves, lacking a sense of solidarity and failing to achieve unity of mind. I believe that this may be the backdrop of the incident that was shown to us last year.

Although we cannot be too optimistic about the present situation surrounding the path, we are fortunate enough to be able to follow the path today. Let us remember that this is only possible thanks to Oyasama, who laid the path where there was none, and thanks to our predecessors, who went through the path even when they were derided and mocked by the public while focusing solely on Oyasama’s Divine Model during the long years of strict surveillance by the authorities. Taking to heart that we are still on a narrow path, which is far from becoming a broad path, let us follow the path with a bracing sense of commitment in the days ahead.

We are taught in a Divine Direction:

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

Osashizu, January 19, 1898

It is my hope that we will take this opportunity to take a fresh look at our goal—which is the Joyous Life for all human beings throughout the world. Let us develop a sense of solidarity among ourselves and make steady progress toward that goal, taking one step at a time, in unity of mind.

Having shared my thoughts on today’s Grand Service, I would like to conclude my remarks. Please continue working spiritedly this year.

Thank you very much for listening.

Corrected at 1:49 p.m. (JST), on March 22, 2018

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