The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2012

May I begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for the efforts you are devoting to the tasks of the path in your daily lives. I also want to extend my appreciation to you for returning to Jiba from near and far despite the cold weather to attend the Spring Grand Service.

Having duly been able to conclude the Service, I now would like to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your attention while I deliver this talk.

As you are fully aware, January 26, on which we perform the Spring Grand Service, is the day Oyasama withdrew from physical life. Today, therefore, I would like us once again to look back on the final days leading up to that day and inquire into and take to heart the divine intention behind that day in such a way as to help us with the way we follow the path from tomorrow on.

In the Divine Directions, we read:

[C]oncerning the twenty-sixth, the principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth.
Osashizu, February 29, 1896

As indicated by this passage, the fact that Oyasama withdrew on the 26th, which commemorated the day of the founding of the Teaching, was not by any means a coincidence. It was due to the fact that those two dates are one in truth.

Regarding this point, the second Shinbashira explained that the day of the founding of the Teaching, when God the Parent became openly revealed by taking Oyasama as the Shrine, and the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life were one in truth in the sense that those two events were both motivated by parental love for the children, all human beings. The path of Oyasama’s Divine Model is consistently characterized by parental love for the children right from the founding of the Teaching to Her withdrawal. In fact, even now Oyasama is guiding all of us with Her heart filled solely with parental love for us.

At the outset of the Ofudesaki, a series of verses that correspond to the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo concisely explain the divine intention behind the founding of the Teaching. In these verses, God says that, because human beings in their ignorance are unable to understand the Parent’s intention, God is being openly revealed to teach them the original causality of all things so as to enable them to become spirited and be saved.

The Ofudesaki goes on to say:

When all are assembled and quickly do the Service, as those close to Me become spirited, God, also, will be spirited.

If you wish that the crops grow spiritedly, do the Kagura Service and the Teodori.
I:11, 14

According to these verses, the basis for spiritedness is the spiritedness that comes from the Service. In response to the Service that is performed spiritedly and in unity of mind, God the Parent will also become spirited so that it will be possible to fully receive all blessings beginning with those related to crops.

As we have seen, the Ofudesaki starts by revealing the reason for founding the Teaching. The Scripture goes on to deal with cleaning the Residence, assembling the Service performers, and so forth, thus making arrangements for the Service in a sequential order. The Ofudesaki presents the teachings in their entirety in the context of progressing toward the completion of the Service.

On the other hand, Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life marks the completion of Her Divine Model of single-hearted salvation. The fundamental means of the path of single-hearted salvation is the Service. That is why the training that Oyasama provided to conclude the fifty-year Divine Model was to hasten the implementation of the Service.

The Service as the means of universal salvation began to be taught in the 29th year of the Teaching, that is, in the autumn of 1866, when the song and hand movements for section one of the Mikagura-uta were taught. The verse, as it was originally taught, went: “Ashiki harai, tasuke-tamae, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” (Sweep away evils and save us, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto). The following year, the Twelve Songs were taught and, over the next three full years, Oyasama devoted Her time to adapting melodies and dance movements to the songs and teaching them.

In the meantime, toward the beginning of 1869, the second year of the Meiji Era, Oyasama started writing the Ofudesaki, whose primary concern is to complete the Service. The following year, that is, 1870, Oyasama taught the song that begins with the phrase “Choto hanashi” or “Just a word,” as well as the hand movements to go with that song and, in addition, She added the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo to the beginning of the Twelve Songs. Then, in 1875, Oyasama taught the song and hand movements for the verse that contains the phrase “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai” or “The Kanrodai which purifies all humankind equally.” In 1882, however, the two completed layers of the stone Kanrodai were confiscated, and Oyasama altered the phrase “Ichiretsu sumasu” (Purifies all humankind equally) to “Ichiretsu sumashite” (All humankind equally purified), without altering the original hand movements. In conjunction with this, the wording “Ashiki harai” (Sweep away evils) was altered to “Ashiki o harote” (Sweeping away evils). That continues to be the way they are sung today.

We can see that Oyasama spent as many as seventeen years teaching the songs and hand movements for the Service, starting in 1866. In particular, She spent a great deal of time arranging the Kagura Service in the form in which it is performed today. She assembled the Service performers, identified Jiba—which serves as the center of the place where the Service is to be performed—and taught the musical instruments for the Service. The finishing touches to be made to these arrangements for the Service were implementing the Service and developing the spirit of those who would perform it.

When we perform the Service in unity of mind, surrounding Jiba of Origin and accurately representing God the Parent’s workings that created human beings, God’s providence will be vividly shown, thereby saving anyone from any suffering of illness or any other problems. The world will gradually be reconstructed as the world of the Joyous Life. This is what is taught in the following verses from the Ofudesaki:

This Service is the path of salvation for the entire world. I shall enable even a mute to speak.

What do you think this Service is about? It is solely to bring peace to the world and salvation to all.
IV:91, 93

Day by day, hasten to begin the Service. You will escape any danger whatever.

However serious your illness may be, you will all be saved by the Service done single-heartedly.

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

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Address recently, I wish to perform the Service to mark the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. Therefore, in order to find pointers for helping us get into the appropriate frame of mind to prepare for that anniversary, I would like to inquire into how early followers progressed in working with their minds in the lead-up to Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life.

If we start with some key historical facts, we find that The Life of Oyasama’s chapter 10, entitled “The Portals Opened,” begins by saying that, on the evening of New Year’s Day in 1887, Oyasama staggered momentarily as She came out of Her bath. She remarked at the time, “It is a sign that the world is going to move.” On January 4, Her health suddenly took a critical turn, so the followers made an inquiry through Izo Iburi about the intention of God.

In addition to indicating how serious the situation had become, God’s words expressed impatience at those who failed to understand the divine intention and went so far as to say:

Sah, shall I withdraw? Shall I end it all?

At that time, Oyasama’s breathing stopped, and Her body became cold.

Startled by this turn of events, the followers reflected critically on how they had been behaving. They realized that they were wrong to hesitate to perform the Service, which She had been urging so strongly, and, in the hope of having Oyasama restored to health, they began to perform the Service every night by way of apology, although at night and in secret.

However, although Her condition improved somewhat, She remained unable to eat anything. So the followers had further discussions and made a resolution “to put two-parts weight on worldly affairs and eight-parts weight on the affairs of God and to put their hearts into the performance of the Service, thus fulfilling the dictates of the Divine Records.”

Perhaps their resolve was accepted, for Oyasama began to feel better, at least for a time. On the 10th, however, She again felt unwell. The followers, therefore, asked Her whether they should perform the Service not just at night but also during the day. The response, however, included the words “I shall not direct you any further.”

For the first Shinbashira, implementing the Service was no easy decision to make, given the repressive measures taken by the police and the physical condition of Oyasama. After further deliberation, he presented himself by Oyasama’s bedside at about three o’clock on the morning of the 13th in order to make his inquiry personally of Oyasama. As if to confide to Her the thoughts weighing heavily on his mind, he said, “We human beings cannot defy the law.” He explained that it was difficult to implement the Service even though he was fully aware of Oyasama’s intention. When he asked for an extension, Oyasama patiently instructed him, saying:

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.

In this way, Oyasama explained the fundamental order of how everything came to be and, thereby, taught what one’s thinking and reasoning should be based on. Oyasama went on to say:

Sah, sah, you are to purchase My sincerity. Purchase My sincerity with your own sincerity.

She thus gave him assurances that, so long as true sincerity was there, God would do whatever it would take to give sincere protection when the moment of crisis was at hand.

After this tense dialogue between Oyasama and the first Shinbashira, She appeared to be relatively well. On New Year’s Day by the lunar calendar, which is to say, on January 24, She said:

Sah, sah, you have discussed thoroughly, thoroughly. For the first time since this Residence began, you have discussed thoroughly. It has been accepted fully.

It seemed as though She was satisfied.

Then came February 18, which corresponded to January 26 by the lunar calendar and was, therefore, the day for the Service, which had been performed on the 26th of each month to commemorate the founding of the Teaching. Yet, considering Oyasama’s physical condition and the authorities’ close surveillance, the followers found themselves unable to perform the Service. They made an inquiry, to which the divine response was:

On this one matter, I told you to do it now, to do it at once. I instructed you to do it immediately. Sah, now, at this time, I am in haste. . . . [D]o you fear the law, the law? [Or do] you fear God. . . ?

After receiving the stern instructions, the followers were finally able to settle their minds. The first Shinbashira said, “Only those should perform who are willing to risk their lives no matter what measures the police use to stop the Service.” At around one o’clock in the afternoon, they began to perform the Service.

The feared police intervention did not occur. The Service, therefore, was concluded without incident. Yet, just as the Service came to an end, Oyasama, who was listening to the joyous sounds of the Service contentedly, withdrew from physical life.

When we look at the forty-nine days starting on the day Oyasama staggered momentarily, which was January 1, and ending with Her withdrawal while focusing our attention on the spiritual progress of the people close to Oyasama, we can clearly see how they moved from the state of mind in which, despite knowing the importance of the Service, they were negligent in performing the Service out of fear of police intervention, to the state of mind in which they made the decision to perform the Service, fully prepared for the worst.

Their progress was not straightforward. We may say that initially their sole motivation was a desire to have Oyasama recover from illness. In response to Her illness, the followers decided to start doing things that seemed viable, and they implemented them. Even after She made a recovery, however, Her physical condition would worsen again. Realizing that what they were doing was far from sufficient, they engaged in further discussions and strove to bring themselves ever closer to the divine intention. Together they resolved to work toward a new level of spiritual growth. They repeatedly asked about the divine intention and continued their earnest discussions to find a way to make themselves acceptable to God.

The phrase “I shall not direct you any further” may have been intended to urge the followers’ discussions and deliberations so that they could develop a proper frame of mind to deal with what was to occur. Eventually the followers were able to progress to the point where they let go of human thinking and, relying totally on God the Parent, managed to perform the Service.

The Service they performed at the time cannot be said to be complete in terms of form. Yet the fact that Oyasama appeared to be content with it indicates that She accepted the true sincerity of those who performed it. Intriguingly, there was no police interference, either.

The Ofudesaki says:

Truly be spirited and ponder. Then lean on God and do the Joyous Service.

In fact, performing the Service while relying totally on God the Parent and keeping our mind single-hearted with God is just as important now as it was then. Today, performing the Service will not result in being arrested by the police. In terms of form, it might be said that we can perform the Service today in a manner that is more complete. However, when it comes to the state of mind of those performing the Service, it seems to me that we are yet unable to bring total satisfaction to Oyasama.

When those of us who live in the present fortunate circumstances try to find pointers on how to progress in making our minds acceptable to Oyasama and bringing them into accord with the divine intention by looking at how the early followers worked with their minds—as we have just done—we find that, although there may be some differences depending on each person’s role and situation, we would all do well to begin by asking ourselves whether or not, for one reason or another, we are negligent in doing things we know we ought to do in terms of our faith.

The early followers’ resolution to “put two-parts weight on worldly affairs and eight-parts weight on the affairs of God” might make us wonder why they did not resolve to place the emphasis entirely on the affairs of God; their resolution might sound less than thorough. Yet I feel that this resolution embodies their sincere attitude of trying to do the very utmost that they could. I think the important thing for us is to reflect on how thorough we are in keeping God the Parent and Oyasama in mind and basing our thoughts and actions on the teachings in the course of daily life and to make a conscious effort to bring our way of thinking and living even a little closer to the teachings.

The early followers’ resolution to “put their hearts into the performance of the Service, thus fulfilling the dictates of the Divine Records” makes us wonder whether we are really performing the monthly services and morning and evening services exactly as they were taught or whether we are merely going through the motions of performing the services just because the day or the time has come for them to be performed.

In the inquiries the first Shinbashira made on January 13 by Oyasama’s bedside, he said, “It is difficult to perform the Service because of the civil law.” He also said, “Please give us a directive that will uphold both the directions of God and the laws of the country.” Thus he explained that his inability to do as Oyasama wished was due to the law and requested instructions that would be viable within the constraints of the law. This may sound like a selfish request, but the circumstances in which the first Shinbashira and others who were close to Oyasama found themselves at the time were so severe.

From the perspective of seeking pointers on how to achieve the state of mind and attitude that we ought to embrace at the present time, we would be well advised to ask ourselves why we ourselves are unable to ponder or live in single-heartedness with God and why, despite knowing its importance in our head, we do not implement it. Unlike in those days, there are no legal restrictions that bind us today. Yet I can well imagine that there are times when we find it hard to become single-hearted with God because of our human thinking—which is to say, our common worldly ideas, worries about how people look at us, concerns about profits and losses, and considerations about what is convenient for ourselves.

Oyasama made clear what was more important than those things by explaining the fundamental order of all things—beginning with the very creation of the world—especially for the benefit of those who tend to experience inner conflict or be led astray because of lack of conviction. Thus, to ensure that people would avoid errors of judgment, Oyasama taught that, although there is the law, it is primary to resolve to bring oneself into complete accord with the intention of Tsukihi, God the Parent, who created the world and humankind.

The Service performed on that fateful day was mentioned beforehand in the following Ofudesaki verses:

On the eleventh, the nine will be gone and hardship forgotten. I await the twenty-sixth of the first month.

By that time, the core will be settled and greed forgotten. Let all performers assemble and prepare for the Service.

These verses indicated a target date for the completion of the Service. That was all the more reason that the Service on that day had to be performed no matter what happened. Also, that Service had to be acceptable to God the Parent. That is why Oyasama urged the followers to properly perform the Service even by confronting them with Her own critical physical condition.

She was pleased when they finally performed the Service by letting go of human thinking and bringing themselves into full accord with Her intention. She was satisfied that the eventual completion of the Service was now a certainty and that the day would no doubt come when the world would be reconstructed as the world of the Joyous Life. She thus withdrew from physical life with peace of mind.

For us today, also, the most important thing is to perform the Service in the spirit of bringing ourselves into total accord with the divine intention. God the Parent will become spirited and provide the workings when those of us who perform the Service melt into the divine intention and perform the Service high-spiritedly and in unity of mind.

After making all the arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation, Oyasama was providing the training to complete that path when She urged the followers to implement the Service while letting go of human thinking. Contrary to the followers’ wishes, She withdrew from physical life. Yet, after receiving the Divine Direction that said, “I shall save the world from now,” the people were able to pull themselves together and, in order to fulfill Oyasama’s intention, began to spread the teachings and work for the salvation of others under the guidance of the everliving Oyasama by using the truth of the Sazuke, which started to be widely bestowed. This enabled the path to extend and expand exponentially. We should keep firmly in mind that the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, was not only the day that the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model was concluded but also the day that marked the beginning of a new stage.

From now on, various activities aimed at preparing for the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama will be conducted. As I mentioned last autumn, the anniversaries of Oyasama will only have significance when we regard them as junctures whereby we set ourselves a goal toward which we work together while making a genuine effort to grow spiritually and engaging in pre-anniversary activities in unity of mind so that we may bring joy to Oyasama. In that sense also, I think we must strive to conduct activities that are in accord with Oyasama’s intention, both at the level of individuals and at the level of churches.

Last year, we received extremely severe training. We need to ponder deeply over the divine intention behind that training and accept it in an earnest manner. So as not to cause the Parent any more regret or feeling of anger, I hope that all of us focus our minds ever more sharply as we perform our tasks.

I have shared some of my thoughts on the occasion of the Spring Grand Service. I now want to conclude with the hope that all of you will continue working spiritedly this year with your minds in unison.

Thank you for listening.

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