On April 19, Tenrikyo Women’s Association held its 94th annual convention. About 45,000 members attended the event.
At 8:00 a.m., the start of registration was announced. Groups of members, mostly led by a member bearing their chapter’s burgundy banner, filed into the Inner Courtyard one after another. Staff at the 10 registration desks located throughout the Sanctuary precincts wearing pink caps greeted arriving members with a cheerful “Good morning!”
At 9:30 a.m., Women’s Association President Harue Nakayama escorted the Shinbashira and other guests into the venue. The event began with the singing of the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo. This was followed by a representative making a pledge on behalf of all new members and by Committee Member Harue Masui presenting a report on the previous year’s association activities.
President Nakayama then delivered her address. After mentioning that last year’s earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and other disasters took place as the association was beginning a new stage following its 100th anniversary convention, she expressed her belief that, because women are endowed with the virtues of bearing and nurturing, members should reflect critically on these knots.
She next touched on how the association’s slogan for spiritual maturity has long been “Let’s follow the Divine Model and become the foundation for the Joyous Life.” Explaining that this slogan “calls for us members to grow spiritually so as to become the source of bringing about the Joyous Life in our families, churches, and local communities,” she mentioned the guidelines for association activities that were to be implemented on a daily basis in order to achieve the goal the slogan expresses.
Quoting excerpts from the Shinbashira’s addresses from the two previous conventions, President Nakayama proceeded to ask members to make repeated efforts to become true Yoboku, stressing the importance of maintaining awareness that they are Yoboku and of scrutinizing whether or not they are living their daily lives as Yoboku should. She then expressed her conviction that what association members needed to do most at the present moment was to recall and embrace the spirit and the attitude by which first-generation followers and predecessors of the path earnestly maintained single-heartedness with God despite the difficulties they encountered.
President Nakayama then mentioned that the 27th Young Women’s Convention will be held in the Home of the Parent on November 4, 2013. After expressing the expectations that she placed on members to nurture upcoming generations, she stated her wish for many young women to return to the Home of the Parent with their friends to attend the event. She then urged, “Let us members of Tenrikyo Women’s Association maintain an awareness of our positions in the path, savor the joy of serving as Oyasama’s hands and feet in realizing the Joyous Life World, make efforts to become true Yoboku, and implement the teachings as we should.”
Next, the Shinbashira took the podium to deliver his address. He gave an account of Oyasama’s early life drawn from The Life of Oyasama, an explanation of the causality of Her soul, and a description of the Story of Creation before speaking about women’s innate qualities and abilities that members ought to implement in their homes and churches.
He then went on to mention how a series of Divine Directions delivered in 1898 eventually led to the establishment of the Women’s Association. An important notion these Directions touched upon was how the path made no distinction between men and women. Regarding this, the Shinbashira stressed: “The equality of men and women being referred to here is different from what people talk about from a humanist point of view, for it is based on the essence of the teachings and grounded in the foundation of human existence.”
Then, quoting the following verse from the Ofudesaki—“Of these trees, I do not say whether male pine or female pine. Tsukihi has an intention for any tree” (VII:21)—he explained God’s desire for men and women to work equally in their capacity as Yoboku. He then said, “You can give full expression to the qualities and abilities you are endowed with as women only when your attitude and work are befitting of Yoboku.”
The Shinbashira further mentioned how the absence of discrimination between men and women applies to the term “foundation of the path.” Quoting from an address given by the second Shinbashira, he explained that the term “foundation of the path” was not originally restricted only to women, saying: “Essentially, it refers to maintaining strong faith and doing whatever is necessary to continue following the path in the face of any adversity or difficulty, looking forward to the delight that lies ahead. The term can also be applied to people who follow the path in this way.” He then went on to say: “[I]t is vital for us Yoboku to deepen our faith and put the teachings into practice whether we are men or women. What is important for you in this regard is to make these efforts by drawing on the strengths you are endowed with as women. One thing we must not forget here is that we can only give full play to our respective abilities and qualities when men and women respect each other’s characteristics and help and complement each other.”
Before concluding, the Shinbashira mentioned that early this year he announced his intention of conducting the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama in 2016. After confirming the significance of an anniversary of Oyasama, he urged those listening, “Please bear this point in mind and give full expression to your potential both as true Yoboku and as the foundation of the path in your families, churches, and local communities.”
Next, Nishijin Chapter Chairwoman Motoyo Nagao delivered a pledge on behalf of all members. All members then sang the association song and the convention came to a close.
In the afternoon, members attended gatherings organized by their respective directly supervised chapters. These gatherings, held in respective followers dormitories, were designed to provide opportunities for members to hold discussions on topics that were covered in the addresses by the Shinbashira and the Women’s Association president as well as to heighten members’ awareness of their roles.
Since one of the guidelines for association activities announced this year is “Let’s sprinkle the fragrance and strive to save others so that we may be blessed with having people attend the Besseki lectures,” many members returning for the convention had invited people to come with them and attend the Besseki lectures. The Abashiri Chapter was particularly active in this regard. The chapter formed a Besseki pilgrimage group comprising about 150 people to top off the centennial of their grand church held last year. Aki Matsuoka, 33, a member of this chapter who brought a fellow employee to attend her first Besseki lecture, said: “Taking the advice my head minister gave me, I tried not to think too much and straightforwardly told others about the splendor of Jiba. When I did that, my co-worker said, ‘I want to go to Tenri.’ I would like to continue approaching people around me as I go about sprinkling the fragrance and engaging in salvation work.”