The Spring Grand Service—which commemorates the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life—was conducted on January 26 in the Main Sanctuary at Church Headquarters with the Shinbashira Zenji Nakayama presiding as chief officiant. About 75,000 Yoboku and other followers returned from across Japan and overseas to the Home of the Parent to take their first steps in the “three years, one thousand days” lead-up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama.
The low temperature for the day dropped below freezing. Waves of people began arriving at the Main Sanctuary in the morning as cold winds blew from the west.
Pilgrimage groups both large and small thronged the Sanctuary precincts. Hiroto Hamasaki, 34, who took 23 days to walk to Jiba from Amakusa City, Kumamoto Prefecture, enthusiastically said: “I made a resolve to take action during the next three years, one thousand days. I hope to make today the beginning of my efforts to stir up winds of salvation around me.”
The traffic at the Kita Oji bus station reached its peak around 10:00 a.m. Takako Oku, 62, who returned from Itoshima City, Fukuoka Prefecture, said: “A recent illness provided me with an opportunity to quit my job. I returned so that I could pledge to God the Parent and Oyasama that I will make up for what I wasn’t able to do until now and devotedly serve the path while heading to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama.”
Prior to the start of the Service at 11:30 a.m., the Shinbashira served Oyasama Her lunch at the Foundress’ Sanctuary.
When the appointed time came, he paid respects at the Foundress’ Sanctuary and the Memorial Hall together with the other Service performers before they all proceeded to the Main Sanctuary. In his Service prayer, the Shinbashira said: “We Service performers as well as church head ministers and Yoboku will raise our awareness of being Oyasama’s instruments ever further as we embark on our ‘three years, one thousand days’ journey leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. Following the straight course of the path of the Divine Model, we will exert layer upon layer of sincere efforts to sprinkle the teachings and engage in salvation work so that we may respond to Your parental love. We humbly ask that You accept our resolve and continue to work freely and unlimitedly for universal salvation so that the Teaching will spread in accordance with Your promise to ‘level the world.’ Please continue to guide us so that all people throughout the world will lead the Joyous Life even a day sooner.”
Worshipers from overseas could be seen in the Inner Courtyard of Church Headquarters listening to the simultaneous interpretation of the prayer on wireless receivers. The followers returned from 14 countries and regions to attend the Spring Grand Service.
Among them was Kim Geun-ho, 20, who brought two of his friends with him. He said: “I will attend my ninth and last Besseki lecture this time and become one of Oyasama’s instruments. I hope to go back to South Korea and continue to seek the teachings with my friends.”
The prayer was followed by the joyous performance of the Kagura Service and the Dance with Hand Movements. The chill remained in the air even past noon as worshipers united their hearts to sing the songs for the Service. The Service concluded before 2:00 p.m., the hour Oyasama withdrew from physical life.
The Shinbashira, who took the lectern to deliver the sermon, paused for a moment just before the 2:00 p.m. daily siren to offer a prayer in the direction of the Foundress’ Sanctuary. Followers joined him to offer their prayers.
In his sermon, the Shinbashira first described the situation surrounding the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, which the Spring Grand Service commemorates, and spoke on the importance of performing the Service in single-heartedness with God and in unity of mind.
On single-heartedness with God, the Shinbashira said: “It is far from easy to become single-hearted with God or to come into complete accord with God the Parent’s intention. Nevertheless, our work toward achieving spiritual growth entails seeking the heart of the Parent constantly and making repeated efforts to near God’s intention.” He urged that in all matters we inquire into God the Parent’s intention, ask ourselves what Oyasama might do, and thus base our thoughts and actions on Her Divine Model and the teachings.
On unity of mind, the Shinbashira said, “I think that the workings of the instruments of the creation of humankind represent the first instance of unity of mind; we might call it an exemplary model.” Then, after mentioning that the performers of the Kagura Service symbolize the workings of the instruments of creation with their respective hand movements, he said, “I hope that we will internalize the spirit of unity of mind by emulating the workings of the instruments of creation and by performing the Service in unity of mind.”
The Shinbashira then mentioned that he announced Instruction Three at last year’s Autumn Grand Service as a guide to be used by all Yoboku over the next “three years, one thousand days.” He said, “In addition to the Service, the work of spreading the teachings is essential to the path of world salvation; indeed, these two are like the two wheels of a cart.” He then urged Yoboku to fulfill our role to invite people to the path to true salvation.
Toward the end, the Shinbashira listed the tasks Yoboku needed to do to reconstruct the present world, which is far removed from the Joyous Life, into a world more in tune with God the Parent’s intention. He finished his sermon by saying: “It is salvation work that brings the greatest joy to Oyasama and that is most readily accepted by Her. I, therefore, want to conclude by asking all of you to continue to work spiritedly this year so that the momentum of salvation work will grow and spread throughout the Tenrikyo community as we move toward the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama.”
Between January 25th and 27th, 964 people attended the Besseki lectures, with 189 people attending them for the first time. A total of 180 people took the Basics Course.