The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2013

So many of you have returned to Jiba from near and far to attend today’s Spring Grand Service despite the very cold weather. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all of you. Having duly been able to conclude the Service, I now want to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your attention, please.

The Spring Grand Service, as you are aware, commemorates the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. This year being the first year of the “three years, one thousand days” period leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama to be observed in three years’ time, I would like all of us to return our thoughts once again to the Parent’s intention embodied in the day of origin of the anniversaries of Oyasama, savor that intention, and pledge together to make decisive efforts to grow spiritually and conduct our activities in unity of mind.

The lunar calendar date of January 26—when Oyasama withdrew from physical life—was a monthly day of the Service, for the Service performance had taken place each month on the 26th to mark the founding of the Teaching. However, under the circumstances where the performance of the Service could immediately lead to the police officers coming to arrest Oyasama, the followers were only able to decide to perform the Service after She strongly urged them by confronting them with Her serious physical condition and by sternly saying to them, “Do you fear God or do you fear the law?” Following the first Shinbashira’s instructions—“Only those should perform who are willing to risk their lives no matter what measures the police use to stop the Service”—the Service began boldly in broad daylight, even involving musical instruments.

Oyasama seemed to listen contentedly to the joyous sounds of the instruments, but She withdrew from physical life just as the Service came to an end. Having been elated at the thought that Oyasama would surely be restored to health now that the Service had been duly completed, the performers were dumbfounded by the unexpected news and filled with deep sadness.

Later, however, realizing that this would get them nowhere, they regained their senses and requested Divine Directions through Izo Iburi. They received the following words:

Sah, sah, I shall level the ground. Has everyone assembled, has everyone assembled? Listen and understand well. All that I have said until now was put into a container of truth. But now God has opened the portals and stepped out. 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. When I asked whether I should open the portals or keep them closed to level the ground, you answered, “Please open the portals and level the ground.” I have done as you wished. Sah, there was a thing I had intended to give to My children but I was not able. I shall bestow this truth on you step by step hereafter. Remember this well.

Osashizu, February 18, 1887

To the people who were totally at a loss what to do—who were feeling as if the sun and the moon had ceased to shine—God the Parent said firmly: “[I shall] save the world from now. Observe well. Observe well what the path has been and what the path will become.” God the Parent thus gave them clear indications of what the path ahead had in store.

Although the followers performed the Service, ready to face any consequences, in the hope of having Oyasama regain Her health, we can see that God the Parent’s true intention was that they should become single-hearted with God and unite their minds to implement the Service.

Having made arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation, Oyasama urged the followers to perform the Service, which is the fundamental component of that path. This urging represents the final training that Oyasama provided to complete the fifty-year Divine Model. After She urged the people even by confronting them with Her physical condition, they let go of human thinking, became thoroughly single-hearted with God, and performed the Service with their minds in unison, fully prepared to brave the consequences of doing so under intense police surveillance.

Returning our thoughts to the Service performed on that day and to the tense situation leading up to the fateful day brings home to us the importance of performing the Service and the importance of making our minds single-hearted with God and uniting them when performing the Service. Fortunately, we do not have to fear the authorities when we perform the Service today. We can even say that we are able to perform the Service with almost no constraints. For this reason, the state of mind of the performers of the Service is all the more important. That goes without saying for the Kagura Service, which is performed at Jiba, but it also applies to the monthly services that take place in various countries and communities by receiving the truth of the Kagura Service.

Single-heartedness with God means to be in complete accord with God the Parent’s intention. This entails becoming free from human thinking, purifying the mind, and inquiring into God the Parent’s intention.

If we seek and trace God the Parent’s intention, we will arrive at the original intention in creating us humans—the intention to “see our Joyous Life and share in our joy.” We will also come to God’s intention in founding the Teaching, which is expressed as “I have descended here to save all humankind.” We can see that at the core of God’s intention is the parental love that is focused on single-hearted salvation, the love that desires to save all of us children of God throughout the world and lead us to the Joyous Life.

Before Oyasama withdrew from physical life, it was possible to hear the divine intention directly through Oyasama’s mouth as the occasion arose. Between Her withdrawal and June 1907, it was possible to seek the divine intention through the Honseki. Today we are unable to listen directly to God the Parent’s intention, but we have at our disposal various means of seeking the divine intention, including the Three Scriptures, namely, the Ofudesaki, the Mikagura-uta, and the Osashizu, as well as The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, The Life of Oyasama, and Anecdotes of Oyasama.

Historically, early followers narrowly avoided having the Ofudesaki confiscated in March 1883 by telling the authorities that the Scripture had been burned. For more than four decades thereafter until the publication of the Scripture in 1928, the original Ofudesaki was officially considered “lost”; consequently, this Scripture was not something readily available to anyone as it is now.

With regard to The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, the so-called Meiji Doctrine was far from complete as a compilation of the teachings, partly because it was compiled during Tenrikyo’s movement for sectarian independence, which meant that it had to conform to the wishes of the authorities. At World War II’s end—when Tenrikyo launched its endeavors for Restoration—it finally became possible to explain the teachings exactly as Oyasama taught them. Until then, during the long period when expedients were used to comply with the law, our predecessors made painstaking efforts to seek the teachings, follow the path relying on the Divine Model, and spread the teachings.

Considering this, we can say that even though we are unable to listen directly to Oyasama’s voice we are very fortunate today because, not only can we freely use the Scriptures, doctrinal publications, and other writings on the teachings, but there are even facilities for helping us study the teachings such as Tenri Seminary, Shuyoka (the Spiritual Development Course), and a variety of lectures and seminars.

It goes without saying that the purpose of studying the teachings is not merely to know them but actually to implement them. We study the teachings to internalize them so that we can live each day in a manner based on the teachings.

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.

Unless we are careful, we humans can get caught up in our self-centered imaginations, lose sight of the Parent, and even turn our backs on the Parent. In all matters, therefore, we should make a point of seeking God the Parent’s intention and asking ourselves what Oyasama would do in any given situation; we should always ponder and act in light of the Divine Model as well as of the teachings, which should serve as the yardstick.

This will shape whether or not the decisions and choices we make at important junctures such as life’s crossroads and turning points are in accordance with God’s intention. I believe that we will certainly find ourselves enabled to know which direction to take if we purify our mind and seek out the path to accord with the divine intention based on the teachings.

Living as we do in this day and age, I am sure we sometimes face dilemmas and difficult decisions that our predecessors never had to deal with. At such times, we can base our ponderings on the following Divine Direction:

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.

Osashizu, January 13, 1887

This Divine Direction was delivered before dawn on January 13, 1887, in response to a series of questions asked by the first Shinbashira, who had at length decided to present himself at Oyasama’s bedside to confide what was weighing heavily on his mind. People who were discussing God the Parent’s teachings and the law in the same terms were imagining that the two were mutually incompatible; however, this Divine Direction explained the order of how things came to be and taught that it was primary to settle the mind to accord with the intention of Tsukihi, God the Parent, come what might.

A while ago I said that it is important for our minds to be single-hearted with God and united as one when we perform the Service. Unity of mind means that we should both fulfill our respective roles completely and work in harmony as a whole in order to achieve the common goal.

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. These instruments that were drawn forth by God the Parent devoted themselves entirely to God’s intention of creating us humans, seeing our Joyous Life, and sharing in our joy. The instruments melted into God’s mind and fulfilled the respective roles assigned to them. This allowed the first step to be taken toward building the world of the Joyous Life.

The Kagura Service involves performers symbolizing by hand-gestures the principles of the respective workings of those instruments of creation. Thus, it goes without saying that the Service should be performed in unity of mind.

The phrase “unity of mind” is one we often use and hear. To any follower of the path, it must be one of the most familiar terms. This is not to say that actually achieving unity of mind is easy to do. In order to work toward the same common goal, all people involved must first recognize this goal and consciously share it. It is also necessary for them to completely understand and fulfill their own roles as well as work together in partnership while being aware of how they are related to one another.

All the activities we conduct as followers of this path and all our organizations such as churches are designed to achieve the common goal of saving all humankind and realizing the Joyous Life. It is important for us to fulfill our respective roles and positions, as well as help one another and make up for one another’s shortcomings, so that we can together achieve our mission as a whole as we strive for the same common goal.

As time goes by and as our activities and organizations grow larger, we are apt to lose sight of their original goal and to allow the ties among them to weaken. From time to time, therefore, it is necessary to return to the original point of departure, reaffirm our original goal, and ensure that we are not deviating from it.

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.

On the occasion of last year’s Autumn Grand Service, I announced Instruction Three in the hope of helping all of us Yoboku and followers make decisive efforts to grow spiritually and conduct our activities in unity of mind as we move toward the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. In it, I urged us to put ourselves into an appropriate frame of mind for responding to Oyasama’s boundless parental love and to genuinely respond to it. I concluded by inviting all of us Yoboku, who are Oyasama’s instruments, to maintain a full awareness of our mission and strive to carry out our work over the “three years, one thousand days” leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama, thereby bringing joy to the everliving Oyasama.

The period of “three years, one thousand days” is an amount of time that we are encouraged to set aside to focus on following the path of the Divine Model. In a Divine Direction delivered on November 7, 1889, we read:

I do not tell you to do anything difficult or to do something without a model to follow. There is the path of the Divine Model for everything. It will not do that you cannot follow the path of the Divine Model.

The same Divine Direction goes on to say:

I went through a path that I cannot speak about, cannot write about. But it was not a thousand years or two thousand years. Just fifty years. You might not be able to take the path if I tell you to follow for fifty years or thirty years. I do not tell you to follow twenty years or ten. Just three of the ten years. It will be good if you follow the path for just three days. I tell you to follow the path for just one thousand days. A thousand days of the path is difficult. But there is no path but the path of the Divine Model.

This Divine Direction urges us to spend at least three years, or one thousand days, faithfully following the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model although She Herself spent fifty years demonstrating it.

The path of Oyasama’s Divine Model does not exist merely to help us recall, reminisce about, or revere Her work. The path of the Divine Model is not about the past. It is about how we live our lives and follow the path now. What we need to do is to ponder what course of action will accord with Oyasama’s intention in our own time and in our given circumstances in light of Her teachings and of the exemplary model She provided through Her own life. We need to base our actions on this pondering.

What is consistent throughout the entire fifty-year Divine Model of Oyasama is the parental love focused on single-hearted salvation, the love that is singly intent on saving all humankind. God created us humans with the intention of seeing our Joyous Life and sharing in our joy. Yet we misused the freedom of the mind that we were allowed to use as our own; consequently, we lost our way and began to suffer from illnesses and other problems. We even started to fight among ourselves and hurt one another. Taking pity on us, God the Parent became openly revealed at the arrival of the Promised Time and declared, “At this time I have descended here to save all humankind.”

Therefore, the goal of the path of single-hearted salvation is not merely to save people from suffering. Besides saving people suffering from illnesses and other problems, this path leads them to a way of living we call the Joyous Life, which is the primary goal all humans should be working toward. The Service is the fundamental component of this path of single-hearted salvation, and the Story of Creation has been taught to help us understand the principles of the Service. This story reveals who created humankind, for what purpose, when, where, and how. Thus, the Kagura Service symbolizes the principles of God’s workings in the creation of humankind and the world through the hand-gestures of the performers and is performed at Jiba of Origin.

When this Service is performed joyously and in unity of mind, with its performers melting into the heart of the Parent, God the Parent will become spirited and fully bestow the gifts of heaven, thereby allowing the blessings of universal salvation to appear and the world to be gradually reconstructed as the Joyous Life World. It is by receiving the truth of this Service that the monthly services and grand services of regional churches are performed. Therefore, it is vital that those services should also be performed in a way that allows God the Parent to become spirited and to provide workings.

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. Besides receiving God the Parent’s workings through the Service, we need to reach out to people by sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and engaging in salvation work so that the orientation of their minds may change.

All anguish, suffering, and conflict have arisen from selfishly using the mind—which was given to us as the truth of oneself—although one might say that this could not have been helped because people were ignorant of the intention of the true Parent. God the Parent guides us by manifesting our states of mind in the body, which is a thing lent by God, as well as in things that happen around us so that we may change the orientation of our minds to accord with God the Parent’s intention. God the Parent gave us the freedom of mind in the hope that we humans would take the initiative to perceive and understand the Parent’s intention, to purify our minds, and to help one another so that we could build the world of the Joyous Life.

However, people cannot change the orientation of their minds unless they know the meaning of health disorders and other problems, which are meant to help provide guidance. Therefore, our role as Yoboku is to convey this meaning to people and invite them to the path to true salvation, and our actions in this role are referred to as sprinkling the fragrance and engaging in salvation work.

In Instruction Three, I urged us to stand up and work to reconstruct the present world, which is far removed from the Joyous Life. In order to achieve this goal, I said all of us Yoboku need to be fully aware of our mission and should first internalize and implement the teachings so that we might expand the circle of the Joyous Life starting right where we are. I suggested that we could begin by paying attention to people around us and engage in the kind of salvation work that can be done in the course of daily life.

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 build up and spread throughout the Tenrikyo community as we move toward the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama.

Thank you very much for listening.

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