The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service 2013

May I start by thanking you all most sincerely for all the efforts you are devoting to the work of the path in your daily lives. I also want to express my deep appreciation for the fact that so many of you have returned to Jiba from both within the country and overseas for today’s Autumn Grand Service.

We have just been able to conclude the Service. Today, as we commemorate the day of the founding of the Teaching, I would like us to take to heart and savor once again God the Parent’s intention embodied in the Teaching’s day of origin and, with a fresh mind, pledge to take the next stage of our journey in a way that can respond to God’s intention.

On this day last year, I announced Instruction Three to indicate what frame of mind we should be in and how we should conduct our activities as we prepare for the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. I called for a level of spiritual growth and implementation that can bring joy to the everliving Oyasama.

I began the Instruction by explaining my intention in announcing it—which was to share some of my thoughts that might be useful to all Yoboku as they made decisive efforts to grow spiritually and conduct their activities in unity of mind. I went on to say: “Oyasama revealed the ultimate teachings to save all people throughout the world. She devoted Herself to single-hearted salvation with Her heart filled with parental love for all human beings, Her children, and left us with the path of the fifty-year Divine Model.” Thus I referred to the divine intention in founding the Teaching and mentioned the path of the Divine Model for single-hearted salvation, which Oyasama demonstrated solely out of parental love for Her children, all human beings.

The divine intention to “save all people throughout the world” is expressed in the first words spoken by God the Parent through Oyasama’s mouth. Indeed, this path was laid to save all people throughout the world without exception or discrimination.

The reason God the Parent speaks of saving all people throughout the world is that God is the Parent of all humankind. The reason God the Parent can save all people throughout the world is that God the Parent is God of Origin, who created humankind in the first place. The Ofudesaki says:

If only your mind is truly accepted by Tsukihi, you will be assured of any salvation whatever.

Tsukihi assures you any and every salvation because your true Parent lives.

Ofudesaki VIII:45–46

Here we are told that God the Parent will certainly save anyone suffering from any illness or other problem because God the Parent is the Creator of humankind. This is understandable if we consider that the best person to repair broken things like tools and instruments is the person who originally made them. Regarding how we can be saved, we are told that God will accept our true sincerity.

It was Oyasama—the Shrine of Tsukihi—who showed us the way to be saved. Not only did She teach the Service, which is the fundamental component of the path of single-hearted salvation, but She also took up Her writing brush to record the entirety of the teachings including the truth of the Service. Moreover, through Her own example Oyasama showed a Model of how we Yoboku—whose task is to participate in building the Joyous Life World—ought to live our lives.

When Oyasama speaks of salvation, She is not simply talking about solving tangible problems such as illnesses and other issues. Rather, She taught the path by which we can be genuinely saved through correcting our use of mind, which is behind such tangible problems and is the true cause of our suffering. The Ofudesaki says:

I shall make everything in the mind of each of you clearly manifest on your body.

Whoever you may be, when this is seen, the cleansing of the heart will be truly accomplished of itself.

Ofudesaki XII:171–172

We are taught that God will urge us to sweep our heart and replace our mind through disorders of the body. Doctors and medicine may be able to cure illnesses; however, unless the mind changes, the state of mind will be manifested again in some form or other eventually. Until the mind is corrected, true salvation cannot come about.

Yet just being told to change our mind does not help us change it unless we know how. Thus Oyasama taught us how to change our mind and how to use our mind in accordance with the divine intention. We Yoboku have been taught the path to replace our mind and achieve true salvation a step before others, so we may say that it is incumbent upon us to convey the teachings to those who do not yet know them and guide those people to the path of salvation.

We are taught, “Through saving others, you will be saved.” God the Parent’s greatest desire is for human beings to come to understand the teachings, work to sweep their heart clean, and replace their self-centered use of mind with the use of mind that is focused on helping to save others.

A world in which the teachings have spread throughout the world—thereby enabling everyone to have the “mind of saving others” and implement salvation work—will certainly be seen by God the Parent as a world in which all humans help one another. Such a world can surely be described as a world in which the purpose of founding the Teaching has been accomplished. The Ofudesaki tells us:

What do you think this path is to be? It is solely mutual help among all people in all matters.

If all the world comes to help one another, Tsukihi will accept all your minds.

Ofudesaki XIII:37–38

Not only does Oyasama say that She will save all humankind, but She also clearly indicates what it is that salvation should lead to—or what we need to work toward.

The Doctrine of Tenrikyo’s chapter 1, which is entitled “Oyasama,” refers to the situation in which we were at the time of the Teaching’s founding as follows: “We human beings wander about on the mind’s dark paths having nothing to depend upon but our own self-centered imaginations. This is because we have not known the Parent of Origin, nor have we understood the divine heart. God the Parent felt pity for us and, through Oyasama as the Shrine, became revealed at that time to teach all of God’s intentions to humankind.”

Human civilizations have made amazing progress thanks to the training and nurture God the Parent provided for us out of constant parental love over a long span of time starting in the beginnings of origin when we lived in water, were trained in wisdom, and were instructed in letters. However, because we have selfishly misused the mind, which we were given to use as our own, the state of our world has become so chaotic that it might be likened to muddy water, with the result that people are beset by illness, conflict, and confusion.

It goes without saying that God the Parent was not simply standing by and watching events unfold. Rather, God was providing care and guidance in the form of teachings that were appropriate for the time and place in order to help people prepare themselves to understand the ultimate teachings that were to be revealed.

Nevertheless, partly because the proper time had not arrived and partly because people were ignorant of God of Origin, the true Parent of humankind, they remained unaware of the goal toward which they should work. Oyasama revealed the truth about the creation of humankind and laid the path that would lead human beings—who were wandering about in the chaotic world likened to muddy water—to the goal of human existence; namely, the Joyous Life. This is what is referred to in the following verses from the Ofudesaki:

Now that I shall work salvation unknown until now, it is necessary to make the origin known.

Ofudesaki IX:29

Desiring to teach this origin to the world by all means, Tsukihi has become revealed.

Ofudesaki XIII:31

It has been 176 years since the founding of the Teaching. Our civilizations have made tremendous advances, and the world has changed immensely. Take this country, for example. After the Tokugawa Period, it experienced the Meiji Restoration and vigorously pursued modernization. It then went through a post-war period of rapid growth, and, following its amazing economic development, technological innovation continues to serve as the driving force behind constant and rapid change in society.

Today our lives seem much more comfortable than before. Yet it is frequently said that increasing numbers of people are feeling empty, sad, and lonely, even though they may appear to have no problems whatsoever, being in good health as well as materially blessed.

Human nature is such that just because difficult situations like poverty and illness are solved, it does not necessarily follow that people are emotionally satisfied. For one thing, there is no limit to greed, which makes people want more and better things even when they appear to others to be living a perfectly comfortable life. The Mikagura-uta says:

Greed is fathomless like muddy water.

When your mind is completely purified,

Then comes paradise.

Mikagura-uta X:4

Greed is insatiable and, far from leading to paradise, it could give rise to a living hell.

Another thing we can say is related to a more fundamental question: What are we living for or what are we trying to achieve in life? This is a major question that has been discussed since ancient times, both in the East and in the West. It is a weighty question that cannot be answered unless one can find some dependable guide.

It is frequently said that ours is an age when things are constantly changing in society so that traditional values and customs that previously protected people no longer have much meaning. One aspect of this is found in the increasing tendency for people to have no religious faith. We may say that, after losing sight of their former spiritual guide or standards, many people have not found any alternative and consequently have been unable to discover the goal of their existence.

Without any spiritual guide to help them, people tend to pursue their immediate selfish interests or to focus only on satisfying their own desires. Such a self-centered way of living simply adds to their problems. In this sense, even now many people—perhaps even more than before the Teaching’s founding—are wandering on “the mind’s dark paths.” Today, the significance of telling people about the goal of human existence, the Joyous Life of all humankind, is not decreasing at all; if anything, it is increasing.

After I announced Instruction Three, Church Headquarters conducted official visits to directly supervised churches. This was followed by each directly supervised church carrying out visits to all churches belonging to it in order to ensure a thorough understanding of the intention of Instruction Three on the part of all Yoboku.

Tenrikyo churches are mission facilities in local communities where God the Parent and Oyasama work to save all humankind—facilities for the path of single-hearted salvation, which should extend from Jiba to all corners of the world. These churches are facilities for spreading the teachings as well as places for salvation work and spiritual growth.

The reason we asked all Yoboku to assemble at their churches for the visits conducted by their directly supervised churches was that we considered it important for each and every Yoboku to return to the beginning of their faith—when they had embraced faith through being saved—and connect themselves firmly to their churches, which are training centers for salvation.

In addition, it is indispensable that Yoboku work with their head minister as the core if their church is to fulfill its mission of performing the service in a way that will make God the Parent spirited and serving as a facility for sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping save people so that it can bring forth the results that befit a training center for single-hearted salvation, where a model of the Joyous Life is to be shown to the local community.

May I take this opportunity to ask all of you Yoboku to connect your minds ever more firmly with your churches and increase your efforts to visit them. As for those of you who are church head ministers, please work toward achieving the sort of church that the followers feel like visiting and naturally give ever more thought to. Moreover, I hope you will make sincere efforts to provide guidance and care for your Yoboku so that all of them without exception can engage in salvation work.

We have just a little over two months left in the first year of the “three years, one thousand days” season leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. “Three years, one thousands days” is a length of time that has been set aside for making a special effort to follow the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model. Historically, the Tenrikyo community has designated this length of time for making a concerted and decisive effort to conduct activities preceding each anniversary of Oyasama.

The Divine Direction delivered on November 7, 1889, goes so far as to say:

If you do not follow the path of the Divine Model, there is no need for a Divine Model.

Osashizu, November 7, 1889

What does it mean for us to follow the path of the Divine Model in this day and age?

Depending on how you approach this question, some of you might feel that, now that the world has totally changed, it is impossible to follow the path exactly as Oyasama demonstrated it. Again, some of you might think that Oyasama was only able to do what She did because She was Oyasama and that it would be impossible for us to follow Her example.

Yet She repeatedly says, “It will not do to be unable to follow the path of the Divine Model.” This must mean that, no matter how times change and what situation we find ourselves in, we can certainly follow the path of the Divine Model so long as we have the willingness to do so. That is why the Divine Model was shown in the first place.

From this perspective, it seems to me that following the path of the Divine Model does not mean emulating the outward form of the Divine Model. Rather, it means to always bear in mind Oyasama’s Divine Model of single-hearted salvation and ponder over each situation in light of the Divine Model—asking ourselves how Oyasama would look at it and how She would act—as well as try to deal with the situation in a way that is as close as possible to how She would. Our repeated efforts in this endeavor will help us grow spiritually so that we can draw near the intention of the Parent and, as these efforts become part of our lives, we will be able to spontaneously sprinkle a fragrance befitting a true follower of the path.

On this occasion last year, I said that I wanted as many Yoboku as possible to grow to a point where they could implement salvation work.

The word “Yoboku” refers to people who have received the truth of the Sazuke, which is a treasure for helping to save others. Further, it refers to those who administer the Sazuke. It is the administration of the Sazuke that enables them to be of use as Yoboku, which really means “useful timber” or human resources for building the Joyous Life World. In a Divine Direction, we are told:

Even with an expensive instrument, if there is no truth in your mind, it is of no use. Understand the Sazuke, the Sazuke, well. You attend the lecture of each day. After you have completed the lectures, I bestow the Sazuke on you. I bestow it on the mind at the time, the mind to receive it, the truth of the mind determined to carry on into the future. But with the passing of time, the preciousness of truth is forgotten. How regretful!

Osashizu, July 7, 1890

If people do not administer the Sazuke despite having received its truth, they cannot give life to the preciousness of what Oyasama describes as “a treasure for home, whose value is immeasurable” (Osashizu, December 30, 1898). The frame of mind in which people attend the Besseki lectures, which are designed to help them purify their minds, and the state of mind in which they receive the truth of the Sazuke are important. Yet of particular importance is what attitude they maintain and how they perform their tasks after receiving the truth of the Sazuke.

As for those of you who are in a position to provide care and guidance for others, you need to start doing so while people are attending the Besseki lectures by helping them understand the lectures and internalize the content of the lectures. After these people receive the truth of the Sazuke, you should not slacken your efforts but rather make a point of providing genuine care and guidance so that the new Yoboku will proactively administer the Sazuke with firm conviction because what really matters is what they do after receiving the truth of the Sazuke.

In Instruction Three, I said, “Salvation work begins with paying attention to those around us.” If we pay attention to see if there is any salvation work we can do, starting with anyone close at hand, we may find people nearby who need our help. I think that it would be inexcusable if we overlooked someone who was going through a hard time simply because we were failing to pay attention to that person.

If we notice someone suffering from illness or any other problem, we can offer prayers to God the Parent for that person. It is important to accept the person’s situation as our own concern, given the following words from the Divine Directions, “Whatever you see is causality; whatever you hear is causality” (Osashizu, September 27, 1890).

More generally, the perspective of the teachings is that knots of difficulty people encounter such as illnesses and other problems are meant to urge them to change the orientation of their mind in the direction of God the Parent’s intention. Our salvation work should, therefore, include reaching out to those who are suffering from illness or any other problem, working sincerely with them, and continuing to do whatever we can to lead them to the point where they can join us in helping save others.

Although we are using the simple term “salvation work,” it can take a variety of forms and may involve a variety of stages. The length of time different Yoboku have practiced their faith varies, and they may have different positions and roles. Yet I hope that all of them, whoever they are, will carry out any salvation work they can, taking one step at a time.

The providence of God the Parent does not change; it remains the same now as ever before. To the degree that we work, God the Parent will accept our effort to that degree and respond with appropriate blessings. Unless we work, we will not be able to savor the joy of salvation work. By putting in sincere efforts, we can enhance our joy of salvation work as well as progress in our own spiritual growth.

Exactly one hundred years before the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama—for which we are currently making preparations—the 30th Anniversary of Oyasama was observed. It marked the first time activities involving the entire Tenrikyo community were conducted in anticipation of an anniversary of Oyasama. It was in that context that the plans for the so-called Taisho construction were announced. A Divine Direction from that period says:

There are only eight years left until the Thirtieth Anniversary. It will be just right if you begin to spread the fragrance three years ahead. I ask you to do this single-heartedly throughout the country. . . . These are My final words. From now on I shall not ask you to do anything more than this. When My talk is finished, you must work hard for three or four years, or five or six years. If you work hard you will gain all the merit your work deserves. You will say, “God’s words are indeed true. Things have changed.” Look forward to this with delight.

Osashizu, April 7, 1907

I have often said that the anniversaries of Oyasama have nothing in common with memorial services held in remembrance of the deceased. The main reason for saying this is that Oyasama, being everliving, is leading us even now at the forefront of world salvation. The significance of observing an anniversary of Oyasama is to make a decisive effort to respond to the parental love of the everliving Oyasama. As we give thought to the day of origin of Her anniversaries—when Oyasama withdrew from physical life to hasten people’s spiritual growth and urge them to perform the Service—it is of paramount importance for all of us Yoboku to resolve to make a decisive effort to grow spiritually and implement that resolution.

We have two years and three months left before the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. I would like all of us to spend each and every day of this period making an all-out effort so that we can bring joy to Oyasama. Having shared my thoughts with you today, I now want to conclude my remarks.

Thank you for listening.

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