The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2014

May I begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the effort you have made to return to Jiba from near and far to attend today’s Spring Grand Service. I also want to thank you most sincerely for giving your time and energy in your daily lives to the work of the path. The Service having duly been conducted, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your attention for a while.

Today, we are commemorating the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. The significance of observing the Spring Grand Service on this day is to reaffirm God’s intention embodied in it and pledge together that, with renewed resolve, we will make progress in responding to that intention.

On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the atmosphere at the Residence was very tense. From early times, the followers had been performing the Service every month on the 26th, which commemorated the day of the founding of the Teaching. They were caught up in the dilemma between Oyasama’s repeated urging for them to implement the Service and the strict surveillance of the police officers who were ready to rush to the scene if the Service was performed and detain Oyasama, whose physical condition was critical not to mention Her advanced age. When they asked for a Divine Direction, Oyasama said:

Sah, now, at this time, I am in haste. . . . Do you fear God or do you fear the law?

Osashizu, February 18, 1887

She sternly urged them to perform the Service. Upon seeing Oyasama’s condition growing extremely critical, they finally made up their minds to implement the Service even at the risk of their own lives and boldly performed the Service with musical instruments included. The Service, which was attended by a great number of followers, was safely conducted. Miraculously there was no interference from the authorities.

Having finished performing the Service, the performers were elated, thinking that Oyasama would surely make a recovery. When they returned from the Service, however, they were shocked by the news that Oyasama had withdrawn from physical life. Upon hearing the unexpected news, they fell into a state of utter shock and despair. They only regained their senses when they received the following words from Oyasama, spoken through the mouth of Izo Iburi.

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

In other words, God the Parent will level the highs and lows of the world. Because all children are so dear, God has cut short Oyasama’s term of life by twenty-five years to open the portals of the Shrine, resulting in Her withdrawal from physical life. God will save the world from now. You must observe well. God will gradually bestow the truth of the Sazuke, which God wanted to give but was not able to.

In The Life of Oyasama, we read, “When the reply was given to God yesterday, no one had the slightest notion that it meant Oyasama would withdraw” (p. 241). Although it is true that they replied that they wanted God to open the portals and level the ground, why did Oyasama, contrary to their expectation, withdraw from physical life? In a Divine Direction, delivered on the day after Her funeral, we read:

Sah, sah, you do not understand, you do not understand. You do not understand anything at all. One hundred and fifteen years old, ninety years old. . . . You do not understand this either. Twenty-five years short: this you do not understand either. I have taught you My will but you did not understand anything at all. Therefore in order to hasten the salvation of the world I shortened Her life by twenty-five years. I opened the portals and stepped out to level the world. Were I not God, I would not be able to do such free and unlimited workings.

Osashizu, February 24, 1887

Seeing the situation where the followers failed to fully understand God the Parent’s intent and hesitated to implement the Service, thus delaying the path of world salvation, God shortened the term of Oyasama’s life in order to hasten salvation.

The early followers, being fully prepared for their arrest, set out to perform the Service on January 26 in fervent prayer for Oyasama’s recovery. Yet, Oyasama’s mind was filled with single-hearted parental love that desires to save Her dear children, all humankind. There was a huge discrepancy between Her profound parental love and the minds of the followers who were yearning for Her.

In the Ofudesaki, we read:

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.

Ofudesaki III:73–74

In the lead-up to the target date for the completion of the Service, which is mentioned in these verses in advance, Oyasama thought that things must not remain the same. It was only after the early followers performed the Service that She withdrew from physical life and began to guide them by virtue of the truth of Her eternal life.
On the night of the 25th, when the early followers replied, “Please open the portals and level the ground” (p. 235), the following Divine Direction was delivered:

I shall open the portals to the whole world, open, open, open. Everything will be entirely changed.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 235

Oyasama thus told them beforehand that things would change completely. What changed the most was that Oyasama was no longer physically present. It was rumored that this would be the end of the Tenrikyo faith. Yet, a Divine Direction tells us:

Ever since Oyasama’s withdrawal up until today, Her mind has been reflected in the Seki by the truth of Her eternal life.

Osashizu, September 14, 1900

Oyasama’s mind was revealed through the mouth of the Honseki in the form of the Divine Directions including Her Timely Talks given from time to time and Her responses to the inquiries made by followers. The early followers must have been grateful and felt reassured that Oyasama provided Her guidance at each important juncture.

In order to level the world, we must proactively convey and spread the teachings throughout the world. As the most dependable tool for missionary work and as the means to cover traveling expenses, Oyasama began to bestow the truth of the Sazuke on more and more people. In this regard, the establishment of the Besseki system was significant. Those who received the truth of the Sazuke and became Yoboku started to go out to spread the teachings all over Japan and some even went abroad.

The early followers were trying to establish Church Headquarters by submitting applications naming a respected non-follower as representative out of human thinking. Faced with the knot of Oyasama’s First Anniversary, they abandoned their human thinking. Basing themselves on the Divine Directions instead, they began to work for the establishment of Church Headquarters with the first Shinbashira as their leader. Things went smoothly and Church Headquarters was established, making it possible for the Service to be performed openly. Subsequently, Tenrikyo churches were established one after another and the path extended widely. In the meantime, the Tenrikyo community as a whole gradually became better organized, and the state of the path was transformed completely.

Oyasama repeatedly hastened the implementation of the Service because the Service is the fundamental component for the path of single-hearted salvation. Only by performing the Service wholeheartedly can we realize world salvation. That is why Oyasama sternly urged the followers to perform the Service before withdrawing from physical life.

We should not just go through the motions of performing the Service. Only when we perform it in the spirit of single-heartedness with God and in unity of mind can our Service performance be accepted by God. To the early followers who were caught up in the dilemma between God’s intention and human thinking and were unable to bring themselves to perform the Service, Oyasama gave strict yet warm guidance through Her own physical condition so that they would become single-hearted with God and perform the Service in unity of mind. Her instruction is meant not only for the followers in those days but also for us. We need to be mindful of this point, especially because we do not have any worries about interference while performing the Service. The implementation of the Service itself is not difficult these days. However, it is not by any means easy to perform the Service in the manner that is acceptable to God the Parent.

In order to bring about the salvation of all people, we need to spread the teachings throughout the world. After Oyasama withdrew from physical life, the truth of the Sazuke began to be bestowed widely. Wherever Yoboku, who were equipped with the truth of the Sazuke, went out to do their work, instances of miraculous salvation appeared, allowing the path to spread like wildfire.

In the Besseki lecture, we are taught that there is no light or heavy with the truth of the Sazuke. The truth of the Sazuke that we receive today is the same as the truth that a great many predecessors received. Moreover, God the Parent’s providence has not changed. If there seems to be any difference in the blessings that are shown to us today, it must be due to whether we are sincere or not.

Every time I give thought to the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service, I always think of the importance of the Service and the deep parental love embodied in the Sazuke.

Oyasama’s path of the Divine Model began with God the Parent’s first words, “At this time I have descended here to save all humankind.” She then showed the path that brings about the salvation of all people in the world and leads to the world of the Joyous Life, which is the purpose of human creation.

Further, in the Divine Direction that was delivered right after Oyasama withdrew from physical life in 1887, She said that She would “save the world from now.” In other words, Oyasama not only worked for single-hearted salvation during Her fifty-year Divine Model but continues to work for single-hearted salvation, as ever before, even after withdrawing from physical life.

At the time of the founding of the Teaching, the means to save the whole world was not taught yet. To the people who did not know the Parent of Origin and wandered about on the mind’s dark paths, She simply declared the purpose of founding the Teaching, saying that She would “save all humankind.”

Over the subsequent fifty years, Oyasama not only revealed the whole truth of the teachings through Her spoken and written word but also left the path of Her Divine Model, which is the goal of our life of faith, thus making all arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation, which primarily consists of the Service and the Sazuke. Since Her withdrawal from physical life, by the truth of Her eternal life She has been guiding all of us who are striving to follow the path of single-hearted salvation as She taught.

Now, we will be observing the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama in exactly two years from today. In terms of our pre-anniversary activities during the “three years, one thousand days” season leading up to the 130th Anniversary, we are now in the second year.

Last year, which was the first year of the pre-anniversary season, through conducting the Visits to All Churches we sought to ensure a thorough understanding of Instruction Three and encourage each Yoboku to make individual efforts to help others be saved. I believe that people have begun to put greater effort into salvation work at the levels of churches and individuals.

Between March and June this year, the Oyasama 130th Anniversary Yoboku Gatherings will be held at about 1,700 venues including ones overseas, so as to promote our pre-anniversary activities and build momentum for salvation ever further. The Visits to All Churches were conducted with each directly supervised church sending its officials to its subordinate churches after receiving the “Visits by Church Headquarters Officials.” This is to emphasize that, in order for Yoboku to engage in salvation work, they need first of all to stay connected with their own church and reflect on the day of origin when they were first saved. On the other hand, the Yoboku Gatherings will be held regionally and the lecturers will be sent from Church Headquarters.

What is intended is not only to make it easier for Yoboku to find a venue close to their home but also to provide an opportunity for Yoboku living in the same region to get together regardless of their church affiliation. Through participating in the Yoboku Gatherings, I would like followers to meet fellow followers and develop their friendship, and I am hoping that they will encourage and help one another to expand the circle of the Joyous Life in their respective community.

Yoboku who are living away from their church might eventually become isolated from the faith, get caught up in worldly common values, and end up losing sight of the path to the Joyous Life, which they began to undertake, unless they have opportunities to spend some time in a Tenrikyo setting on a regular basis by interacting with other followers and visiting churches in their community.

For this reason, instead of being complacent about merely participating in the Yoboku Gatherings, I hope all of you Yoboku will take advantage of this opportunity to advance even a step or two in your salvation work. Moreover, it is my hope that you will continue to develop your friendship with other Yoboku living in the same region and help one another to reach out to people in need who are living in your local community.

The Yoboku Gatherings are one among many activities we are carrying out during the lead-up to the 130th Anniversary and the gatherings will help enhance other activities to follow. I would like you to find some ways to make this event meaningful for future activities as well. The same principle applies to church activities and the spiritual growth of each Yoboku. Those of you who are entrusted with churches should not just go through the motions of conducting various Tenrikyo events, including the Yoboku Gatherings. Rather, you should make good use of various activities by using them as a springboard to promote church activities during this pre-anniversary season. I believe that this will build enthusiasm for salvation work at your churches, making it easier for each Yoboku to proactively help save others. May I ask you to nurture other Yoboku affiliated with your church in this manner?

You need to be careful not to let the pre-anniversary activities become a set of customary events that takes place every ten years. Rather than merely responding to the call for action, you should be able to base yourselves on the teachings, make decisions, and carry out what needs to be done without being told to do so. This overlaps with what Oyasama sought in the early followers before She withdrew from physical life. In conducting the pre-anniversary activities this time around, too, you should make sure you understand their significance, decide how to achieve the goals you have set for yourselves, and implement those activities so that you can bring joy to Oyasama.

As you all know very well, Oyasama explained the teachings by drawing on the metaphors of farming. Let us take the example of sowing seeds. Farmers sow seeds in fields because they know that, in due course, they can harvest fruits, leafy vegetables, and root vegetables. When seeds are sown, buds will sprout. Roots extend and leaves grow thick. After flowers bloom, fruits are borne. Farmers can sow seeds because they understand how nature works. If they do not, sowing seeds might simply amount to throwing them away. Because they are convinced that, from these seeds, they can produce more food including leafy vegetables and root vegetables, they can plant seeds in the soil. Because they understand the whole process, they cultivate the field and apply fertilizer before sowing seeds. Even after they sow seeds, they water the plants, pull weeds, and prepare protection against insects. If they simply sow seeds and leave them unattended, they cannot reap a rich harvest.

Likewise, what we need to keep in mind in following the path is to have a clear view of the goal, understand the process to achieve that goal, grasp the meaning of our current tasks, and carry them out while setting our sights on what needs to be done next.

We break down the long process that leads to the Joyous Life of all people throughout the world, which is the purpose of human creation, by observing the anniversaries of Oyasama once every ten years. Before each anniversary, the entire Tenrikyo community sets aside a special period to conduct the pre-anniversary activities. At the level of each church, let us give momentum to the activities by joining in that current of the community. Through participating in those activities, each Yoboku should grow spiritually. In this way, I hope that our efforts at all levels will be integrated.

A Divine Direction teaches us:

Sah, sah, single-hearted salvation comes from the path of natural spontaneity. On the path of natural spontaneity, it will not do to care only about your family or yourself. The path of natural spontaneity is called natural spontaneity because it is to be followed at length. Following the path of natural spontaneity entails going through a path of hardship, so I speak of the delight that lies ahead. If you follow a path of living in comfort now, it will lead to an entanglement in the future. Sah, sah, I teach the truth of natural spontaneity, which can delight everyone. Sah, sah, follow the path ahead at length so as to reach the truth of natural spontaneity.

Osashizu, August 17, 1888

This path is a path in which we take a long-term view and take delight in the future.

In chapter 1 of The Life of Oyasama, there is a dialogue that took place before the founding of the Teaching. In that dialogue, God explained:

It is natural that you are filled with anxieties at present, but after twenty or thirty years have passed, a day is sure to come when all of you will admit the truth of My intention.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 5

At this, those who were present did not readily accept God’s offer, “protesting that being human, they could not possibly wait twenty or thirty long years” (p. 6). We humans tend to get caught up in immediate concerns or selfish concerns, thereby failing to think over things and make decisions from a long-term perspective.

We children of the path should trust in the path of natural spontaneity that Oyasama taught us. By following that path faithfully, we can take delight in the future, forget our selfish concerns, and go through the path of any hardships in high spirits. We can accept things joyously and remain patient. How blessed we are! How assuring it is!

At the level of each church as well as each district, please try to invite all Yoboku to the Yoboku Gatherings and encourage them to join in the momentum of this seasonable time. Through participating in the gatherings, I hope that they will be more and more enthusiastic in helping others be saved and actually implement salvation work during the lead-up to the anniversary. I request that you provide necessary care and guidance according to the needs of each Yoboku.

Oyasama shortened Her term of life by twenty-five years and withdrew from physical life in order to hasten world salvation. She wished the followers to be single-hearted with God and perform the Service, which is the fundamental component of the path of single-hearted salvation. Moreover, She wanted the followers who were relying on Her to be able to base themselves on the teachings, make decisions, and follow the path while keeping in mind the Divine Model. Bestowing the truth of the Sazuke ever more widely, She encouraged them to go out and engage in world salvation. In order to respond to this profound parental love of Oyasama, let us pledge together that we continue to give our utmost in carrying out the tasks of the path this year as well. With that hope, I would like to conclude my sermon.

Thank you for listening.

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