The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2010

May I express my deep appreciation to all of you for attending the Spring Grand Service despite the cold weather. I also want to thank you most sincerely for giving your time and energy in your daily lives to the work of the path in your part of the world. We have been able to duly perform the Service, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I have your attention while I deliver this talk.

Having just finished performing the Kagura Service and the Dance with Hand Movements for today’s Spring Grand Service with so many of you singing the songs for the Service, I feel truly blessed and thankful that we are able to perform the Service without having to be afraid of anything or worry about anything at all. The reason I say this, of course, is that I am imagining how things must have been when the Service was performed on the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, which is the day the Spring Grand Service commemorates.

In those days, Jiba was outside, between the Place for the Service and the South Gatehouse. After the first two bottom layers of the stone Kanrodai were confiscated, Jiba was marked by a pile of pebbles. Since we are told that the bamboo placed as a fence to keep the worshipers back was trampled on and smashed to bits on that fateful day, the people must have come very close to Jiba. In that tense atmosphere, the early followers led by the first Shinbashira put on two sets of underclothing and two sets of tabi socks in preparation for their arrest and detention and set about performing the Service in fervent prayer for Oyasama’s recovery from illness.

Records show that the Service at that time was not performed with a full set of musical instruments and that some roles to be performed by women were actually played by men. Thus, in terms of outward appearance, that Service does not seem to have been complete or perfect. Moreover, moments after the Service came to an end, Oyasama withdrew from physical life.

Today we are able to perform the Service as taught by Oyasama without having to worry about anything. Yet not only should we take joy in that fact, but we should also return our thoughts to the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service, perceive the Parent’s intention embodied in that day of origin, take it to heart, and make real progress with a fresh mind in responding to Her intention. This, I believe, is the significance of performing the Spring Grand Service.

Reading The Life of Oyasama once again has reinforced my understanding of the importance, above all else, of performing the Service and of maintaining the spirit of single-heartedness with God.

The Kagura Service, performed with Jiba of Origin at center, symbolizes by hand-gestures the workings of God the Parent during creation. We are to perform the Service high-spiritedly and in unity of mind as we pray for God to become spirited and help us receive the complete providence and the blessing of universal salvation, so that the world may be reconstructed as the Joyous Life. The Service is indeed the fundamental means of single-hearted salvation.

Single-heartedness with God refers to a spirit of total commitment to be in accord with God the Parent’s intention. This spirit is the basic attitude we ought to embrace in performing the Service and, at the same time, it is something that all of us who are endeavoring to follow this path should always bear in mind. The commitment to stay in full accord with God’s intention in the face of any difficulty is an indispensable spirit if we are to convey and spread Oyasama’s teachings unerringly throughout the world and realize the Joyous Life World, regardless of how many generations this may take.

The fact that Oyasama was listening contentedly to the sound of the Service and that no police officers came as had been feared probably means that She accepted the sincerity of those who performed the Service in true single-heartedness with God while letting go of their human reasoning and their self-centered imaginations. What this means, I think, is that, although the outward completion of the Service is clearly important, what is even more important is for its performers’ minds to come into total accord with the intention of Oyasama. In terms of outward appearance, the Service we are able to perform today is more complete than the Service performed in January 1887. Yet, because of that, it is all the more important for us to take great care to ensure that we do not neglect our inner work on the mind.

It is obviously important to have the necessary number of performers and a full set of instruments as well as fully practice the Service before we perform it. Yet what is even more important can be said to be the spirit of single-heartedness with God—which is to say that each performer’s mind needs to come into complete accord with the divine intention and that their minds need to be united as one.

In fact, what I am talking about does not apply only to the performance of the Service. Rather, it is something that we need to keep working at during the course of our daily lives. Indeed, such sustained efforts are absolutely indispensable if we are to perform the Service in single-heartedness with God and in unity of mind.

Why do we perform the Service in the first place? The answer is that we perform the Service in our prayers that people will be able to fully receive God’s complete providence including fire, water, and wind, and enjoy the blessings of warmth, moisture, and breath in the body. We perform the Service in prayer for universal salvation.

In order to have our prayers answered, it goes without saying that we need to bring ourselves into accord with the intention of God the Parent, who provides such blessings. It is, I think, unreasonable to expect to receive the blessings that we desire if we are using our mind and living our lives in a way that is contrary to the divine intention.

Why is it that Oyasama taught the Service? Why did She go to such great lengths to urge the performance of the Service in the lead-up to Her withdrawal from physical life? The answer is: to realize all humankind’s Joyous Life, which is the divine intention in creation. That is to say, to save people who are going through suffering, distress, and conflict as a result of their self-serving use of the mind, which they are allowed to use as their own. Oyasama desires to guide these people to the Joyous Life, and the fundamental means of the path of single-hearted salvation is the Service.

We can perhaps say that there is a gap between the minds of children, that is, humans, who perform the Service in the hope of receiving the blessings they desire and the intention of the Parent who taught the Service in order to guide them to the Joyous Life.

The gap between human desires and God the Parent’s intention can be perceived also in the great “knot” that culminated in Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life. There is no doubt that those close to Oyasama only had the single desire to have Oyasama restored to health as they set about performing the Service. Contrary to their prayer, however, She withdrew from physical life. Oyasama, for Her part, seems to have been satisfied that the completion of the Service was within reach because the followers had finally let go of their human reasoning and performed the Service; thus, She withdrew from physical life and began to provide guidance by virtue of Her eternal life.

The followers had no way of knowing this profound intention of Oyasama, and they were devastated when faced with the unforeseen turn of events. They were only able to pull themselves together after receiving the following Divine Direction through the mouth of Izo Iburi:

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.

Such a gap between the thoughts of humans and the intention of God the Parent manifests itself even now. For example, we tend to think that we have not been given God’s blessings if we cannot see the blessings that we asked for. Yet there is no such thing as a mistake in God the Parent’s blessings. God does not simply give us the blessings that we ask for. Rather, God is guiding us out of the parental love that desires to save us in a fundamental way at the level of our mind’s core. It is because we fail to perceive that parental love and, consequently, doubt God’s blessings that we miss the opportunities for spiritual growth that God is providing for us. We may also lose our way.

Those who do not know these teachings and have no clues how to seek God the Parent’s intention regard illness and other problems merely as sources of suffering and pain. Yet, for those of us who have been taught how to perceive meaning in such occurrences and how to near the divine intention, those occurrences provide opportunities to reflect critically on our use of the mind and our way of living so as to correct the orientation of our mind. Rather than being grateful simply because we have been saved from sufferings and anxieties, we feel grateful because we are being guided to the path of true salvation whereby we can correct our way of living and change the direction of our lives.

I have said that, in order to perform the Service in a way that is acceptable to God and allows God to become spirited and provide workings, we each need to make a sustained, conscious effort to live our daily lives in single-heartedness with God, that is, to live in full accord with God’s intention as well as maintain our unity of mind. To be able to do so, we first need to know the intention of God the Parent. This means that it is important for us to study the things Oyasama has taught us and internalize them. The intention of God the Parent is set forth in the Three Scriptures, namely, the Ofudesaki, the Mikagura-uta, and the Osashizu. As for Oyasama’s Divine Model of how to follow this path, we can turn to The Life of Oyasama and Anecdotes of Oyasama. In addition, we have The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, which, based on the Scriptures, outlines the teachings and provides guidelines for our daily practice of faith. I hope that we all incorporate the teachings into our daily lives of faith by using these books.

The correct path, that is, the path that accords with the divine intention, is not necessarily easy to follow. There are bound to be times when difficulties arise along the way. Once the teachings become second nature to us, there is no other way of living that is more secure and splendid. Yet internalizing the teachings requires efforts and perseverance.

At any rate, the important thing is to always use Oyasama’s teachings as the standard for our mind and ponder, make decisions, and behave in the light of Oyasama’s Divine Model, asking ourselves what Oyasama would do in any given situation. This will enable us to naturally acquire a way of living that accords with the divine intention.

As for unity of mind, what this means is not only for all people involved to responsibly fulfill their respective roles in working toward one goal, but also for them to become as one and work in a harmonious way. This does not simply mean cooperation or joining efforts. Beyond that, there needs to be God’s intention right at the center. Receiving God’s workings through unity of mind will allow for achievements that are greater than can be accomplished by the simple sum of our individual efforts. I need hardly remind you that the Kagura Service, which receives the truth of the beginnings of origin, should also be performed in unity of mind.

In the days that led up to Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, those close to Oyasama, with the first Shinbashira as the core, repeatedly inquired about the divine intention and engaged in discussions in order to let go of their doubts, unite their minds, and near the divine intention. Eventually their minds settled, thereby enabling them to boldly perform the Service in broad daylight. Therein, also, I think we can see an example of unity of mind.

Last year on this occasion, I mentioned that it had been twenty years since the slogan “Let’s visit our churches with our families” was launched, and I spoke about the importance of conveying faith to children. I also said that the Joyous Life of all humankind, which is the goal of Tenrikyo, could be described as an ultimate family togetherness involving God the Parent and all human beings, the children of God. I further mentioned that those of us who are working towards that goal should try to realize a joyous family togetherness in our actual family context as well, so that we can spread it to people around us.

According to a dictionary, “togetherness” means “getting together and enjoying each other’s company in a congenial atmosphere, as well as the happy feeling and sense of closeness that accompany such gatherings.” Family togetherness, then, refers to how family members enjoy each other’s company in a friendly and happy way. However, the family togetherness that we ought to be aiming at does not simply refer to family members enjoying themselves in a friendly and happy way. There needs to be God the Parent and Oyasama right at the center of that togetherness. Our togetherness needs to be based on the family’s unity of mind that centers on God the Parent and Oyasama. If there is such a togetherness, the family can surmount any difficulty that may arise through the joint efforts of its members. On the other hand, if such a basis is missing, even the sort of family that appears to have a congenial and happy togetherness may lose its unity once a difficult situation confronts it. The close and enjoyable relationships among family members are obviously important, but the family’s unity of mind that centers on faith is another important thing that we must not forget about.

During the early part of the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model, when She did not have any following to speak of, the members of Her family united their minds with Oyasama at center and brought themselves into accord with God’s intention as they continued their journey, thereby enabling the path of single-hearted salvation to open and spread. Because Oyasama’s family members managed to maintain single-heartedness with God and unity of mind with Oyasama as the center in any difficult situation, we are today able to follow the path that has been handed down to us.

The point I am making applies also to our own practice of the path today. We can only savor a true family togetherness when the happy and congenial lives that we lead are based on single-heartedness with God, whereby we live in full accord with God’s intention and maintain the harmony of unity of mind. If we each bear this point in mind in our daily lives, we will be able to settle our families and churches in a state of joyousness, present the local communities with a convincing example that illustrates the truth of the teachings, and thereby serve as a model of the Joyous Life.

Today, the ties of family members, who should be able to rely on one another more than anyone else, are in danger of breaking down. The role to be played by Yoboku must be said to be truly great. There are people who lose their way while trying to satisfy their desires without having any reliable guide for their minds, those who are beset by a feeling of dissatisfaction and a sense of insecurity about the future despite their efforts to acquire wealth and abundance. We need to convey the voice of the true Parent to them and invite them to the path of true salvation, that is, the path leading to the Joyous Life. Such indeed is the duty of Yoboku.

To fulfill this duty, we ourselves need to keep our minds always focused on single-heartedness with God, maintain our commitment to be in full accord with the divine intention, and strive to near the divine intention.

A Divine Direction says:

From now on you must go through everything with single-heartedness. You must go with single-heartedness. You think you are devoting yourselves in accord with the path and are satisfied. You are completely mistaken. A mistake will cause further mistakes. I have been meaning to tell you this truth earlier but I was not able to do so. All of you are gathered here today and your minds are somewhat united. Understand this well. Adornments are not necessary. I have taught you this before. Adorn your mind with brocade, not your body. The mind clothed with brocade is the desire of God. Adornments are not necessary.

Osashizu, July 20, 1902

This Divine Direction explained the attitude that followers should adopt in working to obtain sectarian independence in very difficult circumstances resulting from the Home Ministry’s directive that ordered the suppression of Tenrikyo. This Divine Direction was cautioning the followers against losing sight of single-heartedness with God by getting wrapped up in worrying about appearances in deference to the authorities.

Today there is no such external pressure, yet I feel concerned that we may be getting caught up in keeping up appearances in a different sense and neglecting to maintain our conviction of faith, which is of vital importance. The Divine Direction I have just quoted says: “Adorn your mind with brocade, not your body. The mind clothed with brocade is the desire of God.” Please bear this instruction in mind as you continue performing your tasks as Yoboku, who ought to work for world salvation.

I now want to conclude my remarks by asking all of you to continue working spiritedly this year. Thank you for listening.

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