The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2015 (Tenrikyo 178)

May I begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for the efforts you are devoting to the tasks of the path in your daily lives. Together with so many of you who have returned to Jiba for today’s Spring Grand Service, we have just been able to duly perform the Service. Taking this opportunity, I now would like to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your attention for a short while.

Each year, we perform the Spring Grand Service on January 26. It provides us with an opportunity to give thought to Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life and take to heart once again the intention contained in Her withdrawal, thereby helping us take a new step forward in responding to that intention with a fresh mind.

Prior to the passing of the Honseki, Izo Iburi, there came the so-called “Hundred-Day Divine Directions,” which include the following passage:

For the Thirtieth Anniversary. . . . I do not demand that it be large or small. I ask you to begin to build just a model of the final construction.
Osashizu, March 13, 1907

In response to that Divine Direction, Church Headquarters announced the construction of the Main Sanctuary. The first Shinbashira made a pledge, saying, “[W]e, the head ministers of all subordinate churches, have made a firm determination to put our every effort into the construction, not letting up even to take off our workshoes; and to donate every bit we gather each month” (quoted from the subheading of the Divine Direction delivered on June 9, 1907). The followers then engaged in missionary work and strove to help save others. We can say that this was the first pre-anniversary activity that was conducted by the entire Tenrikyo community.

Ever since then, we have regarded Oyasama’s anniversaries, observed every decade, as milestones in our spiritual growth as we follow the path that lasts for endless generations. Setting our sights on the day of each anniversary of Oyasama, our entire Tenrikyo community has made a concerted effort to grow spiritually in a decisive manner and conducted activities in unity of mind. Regarding the activities of each anniversary as providing an important juncture, we roused ourselves to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings, help save others, and carry out construction during each seasonable time. Thus the path has spread and expanded to become what it is today. This juncture we observe every decade is a milestone for each of us on our journey of making spiritual growth.

In the winter of 1886, exactly one year prior to Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, a group of followers who returned to the Residence were so spirited that they practiced the Dance with Hand Movements at a lodging that was located close to the front gate of the Residence. This led to Oyasama being taken to and detained at the Ichinomoto Branch Police Station.

After having reached the age of eighty, Oyasama underwent the hardship of being taken to police stations and jails on a number of occasions. Although the followers were worried about Oyasama’s arrest and imprisonment, She went through the hardships in high spirits, saying, “From a knot, buds will spring forth” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 211). She thus encouraged the distressed people to become spirited. In the last hardship She underwent, as well, She carried on in Her usual manner despite the weather being the coldest in thirty years. I would like to give a couple of examples from this detention.

After the completion of intense questioning that lasted through the night, Oyasama noticed that the lamp on the desk of a dozing officer was burning uselessly even after the sun had risen, so She stood up and blew out the lamp. The officer awoke and shouted at Her. She responded softly, “It is wasteful, so I put it out” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 208).

When She saw a cake peddler passing by the Ichinomoto Branch Police Station, She said to Hisa, Her granddaughter who was accompanying Her, to buy a cake for an officer who seemed to be bored. This detention lasted for twelve days, and the day She returned to the Residence happened to be the lunar calendar date of January 26.

One day in July 1886, Oyasama said: “It will grow dark in the four directions until nothing can be seen. When this happens, it will not do to be hazy about the hand movements of the Service. So practice the hand movements of the Service!” (The Life of Oyasama, pp. 213–214). The instruction to practice the hand movements of the Service indicates that the followers, who were worried about Oyasama’s condition, were refraining from practicing the Service. The words “It will grow dark in the four directions” might well have foretold that Oyasama, who was the Shrine of Tsukihi, would withdraw from physical life.

“The year 1886 ended, and, on New Year’s Day, 1887, in the evening, as Oyasama came out of Her bath, She staggered momentarily” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 220). That is how chapter 10 of The Life of Oyasama begins. At that time, Oyasama said, “It is a sign that the world is going to move” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 220). It was an advance notice that some great changes would take place. On January 4, when Oyasama’s physical condition suddenly became critical, the followers made an inquiry regarding God’s intention. Then the following Divine Direction was given in response:

Sah, sah, the time is fully ripe and pressing. I have already told you everything but you have not understood at all. No matter how much I explain, there is no one who understands. This is My regret. You must reflect deeply on the life of doubt which you lead. Sah, if the words of God were false, this path would not have continued for forty-nine years until now. What I have told you until now has been shown. With this in mind, reflect. Sah, shall I withdraw? Shall I end it all?
Osashizu, January 4, 1887

Then Oyasama stopped breathing and Her body suddenly became cold. The followers were shocked. Realizing that this was due to their error of not performing the Service, which Oyasama had long hastened, on the excuse of police oppression, they began to perform the Service in apology every night, from the following day, January 5.

Between this performance of the Service, which was conducted in secrecy behind locked gates at night, and the performance of the Service accompanied by some musical instruments in broad daylight on the day of Oyasama’s withdrawal, the first Shinbashira and the followers made repeated inquiries in order to respond to God’s intention in any way they could concerning the performance of the Service, and through a series of intense discussions, they came closer and closer to that intention. At last, they reached the point where they were able to bring themselves to perform the Service.

The first thing we realize is that there was a huge gap between Oyasama’s profound intention and the followers’ wish. They earnestly hoped that Oyasama would recover from illness and that they would not cause Oyasama, at Her advanced age and in critical condition, to undergo any further hardship of arrest and imprisonment.

On the other hand, Oyasama intended that they become full-fledged followers of the path by fully understanding and accepting as their own the profound divine intention of saving all people throughout the world—which She had conveyed since the founding of the Teaching—and by establishing the conviction of faith that is single-hearted with God.

In the Ofudesaki, Oyasama mentioned in advance the targeted date of the completion of the Service, which was the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887. 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.

Day after day, the mind of God hastens to show you free and unlimited workings quickly.

From now on, the performers will assemble and do the Service. This will truly settle Nihon.
Ofudesaki III:73–76

Shortly before that day, Oyasama was urging the followers to make leaping progress in their spiritual growth. She hoped that, although having been utterly dependent on Her until then, they would become capable of promoting the path of single-hearted salvation on their own volition by making decisions on their own based on what they had already been taught since the founding of the Teaching and inquiring into the manner of following the path that accords with the intention of God the Parent. For this reason, the followers were repeatedly urged to perform the Service, which is the fundamental means of single-hearted salvation, despite being under strict surveillance by the authorities and being in the extremely difficult situation where Oyasama’s physical condition was critical.

The first Shinbashira was caught up between Oyasama, who was hastening the performance of the Service, and the police officers, who would arrest and detain Oyasama immediately if the Service was performed. The agony he must have felt under the circumstances is beyond imagination. The pressing situation can be seen in the request made by the first Shinbashira, which reads, “Please give us a directive that will uphold both the directions of God and the laws of the country” (The Life of Oyasama, pp. 226–227).

Further, the first Shinbashira said, “We cannot defy the law.” He requested a Divine Direction specifically related to the following three points: (1) the souls of the instruments and models of human creation were born at this Residence; (2) God descended to this Residence because it is Jiba where the creation of human beings and the world began; (3) and the souls of the rulers and our souls are the same. If the authorities asked him about these points, how should he answer?

In response, Oyasama taught kindly and in simple terms:

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

She was saying that God’s teachings and the law are not to be discussed on the same level. Making clear the order of how things came to be, Oyasama stressed the importance of resolving the mind that accords with the intention of God the Parent, who created human beings, the world, and everything else, when dealing with real-life situations.

On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, when Oyasama’s physical condition was growing extremely critical, the followers received the stern words “Do you fear God or do you fear the law?” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 236). They finally made up their minds to perform the Service even at the risk of their lives and actually began performing the Service. At the same time the Service concluded, Oyasama withdrew from physical life. The followers fell into a state of utter shock and despair. After they regained their senses, they made an inquiry for Divine Directions through Izo Iburi. The following words came:

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. . . . 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

Oyasama felt pity for the followers, who could not endure the thought of any further suffering befalling Her and who thus could not bring themselves to perform the Service. Oyasama thought that this would only delay the path of single-hearted salvation. Out of Her single-hearted love for Her children, all human beings, She thus withdrew from physical life. At the same time, however, Her words “[I shall] save the world from now” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 240) explained that Her withdrawal was not a setback but a step forward to promote world salvation from that time on, emphasizing its positive significance. She thus said that She would bestow the truth of the Sazuke widely on more and more people.

By saying, “Observe well what the path has been and what the path will become,” She explained that salvation is not something just being talked about but something She would actually manifest. Wherever Yoboku who received the truth of the Sazuke went, instances of miraculous salvation appeared one after another. People were thus convinced that Oyasama remained everliving and was continuing to work for salvation, and with that conviction, they engaged in salvation work ever more fervently.

In 1888, following the incident during the Oyasama First Anniversary Service, the followers decided to submit a petition to establish Tenrikyo Church Headquarters in Tokyo. Fortunately, the permission was granted and Church Headquarters was subsequently relocated to Jiba, thereby making it possible for them to perform the Service and carry out missionary activities openly. Thereafter, churches were established one after another, and the Tenrikyo community grew at a rapid rate. Such rapid growth, however, called forth mockery and derision from the public and eventually resulted in strict surveillance by the government. Finally, in 1896, the Home Ministry issued its directive to oppress Tenrikyo.

Even though Tenrikyo had received the government’s permission allowing the followers to perform the Service and conduct missionary work openly, it was not as if everything went smoothly. When their missionary efforts bore fruit and the Tenrikyo community grew and expanded, they had to face yet another form of oppression by the government. In fact, after the Home Ministry issued its directive, they could not perform the Service as Oyasama taught. They had to change the divine name Tenri-O-no-Mikoto to Tenri-Okami. They were prohibited from performing the first section of the Service, which begins with “Ashiki o harote.” The kagura masks were to be placed in front of the Service performers instead of being worn by them, and only men could perform the Service.

Moreover, during the period known as the Adjustment, which began in the 1930s, the Tenrikyo community continued to be oppressed by the government in terms of the performance of the Service. The followers were prohibited from performing the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo and Songs Three and Five, which included words and expressions related to the story of the truth of origin that explains the truth of the Service.

The followers were instructed to bring themselves into accord with the intention of God the Parent, who created human beings and the world, rather than worry about the law. This instruction was not only meant for our early predecessors who were close to Oyasama in 1887. Since the period when the path was modified to conform to the law lasted for a very long time afterward, the instruction was also meant for the followers in that period. Moreover, we must not forget that this instruction is meant for us today as well as for those in the future.

As you know very well, Instruction Three, which I announced to promote our pre-anniversary activities, concludes with the words “I hope with all my heart that all of us. . . [will bring] joy to the everliving Oyasama.” This is because it is entirely thanks to Oyasama having begun the Teaching and conveyed the intention of God the Parent to us human beings that our predecessors as well as all of us here have been able to be guided by this Teaching and saved. Since it is due to Oyasama that we can be what we are today, we cannot help but make repayment for the blessings we have received until today.

Further, we were not only saved from sufferings of illness and other troubles but also were given opportunities to reflect critically on the way we have been living and to realize our own causality so that we can change the orientation of the mind. In this way, we were guided by Oyasama to the path that can change the direction of our lives.

Moreover, thanks to Oyasama’s teachings, we can deeply appreciate the daily blessings that people in the world usually take for granted and live each day with gratitude to God the Parent.

In today’s rapidly changing society, many people tend to lose sight of any dependable guide for the mind and are unable to find any purpose in life. There are quite a few people who live without a sense of direction, feeling anxious and being swept along by greed. Yet, we have a clear goal in human life, which is the Joyous Life. With a reliable guide, we can accept anything joyously and live each day in high spirits. It is truly reassuring.

Above all else we are grateful that, as a result of being guided to the path of single-hearted salvation, we have experienced the joy of helping others be saved and learned the way of living that brings true salvation, which is taught in the phrase “Through saving others, you are saved.” Such is the course of life that we children of the path are taking. Oyasama says:

In this path, if you affirm “God!” and “Oyasama!” in all situations and keep God’s directions always firm in your mind, I shall always be with you whether you go one mile, two miles, three miles, or ten miles. Never will you be alone in sudden despair even if you go out to a distant place. From heaven, God will always stand firm in your favor.
Osashizu, April 3, 1887

By virtue of Her eternal life, Oyasama continues to watch over us with parental love for us, Her children, and guide us along. I strongly hope with all my heart that we will do whatever it takes to bring joy to Oyasama, to whom we are deeply indebted.

What brings joy to Oyasama? I believe that on a large scale it is the progress we make on the path of world salvation. On a personal level, it is the decisive effort on the part of Yoboku to make spiritual growth and to carry out activities of the path in unity of mind. That is to say, each Yoboku should make progress in nearing the intention of the Parent ever further during this seasonable time and all Yoboku should implement salvation work. The progress in the path of world salvation is a result of each Yoboku’s spiritual growth and implementation of salvation work.

Spiritual growth means nearing the intention of the Parent. The Parent’s desire is single-hearted salvation for all human beings, God’s children. What lies behind this desire is God’s parental love for all children. If we go back further inquiring into the Parent’s intention, we come to God’s intention in creation or the purpose of creating human beings, which is to see their Joyous Life and share in that joy.

Oyasama is the one who laid the path of single-hearted salvation that leads to the realization of the world of the Joyous Life. She is also the Parent of the Divine Model who showed us through Her own example how we should follow the path. Nearing the intention of the Parent, which is single-hearted salvation, and following the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model constitute the process of making spiritual growth. Both the Parent’s intention of single-hearted salvation and the Divine Model of single-hearted salvation are grounded in the parental love for us children. Spiritual growth, therefore, entails our effort to come closer to Oyasama’s parental love.

Because Oyasama is the Parent of all human beings, She is filled with parental love that is boundlessly profound and impartial. We can see such boundless parental love in the way She dealt with the police officers during Her last hardship, which I mentioned earlier. Oyasama’s parental love is expressed in various stories in The Life of Oyasama as well as in Anecdotes of Oyasama. For instance, She once said, “Whoever comes to this house shall never leave without being filled with joy” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 19). On another occasion, “She gave a person who begged for food at Her gate the rice, almost two pounds, She had acquired with difficulty, without any feeling of regret” (The Life of Oyasama, p. 33). In another anecdote, She tells a person who was happy for not having anything stolen by a burglar, “Would it not be much better to let the people who need them have them?” (Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 39).

This parental love of Oyasama is expressed precisely in the following Ofudesaki verse:

To Tsukihi, all of you in the world are My children. Love for you fills Me: this is My single heart.
Ofudesaki XVII:16

It is not that easy for us to near the boundless parental heart of Oyasama. Yet, when we are in a situation where people normally become irritated and feel animosity, we can respond differently to that situation even simply by giving thought to what Oyasama would do. The concerted effort that all of us Yoboku should be making during this seasonable time is to be mindful of helping others and thus carry out salvation activities. In this sense, salvation activities should not be carried out only by those who are willing. We should not forget to assist those who have regarded salvation work as something that is not their own concern so that they will take a step forward in helping others be saved.

To be united as one, all of us need to share the same goal, fulfill our responsibilities in a way that is appropriate for our respective roles and positions, and cooperate with one another so that we as a whole can carry out activities in a harmonious way. When each Yoboku engages in salvation work as much as possible, I believe that the momentum for salvation work will grow further among the Tenrikyo community.

In the lead-up to Oyasama’s 130th Anniversary, we have set aside a period of “three years, one thousand days” to promote our pre-anniversary activities. We are in the third year of that period, which is the final year. For this reason, we pledged to one another that each of us would make our utmost effort to complete the pre-anniversary activities we have undertaken. Looking up the meaning of the word “complete” in a dictionary, we see that it means to finish up something or to put finishing touches on a project. This tells us that completing something implies that there is a certain concrete goal to achieve in the first place. Also, it is impossible for us to put finishing touches on a project at the outset. We have to go through some stages before reaching the final stage where we can actually add the finishing touches.

After the announcement of Instruction Three, the “Visits by Church Headquarters Officials” were conducted at all directly supervised churches, which were followed by the “Visits to All Churches,” in order to ensure a thorough understanding of the spirit of Instruction Three. In the spring of last year, the “Oyasama 130th Anniversary Yoboku Gatherings” were held at various locations in Japan as well as overseas so as to promote the implementation of salvation activities. Moreover, prior to entering the final year of the pre-anniversary activities, additional “Visits by Church Headquarters Officials” were conducted to call for redoubled efforts to achieve the goals each church has set. We thus used various means to further promote the anniversary-related activities. In response, what all churches and all Yoboku should do in this final year is simply to carry out salvation activities based on the spirit of Instruction Three.

Some feel it is too late to start engaging in pre-anniversary activities; however, it is never too late. If you see that there is one more year to go, then you have many things you can do during that one year. Even if you feel that you have fallen far behind, I would like you to shift your attention and focus on carrying out activities to make up for it. It is important in this seasonable time for all of us Yoboku to advance even one or two steps on our journey of spiritual growth, thereby responding to Oyasama’s profound parental love.

With regard to these pre-anniversary activities, I have consistently encouraged the implementation of salvation work. This is because helping others be saved is the best way to make repayment for the blessings we receive and is directly linked with the very purpose in founding the Teaching, which is to save all humankind. Also, it is something that brings us into accord with the words “[I shall] save the world from now”—words contained in the Divine Direction delivered on the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life.

Salvation work is not a mission that only concerns the heads of fellowships, mission stations, or churches. Only when we Yoboku work for the salvation of others—whether they are suffering from illness or other troubles—can we truly fulfill our responsibility as the instruments of Oyasama.

In this final year of our pre-anniversary activities, please try to make the effort to complete the activities so that you can bring joy to Oyasama, attend the Oyasama 130th Anniversary Service with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, and have no regrets.

I hope that you will conduct the activities of the path in high spirits this year as well. With that request, I would like to conclude my sermon. Thank you very much for listening.

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