The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Oyasama 130th Anniversary Service

May I express my sincere appreciation to all of you for returning to Jiba in the cold weather from various parts of the world, both within the country and overseas, to attend today’s Oyasama 130th Anniversary Service. We have now duly completed the performance of the Service, and I feel that in a way this marks the closing of a chapter.

I would first like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for the utmost efforts you have devoted to the pre-anniversary activities for which we set aside “three years, one thousand days” leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. I truly appreciate all your efforts. Thank you very much indeed.

As I wish to take this opportunity to share some of the thoughts I have today, may I have your attention while I give this talk.

An anniversary of Oyasama evokes a strong sense of gravity and urgency in me, much more so than does the annual Spring Grand Service. Those of us who live today are aware that Oyasama is guiding us even now by virtue of Her eternal life although having withdrawn from physical life and that anniversaries of Oyasama are different in meaning from memorial services for people in general. Yet those who were close to Oyasama during Her physical life—those who had revered Her as God and adored Her as their true Parent for a number of years—must have felt tremendous sorrow, distress, and loneliness when She withdrew from physical life; indeed, their emotions defy our imagination.

On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887—which 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—the first Shinbashira instructed the followers saying, “Only those should perform who are willing to risk their lives.” With firm resolve, they readied themselves for possible arrest and began to perform the Service boldly, even using musical instruments. Oyasama listened contentedly to the sounds of the Service but withdrew from physical life as Song Twelve, the last part of the Service, came to an end.

Chapter 10 of The Life of Oyasama, entitled “The Portals Opened,” describes the events that were happening at the Residence during the forty-nine days leading up to that fateful moment. By way of helping us ensure that we properly understand God the Parent’s intention embodied in the day of origin of the anniversaries of Oyasama, let us look back at those tense days.

Chapter 10 begins by saying that, on the evening of New Year’s Day in 1887, Oyasama staggered momentarily as She came out of Her bath. Then on January 4, Her health suddenly took a critical turn, so the followers requested Divine Directions through Izo Iburi. Then the following response was given:

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. . . . Sah, shall I withdraw? Shall I end it all?

Osashizu, January 4, 1887

Oyasama then 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 despite Her urgings on the excuse of police oppression, they began to perform the Service in apology every day, from the following day, although in secrecy under the veil of night and behind closed doors. These people’s reaction makes it clear that they had not been performing the Service although fully aware of the importance of performing it. Another indication that the Service had not been performed exactly as instructed by Oyasama is that in July of the previous year, 1886, Oyasama had told the followers:

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

After Oyasama’s physical condition worsened, those close to Her repeatedly held discussions, trying to find a way to respond to God the Parent’s intention—a way that would be acceptable to God—so that Oyasama would recover from illness. Sometimes Her condition would improve a little, but then it would soon worsen. Each time, the followers inquired about the divine intention and held discussions, and they began to move gradually closer to God’s intention, which is to say, they were drawing closer to the decision to perform the Service as instructed by Oyasama.

During those tense days of interaction between God and human beings, between the Parent and children, a particularly poignant dialogue took place early on the morning of January 13, 1887, between the first Shinbashira and Oyasama at Her bedside. To the inquiries he made, Oyasama responded with stern yet thorough and painstaking instructions. The first Shinbashira expressed his strong anxieties to Her, saying, “It is difficult to perform the Service because of the civil law.” He also said, “Please give us a directive that will uphold both the directions of God and the laws of the country.” However, Oyasama continued to insist that the people implement what She had already taught. She also said:

If there are no difficulties, the mind cannot be truly set.

Thus, through the great knot of difficulty of Oyasama’s deteriorating physical condition, She was urging the followers to make up their minds to implement the Service. At this, the first Shinbashira said: “You taught us that the souls of the instruments and models of human creation were born at this Residence, that You descended to this Residence because it is the Jiba where the creation of human beings and the world began, and that the souls of the rulers and our souls are the same. If we are asked about these points, how are we to answer? We do not know. We cannot defy the law.”

Then Oyasama said:

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.

Thus She explained kindly and in simple terms.

She was saying that it was Tsukihi, God the Parent, who created the world and human beings in the first place. Laws were made by human beings. Although the followers were saying that they could not perform the Service because of the laws, the most important thing was to set the mind to accord completely with the intention of God, the Parent of Origin. Oyasama was teaching them that, instead of merely being aware of the importance of the Service, what was of vital importance was to let go of their human thinking and implement the Service exactly as it was taught. She was training them to have the spirit to bring themselves into complete accord with Her teachings—which is to say, God the Parent’s intention—even at the risk of their lives, if necessary. She was, as it were, providing Her final instruction to conclude the fifty-year Divine Model.

This instruction was not simply intended for the early followers who were close to Oyasama back then but was to provide crucial guidelines for those who, in later times, would find themselves caught in dilemmas between single-heartedness with God and human thinking in various difficult circumstances. In light of the subsequent history of the path, I believe that it was certainly thanks to this instruction—the final instruction contained in the Divine Model—that Tenrikyo was able to survive extremely difficult situations that could have affected the fate of this path, such as when the Home Ministry, so alarmed by Tenrikyo’s explosive growth during the late 1880s and the 1890s, issued a special directive to suppress Tenrikyo and when, after the country was put on a war footing in the 1930s, Tenrikyo was forced to change the way of performing the Service and recall the Scriptures.

Today, the freedom of religion is guaranteed and, indeed, there is no legal obstruction restricting our lives of faith. Yet I have a feeling that there are various situations where we may find ourselves faced with a dilemma between single-heartedness with God and human thinking. Even where practices such as the service and salvation work are concerned, we may end up making light of divine truth if we get swept along by human thinking. Reflecting on whether we are not doing so will convince us that the Divine Direction that I quoted a while ago—the passage that explains how everything came into being and that clarifies what we should base our thinking on—is indeed intended for us today as well. In a broader sense, this Divine Direction instructs us to make a point of pondering in light of God the Parent’s intention whenever we feel unsure as to what decisions to make and what actions to take in our daily lives.

On February 18—which is to say, on the lunar calendar date of January 26—the people who had been hesitant, wedged between Oyasama’s critical physical condition and the authorities’ close surveillance, were told by Oyasama, “Sah, now, at this time, I am in haste” and “[D]o you fear the law, the law? [Or do] you fear God?” Eventually they resolved to perform the Service, willing to accept any consequences that could come their way. Oyasama, however, withdrew from physical life as the Service came to a close.

According to contemporary records, the Service on that day involved men performing some roles to be played by women and an insufficient number of people participating. In terms of outward form, the Service was not necessarily complete. However, the fact that Oyasama appeared contented probably means that, regardless of the outward imperfection, She accepted the people’s true sincerity.

Initially, they had been unable to bring themselves to implement the Service despite knowing Oyasama’s intention for them to do so because of their fears that openly performing the Service would immediately result in policemen coming to arrest Oyasama, who was quite advanced in age. Subsequently, in response to Her health disorder, these people repeatedly inquired about the divine intention, held discussions, and made resolutions, thereby gradually coming closer to the intention of the Parent until, eventually, they performed the Service on that fateful day. It was with infinite parental love that Oyasama used all possible means to train these people to have the spirit to commit themselves totally to single-heartedness with God when a crucial moment was at hand, and She continued this effort until they embraced that spirit.

Miraculously, no policemen came, thus allowing the Service to be duly concluded. The Service performers were in high spirits upon completing the Service, convinced that Oyasama would now make a recovery, yet they were told that She had withdrawn from physical life. They fell into a state of utter shock and despair. Later, however, realizing that this would get them nowhere, they pulled themselves together and requested a Divine Direction. 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

The people were told that out of love for all human beings, God’s children, God had shortened Oyasama’s physical life by twenty-five years and opened the portals of the Shrine in order to work actively to “save the world from now” by leveling the ground everywhere. There was a huge gap between the followers’ wish and God the Parent’s intention. The people performed the Service, fully prepared to face any consequences for themselves, in the earnest hope that Oyasama would recover from illness, whereas God the Parent intended that they become totally single-hearted with God and perform the Service regardless of whatever was happening.

The second Shinbashira—who often quoted the Divine Direction that says, “[T]he principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth” (Osashizu, February 29, 1896)—repeatedly explained that Oyasama taught the path to the Joyous Life out of parental love for all human beings, Her children, and withdrew from physical life to hasten their spiritual growth, also out of parental love, and that, therefore, the underlying motivations behind both of these actions are one and the same, namely, parental love for all of us.

Children might wish that, given such parental love, the Parent would stay with them forever to guide them. However, the Parent’s intention was explained in the following Divine Direction, delivered on the day after Her funeral:

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.

Osashizu, February 24, 1887

Oyasama decided to withdraw from physical life to begin guiding human beings in Her role as the everliving Oyasama because She was concerned that, if things were allowed to remain as they were, the path of world salvation might be delayed.

Saying, “I have descended here to save all humankind” (The Life of Oyasama, chap. 1), God the Parent had revealed the ultimate teachings to save all human beings, God’s beloved children, and lead them to the Joyous Life because of parental love. For fifty years thereafter, Oyasama made arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation and demonstrated the path of the Divine Model. Then saying, “[I shall] save the world from now,” She shortened Her physical life and began guiding us by virtue of Her eternal life in order to hasten salvation. It is truly profound and immeasurable parental love that was behind all this.

Bearing this in mind, all of us in the Tenrikyo community have worked together to carry out the pre-anniversary activities in order to respond to Oyasama’s intention in going to the extent of even withdrawing from physical life in order to hasten salvation. Yet Oyasama’s anniversary is not the finish line. It is but a milestone on our long journey toward the salvation of all humankind and the realization of the Joyous Life World. In Tenrikyo we have regarded the anniversaries of Oyasama as milestones on the long journey or as once-a-decade junctures whereby we reaffirmed our ultimate goal and made a concerted effort to carry out the anniversary-related activities including material and spiritual construction, with our minds oriented toward the common goal. Such is the way the path has reached where it is today. As of today we will be engaging in the steady and sustained activities that we conduct in ordinary times. Nevertheless, instead of letting the pre-anniversary momentum fall away, it is essential to maintain it and build on it as we carry out our activities from now.

Having completed the Oyasama 130th Anniversary Service and begun thinking about our work ahead, I strongly feel that there is a particularly urgent need to nurture and train human resources that can carry the path forward in the times ahead. More specifically, I believe that it is necessary to devote our energy to nurturing Yoboku who will work to build the Joyous Life World and to increasing the number of such Yoboku. Nurturing people cannot be accomplished overnight; it takes time and effort. Today, having performed the Anniversary Service, we need to take a fresh look at where we stand and, adopting a long-range perspective, we must commit ourselves to conducting activities aimed at nurturing and increasing the number of those who will shoulder the work of the path in the coming generations.

This path is a path that seeks to realize the Joyous Life World by saving all humankind, regardless of how many generations it might take to accomplish it. We are taught:

Because it continues, it can be called a path.

Osashizu, May 21, 1906

The path—which our predecessors helped to build by working hard to spread the teachings—would not lead to the destination if we let it come to an end. Admittedly there will probably be twists and turns along the way, but the main thing is to ensure that the path continues without interruption and leads to a broad path that will take us all to the Joyous Life.

When we talk about nurturing, perhaps we tend to think of nurturing young people. However, there is no difference between the young and the old in terms of nurturing Yoboku. At present, the term “Yoboku” refers to those who have received the truth of the Sazuke. The truth of the Sazuke is what was referred to in the Divine Direction I quoted a while ago, the Direction that was delivered shortly after Oyasama withdrew from physical life. It said: “[T]here 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.” The truth of the Sazuke began to be bestowed more widely after that Divine Direction. As Yoboku—who received the truth of the Sazuke, which had become more widely available—started actively to help save others and to spread the teachings, many instances of wondrous salvation began to occur in various places, thereby enabling the followers to become high-spirited since they considered those instances to be proof that Oyasama was indeed everliving.

Today, anyone who attends the complete series of nine Besseki lectures and applies for the truth of the Sazuke can receive it. However, during the period following Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, the truth of the Sazuke used to be bestowed through the Honseki as he delivered a Divine Direction to each recipient individually. As the number of those wishing to receive the truth of the Sazuke gradually increased, the Besseki lectures began to be delivered and, by 1889, what we now know as the Besseki system had been more or less established. In the early days, the Besseki lectures were attended by those who already had some experience in the practice of the faith and a fair understanding of the basic teachings and wished to receive the truth of the Sazuke at any cost in order to play a more active role in saving others. From this we can see that those who have received the truth of the Sazuke cannot necessarily be said to have grown spiritually into mature Yoboku if they do not administer the Sazuke. So an important way of nurturing and developing human resources is to sincerely guide and work with Yoboku who are not using the Sazuke so that they may start administering the Sazuke proactively and with conviction.

A while ago, I mentioned the need to nurture people from a long-range perspective. One aspect of that is to wait and be willing to spend time, instead of seeking quick results. As you are aware, the teachings of the path are often explained by analogy with agricultural work. Take the Mikagura-uta, for example. In Song One, as well as elsewhere, we find many agricultural terms such as “fertilizer,” “rich harvest,” “grow and reap,” “full harvest,” “field,” “seeds,” “sowing seeds,” and “seed of everything.” We sow seeds because we trust the principles of nature, whereby the seeds that have been sown will in due course sprout, subsequently blossom, and eventually bear fruit, returning what we sowed many times over. After sowing seeds, we need to wait patiently until the harvest. Yet, rather than wait and do nothing, we need to water the soil, apply fertilizer, and take measures to prevent crop disease and pest problems. In this manner we need to take care of our crops on a daily and as-needed basis. If we wish to reap a good harvest, we need to make commensurate efforts to provide care and nurture.

Another important thing, besides waiting, is that we should not miss the season. We cannot expect a good harvest from seeds that were sown out of season. There is also a season for harvesting. Harvesting too early or too late can ruin the fruits of our work. This is what is taught in the following Divine Directions:

Will a seed sprout on the day it is sown? You need to attend to it, applying fertilizer there and fertilizer here. If you do not attend to it, if you do not fertilize or weed, it will not produce fruit. Even if you try various ways based on human thinking, they will not succeed. Bear in mind the divine providence of each day and the truth of years.

Osashizu, November 21, 1901

People come and sow seeds every day. They simply sow seeds. If they pay attention to the truth of the seasonable time and sow seeds accordingly, all seeds will bear fruits. If they sow seeds after the seasonable time has passed, the seeds will be swept away and their growth will be slow and limited. This will not do. This will not do at all.

Osashizu, July 31, 1889

As we can see, one aspect of agricultural work is that we need to patiently wait while taking care of the crops in a committed and sustained manner. Another aspect is that there are seasons when we need to do what has to be done, regardless of whatever else we may want to do. I think that the analogy of nurturing agricultural crops fits fairly well with nurturing Yoboku.

There is a difference, however, between people and plants. Human beings have a mind and, therefore, simply being nurtured will not result in their spiritual growth. Nurturing people involves helping to instill in them a proactive desire to grow into Yoboku who will accord with God’s intention. It is also worth noting that the relationship between those who nurture others and those who are nurtured is not a one-way relationship. If we wish to nurture others, our effort to grow spiritually ourselves is an indispensable prerequisite. Also, through working to nurture others, we can make further spiritual growth.

The model we should follow to nurture Yoboku is, of course, to be found in Oyasama’s Divine Model. For about twenty years after the Teaching’s founding, She had no following at all, yet thereafter the Grant of Safe Childbirth served as a path-opener and gradually began to attract people to Her. She guided and nurtured those who would become Yoboku and, moreover, found and trained those who would become performers of the Service. Perhaps we may say that the work Oyasama was doing while providing the Divine Model was totally focused on nurturing and increasing the number of Yoboku who were to build the Joyous Life World. With painstaking care and attention, She tried a variety of means to carefully teach and guide people through Her spoken and written word as well as through Her actions that constituted the Divine Model. Likewise, we should choose a method that is appropriate to the person, time, and situation not only by conveying Oyasama’s teachings in written and other forms of communication but also by demonstrating the teachings through our actions. It is important to give individual care and attention and try a variety of means to teach and guide people. Above all, it is essential to base this endeavor firmly on the parental love of Oyasama, who patiently trained and taught people as if She were nurturing and bringing up young children.

Last year, which was the third and final year of our pre-anniversary activities, Jiba was quite lively because of the pilgrimages aimed at filling the Besseki lecture rooms. I am delighted that this was made possible thanks to your tremendous efforts to bring forth results meeting expectations for the concluding stage. I am sure that there are churches that have greatly increased their vibrancy and enthusiasm through efforts such as these. I would like to ask all of you to continue to maintain the momentum of your work by, for example, helping those who attended their first Besseki lecture to go on to attend further Besseki lectures until they can receive the truth of the Sazuke. What I hope, as I say, is that what you put into the pre-anniversary activities will lead seamlessly to enhanced activities in the post-anniversary period.

In addition to ensuring that the seeds that have been sown over the past “three years, one thousand days” bear fruit, I would like you to conduct activities such as those aimed at nurturing people from a long-range perspective as you move forward in a sustained and committed way toward the realization of the Joyous Life World. Please embark on the next stage of the journey in high spirits.

Having shared some thoughts with you today, I would like to conclude now.

Thank you very much for listening.

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