The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2017

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. 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.

As you know well, we perform the Spring Grand Service today because Oyasama withdrew from physical life on the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887. The significance of conducting the Spring Grand Service, therefore, is to give thought to God the Parent’s profound intention contained in Her withdrawal and to take a new step forward in responding to that intention with a fresh mind.

For some time before that fateful day, the followers had been performing the Service every month on the 26th, which has a deep affinity to the founding of the Teaching. On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the first Shinbashira and other followers were hesitant to perform the Service because they were caught up in their worries about Oyasama’s critical condition and their fear over the strict surveillance of police officers, who might come straight away to arrest Oyasama if the Service were performed.

At the sight of the worsening condition of Oyasama, the followers asked for Divine Directions. They were urged to perform the Service by Oyasama, who confronted them, saying: “[D]o you fear the law, the law? Do you fear God?” They finally made up their minds to set about performing the Service, even at the risk of their lives.

Oyasama listened to the cheerful sounds of the Service contentedly. As the performance of the Twelve Songs came to a conclusion, She withdrew from physical life. The anticipated interruption by the police officers did not take place and the Service was safely completed. The followers who performed the Service, earnestly praying for Oyasama’s recovery from illness, were buoyed by high spirits and were confident that Oyasama would be surely restored to health. Contrary to their expectation, however, they learned that Oyasama had withdrawn from physical life.

Whenever I read chapter 10 of The Life of Oya­sama, I cannot help but be moved by the instructions Oyasama gave to those who were unable to bring themselves to perform the Service out of their fear of the repressive measures by the authorities—those instructions that were to conclude Her Divine Model. She used Her own physical condition to guide them sternly at times and patiently and painstakingly at other times, until at last they brought themselves to perform the Service. During the forty-nine-day period that culminated on that day, Oya­sama gave instructions focused on the implementation of the Service, which is the fundamental component of the path, teaching them the basis of their pondering especially when they found themselves in a conflicting situation between God the Parent’s intention and the law of the country. In other words, the instructions urged them to become single-hearted with God, forsaking their human thinking.

What exactly did Oyasama try to teach us through this intense dialogue between God the Parent and us humans, God’s children? The first thing that comes to mind is the importance of performing the Service. She taught us that the Service is so important that we should perform it even at the risk of our lives. She also made clear the order and the basis of our pondering that we followers of the path should keep in mind at all times.

In those days, the Japanese government was promoting Shinto as the state religion. In such a situation, conveying the teachings and performing the Service exactly as taught by Oyasama were quite difficult to do. Let us now look back on some of the things that took place before January 26, 1887. In autumn 1874, Oya­sama said to Gisaburo Nakata and Ichibei Matsuo, “Go to the Oyamato Shrine and ask about their deity.” This led to the interrogation of Oyasama conducted at the Yamamura Palace, and eventually the authorities began to impose strict surveillance on the followers. Subsequently, the Nara Chukyoin—the prefectural institution that promoted the national Shinto indoctrination campaign—forbade Tenrikyo followers from believing in their god, saying that there was no god by the name of Tenri-O. In the following year, Oyasama received a summons from the Nara Prefectural Office and, when She appeared, She was held in custody for interrogation.

During the same period between 1874 and 1875, despite the worries of the early followers over the increasingly intense oppression, Oyasama made great advancement in making preparations for the path of single-hearted salvation. In 1874, the kagura masks were worn in the Service for the first time, and She started to bestow the Proof Amulet on pilgrims. Right after Oyasama came back from the Yamamura Palace, She began wearing red clothes to clarify the truth that She was the Shrine of Tsukihi and bestowed four types of the Sazuke for salvation from illnesses, namely, the Grant of Breath, the Grant of Boiled Rice, the Grant of Hand Dance, and the Grant of the Kanrodai-Teodori. In the following year, 1875, She continued to make steady progress in making arrangements for the path: She identified Jiba, taught the song and the hand movements for “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai,” and introduced eleven kinds of the Service, including the Service for Safe Childbirth. In the meantime, She composed the Ofudesaki verses from Part III through Part XI, explaining the truth behind what She was doing for the path during the two-year period. This fact tells us that Oyasama’s Divine Model and the Ofudesaki are closely related to each other like the two sides of the same coin.

The followers, on the other hand, were trying to avoid the increasingly severe oppression by taking various measures. In 1876, for instance, they obtained a license to operate a steam bath and an inn. In 1880, they contacted the Jifuku Temple, which allowed the Tenrin-O-Kosha to be inaugurated as its affiliate. It goes without saying that those measures were not acceptable to Oyasama, and She strongly admonished them not to apply to the Jifuku Temple even by saying, “If you do such a thing, God the Parent will withdraw.” In 1882, the two completed sections of the stone Kanrodai were confiscated. Subsequently, the articles including the mandala and all of the implements for the Service were confiscated, and Oya­sama was sentenced to a twelve-day detention. On that occasion, the steam bath and the inn were closed down. Toward the end of the year, the Tenrin-O-Kosha was also dissolved. Concerning the closing of the bath and the inn, Oyasama said, “God the Parent has taken them away because the filth was unbearable, unbearable.”

The three years between 1882 and 1884 were the period when Oyasama was subjected to the most severe control by the authorities, with most instances of Oya­sama’s arrest and imprisonment taking place during this period. According to the first Shinbashira’s record, there was not a single day when the police officers did not come. They came to the Residence at all hours of the day and night and investigated all the rooms of the house and every corner of the premises.

Despite the severe oppression, the followers’ faith became more and more fervent, and the Tenrikyo community grew wider and larger.

In the meantime, the followers could not bear to see the aged Oyasama undergo hardships of imprisonment. Many of them thought that they should petition for church sanction and, eventually, they opened the Church Establishment Office. In 1885, they submitted a petition for church sanction to Osaka Prefecture twice although their petition was rejected on both occasions. Concerning those efforts, Oyasama said: “Sah, sah, indeed the Shinbashira is thin at present. But when flesh is added to him, no one knows how great he will become.” She also said: “The core is thin. When the flesh of sincerity is added, he will grow stout.” She thus admonished the followers for being caught up in human thinking and for applying for authorization naming as the leader someone who did not have an affinity to any divine truth. In May 1885, Tenrikyo became a sixth-degree church to be directly supervised by the Shinto Headquarters, which was in charge of all Shinto groups and organizations. As a result, Tenrikyo had to comply with the Shinto Headquarters’ rules and regulations, for instance, by professing to worship some deities that do not even exist in Oyasama’s teachings. It was nothing but a measure taken in utter desperation.

Under such severe circumstances, the followers seem to have been unable to perform the Service in accord with the intention of Oyasama. According to The Life of Oyasama, 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

On January 4, 1887, when Oyasama’s physical condition became so critical that She briefly stopped breathing, the followers “[realized] that this was due to their error of not performing the Service, which Oyasama had long hastened, on the excuse of police oppression.” These descriptions tell us about their hesitation and reluctance to perform the Service.

Because the followers were unable to bring themselves to perform the Service, which is the fundamental component of the path of single-hearted salvation, Oyasama strongly urged the performance of the Service even by pressing them through Her own severe physical condition, which eventually resulted in Her withdrawal from physical life. She was also giving instructions concerning the basis of pondering that should be maintained through what was to be many years of using expediency to conform to the law.

The most important of all instructions given during that time came at the wee hours of the morning on January 13, 1887, when Oyasama patiently and thoroughly responded to the inquiries the first Shinbashira made at Her bedside. In the dialogue regarding the implementation of the Service, he said, “If You permit us to establish Church Headquarters, we shall do as God directs.” Oyasama replied: “About what you ask, I shall leave it to you. You must not forget ever.” This is considered as the permission directly given by Oyasama for Church Headquarters to be established.

The first Shinbashira went on to ask how to respond if asked about the Story of Creation and told Oyasama that humans could not defy the law. The following words were given:

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.

The Life of Oyasama
, p. 231

Indicating the order of how things came to be, She explained that the most important thing is to settle the mind and resolve to be in full accord with the intention of God the Parent, who created humankind and the world, even though he had said that humans could not defy the law.

It is true that human beings should abide by law. Yet, law is subject to change according to the times and its administrators because it is something that humans institute for themselves. Oyasama tells us that we cannot compare it with God’s intention, which is fundamental and remains unchanged. Having clarified their order, Oyasama says that we should firmly maintain the spirit of single-heartedness with God under any circumstances.

The Service that the followers performed even at the risk of their lives was completed miraculously without any interruption. Contrary to their expectation, however, Oyasama withdrew from physical life as the Service ended. The early followers fell into a state of utter shock and despair. Yet, they managed to regain their senses and made an inquiry for Divine Directions through Izo Iburi. The following words came:

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.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 240

Upon hearing that Oyasama continues to work for world salvation, the followers were finally able to pull themselves together.

There is nothing more assuring and encouraging than the fact that Oyasama continues to guide us, now, as ever before, even after She withdrew from physical life. The best proof of Her continuing work was the fact that they were able to listen to God the Parent’s intention through the mouth of the Honseki. Further proof was innumerable instances of wondrous salvation that appeared when the followers administered the truth of the Sazuke, which was widely bestowed on people after Oyasama’s withdrawal.

The general public assumed that Tenrikyo was finished. However, we read in Kohon Nakayama Shinnosuke den (Biography of Shinnosuke Nakayama—manuscript edition):

After Oyasama withdrew from physical life, the heads and other board members of fellowships throughout the country took the lead, and all Yoboku joined, in making a concerted effort to carry out salvation work with utmost sincerity, thinking that there was no other time but then to work at full throttle while assuming full responsibility to assist in the work of Oyasama, who opened the portals of the Shrine and stepped out to level the ground throughout the world. Thanks to their sincere efforts, instances of wondrous salvation were shown one after another, and the path extended and spread ever more widely.

In the midst of such an enthusiastic atmosphere, the First Anniversary of Oyasama was observed. On that day, the followers performed the Kagura Service from five o’clock in the morning. Subsequently, when the Service prayer for the First Anniversary was being read, the head officer of the Ichinomoto Branch Police Station along with eight other officers came and ordered the proceedings to be discontinued. Some 30,000 followers who had gathered for the occasion were dispersed by the officers. When the Residence became quiet, the head officer showed up again and told the first Shinbashira that the law prohibited gathering a large group of people without permission from the government and that he should go through the proper procedure and obtain permission from the government.

After this difficult knot of the First Anniversary, the followers’ effort to establish Church Headquarters gained great momentum. Eventually, they decided not to apply in Osaka, where they had previously been rejected a number of times, but in Tokyo, instead. To submit the application, the first Shinbashira personally went to Tokyo. On April 10, 1888, which was only a month after the First Anniversary, the permission was granted.

Since the first Shinbashira had made strenuous efforts to submit the application though prepared for the worst, the news of official permission must have brought tremendous joy. Right after the permission was granted, they began making inquiries for Divine Directions, for example, asking whether or not they would be permitted to give the sacred rice at Church Headquarters in Tokyo. Also, a number of local fellowships requested divine sanction to establish themselves as subordinate churches. God the Parent did not grant approval and said, instead:

On things that require you to hasten now, you must hasten, hasten. Where haste is not required, not required, you must not hasten.

Osashizu, July 2, 1888

When further inquiry was made, God replied:

For the cause of the ease of mind, I have temporarily settled truth at a different place for the time being. It is to put your minds at ease in your relations with the world. Now I shall settle the truth at the Jiba. There is a vast difference between the truth of the Jiba and the truth of the world. They change the place and call it the headquarters, the headquarters. Even the authorities say this. People say the headquarters is over there but they do not understand anything at all. Because the one truth exists at the Jiba, peace will reign in the world. The Jiba exists, therefore peace will reign in the world. Sah, sah, set your minds.

Osashizu, July 2, 1888

Oyasama thus hastened the followers to relocate Church Headquarters to Jiba as soon as possible. Saying that Church Headquarters in Tokyo was only for the ease of mind, Oyasama repeatedly explained the weighty truth of the one and only Jiba and stressed the importance of upholding the truth of Jiba. Due to the severe, harsh responses they had received in Nara Prefecture in the past, the followers were concerned that the official permission might be rescinded if they petitioned for the relocation of Church Headquarters to Nara Prefecture. Due to Oya­sama’s repeated urgings for relocation, they finally began the procedure. Without any mishaps that they feared might happen, the permission for relocation was soon granted. On November 29, 1888, the opening ceremony for Tenrikyo Church Headquarters was conducted at the Residence of Origin.

Subsequently, two branch churches in 1888 and ten branch churches in the following year, 1889, were established. In this way, the existing fellowships in various regions applied for establishment as branch churches, and the Tenrikyo community grew by leaps and bounds.

Those fellowships that had been formed by then were based on the words of Oyasama “Form fellowships.” A fellowship or ko is also mentioned in the Mikagura-uta verse that reads, “Since firmly we are determined to believe, / Let us form a brotherhood [ko]” (V:10).

When some followers asked Oyasama how they could make repayment for the blessings they received, Oyasama told them, “Help others be saved.” Out of their joy of being saved themselves, they set out to spread the teachings in high spirits. In due course, those who were guided by them and shown wondrous salvation began to gather and naturally came to form fellowships. The fellowships that had thus been formed in many parts of the country used the momentum built by the establishment of Church Headquarters to apply for the establishment of branch churches, one after another.

Concerning regional churches such as these, a Divine Direction reads:

In local communities, the truth of a church name has been bestowed from heaven one by one. Sah, sah, the matter concerning the days to come is that I am looking forward to a broad path. . . . Sah, sah, calling it a Tenrikyo church, you established it in your community. It is the path conforming to the world and the law. It is nothing but a beginning. Now, you are to begin following the path of single-heartedness with God.

Osashizu, April 18, 1889

Just as God hastened to relocate Church Headquarters to Jiba right after the official permission was granted, this Divine Direction puts an emphasis on upholding the truth of single-heartedness with God without slackening our mind’s attention.

In other words, obtaining sanction to establish a church meant that we now have a container, so to speak. Yet, we should now start making the effort to fill that container with the sincerity that is single-hearted with God. This being the main goal, establishing a church may be seen as only an expedient, temporary means.

The great difficulties endured over many years culminating in those events that took place around the time Oyasama withdrew from physical life should not merely be regarded as unfortunate past occurrences that highlight how fortunate we are today to enjoy freedom without much constraint. Since we are able to follow the path exactly as taught by Oyasama, we should make all the more effort to establish the firm conviction of faith that is single-hearted with God, share it in wider and wider circles, and convey it to the next generation, so that the path will continue through endless generations.

Single-heartedness with God entails a way of thinking, making decisions, and living that is fully in accord with God the Parent’s intention under any circumstances. Thus, our churches should have the spirit of seeking the path, the spirit of inquiring into the intention of God the Parent and delving into the truth of the teachings deeply and thoroughly. It is Oyasama who taught us humans about the intention of God the Parent, and it is through the fifty-year path of the Divine Model that She personally demonstrated a way of living that fully accords with God’s intention.

The intention of God the Parent, first and foremost, is to save all human beings throughout the world, as expressed in the words of revelation that came at the time of the Teaching’s founding. This is connected to God’s intention in creating us human beings for the purpose of seeing us lead the Joyous Life and sharing in our joy.

The mission of our churches is to work for world salvation so as to realize the Joyous Life World. This is the reason why our churches are seen as training centers for single-hearted salvation and are expected to set a good example of the Joyous Life in their local communities. Local churches, being training centers for single-hearted salvation, are places where their members pray for the salvation of those suffering from illnesses and other troubles. They are also places for their members to visit to offer their thanks for the daily blessings they receive. They are places for the followers of the path to gather and strive to achieve further spiritual growth. They are also facilities that provide the footing for people to go out to help save others with the joy of being saved themselves.

The Joyous Life so desired by God the Parent is the state of the world that has the togetherness of a family—a family of God as the Parent and human beings as God’s children—the state where human beings respect and help one another as brothers and sisters. Our churches exist for the purpose of realizing that state of the world, and each of them should be like one big family with all its Yoboku and followers contributing to a friendly, happy atmosphere. Only then can the church set a good example of the Joyous Life to society at large. I hope that our churches are places where their members can come and go as if their churches are their own home, places where even people who are depressed can find peace of mind and feel refreshed. In order for the churches to attract people, the head minister should be fully aware of his or her role and those living there should be mindful of the way they handle their minds. In the meantime, I would like other Yoboku and followers to make it a point to stay connected with God the Parent and Oyasama by visiting their respective churches as often as possible.

We may have a long way to go before realizing the Joyous Life of all people throughout the world. Toward the grand goal, members of our churches should unite their minds and make steady progress along the path of spiritual growth, taking one step at a time. This done, the Joyous Life will be shared in wider and wider circles. We are still in the process of growing spiritually. Yet if we maintain a sense of gratitude for the blessings of God the Parent, critically reflect upon our own mind with the teachings as the standard, and strive to help one another in a church setting, we will be able to reflect the spirit of the Joyous Life in our respective local communities, embraced by the parental love of God the Parent and Oyasama.

Things happening in the world may make us feel as though humankind is becoming increasingly removed from the goal we are trying to achieve. This is why the role of our churches is all the more significant. I hope that you convey the joy of faith to those around you, starting with your own family, and set a good example of the Joyous Life in your community through implementing mutual help.

Please continue to carry out the work of the path in high spirits during this year. Having made that request, I now would like to conclude my sermon.

Thank you very much for listening.

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