The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service

Please allow me to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to you for coming in such large numbers from near and far to attend the Autumn Grand Service of the 165th year of the Teaching. As we have just completed the Service, I should like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, ask for your attention for a while.

The Autumn Grand Service, as you are aware, commemorates October 26, 1838, the day of origin when God the Parent, taking Oyasama as Shrine, became openly revealed to save all humankind. Today, I should like us to take to heart, once again, the true intention in founding the Teaching and make a renewed pledge to follow the Divine Model of Oyasama, who not only laid the path of single-hearted salvation but also demonstrated it through Her own example, solely out of Her parental love for all humankind, Her children.

The Teaching’s day of origin is also the day that marked the beginning of the path of the Divine Model. Oyasama’s Divine Model commences with Her falling to the depths of poverty in accord with God the Parent’s intention. This is referred to at the outset of The Life of Oyasama’s third chapter, entitled “On the Way”:

Oyasama hastened to obey God the Parent’s command “Fall to the depths of poverty.” First She gave to the needy the personal effects She had brought with Her when She married, then food, clothes, money, and so forth, one after another.

The change Oyasama underwent was so complete that it brought torment to Her husband, Zenbei, as well as other relatives, and invited derision and laughter from members of the general public. On the other hand, impoverished people from the surrounding countryside came to Her house yearning to bask in Her mercy, until at last every storehouse on the premises was completely emptied. Making no distinction among them, She gave, out of Her parental love, to everyone who came to Her door begging for help. She would say: “Whoever comes to this house shall never leave without being filled with joy.”

After Oyasama had given away all the household goods, one day God demanded of Zenbei in one of the Timely Talks: “Dismantle the mansion.” At God’s urging, which was expressed through Oyasama’s physical affliction, the people had no choice but to start removing the roof tiles, whereupon Oyasama recovered from Her illness. This situation continued for a while, until God the Parent finally ordered Zenbei to pull down the gable walls.

“Gable walls” refers to an architectural element of a roof style where a gently sloping roof is topped by a steeply pitched gable roof, on either side of which are found white-plastered triangular walls. These walls, called “gable walls,” are said to have functioned to prevent fires. This style of roofing was a status symbol because it added elegance to the house and was costly to construct.

We can appreciate the serious implications of removing the gable walls from The Life of Oyasama’s description of how Nakayamas’ relatives and friends refused to associate with them thereafter and how the villagers derided them and mocked them until at last no one called at the Nakayama house. Presumably, removing the gable walls, which were a symbol of a farming family’s wealth, amounted to an outright denial of the contemporary social values, which placed weight mainly on such things as a family’s social standing and prestige. Consequently, those who considered the preservation of family heritage to be their primary filial duty and virtue were utterly unable to approve of the Nakayamas’ act of removing the gable walls.

The Life of Oyasama says that Zenbei’s relatives objected strongly, telling him that “if he said, after dismantling the mansion, that he had done it because he had been ordered to do so by a woman whom he had taken into the family as his wife, not only would he be at a loss as to what to say to his ancestors, but also he was sure to fall in stature in the public estimation.” One can well imagine Zenbei’s anguish as the head of the Nakayama family, which held the distinction of being the most prominent landowner in the village.

At the same time, I think that patience and tolerance alone would have been insufficient to enable Zenbei to go along with Oyasama for as many as 16 years while She was falling into poverty, beginning with the founding of the Teaching when She started giving unreservedly to the needy and ending with his passing in 1853. From the perspective of common sense, he had every reason to divorce Her. Nonetheless, I have a feeling that at the back of Zenbei’s mind there was something that made him comply with Her demands, despite all the opposition and derision he incurred from the others around him. As Her husband and as head of the Nakayama family, he must have had his reservations about the situation, yet he seems to have sensed something noble or something that rang true in Oyasama’s consistently majestic attitude as well as in Her actions, which were always filled with parental love.

Although there is a tendency to emphasize Zenbei’s predicament of being wedged between Oyasama and the ordinary people of the world, I rather think of him as the one who showed the greatest understanding toward Oyasama during the very difficult period of those early years. It seems fitting, therefore, to perceive Zenbei as having supported the path during its earliest stage.

With the gable walls now removed, Oyasama’s next step was to sell the Nakayama family’s main house. What we learn from the journey Oyasama took toward the depths of poverty is that this path is not to be followed by relying on financial or social power. Rather, those things could, in fact, become obstacles to the path of single-hearted salvation.

On the basis of this, I think there is some cause for concern that there may be a tendency among followers today to become attached to worldly things and to worry about their image and about how they are perceived by society at large. I am concerned that this tendency could impede the progress of the path. All of us need to be careful about this. Although things are not the same as they were in those early days of the path, the core elements of the Divine Model are still applicable as guiding principles for those of us who follow the path today.

I have mainly been talking about Zenbei, but isn’t it possible to say similar things about Shuji, who was 18 years of age when the Teaching was founded and who, we are told, walked about the countryside selling vegetables and firewood, dressed in his montsuki (crested formal garments)?

In addition, we find Kokan emotionally recalling an autumn festival day, saying that she had found herself alone, wistfully looking at the festival procession pass. On another occasion, we find Kokan telling Oyasama that there was no rice left in the house. From these stories we can well imagine what she must have felt as her family went through tremendously difficult circumstances at a time when she was in the bloom of youth. Yet, when we read about Kokan spreading the name of God on the streets of Naniwa or boldly conveying the teachings in response to a barrage of intimidating questions posed by priests with drawn swords, we find no trace of hesitation or reservation in her.

Oyasama’s children must have felt strong worry and anxiety in the early days, yet I believe that hearing Her words and seeing Her behavior must gradually have given rise to a feeling of conviction, and even a sense of mission and pride. Of course, during their long journeys along the path, there must have been days when they were troubled by various things and yet, through those challenging situations, they surely strengthened their conviction of faith.

There is much for us to learn, I think, from the way they continued following the path with conviction, always allowing themselves to be guided by the voice of the Parent under all circumstances. They provided an exemplary model for everyone who aspires to follow in the footsteps of Oyasama. I feel that the stories of their lives also tell us something about how we ought to work with the young, who will carry the path forward in the next generation.

Today, when we are blessed with material comfort that would have been unimaginable in those days, our conviction of faith tends to be weak and to waver, thus resulting in a lack of high-spiritedness. This can give rise to a feeling of insecurity or indecision in those who are trying to follow in our footsteps. We are taught:

However dark a situation may be, you can go through it, depending solely on your state of mind. However bright it may be, you cannot go through it if your mind lacks conviction.

Osashizu, May 29, 1891

Let all of us, therefore, express our gratitude for the great blessings given to us each day and follow the Divine Model. Recalling the hardships the early followers had to endure and finding joy in the splendid state of the present path, let us follow this path with conviction and with pride.

At the beginning of the year, I announced that we shall be observing the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. To help us get into the appropriate frame of mind for conducting our anniversary-related activities, I have decided to issue an Instruction.

Our predecessors saw the anniversaries of Oyasama as marking crucial stages in their quest for spiritual growth and thus spent each anniversary season making a concerted effort to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings, help others be saved, and sow seeds of sincerity at the Jiba. In anticipation of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, as well, I should like all of us Yoboku to decisively orient our minds toward our shared goal and bring forth the fruits of spiritual maturity that will bring joy to God the Parent and Oyasama so that we can respond to the intention of the Parent that was behind the day of origin of the anniversaries of Oyasama.

In Instruction Two, I have tried to indicate what all of us most need to bear in mind in order to conduct our anniversary-related activities in a unity of mind. Now, I should like to read it to you.

[The Shinbashira reads Instruction Two aloud.]

As you must have noticed, Instruction Two places special weight on the implementation of sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping others be saved. That is because I consider this to be the most important aspect of our practice of faith during the present season. I wanted not just church head ministers and missionaries but all Yoboku who have received the Sazuke, the treasure for the salvation of others, to truly awaken to the mission of Yoboku, maintain the mind of saving others, and implement salvation work.

Recalling that this path was revealed in order to save all humankind, all of us connected with the path should always keep our thoughts and actions focused on the salvation of others. I have decided that strengthening our commitment to the salvation of others and implementing salvation work each day should be the pillar of our present anniversary activities. This means that we shall be trying to respond to the intention of the Parent by cultivating the mind of saving others and by implementing salvation work.

Indeed, I believe that we need to reflect deeply once again on whether our mind of saving others isn’t weakening, and on whether we aren’t hesitant or negligent in implementing salvation work. I should like all Yoboku to maintain the mind of saving others and make a point of implementing salvation work. Many, however, seem to hold back from attempting to help others be saved because they consider themselves far from being spiritually mature, much less qualified to save others.

I hope, therefore, that church head ministers and others who take the lead in salvation work will sincerely work with Yoboku to help them fully understand that, although the Sazuke is administered by a Yoboku, it is God the Parent who grants the blessings, and that God the Parent will show free and unlimited blessings in response to the Yoboku’s true sincerity in wanting someone to be saved. If only this is settled in one’s mind, one can take a more confident stance in administrating the Sazuke.

To ensure that we miss no opportunity to administer the Sazuke–not only when a serious illness is involved but even when the illness encountered is not so serious–perhaps one thing we could do would be to make it second nature to administer the Sazuke to our family members and others close to us. My hope is that as many Yoboku as possible will be able to administer the Sazuke while letting go of hesitation and relying fully on God the Parent and Oyasama. Even in cases where the administration of the Sazuke is impossible, there is a way to work for the salvation of someone, and that is to perform a prayer service while praying for that person. Offering our prayers for someone who is distressed or troubled by something would be the first step in the right direction in terms of implementing salvation work. Again, being a really good listener for someone who has problems could lead to salvation work as well. Moreover, besides listening to people’s problems, I hope we shall try to convey the teachings in such a way as to help them change their orientation of mind so that they will come even a step closer into accord with the teachings of God the Parent.

If only your mind is truly accepted by Tsukihi, you will be assured of any salvation whatever.

Ofudesaki VIII:45

As indicated by this verse, the important thing is to exert our true sincerity, which will be accepted by God the Parent.

We are taught the Service as the means of single-hearted salvation. The importance of the Service is surely something you are familiar with. The great importance of the Service is indicated by the fact that Oyasama consistently urged the followers to perform the Service, all the way until She withdrew from physical life.

On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the Service was performed by those willing to risk their lives, yet, at the moment it came to a close, Oyasama, who had been listening contentedly to the joyous sounds of the Service, withdrew from physical life just as peacefully as if She had fallen asleep.

The description of that event as provided in The Life of Oyasama leads us to suspect that not all the musical instruments were played during that performance. In addition, some of the roles for women were actually played by men. Yet, the fact that no external interference occurred during that performance of the Service seems to indicate that, although that performance may not have been perfect in terms of form, God the Parent did accept the sincerity of those who implemented Oyasama’s instruction to let go of their human thinking and selfish concerns and to perform the Service in single-heartedness with God.

Today, no one needs to worry about the police when performing the Service. So, besides the importance of gathering the necessary number of people to perform the dance and play the musical instruments for the service, what is all the more important is our attitude of mind when we perform the service. In this regard, I believe that there is a lot of room for our self-reflection compared with our early predecessors.

Both the Service and the Sazuke were taught to us so that we might reconstruct the world as the Joyous Life. What must be present in those who implement these is the spirit of sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping others be saved.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of Tenrikyo Nioigake Day. For this occasion, we sought to distribute leaflets to every household in the country, and I trust that all of you made even greater efforts than ever. Besides distributing leaflets, there are various other ways in which we sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings, such as doing door-to-door missionary work, spreading the name of God, and giving roadside speeches.

These activities make us feel spirited, especially if we participate in large numbers, yet sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings is hardly a special event as such. It is meant to guide others onto the path that saves them through teaching the Origin. Thus, sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings should lead to salvation work. What this requires is our true sincerity–and patience in repeatedly visiting the same people–which will win others’ trust. What is indispensable in this regard is for us to ensure that we live each day in a manner that is based on the teachings.

All Yoboku are given the Kakisage as their minds’ standard to be maintained for a lifetime. The Kakisage stresses the importance of the mind of sincerity, saying that if we always maintain the mind of sincerity alone, we can receive the free and unlimited blessings. The Kakisage goes on to say:

The mind of saving others is the real truth of sincerity alone and, by this truth of saving others, you are saved.

Indeed, working for the salvation of others is what is most acceptable to God the Parent. While following the path of saving others, we are also able to bask in God the Parent’s free and unlimited workings, whereby we can have the cause of our own illness and other troubles removed and be blessed with salvation.

Moreover the Kakisage tells us:

If there is the truth of sincerity alone in the mind of each of you, complete harmony will come to your families, the one truth will settle. Now, the world will be convinced. Those of you that convince others will have free and unlimited workings by your unchanging truth of sincerity alone.

This passage teaches us that Yoboku, as members of society who have faith in the path, ought to be able to settle their families in harmony and live in a manner that makes the truth of the teachings self-apparent to one and all. The most important thing in this regard, says the Kakisage, is the mind of sincerity.

Many followers tend to avoid making the effort to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings or save others, because they think that these are hard to do. Nonetheless, if you just live in accord with God’s intention while finding joy in any situation, taking it as a blessing of God, others will be convinced that you are indeed a true follower of the path. Moreover, making such an effort will probably help weaken your resistance to sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and engaging in salvation work. What I think is important, therefore, is how you live your lives each day.

We live in an age when we can enjoy ever greater convenience and comfort in our lives, yet it seems to me that religious faith is being neglected and that people’s ethical values and sense of moderation are being lost sight of, with the result that what would have been seen as arrogant self-assertion or selfish pursuit of desires goes unchallenged. This situation will surely lead to unprincipled and idle tendencies but, on the other hand, it is bound to increase people’s thirst for direction and fulfillment in life.

We need to respond to their fervent desire for a true way of living. Given that selfish ways of living will reach a dead end sooner or later, I believe that the duty of Yoboku is to patiently continue trying to reach out to people–even those who do not seem ready to listen now–in the hope of sprinkling the fragrance of the Parent’s intention.

This path is the path of single-hearted salvation leading to the Joyous Life. The Joyous Life of all humankind might only be actualized in the distant future, and we may not be able to savor it during our lifetimes. Yet, we are taught: “When your mind is completely purified, / Then comes paradise” (Mikagura-uta X:4). Indeed, depending solely on our state of mind, we are able to create a joyous life for ourselves and for others around us and to spread it ever more widely.

If only human beings throughout the world have purified their minds and lead lives joyously. . .

Ofudesaki VII:109

What do you think this path is to be? It is solely mutual help among all people in all matters.

Ofudesaki XIII:37

I want you to set your sights on realizing the world of joyousness characterized by the perfect harmony of all, as indicated by these verses. Looking toward the broad path ahead, I want you to sow the seeds of the Joyous Life in your communities and tend those seeds carefully.

Finally, I should like to remind you that the anniversaries of Oyasama are quite different in nature from the services we perform in memory of the deceased. Oyasama is everliving and is providing Her workings for us, now as ever. The significance of observing an anniversary of Oyasama lies in allowing it to provide us with a goal, whereby we will make a decisive and determined effort to respond to Her intention so as to bring joy to Her at all costs. I want to end now by asking all of you to be quite clear about this.

Thank you for listening.

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