Sermon at the Spring Grand Service, January 26, 2003

I am truly thankful that so many of you have come from near and far to attend today’s Spring Grand Service, which we have duly been able to conclude.

On this occasion, I want to suggest that we once again take to heart the Parent’s intention that was behind the day of origin of this Grand Service and consider the thoughts and feelings of the people in those days in order to help us reflect once again on our own stance of mind and on our way of performing our tasks so that we may advance our steps of spiritual growth with a fresh and clear mind.

As I wish to share some of my thoughts with you in this regard, may I ask for your attention for a while?

The first thing that comes to mind regarding the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service is the fact that Oyasama–who had been listening contentedly to the sounds of the Service being performed by those who undertook the Service performance even at the risk of their lives–withdrew from physical life as the Service came to an end.

Another thing is the training that Oyasama provided for those people during the period preceding that fateful day. I refer to the intense manner in which She was demanding their performance of the Service, even going to the extent of confronting them with Her own critical physical condition.

While being fully aware that Oyasama was instructing them to perform the Service, those people were unable to bring themselves to perform it. Oyasama took truly painstaking care in teaching and guiding them until they were finally able to make up their minds to perform the Service in full accord with Her intention.

When I was younger, the inability of those people to come to a decision to perform the Service, as instructed by Oyasama, made me impatient each time I read The Life of Oyasama. Yet, as I started to imagine being in their position and wonder if I could have performed the Service in accord with Her intention had I been in their position at that time, I realized that it was totally irresponsible of me to feel impatient. It was under extremely difficult circumstances that Oyasama was teaching and training those people, whose full measure of sincerity was yet unable to meet Her intention. I am sure that the heartrending exchanges between the Parent and the children are beyond our imagination.

It goes without saying that, through Her dialogue with the followers, Oyasama was impressing upon them the importance of performing the Service. Yet, equally important, I believe that ultimately She was demanding that they put aside their own personal concerns and become single-hearted with God in implementing what She was teaching them, exactly as She taught it. In order to help them work with their minds so they could do that, Oyasama spent many days teaching and training those people as thoroughly as possible. That training, I believe, was not merely meant for those people back then but for everyone who would follow in their footsteps, including all of us.

They tried desperately to find a way to have Oyasama’s physical condition improve. Those close to Her held repeated discussions, besides asking Her directly for Her instructions from time to time, telling Her about the difficulty of their position. In terms of the performance of the Service, they began by performing it in secrecy, under the veil of night, behind closed gates. Later, they brought themselves to perform the Kagura and the Dance with the Hand Movements every night. Eventually, they even performed the Service in broad daylight with the inclusion of the musical instruments. This whole process of training, which represents the final stage of the fifty-year Divine Model, culminated in the performance of the Service on January 26, 1887.

Today, there is nothing that prevents us from performing the Service. This is not to say that it is easy for us to become single-hearted with God in performing the Service. I cannot help but think that Oyasama’s training with regard to the Service was meant to teach not only the importance of the Service but also the importance of making our mind single-hearted with God and basing all our actions on that mind. Her training provided us with a dependable guide to help us ponder so that we can allow that to occur.

If we accept this line of thinking, the first thing that we must reflect critically on is how we are performing our daily and monthly services. Is there perhaps some cause for concern that we are taking these services for granted or simply going through the motions of performing the services just because the times or days for them have arrived? I would like to suggest that we try to ensure that we perform the services by purifying the mind so that God the Parent will accept them and become spirited.

Perhaps we are well aware that this is what we must do. Yet, aren’t there areas that we are neglecting because of our preoccupation with other things? Given that we have no legal restrictions on our performance of the service at the present time, I want to suggest that, beyond simply performing the Service, we focus all the more on straightforwardly implementing those areas of our practice of faith that Oyasama no doubt wants us to put into practice.

Quoting the Divine Direction that says, “Concerning the twenty-sixth, the principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth” (Osashizu, February 29, 1896), the second Shinbashira explained that the day of origin of the Teaching and the day of origin when Oyasama withdrew from physical life are one in truth in the sense that they are both based on the parental love for the children, all human beings.

As you are fully aware, this path has been making progress with each anniversary of Oyasama’s withdrawal, while regarding Her anniversaries as marking crucial stages for spiritual growth. At present, indeed, we are working together to powerfully advance single-hearted salvation in preparation for the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. Theoretically, we could base our crucial stages for spiritual growth on certain periods of time measured from the founding of the Teaching. It might make some sense to determine the important stages on the basis of the number of years since the arrival of the Promised Time, which has its roots in human creation.

Nonetheless, the phrase “one in truth” does not really mean that two things are exactly the same; rather, it means that there is one underlying truth behind them. The significance of the Grand Service in January and that of the Grand Service in October are not the same. While there may be various ways in which to ponder this, it seems to me to be quite natural for this path to have endeavored to make progress with each of Oyasama’s anniversaries, which have been seen as crucial stages for spiritual growth.

This is because all the teachings, I feel, are condensed into the day of origin of Oyasama’s anniversaries. Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life marked the conclusion of the fifty-year path of the Divine Model. The training She provided prior to that event consisted in urging the implementation of the Service, which was taught as the fundamental means for the path of single-hearted salvation. At the same time, that training urged the people to let go of human thinking and decisively become single-hearted with God.

The conclusion of the path of the Divine Model also marked the beginning of the path illumined by the guidance of the everliving Oyasama–which is the path that has continued down to the present day and will continue through all generations to come. Indeed, the many instances of wondrous salvation that occur through the administration of the Sazuke, which began to be bestowed widely following Her withdrawal, provide the most powerful evidence for the workings of the everliving Oyasama. The day of origin that is commemorated by Oyasama’s anniversaries signaled the completion of all the arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation and marked the beginning of our journey on the path that enables us to receive the everliving Oyasama’s guidance while endeavoring to reconstruct the world as the Joyous Life.

Thinking along these lines, I feel it is imperative that we strive to our utmost to respond to the Parent’s intention by having new “buds” sprout from the “knot”–or the crucial juncture–represented by the upcoming anniversary while emulating the dedication and enthusiasm of our predecessors who joined their sincere efforts in preparing for Oyasama’s anniversaries.

The 120th Anniversary of Oyasama will be the fourteenth anniversary we will have observed. I want to take this opportunity to present a brief overview of the past anniversaries in the hope that it may help us inquire into the right frame of mind for preparing for the next anniversary and ponder how we ought to conduct our pre-anniversary activities.

The First Anniversary of Oyasama ended up being unexpectedly interrupted by the police. This event, however, led to a drive to obtain the authorities’ approval to establish a church and, in April of the same year, the Tenrikyo Church was officially recognized in Tokyo. On the basis of a Divine Direction, the Church was relocated to Jiba in July of that year.

The legal recognition of Tenrikyo, albeit as a religion belonging to Shinto, brought about much momentum resulting in the establishment of a number of churches in various districts, and it is reported that the Fifth Anniversary was in fact attended by well over one hundred thousand people. In the intervening years, the Besseki system was established, enabling the truth of the Sazuke to be bestowed on more and more people.

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, the path is said to have spread like wildfire, and it is recorded that the number of followers around the time of the 10th Anniversary of Oyasama exceeded three million. Perhaps feeling threatened by this rapid growth of Tenrikyo, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a secret directive designed to suppress Tenrikyo. Consequently, the growth of Tenrikyo stalled temporarily. Yet, that situation also gave rise to a movement to obtain sectarian independence, allowing for the gradual systematization of the organizational structure and of the doctrines.

Up to the time of the 20th Anniversary of Oyasama, everything was conducted on the basis of the Divine Directions, but I do not find any record to show that Tenrikyo, as a whole, conducted any organized pre-anniversary activities. The first instance of a pre-anniversary activity conducted by Tenrikyo as a whole was the construction of the Main Sanctuary, which was called for in the so-called Hundred-day Divine Directions, which were delivered immediately after the 20th Anniversary–that is to say, shortly before the Honseki passed away.

This Direction was in stark contrast to what had happened at the time of the 10th Anniversary, when the followers’ request for permission to construct the Main Sanctuary and the Foundress’ Sanctuary was turned down by a Divine Direction that said: “To give complete satisfaction to My children is what pleases Me” (Osashizu, November 14, 1895). That Direction had told the followers to give priority to taking care of those returning to Jiba. The Hundred-day Divine Directions, however, instructed the followers to build the Main Sanctuary–despite the difficult financial situation in which Church Headquarters found itself.

The followers responded to that instruction by pledging to work their fingers to the bone to fulfill their tasks. This pledge represented their firm determination to seize every opportunity to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and help others be saved in order that the material construction could be accomplished.

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