On April 19, the day after the Oyasama Birth Celebration Service, the Women’s Association held its 85th annual convention in Church Headquarters’ Inner Courtyard, drawing some 57,000 members including many from overseas. This year being the first year of Tenrikyo’s “three years, one thousand days” season leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, the association used this convention to announce its new activity guidelines designed to help its members work proactively to prepare for the anniversary, scheduled for January 26, 2006.
The convention began at 9:30 A.M., when Association President Harue Nakayama ushered the Shinbashira and the former Shinbashira, as well as other guests, onto the stage. After the opening remarks, all participants joined together in singing the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo, followed by the new members’ pledge made by Tenri Seminary High School first-year student Yuko Ose, who represented those who had newly joined the Women’s Association. After that, a committee member presented a progress report.
President Nakayama then stepped up to the lectern to address the members. She first reminded them that the Women’s Association had long been promoting the slogan for spiritual maturity: “Let’s follow the Divine Model and become the foundation for the Joyous Life.” She said that, to help all members work hard toward living up to that slogan during the present pre-anniversary season, this association had altered its activity guidelines to read: “Let’s be the supporting force for the Oyasama 120th Anniversary activities. (1) Let’s seek and learn the teachings. (2) Let’s impart the joy of faith to those around us. (3) Let’s cultivate the mind of saving others and implement salvation work.” She said: “I hope that each and every member will allow these activity guidelines to take root in her daily life and sow seeds of sincerity by making an honest effort to implement them.” She devoted the rest of her address to explaining the role of women of the path and the things they should keep in mind regarding how to handle their minds and how to conduct the association’s activities.
The Shinbashira next addressed the members. He offered his thoughts on what it meant to “be the supporting force”–their new goal. “‘A supporting force’ is a force that is capable of withstanding the brunt of any difficulties that may arise and of solving any problems caused by them,” he said. “Another aspect of this force is the strong will and actual ability to enhance and develop things toward accomplishing one’s goal. Also inherent in this force is a great power to galvanize those who are asleep, as it were.” He then expressed his expectations for women’s abilities and roles, while at the same time stressing that no distinction is made between men and women in terms of the tasks they perform for the path of single-hearted salvation. He said that women were good at reaching out to people and connecting and joining with them. “There are many in our society who have worries and anxieties about bringing up their children, caring for family members with special needs, and dealing with family problems,” he said. “Listening to those people and trying to understand and connect with them, as well as helping them understand and connect with one another, so that they might transform their mind into the way of thinking that will allow for the Joyous Life would be a fine missionary activity which will serve to convey the path and in which you can give full expression to your role as the ‘supporting force.'”
He went on to remind the members that the original intention in founding their association was to have women follow the “path of bringing one another understanding.” He encouraged them to allow others’ words and actions to help them reflect on themselves, bearing in mind that others are the mirror of their own minds. He said that, if they felt joy at successfully correcting what needed to be corrected about themselves in that way, they could teach this to others. “This,” he said, “represents a fundamental aspect of bringing one another understanding, and the effort to bring understanding to one another embodies a positive stance toward striving to grow spiritually.”
He emphasized that Oyasama had never taught any self-centered way of thinking and that She consistently taught single-heartedness with God–which is to say, the way of thinking, acting, and living that is in accord with the intention of God the Parent. He said that the three-year pre-anniversary season was meant to entice us to implement that teaching. He said that, though Oyasama spent 50 years demonstrating the Divine Model of being single-hearted with God, She did not say that we had to follow the entire 50-year Divine Model but, rather, that, if we persevered in following the path even 3 years out of 50, then we would never be in want nor would we ever suffer.
Before closing, he offered another way of looking at the meaning of observing Oyasama’s anniversaries. “Even if we regard ourselves as consciously following the path of the Divine Model in our daily lives, there are times when we stray into an unfamiliar alley and get lost or when we find ourselves about to deviate from the path,” he said. “The intention in conducting our pre-anniversary activities is to get ourselves back on track and recommit ourselves to following the path of the Divine Model precisely as taught in the Divine Model so that we can bring joy to Oyasama by showing Her our spiritual growth.”