The 35th English class of Shuyoka (the three-month Spiritual Development Course), which is drawing to a close, began in the Home of the Parent on April 1 as part of the 816th session of Shuyoka, which has a total of 621 students (as of June 18). This year, 24 participants have gathered from 11 countries: six from Nepal, three each from the U.S.A. and the Philippines, two each from Canada, Australia, Kenya, and France (residents of Martinique), and one each from Cambodia, Singapore, Italy, and Uganda. The instructors for this year’s English class are Rev. Baron Toshio Kimura, head minister of Kakaako Church in Hawaii, and Rev. Shugo Yamanaka, formerly associate professor of Religious Studies at Tenri University and presently staff member of Tenrikyo Overseas Department. Rev. Kimura serves as the homeroom instructor and teaches the classes on The Doctrine of Tenrikyo and the service dance, while Rev. Yamanaka teaches the classes on The Life of Oyasama and the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Service.
Prior to the start of Shuyoka, the Overseas Department conducted a weeklong preliminary training session at Moya 132, aiming to help the English class students get used to life in the Home of the Parent by studying and boarding together so that they could make an easier transition to life in their respective followers dormitories.
Rev. Kimura commented as follows: “The English class this year drew students with a great variety of backgrounds. They come from various parts of the world, some from as far away as Africa. They have different levels of prior knowledge or understanding of Tenrikyo and even different levels of comprehending English. They came to attend Shuyoka for a variety of reasons or motives. But one thing they have in common is a very strong desire to learn the teachings of God the Parent and to sow the seeds of sincerity in Jiba. Throughout Shuyoka, I have tried to emphasize the attitude of ‘trust in God.’ Through the various troubles and illnesses shown to us, including myself, during the three months, we have really learned the importance of trusting in God the Parent and Oyasama under any circumstance. When they go back to their respective countries after Shuyoka, they will surely keep implementing the teachings.”
The daily schedule of Shuyoka is basically the same for all students whether in the English class or in a Japanese class. Their day starts with going to the Main Sanctuary for the morning service. After the service, they return to their dormitories and engage in a morning training program before departing for Shuyoka. In the mornings, they attend classes on The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, The Life of Oyasama, and the Mikagura-uta as well as practice sessions for the service dance. In the afternoons, students practice the musical instruments for the service and engage in hinokishin at various sites around the Home of the Parent. After returning to their dormitories, they engage in cleaning hinokishin, attend the evening service, and participate in training programs.
In addition, they periodically have “Sanctuary cleanings”―in which all the Worship Halls and Corridors are thoroughly cleaned twice a day by Shuyoka students. The morning Sanctuary cleaning starts an hour before the morning service, thus making it necessary for Shuyoka students to rise as early as 3:00 A.M. Attending the Besseki lectures―three each month―is also an important part of Shuyoka life for students who have yet to receive the truth of the Sazuke. This year, 15 students of the English class became new Yoboku upon the bestowal of the Sazuke on June 22.
A Close Look at the Students
Jonathan Rodriguez, 26, a Filipino follower belonging to Kozan Branch Church, made the following comment on his way to the morning service at the Main Sanctuary of Church Headquarters: “Every time I look up at the Main Sanctuary, I remember the emotions I had when I first returned to Jiba to attend Shuyoka.”
Jonathan came to Japan this past March to attend Shuyoka. “When we drove to Jiba from my church in Nagoya, I saw this huge sanctuary in front of me,” says Jonathan. “I could not believe that I was standing at the same place I saw in a picture at the Mission Center in the Philippines.”
In 2006, Jonathan’s mother, who had been working in Japan, began to go to Kozan Branch Church when she had some troubles to deal with. Later she attended the Besseki lectures. When she went back to the Philippines, she showed the service dance to her son, saying, “You should also learn the teachings of Tenrikyo.”
At the recommendation of his mother, Jonathan visited the mission center, where he saw the service performance for the first time. “I felt so peaceful when I heard the Mikagura-uta and the musical instruments sung and played in harmony. That is how I became interested in the teachings of Tenrikyo. My mother must have felt something powerful from the service, too. I believe that is why she encouraged me to follow the path. I entered Shuyoka at the recommendation of Rev. Seiji Yamagishi, the head of the Mission Center in the Philippines. I feel so delighted every day for being able to perform the service with many people,” says Jonathan with a happy twinkle in his eyes.
However, the language barrier is huge for the English class students. It is not easy for them to understand the Mikagura-uta and memorize the songs in Japanese. Nancy Kansakar, 35, a follower belonging to Church Headquarters, is from Kathmandu, Nepal. Looking back on her experiences, she says, “I had to read the English commentary of the Mikagura-uta over and over again in order to memorize the songs. But I came to be able to sing the songs naturally as I gradually began to understand God’s intention woven into the songs.”
When Nancy attended the Joyous Life Lecture held at the Mission Station in Nepal, she was moved by a video that showed scenes from the Home of the Parent. “In the video many people of all ages, genders, and races were performing the service together in the same place wearing the same happi coat. I was amazed because I had never seen such a place before. On top of the teachings of ‘universal brotherhood’ and the ‘Joyous Life,’ I learned that performing the service leads to the realization of the Joyous Life. When I learned these teachings, they naturally settled in my heart.”
In Shuyoka the students each have a chance to give a presentation on their own faith experiences. Also, when their classmates are sick, they administer the Sazuke and perform a prayer service together. The English class students thus deepen their faith by learning the teachings and translating them into practice. Jonathan remarks, “When I learned about the truth of ‘a thing lent, a thing borrowed’ and that hinokishin is an action born out of our gratitude for God’s blessings, I started doing hinokishin even harder.” Also comments Nancy, “I am really glad that I have been able to talk to many people and learn from their experiences. In Tenrikyo we are taught that ‘buds sprout from knots.’ I realize that all of us have gone through knots and overcome them. I think that is how we have come to where we are.”