617 College Students Nurture Their Minds in the Students Training Course

The College Division of the Students Training Course was held at the Home of the Parent from March 3 through 9. Through this weeklong training course–which included lectures, the practice of the dance and musical instruments for the service, missionary work, and group discussions–the students reflected upon their minds, looking squarely at their faith.

This year, 617 university, junior college, and technical school students, a new record for the second year in a row, assembled from various parts of the country to share in the joy of faith. The participants’ backgrounds varied considerably. Many were followers of Tenrikyo, but some were coming into contact with the teachings for the first time. The participants were divided into 60 groups, which belonged to one or another of five houses, namely Nozomi (hope), Yoki (joy), Isami (spiritedness), Minori (harvest), and Tsunagi (joining). The 220 students who had previously participated in the course were put together in the Minori and Tsunagi houses in order to encourage them to work together to take a step further in their spiritual growth. Each house had its own director, vice-director, advisers, and staff members who were able to work closely with the students. The course was supported by a total of 283 staff members, including a male and a female counselor for every group as well as the dormitory, general affairs, and nursing staff members.

At the opening ceremony held on the afternoon of March 3, Administrative Affairs Department Vice Head Nobuo Nagao encouraged the students in his opening address, saying: “There may be various reasons why you decided to come to this training course. What is important to bear in mind, however, is that you have been able to come here because of the guidance of God the Parent. Please try to perceive God the Parent’s message embodied in that guidance.” This was followed by an address delivered by Students Advisory Committee Chairman Tadakazu Nishiura. After the ceremony, the participants and staff members assembled in the East Worship Hall for a prayer service.

On March 4, the course started in full swing with Honbu-in Zensuke Nakata’s lecture entitled “As a Successor of the Path.” Reflecting critically on his college days, he said: “At that time, I felt that my life had already been set. That is why I went to a college in the Tokyo area. I was trying to run away from it.” Based on his experience, he went on to say: “There may be cases where your parents sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings on you. Yet, you should be aware that you cannot automatically succeed to their faith. You yourself need to decide to embark on this path and embrace your own faith. . . . Thereafter, you will have to take total responsibility for matters concerning your faith and can no longer blame them on others. I think this is something that makes our life of faith quite interesting!”

On the mornings of the 5th and 6th, the students were provided with a number of lectures to choose from. On the 5th, lectures designed to help them learn the teachings were offered under the following titles: “The Service and the Sazuke–The Mind of Saving Others,” “Introduction to the Teachings of Tenrikyo,” “God the Parent’s Providence,” “Feeling the Everliving Oyasama,” and “A Thing Lent, A Thing Borrowed.” Lectures with emphasis on practicing the teachings were offered on the 6th: “Making the Most of Faith in Our Daily Life,” “In Quest of World Peace,” “Tenrikyo Churches and Salvation Work,” “A Missionary’s Dream and Adventurous Spirit,” and “Followers in Overseas Countries.” The participants eagerly listened to the lectures, many of them taking notes. Even after the lectures, they continued to discuss the issues presented in them with fellow students.

On the afternoons of the 4th and 5th, students were provided with several elective practice sessions in such areas as the dance, musical instruments, and rituals for the service, as well as the method of wearing the service kimono. For the benefit of those who were new to the teachings, a beginners class was provided. After the evening services, time was allotted for group sessions. Under the guidance of their counselors, the members of each group could become better acquainted with one another, reflect upon themselves, and discuss various topics to deepen their faith. By sharing their feelings and thoughts with one another, the bonds among them grew tighter. In some groups, members administered the Sazuke to fellow members while the rest of the group prayed alongside.

On March 6, the participants spent the whole afternoon and evening preparing themselves to participate in missionary work on the following day. After attending a lecture for missionary work given by each house’s director or vice-director, students moved to their group session rooms to discuss the significance of accompanying the everliving Oyasama, who is hastening world salvation, and prepare manuscripts for their roadside speeches. Some even stayed up late to complete their manuscripts.

March 7 was set aside as a day to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings, which is the main event for the entire course. After offering a prayer at the Main Sanctuary, the students and counselors walked to Tenri train station where they listened to words of encouragement from Committee Chairman Tadakazu Nishiura. He stressed the basic stance of mind needed for engaging in salvation work by quoting a passage from the Divine Directions: “In this path, if you affirm ‘God!’ and ‘Oyasama!’ in all situations and keep God’s directions always firm in your mind, I shall always be with you whether you go one mile, two miles, three miles, or ten miles. Never will you be alone in sudden despair even if you go out to a distant place. From heaven, God will always stand firm in your favor” (Osashizu, April 3, 1887, supp. vol.).

The students taking the course for the first time went to Osaka by chartered train to make roadside speeches and sing the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo outdoors. For most of the students, this missionary work was the first experience with sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings. In the train, some students practiced reading out their manuscripts for roadside speeches and others tried to memorize the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo. After getting off the train at the designated stations, half of the groups sang the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo while walking to their respective destinations, and others delivered roadside speeches at their designated area and handed out Tenrikyo leaflets. Under the instructions of their counselors, some students offered to administer the Sazuke to passersby. Once they had a chance to administer the Sazuke, they did it in public without hesitation.

The students in the Minori and Tsunagi houses, on the other hand, went to Saidaiji and Nara respectively to engage in sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings, which included door-to-door missionary work. After a lunch break, the students went out in pairs to engage in door-to-door missionary work. Many were a little nervous despite the role-play practice they had undergone on the previous day. At each house, they would say: “This leaflet contains some hints on how to live with a joyous mind. It would be nice if you could take some time to read it.” At the end of the day, many of them had satisfied expressions on their faces. On their way back to Jiba, they exchanged comments such as, “It was really hard, but we made it” and “Seeing my friends trying hard encouraged me a lot.” In total, the students shared the teachings with 803 people, distributed 10,778 leaflets, and administered the Sazuke 192 times.

On March 8, some students attended the Besseki lecture, while others did hinokishin around the Main Sanctuary. This was followed by faith experience speeches given by five students from each house. One of the speakers, Risa Koide, who is a first generation follower, shared her faith and explained how she has been guided to the teachings. In the afternoon, all participants listened to a lecture entitled “A Message for Your Tomorrow.”

On March 9, at the closing ceremony, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi delivered a congratulatory speech. He encouraged them by saying: “I have just presented you students with the certificates of completion of this course. Please take good care of them and cherish the message embodied in them. I would like all of you to incorporate what you have acquired over the past week into your steps in the next stage of your life.”

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