Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in South Korea held its first Spiritual Development Course from January 18 to February 17, making it the fourth mission headquarters to host the one-month course. This comes as the Mission Headquarters in South Korea prepares to celebrate the 100th year since its forerunner, Korea Missionary Office, was established in Busan in 1909. The course, launched as one of the core programs for developing and nurturing human resources, was attended by 68 followers from all parts of South Korea, many of whom were young adults in their late teens and twenties who grew up in Tenrikyo families. Also, over the duration of the course, the South Korea chapters of the Young Men’s Association, the Women’s Association, and the Boys and Girls Association held their own events for young people who would carry the path forward in the next generation in South Korea, and the participants’ youthful passion and enthusiasm added to the vibrant atmosphere at the mission headquarters.
In preparation for the course, a planning committee that was put together last May held many discussions. When the mission headquarters started recruiting participants, the enrollment limit was 30. Yet as many as 68 applications flooded in, many from students and young company employees. After discussing the matter, the mission headquarters decided to accept all the applicants and made some adjustments to accommodate the increased number of participants such as using the multipurpose hall instead of a smaller study room as their classroom.
The course began following the mission headquarters’ spring grand service on January 18. Honbu-in Hiroaki Yamazawa–who serves as the director of Shuyoka, the Spiritual Development Course offered at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters–delivered an address at the opening ceremony. Lecturers included Honbu-jun’in Kiyoharu Masuda and several experienced church head ministers who also serve as local translation committee members. Some 20 staff members of the mission headquarters and local followers were also involved in teaching the dance and musical instruments for the service and looking after the general welfare of the participants.
Training from Morning till Night
Shortly after 6:00 A.M., the daily schedule started with the cleaning of the sanctuary and other facilities at the mission headquarters. Although this winter was warmer than average, the temperature drastically dropped in the mornings and evenings at the mission headquarters, which is located at the foot of a mountain. As the participants walked to the sanctuary from their dormitory, they could see their breath.
After attending the morning service at 7:00 A.M., they received words of encouragement from Bishop Yoshikazu Terada, who would tell them, “Please spend the day seeking the path and sowing seeds of sincerity in high spirits.” After breakfast, they assembled in their classroom in the Educational and Cultural Center.
There were five classes a day. The subjects taught included The Doctrine of Tenrikyo; The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo; the Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Service; ritual procedures; and the service dance. The participants kept their earnest eyes fixed on the lecturers during the classes. Many students reported that they had never learned the teachings and the Scriptures in such an organized fashion as in this course.
Their sincere attitudes were most evident in the way they practiced the service dance and musical instruments. The clock pointed to 8:00 P.M. when their daily training schedule ended with the fifth class, which was devoted to service dance practice. As the days went on, however, more and more students remained in their classroom well past 8:00 P.M. to voluntarily practice the service dance, despite the fact that they only had two hours allotted for a bath and free time, lights out being at P.M.
Taking the students’ passion seriously, the course organizers allowed them to use the classroom until 11:00 P.M. There were some instructors who taught the students late into the night. Also, a number of students gave advice to one another and worked together to learn the service dance. These efforts continued until the night before the practice performance of the entire service by all students toward the end of the course.
The course participants also strove to seek the path, sow seeds of sincerity, and deepen their faith through engaging in hinokishin and missionary work.
At the closing ceremony, Bishop Terada handed certificates of completion to a representative of the participants. He then addressed them, saying: “Today, you are embarking on a journey to the Joyous Life. I hope that you make efforts to broaden the circle of mutual help in your respective communities. I would like you to start your journey by taking to heart that the realization of the Joyous Life World depends solely on how you use your mind and how you put the teachings into practice.”
In the classroom after the ceremony, each student received a certificate from Rev. Hong Gyeong-ui, who served as a class instructor to support students throughout the course. Upon receiving their certificates, some had beaming smiles and others were moved to tears, yet they all appeared to radiate a sense of joy and accomplishment.
Local Followers’ True Sincerity Brings Blessings
A large proportion of the participants were young followers who have succeeded to their parents’ faith, namely the children of church head ministers, mission station heads, and other followers. What have they learned and experienced through the month-long course dedicated to seeking the path?
Kim Seul-gi responds: “This course provided a great opportunity for self-reflection. I am now in the process of attending the Besseki lectures. I would like to receive the truth of the Sazuke as soon as possible and become a Yoboku like my parents, who engage in saving other people.” Lee Yun-ho says: “I took the initiative to participate in the course because seeing my mother sincerely follow the faith had made me wonder what Tenrikyo was all about. When I reread the journal I have kept during this one month, I can see how I have become more and more proactive in seeking the faith day by day. I want my mother to see how I have grown spiritually.” Kim Jin-ri says: “I had been vaguely wondering what I was following the faith for. Even when I participated in Tenrikyo activities, a sense of obligation tended to obscure the joy and gratitude I was supposed to be feeling. Through seeing my classmates in high spirits, though, I have come to think about what I can do right now. My goal is to implement what I have learned here in the course in my daily life even if little by little.”
The receipt of the truth of the Sazuke will make the completion of the Spiritual Development Course at an overseas mission headquarters equivalent to that of the three-month course offered at Church Headquarters. The Mission Headquarters in South Korea, which is planning to offer the course twice a year, will be holding the second session from July to August this year.
Bishop Terada says: “This course has come to fruition thanks to local followers’ true sincerity. In parallel with this course, this diocese has the long-standing spiritual training courses [held in a few locations in South Korea]. I hope that these courses will help this diocese promote the task of nurturing human resources even more robustly and in unity of mind, thereby further energizing the Tenrikyo mission in the season of the 100th anniversary of the mission headquarters.” The service to mark the 100th anniversary will be held on June 30 at the mission headquarters.