The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Spring Grand Service 2009

I would like to express my deep appreciation to all of you for giving your time and energy in your daily lives to the work of the path in your part of the world and for returning to Jiba for today’s Spring Grand Service despite the cold weather. As I want to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you, may I have your attention while I deliver this talk?

The image that comes to my mind as we conclude our performance of today’s Service is that of the Residence as it was 122 years ago. On that day, Oyasama was lying down in the Resting House, which was adjacent to the north side of the Place for the Service. The Service was performed with Jiba at center, Jiba being marked at the time by a pile of pebbles that had been placed there after the removal of the Kanrodai. The Service performers were prepared to accept any risk to themselves as they set about performing it, with their minds focused only on the hope and prayer that Oyasama would recover from Her physical disorder. There were thousands of worshipers surrounding those performers. I imagine there was an air of tenseness at the Residence. Oyasama withdrew from physical life as that Service came to an end.

The significance of performing the Spring Grand Service is to take to heart the Parent’s intention embodied in that “day of origin,” namely, the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887. Another part of the significance is to give serious thought to the feelings that those close to Oyasama experienced on that day and to reflect humbly on the way we are performing our tasks today so that we can embark with a fresh mind on the next stage of our journey toward single-hearted salvation.

What Oyasama was trying to teach, even by going to the extent of using Her own physical disorder, was first and foremost the importance of performing the Service. Since the Service is the fundamental component of the path of single-hearted salvation, there is no way we can reconstruct the world as the world of the Joyous Life without performing the Service. That is why Oyasama so strongly and repeatedly urged the implementation of the Service.

One of the things She was trying to impress upon Her followers was the need to decisively bring themselves into full accord with the Parent’s intention, which is to say, the need to completely commit themselves to the spirit of single-heartedness with God. To those who were unable to bring themselves to perform the Service out of fear of police interference, Oyasama carefully taught the order and course of how things come about and explained what the real basis for their pondering should be. Eventually, She even confronted those people with the question “Do you fear God or do you fear the law?” Thus She tried to urge them to make up their minds to perform the Service.

This training Oyasama was giving to those close to Her at the time was not merely intended for them alone. Rather, I believe it is meant to provide all of us with insights into how to handle a dilemma that we may face in our own times as we endeavor to follow the path of single-hearted salvation–namely, the dilemma between single-heartedness with God and human thinking.

Having duly completed the Service, the followers were high-spirited and convinced that Oyasama was now going to make a full recovery, and yet they were given the totally unexpected, terrible news. Shocked, they cried dejectedly with deep sadness. They then received the following Divine Direction through Izo Iburi, the Honseki:

Sah, sah, I shall level the ground. Has everyone assembled, has everyone assembled? Listen and understand well. All that I have said until now was put into a container of truth. But now God has opened the portals and stepped out. Because of My love for you, My children, the Parent shortened Her life by twenty-five years to step out and save the world from now. Observe well. Observe well what the path has been and what the path will become. When I asked whether I should open the portals or keep them closed to level the ground, you answered, “Please open the portals and level the ground.” I have done as you wished. Sah, there was a thing I had intended to give to My children but I was not able. I shall bestow this truth on you step by step hereafter. Remember this well.

Osashizu, February 18, 1887

It was thanks to this Divine Direction that the followers were finally able to pull themselves together.

In chapter ten of The Life of Oyasama, this Divine Direction is followed by a paraphrase, which says, in part, “All because the children are so dear, to enhance their spiritual growth, I have cut short the twenty-five years of life that was to be, resulting in the sudden withdrawal.” The reference to Oyasama’s love for Her children seems to reflect Her feeling of pity for the indecision of followers who were unable to perform the Service because of their concern that their Service might cause Oyasama, who at the time was quite advanced in age, to undergo the hardship of imprisonment. This reference to Her love also seems to embody the Parent’s determination that the path of single-hearted salvation, which was to benefit all human beings, Her children, should not be delayed. How did the Parent feel when She had to shorten Her term of physical life because of Her love for Her children?

Oyasama spent as much as fifty years conveying God’s intention by spoken and written word, teaching the Service, and bestowing the Sazuke, thereby making all arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation. Moreover, She demonstrated the Divine Model through Her own example. She thus laid the path for Yoboku to follow.

Oyasama’s followers were relying totally on Her, requesting advice and guidance from Her and asking Her to save them. Having been told that the natural life span for human beings was to be one hundred and fifteen years, they must have believed and prayed that She would continue guiding them and leading them for many years to come. Yet She now told them, as it were, that what She needed to teach them had already been sufficiently taught and that, based on what She had taught them, they ought to make their own efforts to ponder and reflect on the way of following the path that would be in accord with the divine intention, while at the same time working together to advance the path of single-hearted salvation leading to the Joyous Life.

Oyasama did not merely tell the followers to walk the path by their own efforts, for, even though She withdrew from physical life, She is everliving and continues to watch over all human beings, Her children, and guide them as ever before.

The Divine Direction I quoted a while ago said: “Sah, there was a thing I had intended to give to My children but I was not able. I shall bestow this truth on you step by step hereafter.” This passage is referring to the parental love out of which Oyasama would bestow the truth of the Sazuke on more and more people. When the same Divine Direction says that the Parent will “save the world from now,” the fundamental means of salvation in Her mind is the Service. That is why She even went to the extent of confronting the followers with Her physical disorder to urge them to perform the Service. Yet, in addition to teaching the Service, Her intention was to provide more and more people with the truth of the Sazuke, that is, the truth of effectiveness for salvation from illness, and She was saying that, even after withdrawing from physical life, She would continue to work by means of that truth.

We are told that the Sazuke is intended to cover the “traveling expenses” involved in following the path. It is, I believe, meant to support and provide for us as we continue our journey along the path to help others be saved.

When those who received the truth of the Sazuke went about working for the salvation of others as Oyasama’s instruments, instances of wondrous salvation were shown in response to their administration of the Sazuke. This convinced them that Oyasama was indeed guiding them by virtue of Her eternal life, and they strove ever more spiritedly to spread the teachings, with the result that the path achieved explosive growth.

Even stronger evidence that Oyasama was everliving and was continuing to work came from the Divine Directions being delivered through the mouth of the Honseki. Because Oyasama taught through the Divine Directions, the followers were able to know that She was indeed working by virtue of Her eternal life.

Although Tenrikyo obtained official approval for the establishment of Church Headquarters in the year after Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, it continued to face serious difficulties in the form of vilification and harassment by the general public as well as interference and oppression by the authorities. Yet because She provided practical guidance through the Divine Directions showing what was fundamental from the perspective of divine truth, our early predecessors were able to lay out the basic framework for Tenrikyo as a religious group, the framework that continues to this day, as well as survive the period of severe religious control that lasted even after Tenrikyo achieved sectarian independence. Indeed, I think that Oyasama took great care to provide for all possible eventualities.

We now perform the Monthly Service every month without fail and take this for granted. Many of our regional churches may be performing services that are more complete in terms of appearance and form than the Service performed on that fateful day in 1887. However, are the services we perform today fully able to bring satisfaction to God the Parent? The answer, it seems to me, is that they leave something to be desired. Even though not all the specified musical instruments were played during the January 1887 Service, Oyasama listened to that Service contentedly because She accepted the spirit of those people who managed to bring themselves into complete accord with Her intention and let go of their human thinking as they set about performing the Service.

It goes without saying that the Service should involve a sufficient number of people performing correct hand movements and use a full set of musical instruments; however, what is of paramount importance is for the performers to perform the Service in unity of mind and in a frame of mind that can be accepted by God. We read in the Ofudesaki:

When all are assembled and quickly do the Service, as those close to Me become spirited, God, also, will be spirited.

Ofudesaki I:11

Truly be spirited and ponder. Then lean on God and do the Joyous Service.

Ofudesaki IV:49

In preparing to teach you the Service step by step, I shall sweep clean everyone’s innermost heart.

Ofudesaki VII:95

Concerning the Service: never think that I have any other intention. I have only the single desire to save all of you.

Ofudesaki XVI:65

As indicated by these verses, we ought to perform the Service spiritedly and in unity of mind so that we can have God be spirited. We also need to ponder deeply over God’s intention, settle it in our minds, and place total reliance on God as we perform the Service joyously. In addition, we should sweep dust away from our heart so that we can perform the Service with a perfectly pure and clear mind. Moreover, given that this Service is also called the Salvation Service, it is vital for our performance of the Service to embody God’s intention to bring about single-hearted salvation. The Ofudesaki is referring to the Kagura Service, which takes place only at Jiba. However, what the Ofudesaki says about the Kagura Service also applies to the services that are performed at regional churches that receive the truth of the Kagura Service.

Today we are able to practice faith and perform the Service without having to worry about the authorities or anyone else. No longer does any external pressure prevent us from conveying the path exactly as Oyasama taught it. Yet I am concerned about whether being swept along by one’s own human thinking or by the current of the times may not be distorting the teachings in self-serving ways.

The fact that there is no longer any external pressure against Tenrikyo is a welcome thing, but we ought to make more of our fortunate circumstances, proactively and enthusiastically doing whatever we should be doing and whatever we can do. Making repeated efforts in that direction is a prerequisite, I believe, to ensuring that one can stay calm and at peace no matter what happens and continue following the path in full accord with God’s intention.

You are probably aware that the Women’s Association, the Young Men’s Association, and the Boys and Girls Association have for some time been jointly promoting the slogan “Let’s visit our churches with our families.” Since this path aims to bring about the Joyous Life of all humankind, it is necessary to convey the teachings through all generations, besides spreading them ever more widely and deepening our own understanding of them. It is vital to help children understand the importance and preciousness of faith and, thereby, nurture the next generation, who will succeed to the path. To do this, it is important for those who are in a position to nurture the young to visit their churches themselves.

In the world around us, there are obviously a great many more people who are not following this path. Under the circumstances, I fear that, if you do not visit your churches frequently enough, you may forget about the teachings as time goes by. Visiting your churches will, I think, help you maintain the feeling that you are in fact connected to the path. It will also help you keep sight of God the Parent’s intention.

When those of you who are parents visit your churches, I hope you will take your children with you, if that is possible. It would be ideal, of course, to attend the monthly services of your churches with your families besides making daily visits. Yet this may, in fact, be difficult because of your job or school situation. If that is the case, I hope you will use your ingenuity and try to find a way to visit your churches with your families somehow or other; perhaps, you can visit your churches after work, after school, or on Sundays.

Then again, I think many people find it hard to visit the churches to which they belong because they simply live far away. Nevertheless, I hope that those people, too, try to keep their minds closely connected to God the Parent and Oyasama by, for example, making an effort to visit their churches at least once a year and visiting any nearby church the rest of the time. I suppose that some of you might feel awkward visiting a church to which you do not belong, yet please remember that all our churches are places that represent Jiba, for they receive the truth of Jiba. I want to ask all church head ministers, in this regard, to have the willingness and eagerness to go beyond their church affiliation differences by joining hands and working together to nurture people and help them become spirited.

As for those of you who are parents, please make a point of visiting a church yourselves so that you can show an actual example illustrating the importance of keeping the mind connected to God in the course of daily life and nurture your children in such a way that they will participate in various church activities, eventually including the performance of the service. This, above all else, will lay the foundation that will help your children find a dependable guide for their minds and live a splendid life that is filled with blessings. This will also help you build a harmonious family and make a contribution to the work of world salvation as well.

God the Parent has revealed that the purpose of creating humankind was to see us human beings live the Joyous Life and to share in our joy. The Joyous Life is, as it were, a happy family life in which God, who is the Parent of Origin, and all human beings, who are God’s children, enjoy an atmosphere of family togetherness. Since we aim to achieve this ultimate family togetherness, I hope that we will bring about a joyous family togetherness befitting the path in our own family lives, as well, and help more and more families to do the same.

Since we live in an age in which even family ties, let alone other ties, tend to become increasingly weak, I believe we need to continue powerfully promoting the practice of “visiting our churches with our families” inasmuch as our churches are to serve as training centers for spiritual growth and salvation in their local communities.

These days, we keep hearing sad and gloomy news about such things as the global economic downturn, yet this does not mean that God the Parent’s providence is no longer given to us as it used to be. God’s providence remains unchanged. The difficult situations and problems in the world have arisen entirely from the mistakes we humans have made in the way we have handled our minds.

Those of us who know the intention of God can pay attention to the boundless providence that God is continuing to give us in an unchanged manner even in these times when there is a pervasive sense of insecurity. In our own lives as well as in the world at large, we can notice a great many things for which we should express our gratitude and in which we can find joy. Yet there are people who fail to notice such things or find joy in them and, instead, let their minds be depressed, thereby preventing themselves from fully receiving God’s providence. Our role is to help those people change the orientation of their mind.

It will not be easy to change the current of the times. Yet, if we constantly maintain a sense of joy grounded in the teachings and lead our lives spiritedly without being overwhelmed by the current of the times, then our spiritedness will surely inspire people around us. If we continue making these efforts, our world will undoubtedly change its course and move steadily toward brightness.

To this end, then, we need to convey the teachings to as many people as possible and invite them to join us in following this path whereby anyone can find true joy, so that we can together move forward in the direction of the Joyous Life World, which is in accord with God’s intention.

We need to be fully aware that the work we do as Yoboku is absolutely vital especially in the current climate of insecurity in which the future seems uncertain. We must work ever more spiritedly to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and help others be saved while performing the tasks involved in our respective roles and positions.

I now want to conclude by asking all of you to continue working spiritedly this year. Thank you for listening.

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