The Shinbashira’s Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service 2008

I wish to express my deep appreciation for the trouble you have taken in returning to Jiba to attend today’s Autumn Grand Service. May I also thank all of you most sincerely for the efforts you are devoting in your daily lives to the work of the path. Having duly been able to perform the Service, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. So could I have your attention while I deliver this sermon?

When we perform the Autumn Grand Service, the first thing we need to do is turn our thoughts to the day of origin of the founding of the Teaching and reaffirm our understanding of the purpose for which this path was opened. We must also take to heart once again not only the Parent’s intention embodied in the path but also the Divine Model demonstrated by Oyasama so that we Yoboku may correct what needs to be corrected in our attitude of mind and our way of performing our tasks and, thereby, start the next part of our journey toward the realization of the Joyous Life World with a fresh mind.

For what purpose, then, was this path opened? It goes without saying that the purpose was to save all humankind, as is clearly stated in what is sometimes called “the declaration of the founding of the Teaching.” The purpose of the path, in other words, is to save all people suffering from illness and other problems and guide them to the Joyous Life, which is what God intended us to enjoy when creating humankind. To accomplish this purpose, we are taught that we need to help people sweep away the dust of the mind, which is the real cause of all sufferings and pains that have presented themselves. The self-centered mind that says “all is well if the present is well for the self alone” will need to be replaced with the mind that desires the salvation of others. We have also been taught the Service as the core component of this path of single-hearted salvation. In addition, we are provided with the Divine Model, which was personally demonstrated by Oyasama to show an exemplary model of how Yoboku ought to serve.

The first words spoken by God the Parent to humankind were:

I am God of Origin, God in Truth. There is causality in this Residence. At this time I have descended here to save all humankind. I wish to receive Miki as the Shrine of God.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 1

These words were spoken during the last in a series of incantations that had been started a year before in order to pray for the healing of Shuji’s leg ailment.

Although Miki’s husband, Zenbei, used every possible argument to refuse God’s request, God of Origin remained adamant. The dialogue between God and humans lasted three days, during which time Miki had no rest at all. Finally, as Her life appeared to be in danger, Zenbei cast aside all his concerns for himself and his family and agreed to offer Her to God. This happened on October 26, 1838, at eight o’clock in the morning, whereby Miki was settled as the Shrine of God. That was the day of origin of the Teaching.

Zenbei and the others must have been quite bewildered, because, from their perspective, an unheard-of god suddenly chose to speak through a farmer’s wife and–while they were still at a loss as to what kind of teaching this god was going to give or exactly what it was that the god would try to accomplish–they were told that the deity wished to receive Miki as the Shrine of God.

In fact, as The Life of Oyasama says, even Ichibei, the incantation officiant, “though experienced in the ways of spiritualism, was utterly dumbfounded when he unexpectedly heard the voice of an unknown god. . . .” Ichibei may have regretted having used Miki as a substitute for his usual medium during the incantation. Yet even that arrangement undoubtedly resulted from God the Parent’s profound intention, if viewed from the perspective of the Causality of the Soul of Oyasama and the Causality of the Promised Time. I feel that, during the course of the three-day dialogue, it was already becoming apparent that God the Parent was totally different from the kind of gods that were known to the people at the time. One crucial difference, as was later indicated by the following verses from the Ofudesaki, is that God the Parent does not teach performing rituals or offering worship to ask for divine favors for personal benefit:

This salvation is not brought about by formulas of worship, or by exorcism, or by calling on oracles.

At this place, I shall teach everything. Be single-hearted with God, and from your innermost heart. . .

Ponder from your innermost heart to understand. Through saving others, you will be saved.

Ofudesaki III:45-47

This is a teaching that explains the origin of any and everything and will save us if we ponder and live in full accord with the intention of God. This is what is taught in the phrase “Through saving others, you will be saved.” Thus, this path is totally different from the kind of faith that consists in praying for divine favors to one’s own advantage or to one’s own family’s advantage. This teaching could only have been given by humankind’s Parent, who desires to save all people throughout the world.

The path of the Divine Model commenced with Oyasama seeking to fall to the depths of poverty. She gave away food, clothes, money, and so forth, until at last She instructed that even the family’s main house be dismantled. How distressed and bewildered Her family members and relatives must have been! In particular, the anguish and agony that Her husband, Zenbei, must have felt is beyond our imagination. The Life of Oyasama includes an account of how, one day, he sat face to face with Oyasama before the Buddhist altar and, holding a sword close to his side, severely demanded the immediate withdrawal of the evil spirit, if indeed it were one. Thereupon, Oyasama carefully explained the origin of this world and the future to the most remote of times so that he could be convinced that these words came not from some evil spirit but truly from God the Parent. Saving humankind by explaining the origin of this world and the future to the most remote of times is only possible because this is the “final teaching” provided by God of Origin.

Oyasama’s mind must have been clearly aware of not only the painstaking efforts God had made to give birth to and nurture human beings but also the many twists and turns that human beings had gone through as a result of selfishly using the mind, which they had been allowed to use freely as their own. Now that God the Parent had become openly revealed in this world at the arrival of the Promised Time to teach the origin of all things, which had been brought about from formlessness, and to begin to lay the path of single-hearted salvation, Oyasama was undoubtedly envisaging the realization of the world of the Joyous Life in which all human beings would live fully and vibrantly while helping one another.

In addition to Zenbei’s anguish and agony, let us consider the thoughts and feelings of Oyasama’s four children, the eldest of whom was Shuji, who was eighteen when the Teaching was founded. Although there is not much material on the subject, we can, for example, look at the Anecdotes of Oyasama, where we read that two of Oyasama’s daughters, recalling the aforementioned three-day dialogue in later years, said, “We were so frightened at the utterance of every revelation that we threw ourselves into each other’s arms, trembling and pulling the quilt over our heads.”

Over the three years after Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi, She often secluded Herself in the storehouse, we are told. That probably was part of the reason why, as we read in The Life of Oyasama, some of Zenbei’s friends–whenever they visited him in those days–“found Zenbei’s children so forlorn and lonely that they could not but pity them from the bottom of their hearts.”

Shuji and Kokan, who were both causally related to instruments of God’s creation of humankind, served and helped Oyasama throughout their lives, thereby making indispensable contributions to the path during the early days. Yet even they, I would imagine, must have occasionally had feelings of bewilderment and uneasiness as well as found themselves in a dilemma. In the case of Shuji, who was eighteen when the Teaching was founded, he had previously lived a fairly comfortable life, being heir to the head of the Nakayama family, a family said to have been the largest landowner in the village. Thus, he may have felt bewildered at the way his mother had undergone a total transformation and the way the family’s destiny had completely changed since October 1838.

At the same time, I think he must have accepted that he was somehow part of what was happening because, after all, the declaration of the founding of the Teaching came during an incantation being performed as a result of his own leg ailment. In the Anecdotes of Oyasama‘s third story, entitled “The Storehouse,” we read that, when pain returned to Shuji’s leg later in the same year, 1838, Oyasama breathed on his leg and applied a piece of paper to the affected area, whereby the pain was gone in about ten days. Witnessing this wondrous blessing shortly after the founding of the Teaching, Shuji must have thought that this God, who had taken up residence in the body of his mother, was truly extraordinary and totally different from the gods to whom the prayers had been offered through repeatedly performing incantation rituals.

As instructed by Oyasama, Shuji always wore a montsuki, or a crested formal garment, whenever he went to work in the fields or walked around the countryside selling vegetables and firewood. After his father passed away, Shuji, as the head of the household, did everything he could to shield Oyasama from harassment by the villagers and others and interference and persecution by the authorities. He made painstaking efforts to devise and implement various measures to protect the path in its early days.

Kokan was born just eleven months before the founding of the Teaching, so she had no personal knowledge of how Oyasama and Her family lived prior to the founding of the Teaching. By the time Kokan became aware of what was going on, Oyasama was already serving as the Shrine of God, conveying the intention of God the Parent, and unreservedly giving things away to those who had come asking for alms. Since she always stayed close to Oyasama and served Her, she must have realized that Oyasama was God. Nevertheless, I suppose she may have felt insecure about the way her family lived and the way the path often came into conflict with the local communities.

The reason I say this is that we are told that there were days when Kokan said dejectedly to Oyasama that there was no rice left in the house. Also, you may recall the Oyamato Shrine incident, in which some followers got into trouble with the shrine the day after the framework of the Place for the Service had been completed. Many followers were consequently scared away, with the result that the formation of a fellowship, which had been progressing so well until then, came to a sudden stop. At that time, Kokan apparently muttered to herself that they should not have gone.

Yet we must not forget that Oyasama sought to help Kokan rid herself of her feelings of insecurity and worry by teaching her in a way that she could understand. In the former instance, Oyasama gave her encouragement, saying:

In this world there are those who are suffering, unable to eat or even to swallow water despite food piled high at their bedsides. If we think of them, how blessed we are, for when we drink water, it tastes of water. God the Parent has blessed us with exquisite gifts.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 32

This year marks the 100th year since Tenrikyo achieved sectarian independence. Under the government’s severe religious policy that refused to recognize the founding of any new religion, Tenrikyo chose, in 1886, to affiliate itself with the Shinto Central Bureau and, in 1888, obtained permission to establish Tenrikyo Church Headquarters under the direct supervision of Shinto. This enabled Tenrikyo to conduct its activities openly, at least for the time being. Because Tenrikyo was achieving tremendous growth, however, the authorities continued to maintain a constant, close watch on it.

In the latter case, Oyasama said: “Do not complain! This will be the basis of a teaching in the future.”

Kokan was always guided by Oyasama’s profound parental heart. She went to Naniwa, or present-day Osaka, to spread the teachings as instructed by Oyasama. Kokan also played a very important role as “the young goddess.”

As part of Her efforts to explain Her teachings, Oyasama carefully addressed matters relating to Shuji and Kokan in the Ofudesaki’s part I and part XI, respectively. Because they were to play indispensable roles, Oyasama instructed them to be sure not to allow themselves to be swept along by human sentiments and, instead, to be thorough in upholding the truth. Through working with them in a careful manner, Oyasama was providing training that was meant to be applicable in future generations as well.

Perhaps the explosive growth that Tenrikyo attained during the late 1880s and 1890s alarmed the general public. There were newspaper and magazine articles that attacked Tenrikyo with defamatory claims. Eventually the Home Ministry issued a special directive to severely tighten control over Tenrikyo.

Later, as Tenrikyo came to account for a majority of the religious instructors belonging to the Shinto Central Bureau, the bureau itself recommended that Tenrikyo seek independence, especially given that its teachings were fundamentally different from those of Shinto. After Tenrikyo embarked on the endeavor to achieve independence, however, it encountered the government’s demands that Tenrikyo fulfill a variety of requirements. As one application after another ended up being rejected, it took about ten years to achieve independence.

During that period, there were times when the objective seemed so difficult to attain that Tenrikyo leaders considered enlisting the help of some powerful people or even giving up the attempt to gain independence. Yet, every time they encountered a problem, they requested Divine Directions in order to ensure that they would not deviate from the proper course of the path. The Divine Directions also helped them organize Tenrikyo as a religious group as they patiently continued to apply for official recognition.

When preparing the first application in 1899, the followers were warned in the following Divine Direction against getting swept along by worldly common principles:

You are talking about gaining independence by following procedures based on the world’s truths. Even though this matter is tied to the world’s truths, the true way to accomplish, settle, or consolidate anything is to use the One Truth, which originated everything in the beginning where there were no forms. . . . Concerning the matter you inquire about, aside from the question of whether the objective can be achieved or not, you will probably not be able to see the clear results you seek within a year or two. Sah, sah, set about it.

Osashizu, May 30, 1899

This Divine Direction instructed the followers to be sure to base all their undertakings on the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model, which began with the founding of the Teaching. It also predicted that the effort to gain independence would not proceed smoothly.

Again, a subsequent Divine Direction delivered on June 6 cautioned against ordering priorities in a mistaken way and went on to say:

You did not know north from south, east from west. There were thorns, precipices, narrow paths. It was a path full of hardship. The present path did not appear suddenly. If you keep this firmly in mind and begin what you must, your efforts will be flowers of the path.

Osashizu, June 6, 1899

This passage, too, told the followers to ensure that their endeavor to gain independence was grounded in the full understanding that this path had begun with Oyasama alone and had undergone a variety of difficulties before becoming what it was. If they maintained that understanding, said this Divine Direction, their work would be so reassuring as to be worthy of being called “flowers of the path.”

When people engage in negotiations with national authorities, it is entirely understandable for them to allow themselves to be guided by worldly common reasoning and ideas. Perhaps for this reason, the Divine Directions instructed the followers to make a point of using Oyasama’s Divine Model as their dependable guide.

The movement to attain sectarian independence, which encountered considerable difficulties, resulted in laying out the framework for Tenrikyo as a religious group, the framework that in large measure continues to this day.

Now that Tenrikyo had grown into one of the major religions of the country, presumably it had to address its social responsibility. The authorities demanded that Tenrikyo compile books of doctrine, train its religious instructors, and exercise proper control over its congregation. Even prior to the movement to gain independence, the efforts to compile The Life of Oyasama and standardize the Besseki lectures had begun. Yet as part of the drive to gain independence, Tenri Seminary was founded, The Doctrine of Tenrikyo began to be compiled, a diocese system was instituted, and rules and regulations relating to churches were formulated. In addition to making progress in organizing Tenrikyo as a religious group in that manner, the effort to improve and enhance the quality of Tenrikyo’s religious instructors through organizing seminars and lectures was made. In fact, instructors who were judged to be unsuitable were relieved of their duties. Eventually, all these efforts bore fruit on November 27, 1908, when Tenrikyo attained sectarian independence.

Perhaps we may say that the experience gained during the course of making repeated, painstaking efforts toward independence subsequently helped Tenrikyo to grow and expand in the face of the governmental interference and oppression that were to continue for many years even after it became independent until August 1945–when, with the end of the war, Tenrikyo declared its effort of “restoration.” During that period of severe religious control, Tenrikyo managed to maintain the essence of the teachings and proper faith instead of becoming attached to worldly common matters, although reluctantly following a path of expediency. This was possible because the successive Shinbashiras and our other predecessors discussed things together and brought their minds into unity while always bearing in mind the Divine Model demonstrated by Oyasama, whose heart was filled solely with parental love for Her children, all human beings, regardless of any difficulties facing Her.

This year being the 100th year since Tenrikyo gained sectarian independence, I took this opportunity to turn my thoughts to the movement to attain independence. I feel that this movement, far from being a mere historical fact, has a much greater significance.

The framework our predecessors managed to lay out for Tenrikyo as an independent religious group despite tremendous difficulties has essentially continued through the pre-“restoration” period and indeed to the present day. In view of this, I feel that we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are really living up to our predecessors’ intention, enthusiasm, and endeavor, living as we do in circumstances where we are guaranteed the freedom of belief and are able to follow the path in full accordance with the teachings.

Part of the social responsibility of an officially recognized religion is to be appropriately organized and structured. Organization and structure can also help the religion to maintain its unity and conduct its activities in a stable manner. However, if we become complacent about our organization and systems and neglect our efforts at the deeper levels of inner substance, we could undermine the achievements of our predecessors, who built the foundation and framework by making painstaking efforts.

The way our religious group is organized and its rules and regulations are formulated is not something that was taught directly by Oyasama. Some of its aspects resulted from social demands, and some came from efforts to make it easier for Tenrikyo to conduct its activities under the particular circumstances of the day. Therefore, if there is anything in our religious group’s framework or organization that prevents Tenrikyo from conducting its essential activities or that is not appropriate for our time, we will need to take a fresh look at it and consider the possibility of correcting it. Yet we must remember that the most vital thing here is the inner substance of those of us who practice faith, which is to say, our inner conviction of faith.

As was repeatedly emphasized in the Divine Directions that addressed the movement to gain sectarian independence, this path was begun by Oyasama alone where there was no prior work for Her to build on. This path gradually grew and expanded because those who were saved by Her and wished to make repayment for the blessing of salvation made the effort to spread the teachings and help others be saved in the face of all kinds of difficulties in the hope of realizing the intention of the Parent who desires to save all humankind.

Particularly for those of us who live in this day and age, it is important to make sure that we do not get swept along by the current of the times or worldly common desires. We need to take to heart once again that this path was indeed begun by Oyasama alone and enhance our awareness that we are Yoboku, meaning building materials for the construction of the Joyous Life World. We need to work to expand the circle of the Joyous Life, starting wherever we can.

We live in an age when the world is facing a variety of problems–such as global environmental problems, marital problems, parent-child problems, and various other social problems–which together cast a certain dark shadow over our societies. It goes without saying that we need to consider how to address each of these problems. Yet, for those of us who are following this path, it is of prior importance to implement the teachings with an unwavering conviction that we will never go wrong as long as we live in full accord with what Oyasama has taught us. This will provide the firm foundation that is a prerequisite for making any ideas or measures truly effective in dealing with any specific problems. In this sense also, I believe it is our urgent duty to convey Oyasama’s teachings to as many people as possible.

Having shared my thoughts on this occasion of today’s Grand Service, I now want to close my remarks by asking all of you to spiritedly perform the tasks of the path through your respective roles and positions. Thank you for listening.

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