The 86th Convention of Tenrikyo Women’s Association was held at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters on April 19, the day after the Oyasama Birth Celebration Service, with a turnout of some 50,000 members including many from overseas. Since this year marks the halfway point in the “three years, one thousand days” season leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, scheduled for January 26, 2006, the members of the association returned to the Home of the Parent for this occasion with renewed determination to serve as the supporting force for the pre-anniversary activities.
Though ordinarily held outside in the Inner Courtyard, this year’s convention was conducted inside the East Worship Hall due to rain. The East Worship Hall was soon filled to capacity, whereupon members began taking seats in the North and West Worship Halls, the ground-level areas under the East and West Worship Halls, and the Corridor. Many also sat on benches that had been set up in the Inner Courtyard and the areas in front of the East and West Worship Halls, sheltering themselves from the rain with their umbrellas.
Many young association members who are currently studying at high schools in Tenri provided hinokishin such as ushering and distributing programs and commemorative gifts to the participants. In addition, 142 members of the association’s Special Hinokishin Group, organized for the third time, spent three days performing various behind-the-scenes tasks in preparation for the event.
The convention got underway at 9:40 A.M., when Women’s Association President Harue Nakayama ushered in the Shinbashira and the former Shinbashira, as well as the other distinguished guests. After a moment of prayer and opening remarks, the participants sang the Eight Verses of the Yorozu in unison. Nami Morimoto, 10th grader at Oyasato High School, then made a pledge on behalf of the new members of the association. Next, Committee Member Shigeko Tanaka delivered the progress report, in which she reminded the participants of the activity guidelines being promoted by the association especially for this pre-anniversary season: “Let’s be the supporting force for the Oyasama 120th Anniversary activities. 1) Let’s seek and learn the teachings; 2) Let’s impart the joy of faith to those around us; and 3) Let’s cultivate the mind of saving others and implement salvation work.”
President Harue Nakayama then delivered her address to the members. She reminded them that, at last year’s convention, the Shinbashira had discussed the attributes of women, placing special emphasis on their role of bearing and nurturing. “Nurturing,” she continued, “ought to be understood not just in the limited sense of nurturing our own children but also in the wider sense of nurturing all those with whom we interact, whether they be the children and young adults around us or people connected to us by faith.” After giving some examples of how we could nurture others, she went on to say, “I believe that the thoroughness we show in nurturing others is one of the important ways in which we can serve as the supporting force.”
Next, the Shinbashira addressed the participants, offering his ideas on the qualities that befit women of the path and emphasizing how women’s role is vital in allowing the Service to bring peace to the world and deliver universal salvation.
He said that we could fully understand the basic stance of mind that would enable us to receive the blessings through the Service if we read the Ofudesaki carefully. He said that the Scripture tells us that the effort to help others be saved is an indispensable step we must to take to complete the Service. He also stressed that making individual efforts to replace the mind and grow spiritually into the sort of people who accord with the mind of God the Parent and Oyasama is vital if we are to complete the Service. In order to personally accomplish these things, he said, we have no option but to continue following the straight course of the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model.
“The path Oyasama taught to enable us to receive the blessing of having the Service completed does not simply consist in learning and mastering the dance and musical instruments for the Service,” said the Shinbashira. “Whether or not we can receive that blessing will depend on our state of mind as we try to bring our minds closer and closer to the mind of God the Parent by reflecting on our habits of thought and temperament in the light of the Divine Model. As we come to see this clearly, which is to say, as we grow spiritually so that our use of the mind accords with the mind of God the Parent, we will no doubt be shown the blessings that are commensurate with our spiritual growth. This, in fact, is something that Oyasama repeatedly tells us throughout the Ofudesaki, from beginning to end, to make sure that we fully understand it. Unless we continually make personal efforts to draw near Oyasama’s mind, our performance of the Service cannot be said to be in accord with Her mind.
“This does not apply only to the performers of the Kagura Service but to all followers of the path–wherever they are in the world–who ought to be striving to attain spiritual growth, day after day, with their attention focused on the Service performed on the 26th of each month. The blessing of the completion of the Service can only be attained when these efforts are made. Sweeping away the ‘eight dusts,’ respecting and helping one another, trying to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and save others, proactively administering the Sazuke to anyone suffering from illness, letting go of our egos and bringing our minds and viewpoints into unity, and correcting any shortcomings in our use of the mind and in our behavior: all these are steps we ought to take toward completing the Service. This path of single-hearted salvation must be followed in its entirety exactly as shown in the Divine Model. If we hope to be given the intended blessings by performing the Service in prayer for universal salvation, the number of those who know the path and who have faith in the teachings and actually implement them must increase.”
He said that what is really vital in completing the Service is to settle oneself and, with a proper understanding of one’s own role, to make a personal effort to contribute to creating harmony, whether in families or churches. He made a special request in this regard that the members not lose the qualities befitting women. “The reason,” he said, “is that women can exert a great influence. . . . So an important factor in bringing a settling to society is . . . for women to maintain the virtues and qualities befitting women.”
He reminded the listeners that the aim of their association was to enable them to join together to study the teachings and help one another understand them so that they could accelerate their spiritual growth, which would allow them to think and interact with anyone without getting caught up in any discriminatory or preconceived notions.
He then encouraged the members to take a proactive approach to helping others by drawing on the qualities and abilities women are endowed with. “Please keep your eyes and ears open to how people think and, in particular, how women think in the world at large and reach out to them, sharing the wonderful way of pondering taught by Oyasama, so that more and more women in society will come to show the true qualities and virtues befitting women by earnestly fulfilling their role as women–a role that is far beyond men’s capacity. To this end, I hope that those of you women who are followers will make an effort to set an example for others to emulate,” he said.
He closed his address by expressing his hopes for the members: “More than 90 years have already passed since the founding of your association, and, in fact, you will be observing your association’s 100th anniversary in the near future. I sincerely hope that you will be able to take confidence in showing God the Parent and Oyasama a level of spiritual growth that will be worthy of those 100 years. In addition, in order that you may be able to mark the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama without any regret, I hope that you will be able to spend the next year and a half in a truly earnest manner.”
Following the Shinbashira’s address, Member Representative Yukari Tsutsumi made a pledge stating the members’ resolve to take his guidance to heart. The participants then joined together in singing “Tenrikyo Women’s Association Song” to bring the convention to a close.
Following the convention, commemorative lectures were held at five venues, drawing a total of 10,430 participants: Dining Hall 2 (3,733 participants), Dining Hall 3 (2,356), East Lecture Hall (1,607), Tenri Seminary High School Auditorium (1,034), and Oyasato High School Auditorium (1,700).