Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service, October 26, 2004

May I begin by expressing my heartfelt appreciation for the sincere efforts you are devoting to the tasks of the path each day. We have just been able to duly conclude this year’s Autumn Grand Service. As I wish to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you, may I ask for your attention while I deliver my sermon?

The reason we perform the Autumn Grand Service on this day every year is not merely to celebrate or commemorate the day this Teaching was founded. Rather, it is to take to heart once again the Parent’s intention that is behind the day of origin of the Teaching–the intention that is embodied in God the Parent’s first revelation, which said, “I have descended here to save all humankind.” We ought to pledge that we will fulfill that intention of God by spreading the path of single-hearted salvation ever more widely no matter how many generations it may take. Such is the significance of this day.

Chapter 1 of The Life of Oyasama opens with God the Parent’s first revelation, which says: “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.” That chapter describes the tense situation in the Residence, where the three-day dialogue between God and human beings continued until Oyasama’s husband, Zenbei, replied, “I offer Miki to You,” thus allowing Oyasama to be settled as the Shrine of God. In addition, this chapter outlines the series of events that Zenbei recalled having occurred during the preceding one year.

Only seven pages long, this is the shortest chapter in this book. Yet, it includes a number of important teachings that we should consider as central to this path including the first revelation of God the Parent.

Reading this chapter has once again given me a renewed sense that, in the run-up to the arrival of the “promised time,” God the Parent was making various arrangements for laying this path through the leg ailments of Oyasama’s son, Shuji. Initially, his leg pain subsided as a result of a Shugendo practitioner’s healing rituals. Yet, because it became a recurring problem, the Nakayama family decided to hold an incantation, which involved inviting a number of people as well as burning a ritual fire.

This enabled Shuji to be free of the leg problem for six months or so, but the pain returned thereafter. The Life of Oyasama describes the frantic atmosphere in which the Nakayama family held as many as nine incantations during the course of one year.

Then, on the evening of October 23, 1838, not only did Shuji have a sore leg, but Zenbei was having trouble with his eyes, and Oyasama with Her back. Thus, there were three ailing persons under one roof. Thinking that this was no ordinary turn of events, the family held an incantation on the following day–that is, the 24th–with Oyasama serving as the medium because the woman who usually served in that role could not be located at the time. In the middle of that incantation came the aforementioned revelation of God the Parent.

God the Parent’s wish to receive Miki as the Shrine of God was far from acceptable to the family. Besides, in their eyes, the request was being made by an unknown god they had never even heard of before. Zenbei, therefore, repeatedly refused the request, but God the Parent remained adamant and told him: “After twenty or thirty years have passed, a day is sure to come when all of you will admit the truth of My intention,” and also, “I shall save all humankind if you will listen to Me.” Thus God the Parent told Zenbei about the delight that lay ahead, besides instructing him carefully and sternly.

Meanwhile, Oyasama was taking no rest at all as She continued to convey God’s intention day and night until, at last, Her life seemed to be in danger. Therefore, at 8:00 on the morning of the 26th, Zenbei finally accepted God’s demand that Oyasama be offered as the Shrine of God, forsaking all self-centered human thoughts and concerns of inconvenience to the family.

Some of you can probably relate to Zenbei’s bewilderment, hesitation, and eventual resolve if you recall the day of origin of your family’s faith or your own faith.

No matter how much you were told about why this is the ultimate teaching or about how wondrous God the Parent’s blessings are, perhaps many of you did not become convinced of those things, let alone start to follow the path, merely as a result of hearing about them. Rather, I suspect that a great many more of you began to follow the path because some serious illness or problem compelled you to plead for help. Perhaps, initially, there were aspects of the teachings that you did not feel quite convinced of, yet as you began to bask in wondrous blessings you were gradually able to see the truth of the teachings and make spiritual growth. As you did so, you must surely have become more and more convinced of the preciousness of God the Parent’s blessings and the wonderfulness of the teachings.

What I am talking about is, in fact, not necessarily limited to first-generation followers. The same, I believe, may be said of cases where the faith has been maintained for many years and handed down from generation to generation.

At present, we can always have access to the Three Scriptures, which contain the direct teachings of God the Parent, and we know a great deal about the Divine Model of Oyasama. Certainly we ought to be far more thoroughly versed in the teachings than the early followers were. Nonetheless, there is a danger that our slowness in making spiritual growth may prevent us from being straightforward in bringing ourselves into complete accord with the divine intention or becoming thoroughly single-hearted with God.

What this probably means is that, even if we know the teachings, we have not truly internalized them or placed complete trust in them. This, among other things, can give rise to a situation in which, even when we claim to be following Oyasama’s Divine Model, for example, we may be arbitrarily choosing to follow only certain aspects of it or interpreting it in a self-serving way.

The real value of faith that has been maintained for many years or a number of generations lies in being able to take it upon oneself to perceive God’s intention and implement it in one’s own life without being compelled by illness or problems to do so. We must strive to sweep our heart and purify our minds so that we can accurately perceive what God the Parent and Oyasama desire of us and implement it in a spirit of simple openness.

In a sense, we may perhaps say that the first words spoken by God the Parent to humankind were God the Parent’s own first attempt to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings. What the three-day dialogue between God and human beings tells us is that when we attempt to convey the teachings to those who know nothing about the path, we cannot expect them to readily understand those teachings if we merely convey them verbally. In fact, it is only to be expected that those people will not even listen to us. Nevertheless, even if they reject us time and again, we ought to make repeated efforts to visit them and convey the teachings with utmost sincerity, for it is such sincere and repeated efforts that God the Parent will accept and respond to by opening up the minds of the people we are trying to work with. This, I think, applies not only to sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings but also to working with people to help them grow spiritually.

The intention of the Parent in founding the Teaching–namely, “to save all humankind”–implies that God the Parent desires to lay the path in order to help all human beings live the Joyous Life, which is the purpose of human creation. God the Parent’s intent in creation, which is expressed as a desire to see our Joyous Life and to share in our joy, is indeed the point of departure and destination of everything.

Let us, therefore, take a moment now to ponder over the Joyous Life. Part XIV of the Ofudesaki starts with a set of verses expressing God’s impatience and pity over the way people tended to be depressed for fear of the authorities. Then comes the following verse, which reveals the goal of human existence.

The reason Tsukihi began human beings was the desire to see you lead a joyous life.

Ofudesaki XIV:25

We may say that this verse is the clearest scriptural description of God’s intention in creation.

The word “joyous”–based on dictionary definitions referring to a state of feeling bright and cheerful as well as a quality that energizes and vitalizes all things–may be seen as indicating a sense of feeling bright and cheerful, spirited and full of energy.

The second half of the term that is translated as “joyous life” is commonly used to refer to going on a trip for pleasure or sightseeing, but originally it seems to have been used to denote a spiritual state in which a sense of bright cheerfulness that is free of any trace of cloudiness allows one to savor the beauty of scenery as well as live a carefree life.

Based on this, we may say that the Joyous Life, which God the Parent tells us is the purpose of human creation, means to live with the complete clarity of mind and a sense of bright cheerfulness and spiritedness while maintaining a spaciousness that has the calmness or leisure to allow for delight in all things. Moreover, what God the Parent desires is the kind of world in which each and every human being lives in that manner.

We may still have a long way to go before the Joyous Life of all humankind is realized, yet a reliable path leading to the Joyous Life was laid because God the Parent was openly revealed by taking Oyasama as the Shrine. In addition, through the sincere efforts of our many predecessors guided by the everliving Oyasama, that path has spread and expanded to become what it is today.

More than 160 years have now passed since the founding of the Teaching. This is not at all a short period of time, but from the perspective of the grand mission of reconstructing the whole world as the Joyous Life World, we should say that our endeavor has barely begun.

Today we are able to follow the path without having to worry about the authorities’ interference or persecution, which tormented our predecessors. Yet, because of the present splendid situation, there is all the more cause for concern that we may be slackening our efforts and hampering our progress.

It is vital to further strengthen our conviction of faith that we will spread this path throughout the world and one day certainly realize the Joyous Life of all humanity so desired by God the Parent. Braced by that conviction, we must spread the Joyous Life in wider and wider circles, starting right where we are.

The fact that the path publicly states the Joyous Life to be its goal means that any place where followers of this path assemble needs to be pervaded by an atmosphere of the Joyous Life. If you have not yet attained that level of progress, I would at least hope that efforts are being made to work toward the Joyous Life. This also applies at the level of individual followers of the path, for I believe that if each follower maintains a conscious awareness that the Joyous Life is our goal, it will spread to people nearby.

If, on the other hand, churches or any other places where Yoboku assemble are lacking the atmosphere of the Joyous Life or if the followers of the path on an individual level are moving away from the Joyous Life, then that is a problem.

If that happens to be the case, I would suggest that you ponder deeply in the light of the teachings and the Divine Model over why such a situation has arisen, what should be done to enable you to savor the Joyous Life, and how to make progress toward the Joyous Life.

In order for the Joyous Life to be realized as intended by God the Parent, it is essential that the mind be completely pure and clear. To put it another way, if the mind is completely purified, it should be possible to find delight even in things that people of the world ordinarily dislike and try to avoid or see as sources of suffering, as indicated by the following verse from the Ofudesaki:

If only the mind is purified completely, there will be nothing but delight in everything.

Ofudesaki XIV:50

This, again, is not very easy to accomplish, but I think that, if we continue making repeated efforts to sweep our heart so that it becomes clearer and purer each day, our delight will steadily increase with the growing clarity of the mind.

We also read in a Divine Direction:

If the mind is made pure, no matter what others may say, anger will not arise.

Osashizu, March 22, 1887

Nearing the mind of joyousness by constantly sweeping dust from the mind and purifying the mind can certainly be done so long as we remember to do so in our daily lives. As human beings we can only live our lives through mutual help and support, which involves a lot of people including our own family members. If there is anyone close to us who is suffering from an illness or any other problem, I wonder if we can really remain peaceful at all. I rather doubt that we can feel joyous in such a situation. We naturally want to do anything we can to help that person feel better and be saved.

As we can see from this example, joyousness felt by oneself alone is hardly sufficient, and indeed a Divine Direction tells us:

Only when your joy brings joy to others, can it be called true joy.

Osashizu, December 11, 1897

I am sure there are many ways to bring joy to others around us. Yet I think the most noble thing to do–and this is something that anyone can do so long as the willingness is there–is salvation work. When we come across people who are depressed over sufferings of illness or other troubles, therefore, we ought to convey God’s parental love being shown through those difficulties in order to help them change their orientation of mind, because the surest way to make them spirited is to have them see God the Parent’s blessings, which can be given in response to sincere prayers offered by relying totally on God.

I feel sure that, in the course of visiting sufferers time and again to administer the Sazuke, many of you Yoboku have witnessed blessings of salvation so miraculous as to even surprise doctors. Moreover, through listening sincerely to people who are at a loss how to deal with problems and doing everything in your power to work with them to find a way to have their prayers accepted by God the Parent, many of you must surely have seen a path suddenly opening up where least expected and eventually bringing a settling to the problems.

The joy at seeing people rejoice in the blessings that have freed them from the sufferings of illnesses and other problems and the elation of knowing that God the Parent and Oyasama have provided the blessings for them can only be savored by those who have implemented salvation work. As for the people who have received blessings of salvation, such experiences offer a precious opportunity to awaken to God the Parent’s blessings and to settle the divine intention in their hearts. Working for single-hearted salvation is, indeed, the most important task for us to perform in order to advance toward the Joyous Life.

We have just a little over two months left this year, the year that we embarked upon with the recognition that this second year of the “three years, one thousand days” season could determine the results of our pre-anniversary activities.

On this day two years ago, I indicated the guidelines for our anniversary-related activities through Instruction Two, saying that all Yoboku should strive to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and engage in salvation work while maintaining the mind of saving others at all times. We then sought to ensure a thorough understanding of the purport of that Instruction throughout the Tenrikyo community. We called on all Yoboku to get to work and heighten their activities while making sure that those activities would proceed in a concerted manner. Then, this year, we once again urged all church head ministers and others in leadership roles to take the lead at the forefront of the pre-anniversary activities.

Throughout next year–the final year when we are to complete our pre-anniversary activities–I hope that, building on what has been done so far, you will implement your activities so thoroughly that you will have no regrets later.

To that end, I want to suggest that you take this opportunity to once again reflect on the way you have been conducting your activities. For instance, concerning the implementation of the pledges you must have made in anticipation of the anniversary, you might like to take a fresh look at your goals and make preparations and arrangements for embarking on the coming year, the year for completing your pre-anniversary activities.

Throughout that concluding year, let us do our utmost to complete what we have set out to do so that, on the occasion of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, we may bring joy to the everliving Oyasama by showing Her a level of spiritual growth befitting that season. I sincerely request in this regard that you conduct your activities in a unity of minds.

Before I conclude, allow me to say a few words about the westward expansion of the Sanctuary precincts. As I mentioned in my Service prayer today, the work of raising the ground level has been proceeding by means of earth-carrying hinokishin since June last year. This work was initially scheduled to continue until next year, but we are now able to complete it much earlier than that, thanks to the cooperation of all directly supervised churches and the enthusiastic hinokishin provided by large numbers of followers. I, therefore, want to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation, and now I would like to bring my remarks to a close by once again thanking all of you who have joined in this effort. Thank you for listening.

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