May I begin by expressing my deep appreciation to all of you for returning to Jiba to attend today’s Spring Grand Service? May I also thank you all sincerely for the tremendous efforts you are devoting to the work of the path in the course of daily life?
As we have just concluded the Grand Service, I would like to take this opportunity once again to share some of my thoughts on the significance of the Spring Grand Service in the hope of ensuring that we complete our pre-anniversary activities during this concluding year of the “three years, one thousand days” season, which we set aside for a decisive drive to prepare for the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. May I, therefore, ask for your attention while I deliver my sermon? As you are fully aware, the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service is the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life by shortening Her term of life by as much as 25 years to hasten the spiritual growth of all humankind, Her children. Prior to that event, She strongly and repeatedly demanded that those close to Her perform the Service. At the time, the police were taking harsh measures to control this path. Nonetheless, faced with Oyasama’s stern training, which She was providing even by going to the extent of confronting them with Her own serious physical condition, the followers set out to perform the Service, though in secrecy under the veil of night and behind closed doors. Eventually, they would bring themselves to perform the Service boldly in broad daylight with the inclusion of the musical instruments, thus even endangering their safety. In the meantime, however, Oyasama guided these hesitant followers, who had found themselves wedged between Oyasama’s instructions and the demands of the law and common worldly ideas. She taught them where to base themselves in pondering over the truth and told them and encouraged them, in stern yet careful language, to commit themselves to becoming single-hearted with God until, at last, they were indeed able to make up their minds. For their part, their concern for Oyasama’s safety was so serious that they even asked for specific assurances, saying, “If the worst should occur, will You grant Your divine protection?” Miraculously, however, the feared police interference did not happen, and the Service was duly concluded. Nevertheless, Oyasama, who was listening contentedly to the joyous sounds of the musical instruments, withdrew from physical life quietly, as if falling asleep, as the Service came to an end. This turn of events was nothing short of a complete shock to those who were convinced that, once they performed the Service, Oyasama would certainly recover and live to be 115. Overwhelmed with unbearable grief, they felt lost, yet they managed to pull themselves together to make a request for Divine Directions. The following words were then spoken to them:
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 in 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.
Osashizu, February 18, 1887
This Divine Direction explained the reason why She had withdrawn from physical life, saying that She was now starting to undertake salvation to “level the ground” throughout the world. This salvation, which was to encompass all humankind, would entail the performance of the Service, which is the most important and indispensable prerequisite for it. That is why Oyasama demanded its implementation over and over again. It goes without saying that what She was demanding was not merely implementation in terms of form but the followers’ resolution to let go of all human thinking, rely totally on God the Parent, and perform the Service in complete accord with God’s intention. In the end, I believe that Oyasama recognized the progress the followers had made in their individual faith and accepted their resolve, and that She withdrew from physical life, satisfied that, now that they had come this far, the day would surely arrive when the Service would be completed and the reconstruction of the world as the Joyous Life World would be accomplished. This reminds us of that part of the story of creation in which Izanami-no-Mikoto, the original Mother, conceived and gave birth to the children for the third time, saw them reach the height of four inches, and remarked, “Now that they have grown so tall, in time they will reach the height of human beings five feet tall.” She then withdrew from physical life with a smile. In Oyasama’s case, She remains everliving though She withdrew from physical life. In fact, even now She continues, as She will for all time, to guide all human beings, Her children, toward spiritual maturity. Our duty as the children of the path, then, is to respond to Oyasama’s expectations by striving to grow spiritually, complete the Service, and bring the Joyous Life World to realization. Spiritual growth is something we ought to be working at in the ordinary course of daily life if we are followers of the path. Yet, by taking advantage of important junctures represented by Oyasama’s anniversaries, we strive to make a special, concerted effort to accelerate our spiritual growth. Exerting our utmost to this end constitutes our pre-anniversary activities. By focusing our united minds on achieving goals within time limits represented by Oyasama’s anniversaries, we can accomplish a great deal more, as well as savor greater joy and elation, during these special seasons than at ordinary times. In the Ofudesaki, Oyasama sternly urged those close to Her to grow spiritually, setting January 26 as the time limit for that effort, and those early followers, for their part, did their utmost to respond to Her. Now as we work to prepare for the anniversary of Oyasama, I suggest that all of us follow the example of our early predecessors by making as much spiritual growth as we possibly can. Spiritual growth refers to the process of nearing the intention of the Parent. It means working to fulfill God the Parent’s wishes and allow our minds to mature so that they will be acceptable in the eyes of God the Parent and Oyasama. God the Parent’s intention in creating humankind and the world was to see us lead the Joyous Life and to share in our joy. The Joyous Life so desired by God the Parent is a state of the world that is full of life, energy, and radiance and in which all of us human beings help one another as brothers and sisters. To reach that destination, however, those of us who have settled God the Parent’s intention in our minds need to help one another to share with more and more people the way of living that is joyous and spirited so that the number of those who set their sights on that same destination will increase. Surely there is no one who doesn’t wish to live joyously. I’m also sure there is no one who doesn’t wish for the kind of world where everyone can live joyously. Our actual world, however, is far removed from that. Suffering and agony arising from illness or other problems are endless, and so are conflict and strife in which we human beings hurt one another. Oyasama has taught us in logical order why it is that we human beings, who were created to live the Joyous Life, cannot live joyously and what it is that we have to do to realize the Joyous Life. We were allowed the freedom of mind as the truth of oneself, yet we misused it and let our minds be covered in dust, thereby creating a world full of suffering. Taking pity on our condition, God the Parent revealed this path of single-hearted salvation at the arrival of the promised time in order to save all people throughout the world. Since then, guided by Oyasama, who remains everliving, many people have found salvation from their sufferings of illness and other problems. Upon being taught the goal of human existence and the true way of living as human beings, many have come to follow this path. The core of Oyasama’s parental love, it goes without saying, is the parental heart that is singly intent on saving all people throughout the world. All the things that we are taught–such as performing the Service, sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings, working to save others, doing hinokishin, and making efforts of contribution and dedication–are not merely designed to save those who implement them but are in fact methods to advance the path of single-hearted salvation, to spread it ever more widely, and to accomplish the intention of the Parent. In terms of our preparation for the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, I have been stressing the need to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and work to save others. I have been asking all of you Yoboku to do whatever you can, through your own positions and roles, to sprinkle the fragrance and help others be saved. The reason I have been doing so is that I felt these tasks to be the most important during the current season. Given that there are those who have worries and anxieties with no sure guide to depend upon–and even in our midst, there probably are quite a few who are suffering from illness or other problems–we need to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings on those people and try to save them. We ought to gain momentum, I thought, to proactively reach out to more and more people through such efforts. For most of us, our faith has been handed down through generations, and we have been following the path for a number of years ourselves. It would be inexcusable if the following verse from the Ofudesaki applied to us:
To My sorrow, no matter how deeply you have pondered, you have no mind to save others.
That is why, in Instruction Two, I emphasized cultivating the mind of saving others and implementing salvation work. This is meant to encourage you to constantly cultivate and nurture the mind of saving others, which is described as true sincerity, and to translate that sincerity into action. To be able to do this, it is fundamental, whatever your positions and roles may be, to focus on keeping your mind connected always to God the Parent and Oyasama. I want us to bear the teachings in mind at all times and base our thoughts and actions on the Divine Model of Oyasama, whatever we may be dealing with in our daily lives, whether at the level of our family, work, or local community. Making repeated efforts in this manner will itself sprinkle the fine fragrance of the teachings and even lead to the salvation of others. We embarked upon this year with the shared recognition that the third year of the “three years, one thousand days” season leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama was, indeed, the year to complete our pre-anniversary activities. Precisely two years ago, on this occasion, I cited a Divine Direction and said that the phrase “three years, one thousand days” indicated the length of time we should try to follow the path of the Divine Model of Oyasama. I trust that all of you, who must have set specific goals for yourselves, have since been striving to your utmost to follow even a small part of the Divine Model, which is a manifestation of Oyasama’s boundless parental love. I am sure that you have been working toward the goals you set in the hope of showing Oyasama a new level of spiritual growth that will bring joy to Her on Her 120th Anniversary. I hope that you will spend this year as befits the concluding year so that you will, indeed, be able to fulfill your goals and complete this year with no regrets. Such efforts will also provide you with a new footing on which you will be able to make new progress toward the next milestone. Indeed I hope that working to prepare for the 120th Anniversary will not just result in a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at observing the anniversary but will also pave the way for future delight by giving rise to promising developments and allowing powerful buds to sprout. In this sense, I want to suggest that you adopt a long-term perspective, rather than being caught up in immediate concerns, and work to complete one effort after another that will lead to future growth, however small those efforts may seem now. Following the District Lectures held the year before last, we designated last year as the year to accelerate our pre-anniversary activities with concerted implementation. We organized the Path Leaders Rallies intended for those in leadership roles in order to promote and strengthen our pre-anniversary activities. We were able to complete the earth-carrying hinokishin for the westward expansion of the Sanctuary precincts five months earlier than scheduled, thanks to the cooperation of large numbers of participants. This, I feel, was a manifestation of the growing momentum in the Tenrikyo community. Looking back on the past year, we see that a number of huge natural disasters occurred both within and outside this country. Surely, everyone who saw footage of the devastation in affected areas must have felt deeply saddened. Relief efforts have been conducted, and also disaster damage prevention has been discussed in order to enable appropriate measures to be developed. Yet it would be best if no disaster happened in the first place. We are, in fact, taught the methods to reconstruct the world as a world where no such disasters ever occur or where, even if they do occur, we can be blessed with great misfortunes being turned into small misfortunes. From this perspective, then, we must all humbly recognize our shortcomings and perceive the impatience that God the Parent must be feeling at seeing our present condition. We must take to heart God the Parent’s urging behind these occurrences and further strengthen our commitment to advancing single-hearted salvation. In anticipation of the anniversary of Oyasama, we set aside a period of time for a decisive effort to grow spiritually in the hope of bringing joy to the everliving Oyasama. Yet we must each take the implementation of this effort as our own personal concern. If some of you happen to feel that you have made insufficient progress though two years have already passed, let me assure you that you, too, will be able to observe the anniversary in high spirits providing that you work with renewed resolve throughout this year. I very much hope that all of you will complete your pre-anniversary activities by working to your utmost throughout this concluding year so that you will have no regrets and, instead, have radiant spirits when you observe the 120th Anniversary. I also hope that you will spiritedly implement your activities so as to show Oyasama a lively and joyous atmosphere in Jiba throughout the year of the anniversary. With this request, I now want to bring my remarks to a close. Thank you for listening.