Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service, October 26, 2005

May I start by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to all of you for coming from near and far to attend today’s Autumn Grand Service. At the outset of today’s Service, we expressed our gratitude for God the Parent’s boundless providence, which we are constantly receiving day after day, and prayed that we might continue to receive God the Parent’s providence and guidance in working to reconstruct the world as the world of the Joyous Life. In addition, we took to heart once again the Parent’s intention in becoming openly revealed, namely, the intention to save all humankind. We also joined together in rededicating ourselves to powerfully advancing single-hearted salvation.

I would now like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you, so may I ask for your attention while I deliver this sermon.

The first several verses of the Ofudesaki succinctly tell us why this Teaching was founded. Let me quote a couple of verses:

Looking all over the world and through all ages, I find no one who has understood My heart.

Ofudesaki I:1

At this time, I, God, reveal Myself and teach the truth of all things in detail.

Ofudesaki I:3

These verses say that because no one understood God’s intention, God the Parent was now becoming openly revealed in this world at the arrival of the Promised Time in order to convey the truth of any and everything in detail. The Ofudesaki goes on to say:

If you wish to know and will come to Me, I shall teach you the original cause of all things.

As God is revealed and teaches the truth of all things in detail, the minds of all in the world will become spirited.

As I am in haste to save all of you quickly, I set out to make all minds in the world spirited.

Ofudesaki I:6-8

These verses say that anyone who has heard the original cause of all things will become spirited and that God desires to save all humankind quickly and will, therefore, set out to make the minds of all people throughout the world spirited.

The phrase “original cause of all things” refers to the truth about creation–that is, the truth that God the Parent created human beings at the Jiba out of a desire to see our Joyous Life and to share in our joy. This teaching about the creation of humanity serves as the foundation for the salvation of all humankind. It is because people do not know this intention of the Parent of Origin that there is endless human suffering associated with illness and calamities as well as conflict and strife. Because of the persistence of thoughts and actions that run counter to the purpose of our creation–namely, the Joyous Life–the sufferings and anxieties related to illness and other problems keep arising.

Yet people will naturally be able to become spirited and step onto the path leading to true salvation once they realize the existence of God, who is the Parent who created humankind; awaken to the profound parental love that constantly motivates God to provide for us, now as ever; and become fully aware that all human beings are equally brothers and sisters as God the Parent’s children, who exist for the purpose of leading the Joyous Life while helping one another.

The very first step on this path leading to world salvation was taken on October 26, 1838.

In fact, the significance of that date, when the Teaching was founded, and the significance of January 26, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life, are one in truth, as the following Divine Direction tells us:

[C]oncerning the twenty-sixth, the principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth.

Osashizu, February 29, 1896

The second Shinbashira repeatedly explained that both events emanated from Oyasama’s parental love for Her children, human beings, and that, in that sense, these two dates have the same significance.

The day of origin of the Teaching marks the beginning of the path of the Divine Model, that is to say, the beginning of the path of single-hearted salvation, which She personally laid to save all humankind. The day of origin of the Spring Grand Service came after She had made all the arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation including those for the Service. That was the day She set out to save the world as the everliving Oyasama, who would “level the ground” throughout the world by virtue of Her eternal life.

Both those dates embody Oyasama’s parental love that desires to save all human beings, Her children, and to lead them all to the Joyous Life. Thus, both dates have the same significance.

It goes without saying that Oyasama’s anniversaries commemorate Her withdrawal from physical life. Like our predecessors, we have also considered Her anniversaries as marking crucial stages in our quest for spiritual growth and mounted committed and concerted efforts to achieve spiritual growth through anniversary-related activities.

We have only three months left before the 120th Anniversary arrives. Our pre-anniversary activities are now in their final stages. After I announced the plans for this anniversary, you must have been striving with determination to do whatever it takes to achieve goals that you set for yourselves in order to bring joy to Oyasama in the current season.

In Instruction Two, I focused on “cultivating the mind of saving others and . . . implementing salvation work” as guidelines for conducting our pre-anniversary activities. I have thus been emphasizing the importance of actually sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping others be saved. I have been requesting that all Yoboku make a practice of spreading the teachings and saving others through their own roles and positions.

I very much hope that all of us will spend the remaining three months working to ensure that these activities will come to fruition. Let us, thereby, genuinely respond to Oyasama’s parental heart, which is so completely filled with love for humankind, Her children, that She even went to the extent of shortening Her physical life to hasten our spiritual growth.

The Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo contains a few entries dating from around the time She became the Shrine of God. For instance, Anecdote 2, entitled “At Every Revelation Uttered,” describes how frightened Her daughters were at the severe tone of Her voice during God the Parent’s first revelation. The next anecdote, entitled “The Storehouse,” says:

[W]hen in the same year [1838] pain returned to Shuji’s leg, becoming so acute that he had to be moved on a stretcher, Oyasama breathed on his leg and applied a piece of paper to the affected area. The pain was gone in about ten days.

During the year preceding the event being described here, Oyasama’s family had a Shugendo practitioner perform incantations and ritual prayers every time Shuji had his leg pain. After the founding of the Teaching, however, Oyasama dealt with Shuji’s condition Herself, and he received a vivid blessing. That event demonstrated that Oyasama’s position had changed completely. By showing a wondrous blessing before the eyes of one and all, Oyasama was trying to convince them that She had indeed become the Shrine of God.

The fourth entry in the Anecdotes of Oyasama records Oyasama as teaching:

Fall to the depths of poverty. Unless you fall to the depths of poverty, you cannot understand what sufferers feel. Even water, once fallen to the bottom, will rise again. I will return ten thousandfold.

The fact that the path of the Divine Model began with Oyasama falling to the depths of poverty seems to contain several profound meanings. Falling to the depths of poverty did not simply mean giving away all the family possessions but indicated rising above all worldly values such as ideas about social standing and common ordinary ways of looking at things. In order to establish a new teaching and lay a path that would save all humankind, Oyasama intended to divest Herself of all things that were based on the traditional, worldly values.

Oyasama says, “Unless you fall to the depths of poverty, you cannot understand what sufferers feel.” Although She may partly have been trying to help the poor and needy through charity, She was also teaching that falling to the depths of poverty helps us understand the feelings of those who suffer. From this perspective, we see that Oyasama is saying that we should be careful not to assume an attitude of superiority toward those we are trying to help but rather that we ought to bring ourselves down to the level where they are so that we can lead them by the hand. What this means, I believe, is that the important thing in helping people overcome anxieties and sufferings is to try to understand their feelings and work with them with loving care and a sense of humbleness.

Oyasama could have saved people without changing Her family circumstances at all. I believe, however, that, for the benefit of those who would aspire to single-hearted salvation, She was trying to show that anyone, even those in the lowest economic and social strata, could help others be saved. In fact, I think She was teaching that being caught up in material wealth and social status would make it difficult to implement the true salvation work that God the Parent envisioned. The fact that She let go of all that teaches us to return our point of view–which has been shaped and conditioned by values about social standing and material wealth–back to its original, unconditioned state.

If you have nothing else to rely on, you can only look to God the Parent and Oyasama for help. You have no choice but to purify your mind, ponder how you can have God the Parent work for you, and build the basis that will allow for God’s workings.

Oyasama says that She will “return [everything] ten thousandfold.” What does that mean? In material terms, I suppose one way to interpret it would be to say that you will no longer suffer any hardships or privations. Yet I believe we can also interpret it as saying that striving for single-hearted salvation while letting go of all self-serving thoughts and ideas about your needs and your family’s needs will be rewarded with the joy of having many people be saved. Indeed, if you make a genuine effort to implement single-hearted salvation and are shown such a result, you will feel a joy that will surpass anything else.

Above all, falling to the depths of poverty means relying totally on God the Parent. It means to put an end to our common, worldly way of living that relies only on human knowledge and strength and, instead, to place our total trust in God the Parent and leave ourselves in the hands of God’s providence. We will then be able to vividly feel God the Parent’s workings.

Please recall how one of Oyasama’s neighbors named Yuki Shimizu received the Grant of Safe Childbirth. The first time she received this Grant, Oyasama told her:

You must forget all human concern. Rely on God the Parent and have a delivery free from worry.

Nonetheless, Yuki ended up following the traditional customs such as the taboo on certain foods. Consequently, her post-natal recovery was not at all smooth. When consulted, Oyasama said: “It is because she harbored doubts.” You must, of course, be quite familiar with this story. Even though, from Yuki’s point of view, she was taking extra precautions that were meant to protect her, this did not accord with Oyasama’s intention.

Later, when Yuki requested the Grant of Safe Childbirth for the second time, she vowed never to doubt God’s workings again. This time, she followed Oyasama’s instructions faithfully and was blessed with an unusually easy delivery. Her recovery was also smooth, as is recorded in The Life of Oyasama.

What this story teaches does not apply only to that lady or to the blessings associated with the Grant of Safe Childbirth. It applies to all of us now. That is to say, so long as we remain caught up in human knowledge, strength, or even common sense, we cannot perceive God’s blessings as the blessings they are.

When Oyasama’s family had no rice to cook, She gave Her children encouragement by saying:

When we drink water, it tastes of water. God the Parent has blessed us with exquisite gifts.

No matter how difficult their circumstances were, Oyasama taught Her children to be grateful for the boundless and unchanging providence of God the Parent.

Incidentally, those of us who live in this country are surrounded by modern conveniences so that just the flip of a switch is enough to turn on a light. We take it for granted that we can get water simply by turning the faucet on, and we are thoroughly accustomed to air conditioned rooms where we do not have to endure heat or cold. One wonders whether we can really appreciate how blessed we are by God the Parent’s providence, which is sometimes typified by the workings of fire, water, and wind. It is true that the modern appliances are also the products of the training that God gave us in terms of wisdom and letters, and that they can help us on our journey to the Joyous Life. Yet we must remember that those things are nothing more than tools with which to work toward the Joyous Life. Also, the advances of our civilization have only been possible thanks to the providence of God the Parent in the first place.

Regardless of any changes that happen in our ways of life, God the Parent’s workings remain unchanged. I believe, therefore, that we must make a personal effort to recognize God’s blessings in the course of our everyday lives. First and foremost–and this applies even now–everyone who seeks to follow this path should make a point of inquiring into and savoring the true meaning of why Oyasama began Her path of the Divine Model by falling to the depths of poverty.

It was on this day three years ago that I announced Instruction Two. After that, we conducted Church Headquarters’ official visits to directly supervised churches. We then organized District Lectures in an effort to ensure a thorough understanding of the message of Instruction Two on the part of all Yoboku and followers. The entire Tenrikyo community focused its attention on working to prepare for the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, and we pledged to achieve implementation and spiritual growth that would bring joy to Oyasama.

Last year, which was the second year of the “three years, one thousand days” season, we called for acceleration of our pre-anniversary activities and concerted implementation. We conducted the Path Leaders Rallies intended for those who were to take the lead in each local community. The rallies were designed to urge participants to fulfill their roles as leaders at the forefront of the path and proactively help others around them get involved.

Immediately after last year’s Autumn Grand Service, we convened a meeting at the Home of the Parent for the head ministers of all directly supervised churches, as well as their spouses and staff ministers. This year, which is the concluding year in which to complete our pre-anniversary activities, we have been making a concerted effort to accomplish the goals that we each set for this decisive “three years, one thousand days” season.

In addition to working with commitment to achieve implementation and spiritual growth appropriate for the current season, we undertook some construction projects in the Home of the Parent. In June the year before last, we commenced the construction for the westward expansion of the Sanctuary precincts and, in September that year, started work on South Right Wing 2 of the Oyasato-yakata building-complex.

The earth-carrying hinokishin for the westward expansion of the Sanctuary precincts drew many participants every day and, thanks to their sincere efforts, we were able to complete that construction considerably earlier than originally scheduled. As for South Right Wing 2, preparatory work is now underway for the 120th Anniversary commemorative exhibitions to be held in that wing.

Yesterday, we performed the service to express our gratitude for the completion of both of these undertakings including all the peripheral construction work. We then conducted a ceremony to open these facilities to followers and others. I would like to take this opportunity, once again, to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those followers who devoted their sincere efforts to these construction projects. Thank you very much indeed.

Although the construction projects are now completed, whether or not they will actually serve their purposes and attain the significance they are designed to have will depend on how we perform our tasks from now on.

It is for the convenience of people coming to worship that we expanded the Sanctuary precincts and constructed the West Approach to the precincts. We built South Right Wing 2 as a facility where people who return to Jiba can come into touch with the teachings or deepen their faith. Both these projects were undertaken in anticipation of the upcoming anniversary, yet neither is a commemorative project as might be imagined.

We undertook these construction projects because we considered them necessary to ensure that the path will continue to grow. Thus, the way to impart significance to these projects is to make sure that the Sanctuary precincts are always lively with people and that South Right Wing 2 is used by many people learning the teachings for the first time or seeking to deepen their understanding of the teachings.

From this perspective, too, I hope that you will perform your tasks earnestly throughout the remaining three months so as to lay a firm foundation for new progress. Every effort we make will certainly be rewarded with appropriate blessings shown to us. Also, the joy we feel at knowing that we have dedicated ourselves to the best of our ability will, I am sure, become our most precious treasure. This will also serve as a reliable springboard for our future journey and allow promising developments to occur in a variety of ways.

Oyasama, who is everliving, is working even now for the path of single-hearted salvation, with Her heart filled solely with parental love for Her children, all human beings. Wishing to bring joy to Oyasama, we conduct our pre-anniversary activities on our own initiative by setting apart a time period for a committed and concerted effort. It is out of a parental, loving desire to hasten the spiritual growth of humankind that Oyasama shortened Her term of life and withdrew from physical life, thus setting out to level the ground, saying, “I shall save the world from now.” We carry out our pre-anniversary activities in order to respond to that parental love of Oyasama.

I sincerely hope that we will be able to observe the anniversary with joy and elation and a deep sense of fulfillment at having exerted our full measure of sincerity throughout the “three years, one thousand days” season. I also hope that the Home of the Parent will have a lively atmosphere throughout the year of the anniversary, with many people returning to Jiba as a result of all followers cultivating the mind of saving others and implementing salvation work. May I ask you, therefore, to continue to perform your tasks spiritedly in the remainder of the pre-anniversary season. With this, I would like to conclude my remarks today. Thank you very much for listening.

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