Any person who is 17 years of age or over is eligible for admission to Shuyoka, the three-month Spiritual Development Course. Shuyoka students sow the seeds of sincerity at Jiba, reflect on their daily use of mind, and cultivate the joy of faith during their stay at the Home of the Parent, where the everliving Oyasama resides.
There are a total of 1,466 students (as of the end of May) engaging in spiritual training in three sessions of Shuyoka: the 779th, 780th, and 781st sessions. Shuyoka was established in April 1941, following the reorganization of the spiritual training programs at Jiba. Since then, over 630,000 people have completed the course.
People from all parts of Japan as well as various places in the world return to Jiba to attend Shuyoka. Some of them strive to further their spiritual growth by learning the teachings, while others seek a dependable guide when a major change occurs in their life, such as marriage, new employment, or retirement. There are also those who, returning to the Home of the Parent for the first time, are looking for salvation from illnesses and troubles.
The daily schedule of Shuyoka students is basically the same for all sessions and classes. Their day starts with going to the Main Sanctuary to attend the morning service. After the service, they return to their followers dormitory and engage in a morning training program. Most of them walk to Shuyoka to attend classes. In the mornings, Shuyoka offers classes on The Doctrine of Tenrikyo and The Life of Oyasama, as well as practice sessions for the service dance. In the afternoons, students practice the musical instruments for the service and engage in hinokishin at various sites around the Home of the Parent. After returning to their followers dormitory, they engage in cleaning hinokishin, perform the evening service, and participate in training programs.
The first English class was held in April 1975, and the first Chinese class was offered in April 1980. Both classes have been held annually since then. The Thai class, offered in May 1988 for the first time, is held once every two years. Korean and Indonesian classes have also been held in the past. This year, the first French class began in June, and the first Spanish class will start in August.
Nigel Sanigar from London, England, who is enrolled in this year’s English class, came to learn the teachings of the path. He said, “When I first learned the teachings about ‘a thing lent, a thing borrowed,’ and ‘passing away for rebirth,’ I was convinced that these were the teachings that I had been searching for all along.” He started going to Tenrikyo UK Centre and, in 2004, returned to Jiba for the first time. In January 2006, he returned to the Home of the Parent to attend the Oyasama 120th Anniversary Service. During his stay, he attended the Besseki lectures and fulfilled his desire to become a Yoboku. Mr. Sanigar entered Shuyoka with a resolution to walk the path in single-heartedness with God. He said: “Every time I pray in front of the Kanrodai, I feel serene. I have a strong conviction that the teachings of this path will certainly appeal to anyone in the world. I would like to truly settle the teachings in my mind at Shuyoka, so that I can share this wonderful faith with as many people as possible.”
Liu Meng-xiong, who is in this year’s Chinese class, was an English teacher at a junior high school in Taiwan. He said, “In all of the classes, it is obvious that the lecturers are very sincere in their efforts to convey the teachings to the students.” For many years, he had heard about the teachings and the Home of the Parent from his wife, Xu Yu-ying. Although he was interested in learning more about the faith, his work as a teacher kept him too busy to visit the church. In October 2005, Mr. Liu returned to Jiba for the first time. Thereafter, his wife and the head minister of the church strongly recommended that he attend Shuyoka, and he eventually decided to enroll in the course. He said, “Learning that I can sweep away the dusts of the mind through performing the seated service was an eye-opening experience for me.” At the Home of the Parent, he has seen many people receive wondrous blessings after having the Sazuke administered for their ailments. He said with a smile: “I am looking forward to becoming a Yoboku and administering the Sazuke to others. I want to make a contribution to my community by doing everything I can to be of help to others.”
Suchart Wongboonyakul, a follower from Bangkok, Thailand, is a class monitor for this year’s Thai class. Because of his seniority at age 67 and his gregarious personality, his classmates affectionately call him “Grandpa.” He always has a smile on his face and does hinokishin with enthusiasm. In December 2003, Mr. Wongboonyakul underwent surgery for a cataract in his left eye. However, the optical nerve in his left eye did not heal well, resulting in a temporary loss of sight. Since then, he has gone through three additional surgeries and regained some vision in his left eye. He said: “The vision in my left eye is still clouded, but I have normal vision in my right eye. For the most part, I have no problem seeing things in my daily life. I am grateful for the fact that I can see things normally.” He learned about the teachings of the path when one of his friends in the neighborhood sprinkled the fragrance of the teachings on him. In May 2005, he returned to Jiba for the first time. He said: “There are so many things I don’t know about this path. That’s why I feel so eager to learn the teachings every day.”
These Shuyoka students traveled long distances to attend the course. Although the languages they speak and the expectations they brought with them to Shuyoka may have varied, they now have something in common: all of them have a strong desire to learn and implement the teachings and are focused on making spiritual growth.