From July 15 through 17, some 260 English-speaking followers from 19 countries attended “Tenri Forum 2006: New Frontiers in the Mission,” which was sponsored by Tenrikyo Overseas Department. One of the major events held in the Home of the Parent to mark the year of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, the forum featured four plenary addresses, 26 section meetings, eight regional meetings, and a symposium.
The participants spent the three days discussing how to internalize Oyasama’s teachings more deeply and how to deploy Tenrikyo’s resources more effectively to address a range of key issues facing the world today. Conducted entirely in English–except for the third day symposium, which was simultaneously interpreted into Japanese–the forum was Tenrikyo’s first attempt of its kind. Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi explained the significance of the forum in the Program Booklet, distributed to all participants. “This path,” he wrote, “has always used Japanese as the main language of communication. That is, it was in Japanese that Oyasama explained the teachings, which have been pondered and implemented by people who were born and brought up in Japanese culture. Such, essentially, is the way the path has been maintained. Yet the path has now spread to overseas regions. Against this backdrop, we have decided to hold this forum to provide an opportunity for followers to try to bring greater depth to their understanding and practice of the path. The present forum will use English–which is increasingly becoming the common language of the world–as the language in which to discuss how to strengthen Tenrikyo’s efforts to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and help others be saved, so that more and more people may be guided to this path.”
The overall structure of the forum was as follows: The morning and afternoon sessions on days one and two started with a plenary address, followed by several section meetings running concurrently for participants to choose from. On the first and second evenings, informal opportunities were provided for participants to gain an idea of what had been discussed at the section meetings in which they had not participated. Day three allowed the participants to select from four section meetings, followed by regional meetings and then a concluding plenary symposium, which was open to the public.
Day one saw the participants taking a fresh look at some of the fundamental resources of Tenrikyo: namely, the Scriptures, the Service, the Sazuke, the Truth of Origin, the Divine Model of Oyasama, and hinokishin. The morning session began with a plenary address by Ms. Louise Sasaki, who emphasized the effectiveness of Tenrikyo’s resources by telling the audience how she and her family members had incorporated the teachings into their daily lives as a source of comfort, inspiration, strength, and guidance and how self-reflection, compassion for others, and the performance of the service had helped them deepen their understanding of life’s experiences. This was followed by six section meetings, each devoted to one or another of the aforementioned six resources. The afternoon session–which started with Rev. Marlon Okazaki’s plenary address highlighting Tenrikyo’s successes and shortcomings in various regions of the world and discussing how to let Tenrikyo take root in local communities–explored ways of applying the resources to such internal issues as educating the young, cultivating leadership, producing local publications, sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings, preaching sermons, and expressing Tenrikyo spirituality.
Day two focused on possible contributions Tenrikyo might make to discussions of important social concerns. The plenary address in the morning, delivered by Rev. Owen Nakao, highlighted the importance of having the teachings inform one’s views on social issues. The section meetings then discussed human sexuality, marital relationships, faith and the family, ties within the church community, and relationships with friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
The plenary address in the afternoon by Rev. Jiro Morishita was concerned with Tenrikyo’s efforts to connect with the greater community and encouraged discussion about the need and potential of more active and extensive engagement by followers. The ensuing section meetings looked into different ways of engaging with local concerns and issues such as assisting the aged and afflicted, confronting conflict and violence, helping with volunteer work, bridging cultural gaps, and working together with people from other religious backgrounds.
Day three offered four section meetings in the morning, which were all intended to discuss the roles Tenrikyo could play in addressing some important issues potentially affecting the whole world. The participants in these meetings explored and sought to develop ways in which Tenrikyo might contribute to advancing discussions on biotechnology and ethical issues, building world peace, promoting cultural exchange, and resolving the environmental crisis.
This was followed by regional meetings designed to identify possible action plans suited to the specific needs of each region concerned.
Then in the afternoon, the forum participants were joined by many others in a public symposium, which featured three lectures and a panel discussion. The first lecture–delivered by Mr. Yoshihiro Nakamura, a Yoboku and formerly Japan’s ambassador to Zambia and to Uruguay–highlighted the social and economic plight of a large part of the world population in terms of the UN Millennium Development Goals and made suggestions about what Tenrikyo could do to help overcome poverty and suffering. The next lecture, given by Mr. Nobuyuki Takeuchi, provided insights into how to ignite enthusiasm and motivation to spread the teachings and reconstruct the world into the Joyous Life World. The last lecture, by Rev. Toshikiyo Yukimoto, discussed how followers could deepen their faith and unite their minds to fulfill the goal envisaged by God, emphasizing the importance of enlarging one’s vision, helping others, finding joy in whatever is happening, and having a good grasp of the teachings, so that the whole potential of God’s intention could be experienced. The panel discussion reviewed current issues and topics relevant to Tenrikyo’s future. The symposium concluded with an inspiring address given by Director-in-Chief Iburi, whose vision and encouragement had led the way in organizing Tenri Forum 2006. At the end of his address, he introduced Chairman Yoshikazu Terada of Tenri Forum 2006 Steering Committee, saying that without his tireless efforts the forum would not have been possible, and presented him with a bouquet of flowers.