Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service

May I begin by thanking you most sincerely for the efforts you are devoting to the cause of the path in your daily lives. May I also express my heartfelt appreciation for the trouble you have taken to return to Jiba from near and far to attend the Service today in such large numbers.

I am delighted that we have been able to duly perform the Autumn Grand Service, which celebrates the day of origin of the Teaching. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to invite you to join me in giving fresh thought to the purpose for which Oyasama revealed this Teaching and in considering how those of us who have faith in the Teaching ought to live our lives if we are to accomplish that purpose. May I share some of my thoughts on these themes with you?

It goes without saying that it was for the purpose of saving all humankind that Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi and taught the path of single-hearted salvation leading to the Joyous Life. This, one may say, is a huge goal.

Yet She did not merely declare the goal; She went on to teach in great detail how we could accomplish that goal. The greater a goal is, the longer the way to reach the goal tends to be, and the more serious the difficulties involved are likely to be. Oyasama went through a path of tremendous difficulties for fifty years in a joyful and spirited manner, thereby demonstrating the Divine Model for us Yoboku, who are Oyasama’s instruments.

It is our duty as Yoboku to work toward the great goal of saving all humankind by following Oyasama’s path with a sense of mission and pride and by constantly bearing Her Divine Model in mind, so that we may spread the Joyous Life in wider and wider circles starting right where we are.

Concerning the significance of the founding of the Teaching and that of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, a Divine Direction tells us, “[T]he principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth.” The second Shinbashira repeatedly explained that these two events, though outwardly different, both come from parental love for all human beings, who are Her children.

A Divine Direction that was delivered shortly after Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life in 1887 said, “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.” The passage clearly shows that the event commemorated by the anniversaries of Oyasama stems from parental love for us, Oyasama’s children.

As for the other event, the day of origin of the Teaching, chapter one of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, entitled “Oyasama,” quotes the first three verses of the Ofudesaki and then states:

We human beings wander about on the mind’s dark paths having nothing to depend upon but our own self-centered imaginations. This is because we have not known the Parent of Origin, nor have we understood the divine heart. God the Parent felt pity for us and, through Oyasama as the Shrine, became revealed at that time to teach all of God’s intentions to humankind.

Although God became openly revealed in this world because the Promised Time had arrived, it is also true that the world at the time was beset by confusion, suffering, and conflict resulting from the misuse of the freedom of the mind, with which human beings are endowed as the truth of oneself. It is probably because the world was thus far removed from the Joyous Life that God the Parent said, “I have descended here to save all humankind.” In this sense, the founding of the Teaching was also motivated by the parental love that took pity on humankind and desired to save all of us and lead us to the Joyous Life.

We are truly fortunate to be endowed with the freedom of the mind, for without this freedom we would not be able to savor the joy of being alive. On the other hand, isn’t it possible that many people would feel bewildered at being given total freedom? They could feel at a loss as to what goal to aim for or what to live for. Trying to achieve something blindly would not necessarily enable one to achieve it, either. Also, it is human nature to get caught up in selfish desires or to fall into idleness when there is no clear goal to work toward. One might, consequently, behave in ways that could bring suffering to oneself. I believe that we can only give full expression to the significance of the freedom of the mind when we know our true goal, understand the truth of heaven, and acquire a reliable standard for the mind. In fact, it is precisely these that Oyasama taught.

Because human beings had been unable to free themselves from the dark paths of the mind despite the training they had received in wisdom and letters, Oyasama revealed the true goal of human life by explaining the very origin of human existence and began to lay the path that would lead to the goal of the Joyous Life. Such was the day of origin of the Teaching.

Then after completing all the arrangements for this path of single-hearted salvation, Oyasama urged us to make a decisive commitment to follow the path by pondering, making decisions, and settling our minds in the light of the Divine Model while basing ourselves on Her teachings given over a fifty-year period and allowing ourselves to be guided by Her workings to be provided by virtue of Her eternal life. Such is the day of origin of Oyasama’s anniversaries.

Oyasama’s endeavor to lay this path had begun at a time when no one even knew the first thing about single-hearted salvation, as is clear from a later Divine Direction that said: “[T]his path came to be from a time when nothing was clear. You did not know north from south, east from west” (Osashizu, June 6, 1899). Although Her fifty-year effort was filled with hardships, She never perceived them as hardships as She continued working on the arrangements for the complete path of universal salvation out of Her single-hearted parental love for us.

Today, I would like all of us to take this opportunity to give fresh thought to the path of the Divine Model and to pledge that we will implement Her teachings in order to respond to Her intention expressed in these words from a Divine Direction, “To all countries, to the whole world, shall I open the path” (Osashizu, March 29, 1904).

Since the founding of the Teaching, 169 years have passed, and the path is now spreading not only in Japan but also in various overseas regions. Yet the vast majority of the world’s population still remain unaware of the true Parent of humankind, the true goal of human existence, or the reliable guide that can help them attain that goal. Meanwhile, our civilizations have made tremendous progress, and our societies have changed a great deal. Nonetheless, the miseries of war only seem to have intensified, and indeed the previous century has even been referred to as one of wars. Furthermore, in our relentless pursuit of ever greater material abundance, we have been damaging nature, which embodies God’s providence. In view of the way things are going, one cannot help but feel concerned about the future of humankind. In addition, weakening interpersonal relationships such as family ties are giving rise to a range of social problems. At a time like this, we Yoboku, who have been guided to the ultimate teaching a step before others, ought to take to heart the day of origin of this path, which began with Oyasama alone, and convey this path of universal salvation to more and more people so that this world, which is experiencing increasing confusion and disharmony, can be reconstructed as one of the Joyous Life.

In the sermon I delivered on the occasion of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, I proposed that, seeing this entire year as the year of the anniversary, we give expression to the results of our pre-anniversary activities throughout the year by ensuring that the Home of the Parent would always have a lively atmosphere with many people returning to Jiba. I am happy to note that, thanks to the efforts you have made, whether you are church head ministers, Yoboku, or followers, the Sanctuary precincts have indeed been lively, especially over weekends and holidays, with pilgrimage groups organized by churches, dioceses, and districts, as well as families and others, returning to Jiba. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the sincere efforts you have been making through your own positions and roles.

Each and every one of those people–whether they came here for the first time in a long time, for the first time ever, or for the umpteenth time–must have received the truth of the Parent before going back to their own parts of the world. In order to ensure that the truth they received blossoms and bears fruit rather than remains dormant forever, I want to ask you to continue providing them with sincere guidance and care.

We only have two more months left before this anniversary year comes to an end. Some of you, to your delight, may already have been blessed with being shown the results of your anniversary-related activities. On the other hand, some of you may have yet to see such results, but I want to encourage you not to give up on your anniversary activities and, instead, to take this opportunity to rededicate yourselves to those activities. Indeed, I hope you will continue your efforts throughout the remaining two months while looking forward to having such results shown. Working on our anniversary activities spiritedly will provide a springboard for a new departure for the next stage of our journey.

As I always say, Oyasama’s anniversaries do not represent the finish line; they are milestones along the way toward the great goal of attaining the Joyous Life for all humankind.

Although striving to respond to Oyasama’s intention is an effort each of us, as a follower of the path, ought to be making at all times on an individual level, Her anniversaries provide special opportunities for all of us to work together in unity of mind to achieve a new level of spiritual growth by conducting activities aimed at bringing joy to the everliving Oyasama. Such are our anniversary-related activities. In fact, through working on these activities, we have been able to savor the kind of high-spiritedness and elation that would not have been possible through individual efforts alone. Some activities and projects, such as the construction of buildings, have only been accomplished because we joined our efforts in unity of mind.

What is also vital, however, is to ensure that the activities we work on together during the special, committed drives lead to the enhancement of our continued and sustained work in ordinary times beyond such special periods. The work we do in ordinary times requires patience and steadiness that are grounded in the basic, core teachings.

Oyasama often used the analogy of farm work to convey Her teachings. The activities we conduct in special periods could be likened to the focused work that needs to be done in the crucial harvest season. The work we do during ordinary times, then, could be compared to the steady efforts required to ensure a good harvest, such as tilling the land, fertilizing the soil, irrigating the fields, protecting the crops from insect pests, and weeding. We can only harvest a good crop if we make such steady, day-to-day efforts. A good harvest will also provide new seeds, which will grow and bear fruit in the future.

In terms of the work of our churches, the activities that should be conducted at all times include performing the services and spreading the teachings. The primary mission of our churches is to perform the services to have God and Oyasama be spirited so that the blessing of universal salvation, which will include the true settling of the world, may be shown. In order to fulfill this mission, it is essential to make every effort to ensure that there are a sufficient number of people to perform the services; it goes without saying that this endeavor includes helping people practice the dance and musical instruments for the service. If we neglect these efforts, our churches may end up with fewer people than are necessary to perform the services properly. In this regard, all Yoboku should not only practice the service so that they can take part in the performance of the services, but they need also to make sincere efforts to help younger members and beginners learn the service.

If we are to save all humankind, we must also strive to spread this ultimate teaching throughout the world. We need to convey the voice of the Parent to those who are experiencing suffering and anxiety, unaware of the existence of their true Parent. We should help and guide them, sincerely working with them so that they may grow spiritually to the point where they will join us Yoboku, who are timber for building the Joyous Life World. Such efforts represent important aspects of the mission of our churches. These efforts will also help improve the way our churches perform the services.

In the lead-up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, I invited all Yoboku to make a special effort to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and help others be saved. I am happy to say that some churches seem to have devised ingenious ways to make it easier for anyone to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and that some seem to have made a committed effort to encourage Yoboku to administer the Sazuke.

What I am hoping for now is that such special, anniversary-related efforts will lead to enhanced activities in ordinary times rather than merely coming to an end with the conclusion of the anniversary season. It is the duty of church head ministers to help ensure that this enhancement does happen by providing leadership, showing an exemplary model to encourage Yoboku to make spiritual growth, and giving them guidance and care as well as joining them on their journey toward spiritual growth.

I very much hope that those of you who are head ministers will feel a sense of pride and joy in performing this important duty. As for the other Yoboku, I hope that they will proactively stay connected to their churches and cooperate and join efforts with their head ministers so that their churches can serve as centers for the practice of single-hearted salvation and as models of the Joyous Life in the local communities.

Lastly, this year marks the fiftieth year since the publication of Kohon Tenrikyo Kyosoden (the Japanese edition of The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo). We cannot practice our faith without following the Divine Model of Oyasama, and The Life of Oyasama provides the crucial reference point that makes it more viable to follow Her Divine Model.

Oyasama’s Divine Model is a model of single-hearted salvation and a model of how to live the Joyous Life. It goes without saying that the Divine Model, which embodies single-hearted salvation, comes from Her journey that was motivated solely by Her desire to save all human beings, who to Her are Her own children.

However, after being settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi, not only did She fall to the depths of poverty, but She was also subjected to opposition and harassment arising from a lack of understanding on the part of those around Her. Moreover, She was arrested and imprisoned on a number of occasions. Her fifty-year journey along the path was indeed filled with hardships. How, then, can that journey be a model of the Joyous Life?

Her fall into the depths of poverty was in accordance with the intention of God, who said: “Fall to the depths of poverty. Unless you fall to the depths of poverty, you cannot understand what sufferers feel” (Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 4). She kept giving to the needy until there was nothing left to give, saying, “Whoever comes to this house shall never leave without being filled with joy” (The Life of Oyasama, chap. 3). That is how She plunged into the depths of poverty. That is why, even when Her family had no rice to cook, She gave Her children encouragement, saying: “When we drink water, it tastes of water. God the Parent has blessed us with exquisite gifts” (The Life of Oyasama, chap. 3). On one occasion, when about two pounds of rice had been acquired with great difficulty, She did not think twice about giving it away to someone who begged for food at Her gate. Her actions, which were totally free from any concern for Her own needs or those of Her family, embody the boundless parental love of none other than humankind’s true Parent, whose sole desire is to save everyone who is suffering.

In another clear expression of this boundless and impartial parental love, She was utterly unconcerned about the appalling conditions of Her imprisonment in January 1886–Her final harship of imprisonment–and, instead, took pity on Her prison guard who appeared to be bored. She expressed a desire to buy a cake for him when a cake peddlar passed by. Indeed, Her parental love sees even those who oppose Her as Her own children dear to Her heart.

Thus, even when subjected to tremendous hardships and difficulties, She remained completely unaffected and found joy in the providence of God, and Her heart was filled solely with parental love for Her children, all human beings. That, I believe, is why Her journey truly models the Joyous Life.

Oyasama’s parental love for all human beings does not stop at just loving them. Her love cannot help but seek to save them from their sufferings. That is why She devised concrete methods of salvation, made all arrangements for them, and sought to teach them to more and more people. Furthermore, She Herself demonstrated those methods–which constitute the path of single-hearted salvation–thereby providing us with the Divine Model. Because of the parental love that desires only to save all humankind, She remained totally unaffected by any privations or any hardships of arrest or imprisonment. She was filled with brightness and was always spirited. In other words, Her journey is the Divine Model of the Joyous Life because Her parental love is focused on single-hearted salvation.

As for us, we should not be complacent about just basking in Her parental love. Rather, we should emulate Her parental love by following Her path of single-hearted salvation while remaining joyous and spirited in the face of anything that happens.

The most reliable written sources that can help us follow Her Divine Model are The Life of Oyasama and Anecdotes of Oyasama, which are in fact inseparably linked to each other. The Life of Oyasama represents the culmination of a tremendous endeavor by the first Shinbashira and others to produce an authoritative account of Oyasama’s life, an endeavor that started around the time of the 10th Anniversary of Oyasama. We can learn about the true core of the Divine Model by reading The Life of Oyasama and, in addition, we can find a vivid portrayal of Her in Anecdotes of Oyasama. I hope you will savor these books and let them help you implement single-hearted salvation in the course of your daily lives.

With only two months remaining in the current year in which to show the results of our anniversary-related activities, I want to ask you to continue working in a focused manner so as to establish a firm foothold that will allow you to start anew in high spirits toward the next milestone. With this request, I want to conclude my remarks. Thank you very much.

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