May I begin by thanking all of you most sincerely for the efforts you are devoting to the cause of the path in your daily lives. I wish also to express my heartfelt appreciation for the fact that so many you have returned to Jiba to attend today’s Autumn Grand Service.
Having been able to duly perform the Service, I would like to suggest that we take this opportunity to once again turn our thoughts back to the day of origin of the Teaching so as to reflect on how this path began and confirm our understanding of why this Teaching was founded, for inquiring into these questions will, I believe, further strengthen the way we walk the path from now on.
May I, therefore, have your attention while I deliver this talk.
God stated in what is sometimes called the declaration of the founding of the Teaching:
I am God of Origin, God in Truth. There is causality in this Residence. At this time I have descended here to save all humankind. I wish to receive Miki as the Shrine of God.
These are the first words of God the Parent ever spoken to humanity. Although short, this passage tells us a great deal. It indicates that God not only created humankind and the world but also continues to provide for us with complete and perfect providence; that Jiba is the place where humankind was originally conceived; that God entered Oyasama, who had the soul of the original model of woman, based on the promise made during creation; and that God revealed this Teaching in order to save all humankind. Thus, the passage succinctly explains why and how this Teaching came into being. On the third day following this first revelation–that is, on the morning of October 26, 1838–Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of God.
God created humankind and the world out of a desire to see us live the Joyous Life and to share in our joy. Over many ages thereafter, God continued working to nurture and provide for humankind with boundless parental love, as indicated in this verse from the Ofudesaki:
Since that time, the providence of God has been by no means an easy matter.
Then, when the promised time arrived, God became openly revealed in this world. God took pity on the way we humans were misusing the freedom of mind that had been given to us, thereby suffering from illness and other problems, as well as fighting and hurting one another. Thus, God opened the path of single-hearted salvation to enable us to live the Joyous Life, the original purpose of human creation. What this means is that saving all human beings and leading them to the Joyous Life is, indeed, the essential purpose of founding this Teaching and that followers of this path are those who have pledged to take that purpose of the Teaching as the guiding principle of their own life.
Oyasama was exceptionally compassionate and kind from childhood. As can be seen from the description of Her life prior to the founding of the Teaching given in chapter two of The Life of Oyasama, the depth of Her compassion was beyond the reach of ordinary people. After the founding of the Teaching, Her journey along the path of the Divine Model starts with Her fall to the depths of poverty in accordance with God the Parent’s intention. She gave Her belongings to the needy, starting with the personal effects She had brought with Her when She married, then food, clothes, money, and so forth.
On the surface, Her conduct seems similar to what She did before the founding of the Teaching. In terms of essence, however, it is totally different. Prior to the founding of the Teaching, Her giving never went to the extent of ruining the family’s fortune. People around Her praised Her conduct, and certainly no one slandered Her. After the founding of the Teaching, in contrast, there was no limit to Her giving, for She was trying to fall to the depths of poverty in full accord with the divine intention. Her behavior, therefore, was entirely contrary to common sense.
Moreover, although we use the word “giving” to refer to Her conduct, what She was really doing went beyond giving people monetary or material aid. Ultimately, She was trying to give them the teachings that would enable them to attain fundamental salvation through replacing the mind, which was the source of all their sufferings. Her teachings, moreover, were to lead them to a “marvelous salvation” that they had never heard of before and that would free them from illness, death, and weakening. Perhaps She was trying to teach that material possessions and social status, as well as the worldly common ideas that placed emphasis on those things, could hinder the attainment of such marvelous salvation. Yet the way She was giving must have led people around Her to think that She was deranged, because She was giving away not just money and other such things but was even parting with the fields and the main house handed down from ancestors and giving the proceeds to the needy.
Oyasama’s husband, Zenbei, and the other family members, despite having agreed to let Her serve as the Shrine of God, were probably unable to easily understand that Her behavior was due to God’s mind having replaced Her human mind, since outwardly She remained unchanged from before. To the villagers, then, Oyasama’s behavior must have been even more difficult to understand.
In fact, it appears that, even years later, people could still not believe that Oyasama had no vestige of human thinking, as can be inferred from the fact that the Ofudesaki repeatedly says, in effect: “Never think that I have a human mind.” Moreover, even after She withdrew from physical life, people’s total adoration of Her as their own Parent seems to have led more than a few people to the view that Oyasama actually found Herself in an agonizing dilemma, torn between two sides. Such a view may have arisen from following the path in an earnest or fervent manner, but it could give ambiguity to Oyasama as the Shrine of God by bringing in the idea that Her words and actions somehow included those that came from human thinking.
Regarding this issue, we may note that, during the 16th Doctrinal Seminar, held in anticipation of the publication of The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, the second Shinbashira explained why he had chosen to start The Life of Oyasama with a chapter entitled “The Shrine of Tsukihi,” the chapter that opens with the declaration of the founding of the Teaching. He made it quite clear that Oyasama’s being settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi marks the beginning of Tenrikyo and of the path of Her fifty-year Divine Model. He stressed that Oyasama’s mind was always the mind of Tsukihi and that She was completely free from any human thinking. He made these fundamental aspects of the teachings very clear.
Oyasama taught the Service as the path of single-hearted salvation, the path that will lead all humankind to the Joyous Life. To explain the meaning and significance of the Service, Oyasama taught the Story of Creation. Embodying the Truth of Origin, the Story of Creation represents an extremely important teaching, so important that we might even say that it forms the foundation of all the teachings of Tenrikyo. The story reveals that the purpose for which God created human beings was to see us lead the Joyous Life and to share in our joy. It also explains the process through which the Teaching came to be founded, saying that God summoned the fish and the serpent in the muddy ocean planning to make them into models of husband and wife and received them after promising that, when the years equal to the number of their first-born had elapsed, they would be returned to the Residence of Origin and would be adored by their posterity.
Then God, as Tsuki-sama, the Moon, and as Hi-sama, the Sun, entered these models of husband and wife, who then conceived nine hundred million, ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine humans at Jiba of Origin. This represented the first step toward the realization of the Joyous Life World so desired by God. Thus, the endeavor to realize the Joyous Life World began when the models of husband and wife, whom God had entered, worked together in unity of mind.
Section two of the Mikagura-uta–that is, the song that starts with the phrase “Choto hanashi,” or “Just a word”–teaches the weighty importance of husband and wife based on the Story of Creation. Section two contains the lines:
Representing heaven and earth
I have created husband and wife.
This is the beginning of the world
To human beings who repeatedly ask for salvation in section one–saying, “[P]lease save us”–section two reveals the core of the teaching of salvation. The key to following the path to the Joyous Life is the harmony and unity of mind between husband and wife, who represent the truth of heaven and earth.
The Story of Creation also contains a number of other teachings that relate to the foundation of human existence, for example, that God and humankind are Parent and children, that all human beings are brothers and sisters, and that men and women are created equal.
After creation, God nurtured us human beings with boundless and unending parental love over the span of years equal to the number of the first-born, providing for us in water for nine hundred million and ninety thousand years, training us in wisdom for six thousand years, and instructing us in letters for three thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine years. At the arrival of the Promised Time, God became openly revealed in this world by taking Oyasama as the Shrine to give us this ultimate teaching so as to save all human beings, God’s children, taking great pity on the way we were confusing ourselves, as well as suffering and fighting, because, despite the training in wisdom and letters, we were still unaware of the existence of the Parent of Origin and thus did not have any dependable guide.
It has been 170 years since the founding of the Teaching. The path has grown, so that we now have Tenrikyo facilities and centers not only within Japan but also in various parts of the world as well. This has only been possible thanks to the providence of God and the guidance of the everliving Oyasama. At the same time, it is due also to the seeds of sincerity sown by our many predecessors who, trusting in God’s workings and bearing Oyasama’s Divine Model in mind, strove to spread the teachings and engage in salvation work.
When I think of the path ahead, however, I feel that we cannot be entirely optimistic that the path will continue to grow and spread as time goes by. Indeed, I believe that we must return to our beginner’s mind and focus our attention more sharply on our tasks at hand. Over the past 170 years, Japanese society has changed a great deal, and so has the world at large. Over the past several decades, in particular, it seems almost as if there have been complete changes in attitudes, lifestyles, and the ways interpersonal relationships work. As a result of the pursuit of material comfort and abundance, many other things have been lost sight of and dismissed as out of date. The tendencies that I am talking about have a way of creeping into the way of thinking and living of those of us who are followers of the path without us even being aware of it. When we let that happen, we run the risk of just going through the motions of faith, changing the essence of our faith, or getting swept along by common, worldly ideas. Yet, have Oyasama’s teachings themselves become out of date or archaic after one hundred years and several decades? Instead of becoming out of date, Her teachings are increasing their relevance and significance today. Indeed, I believe we can justifiably say that Her teachings provide the key to overcoming the problems and issues confronting contemporary society and taking humanity into a bright future.
We read in the Ofudesaki:
This time, I teach single-hearted salvation, beginning once more that which never existed.
I begin things which have never existed, because I am God, who made the origin.
Just as God created humankind and the world out of formlessness, symbolized by the muddy ocean, Oyasama was formulating Her teachings without any previous basis to build on. Naturally, She drew on the language and other things in use at the time to express Her teachings to the people She worked with. That is why, from our present-day standpoint, we might feel some aspects of Her teachings to be old-fashioned. In actuality, however, Her teachings provide a solid, dependable guide that goes beyond time. The same thing goes for Oyasama’s Divine Model. Thus, rather than judging Her teachings to be inappropriate for the present time or choosing to focus on the outward, formal aspects of Her teachings, I hope you will perceive and understand the truth embodied therein, the truth that is beyond time, so that you can use that truth to address the problems facing the world today.
It is frequently said that what is behind the various problems facing society today is disintegrating relationships not just in local communities and neighborhoods but also even within families. In view of changing social realities, I feel concerned that even within the Tenrikyo community there may be a lack of effort in terms of trying to unite our minds. We are provided with the teaching of “unity of mind.” We should not allow ourselves to be misled by the current of the times. Rather, particularly because we live in an age like this, it is all the more important to talk things over together and find a way to follow the path in a manner that accords with God’s intention. As fellow travelers along the path, we must bring our minds into unity and join our efforts to reach out to society and show an example of helping one another.
At the Home of the Parent, we are currently holding the Seminar for Successors in thirty sessions, which started in late August and will continue through next April. Intended for those expected to carry the path forward in the next generation–that is, young people between the ages of twenty and forty–this seminar has been organized out of a desire to help them follow Oyasama’s Divine Model, succeed to the path that their predecessors have walked, and thereby grow into the sort of Yoboku who will meet the expectations of God the Parent and Oyasama. The seminar is designed to provide participants with an opportunity to once again learn about the providence of God and the Divine Model of Oyasama at the Home of the Parent, discuss things together, and reflect on their ways of living so that they may make further progress in spiritual growth.
I have used the phrase “succeed to the path that their predecessors have walked”; however, it goes without saying that this path was opened by none other than Oyasama. It is the path of single-hearted salvation that embodies Her parental heart, which is filled solely with love for Her children, all human beings–the parental heart that desires only to save all humankind. The path of single-hearted salvation leads to the Joyous Life.
Succeeding to this path entails using one’s own initiative to learn, internalize, and implement the way of achieving salvation and realizing the Joyous Life. Given that young people are full of energy, I very much hope that they will go beyond merely learning about these things and will actually put into practice what they have learned, starting with anything they can. A path can only be a path when it is followed. Unless we actually follow the path, we will never get to the destination. Only through genuine implementation can we further strengthen our conviction of the truth of the teachings and appreciate what a blessing it is to be able to practice faith.
I have said elsewhere that, with the year of the anniversary having come to an end, we have returned to conducting our activities of ordinary times, that is, the kind of activities that are essential to us at all times. We ought to be conducting steady and sustained activities in the course of our daily life so that our churches can fully function in the manner that is expected of them, with those of us who are Yoboku genuinely fulfilling our role as Yoboku.
Last year on this same occasion, I spoke about performing the service and spreading the teachings as the activities that our churches should focus on in ordinary times. With regard to us Yoboku, the role we should play is to help as many people as possible to understand God’s intention so that they will no longer need to suffer from illnesses or other problems.
If we are to have God help us with our salvation work, we must stay closely connected to God and Oyasama, always seek the divine intention, and build a true basis for our acceptance by God. One thing that is indispensable in this regard is to try to stay connected to our churches and learn and use the teachings in our daily lives so that we can ponder in a manner that accords with the divine intention.
When we realize the intention of the Parent and the extent to which we are indebted to the Parent, that realization will find spontaneous expression in an attitude of hinokishin. All actions that come from our sense of gratitude to God the Parent can be said to be hinokishin, but what brings the greatest joy to God is, of course, our effort to work for the salvation of others.
In addition, beyond seeking the divine intention and working at hinokishin on an individual level, it is desirable for us Yoboku to join our efforts and help one another so as to conduct our activities in unity of mind, whether at the level of churches, districts, or regions.
Also, talking about world salvation and the Joyous Life will not serve any purpose if they are just empty words. We must take an honest look at how we are living each day to ensure that our daily lives are genuinely based on the teachings. I am sure your lives are not always smooth sailing. Regardless of whatever may happen, however, I hope that you will try to find joy in God’s providence while looking forward to what lies ahead. I want to ask each of you to perform your tasks with a genuine sense of commitment to doing what you need to do by doing whatever you can through your own roles and positions.
Having shared some of my thoughts on this occasion of today’s Autumn Grand Service, I now want to conclude by asking all of you to continue following the path spiritedly. Thank you for listening.