December 1 marked the start of the 800th session of Shuyoka, the three-month Spiritual Development Course held in Jiba. A session has begun every month for the last 66 years since its inception in April 1941 when it was established to replace the six-month Tenri Seminary Special Course (Bekka). Anyone who is 17 or above can enroll in Shuyoka, regardless of occupation, educational background, or nationality. A total of 640,332 students (252,143 men and 388,189 women) have completed the course. The 800th session of Shuyoka marks an important milestone–leading reporters of the Tenri Jiho newspaper to take the opportunity to ask graduates of the 797th session that ended in November, along with a counselor and an instructor, about their experiences to give us a glimpse into what students learn and feel in Shuyoka.
Yukari Mitomi (24) was led to the faith after her elder sister married into a Tenrikyo family. She visited a Tenrikyo church for the first time in June this year. The head minister recommended her to enroll in Shuyoka after she asked for advice on her troubled relationships and the fact her mother did not look favorably on Tenrikyo. While Ms. Mitomi herself had a favorable impression of the path, she felt uncertainty whether she could actually survive three months in Jiba. After enrolling, her counselor at her dormitory encouraged her to write to her mother about her life in Tenri, which allowed her to sort out her feelings and led her to resolve to become more accommodating and humble. She felt utmost joy when her mother returned to Jiba with her sister and attended her first Besseki lecture.
Yaeko Miyata (63) was originally encouraged by her head minister to enter Shuyoka seven years ago when her husband received blessings after suffering a stroke. Her work led her to delay her enrollment, but when her niece was afflicted with panic disorder, she made the commitment to finally enter Shuyoka. Mrs. Miyata was selected to become the number one class monitor, a position in which she was responsible for keeping the class together. She first complained to herself that it was hard enough to fulfill her own responsibilities, let alone look after others, yet when she took one of her ill classmates to the first-aid center and administered the Sazuke, her heart was filled with warmth as this classmate said, “Thank you, I feel better.” As she dedicated herself to looking after others, Mrs. Miyata learned that her niece’s condition had slightly improved. She says: “I learned that when we wholeheartedly pray for others, God the Parent will surely work. I wish to do my best from now to accumulate merit for the sake of my niece.”
After a Tenrikyo follower cared for his mother-in-law until her passing from cancer, Seiichi Tokuda (48) was encouraged to attend the Besseki lectures. This aroused his interest in the teachings and motivated him to enter Shuyoka to learn more. Mr. Tokuda suffers from kidney dysfunction and has been receiving three dialysis treatments a week since 1996. His condition forced him to take off during class time to receive dialysis treatments at a hospital in Tenri. He would spend his breaks reading The Doctrine of Tenrikyo and The Life of Oyasama to catch up on lost time and spent nights at his dormitory practicing the Teodori, the Dance with Hand Movements, with his classmates. After classmates administered the Sazuke to him, he decided that he too would administer the Sazuke to others around him as an expression of his gratitude. He said he has administered the Sazuke to over 200 people at the hospital where he received his treatments and some even came to worship at Church Headquarters. He says, “I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do nioigake (sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings) during Shuyoka.” In his second month of Shuyoka, Mr. Tokuda discovered he received a miraculous blessing; his parathyroid hormone levels dropped to normal.
Kazue Karino (22) was a student at a junior college when conflicts with peers and an uncertainly over her future led her to seclude herself in November last year. With encouragement from her family, she left school and entered Shuyoka. Yet soon after, unable to walk from the pain in her Achilles tendons, she was forced to commute to Shuyoka in a wheelchair. After receiving help from her classmates and instruction from her dormitory counselor and homeroom instructor, she awakened to her own arrogant and self-assertive personality and resolved to discuss matters with her classmates and interact with them with kindness. After a month, she no longer needed the use of the wheelchair. Savoring this temporary disability in turn allowed a seed of joy to bud in her heart and she took the initiative to engage in hinokishin and take care of her ill classmates. Ms. Karino says: “Before, I did things with the thought that it was natural that I was able to do things for myself. Yet even when I am doing the same things as I always did, I now am filled with gratitude. People around me now say, ‘You’ve changed,’ and ‘You smile more.’ I hope to always remember the accommodating and humble mind that I attained in Shuyoka. Although sprinkling the fragrance and doing salvation work are difficult tasks to engage in, I wish to make efforts so people around me will say, ‘You’ve changed after going to Tenri.'”
On the first of each month, students at the opening ceremony of Shuyoka have rigid expressions on their faces that are often a reflection of either expectation or uncertainty. Yet at the closing ceremony, not a trace of this uncertainty remains as each student has savored the joy of faith and is about to embark from the Home of the Parent clutching a “spiritual treasure” tightly to their chest. People from all walks of life, from youngsters in their late teens, mothers with young children, to seniors in their 70s and 80s, have spent three months together as classmates. On top of their regular schedule of classes on The Doctrine of Tenrikyo and The Life of Oyasama, Teodori practice, and hinokishin, students have other activities such as a tour of the historical buildings and Oyasama’s birthplace to give them a sense of closeness with Her Divine Model.
Further, in their third month, students participate in a joint musical instruments practice and a practical session on missionary work, along with a rally with representatives from each class giving a presentation of their faith experience. Students who attend the Besseki lectures during Shuyoka then receive the truth of the Sazuke together and join their peers as new Yoboku.
Mrs. Ayako Yabuta (60), a head minister’s spouse who was a counselor at her dormitory for three months, gave her students the opportunity each night to administer the Sazuke to one another. She shares her sentiments as follows: “It is a thankful thing to receive blessings for an illness or trouble during Shuyoka. Yet I feel that it is rather more important to attain ‘a mind that prays for others’ and a steadfast ability to perform the service and administer the Sazuke.”
Rev. Kenji Moriguchi (56), a homeroom instructor during the 797th session, stated: “It is important not just to stop at listening to the troubles of the Shuyoka students. If we encourage them to administer the Sazuke and hold prayer services for the ill people around them, those who at first thought only about seeking salvation for themselves change so that they want to have the people around them be saved.” He added: “When we are shown miraculous blessings such as when someone who was in a wheelchair is able to stand and walk or when a person diagnosed with a grave illness has their condition go into remission, everyone becomes even more spirited.” It appears that the proactive effort to seek the path on one’s own becomes a decisive factor in these occurrences that can only be experienced in Jiba.
A Short History of Shuyoka
April 1941 Shuyoka is newly created after the elimination of the Tenri Seminary Special Course (Bekka) in accordance with a revision of the Tenrikyo Constitution. Classes were originally held in Tenri Middle School.
July 1952 Classes are moved to the former Tenri Women’s School.
January 1953 Shuyoka moved from the jurisdiction of Tenri Seminary and placed under the administration of the Director-in-Chief of Religious Affairs.
April 1954 All Shuyoka students attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Oyasato-yakata building-complex. Students later participate in the construction of the Oyasato-yakata.
*A total of 15,877 students complete Shuyoka in 1954, the most in a single year since it was established.
February 1957 Classes are moved to its present location, the Oyasato-yakata East Left Wing 4.
December 1960 The present system of class banners changing from red the first month to yellow the second month and blue the third month is created. (Until then, consecutive sessions used either a red, yellow, or blue banner for the entire three months.)
March 1964 The beginning of Shuyoka students attending the morning service at the Main Sanctuary as part of the daily routine. (Students previously gathered for daily worship at 7:30 A.M.)
May 1967 Musical instruments practice, which was held after school on an elective basis, becomes mandatory for all students.
January 1969 The beginning of reading the Ofudesaki at morning assembly.
May 1969 The beginning of the practical session on missionary work.
August 1969 The first issue of the monthly newsletter Shuyoka geppo is published.
April 1975 The first English class is held (408th session), with 11 students from four countries. An English class has been held every April since then.
January 1978 Wheelchairs and walking canes donated by students who received blessings during Shuyoka begin to be displayed on the third floor of Oyasato-yakata East Left Wing 3.
December 1979 The start of sending “nioigake postcards” to friends and family.
April 1980 The first Chinese language class is held (468th session) with 44 students.
May 1988 The first Thai language class is held (565th session) with 29 students.
September 1991 Korean language class is held (605th session) with 44 students.
September 2004 Indonesian language class is held (761st session) with 9 students.
June 2006 French language class is held (782nd session) with 8 students.
August 2006 Spanish language class is held (784th session) with 8 students.