Sermon at the Spring Grand Service

May I begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for the efforts you are devoting to the work of the path in the course of daily life as well as for the trouble you have taken in returning to Jiba from near and far in the cold weather to attend today’s Spring Grand Service.

Having duly been able to perform the Service, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your attention while I deliver this talk.

The Spring Grand Service commemorates the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, which, I need hardly remind you, is the day when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. On that day–after Her repeated, stern urging–our early predecessors finally braced themselves for the worst and undertook the performance of the Service. Today’s Service provides us with an opportunity to once again reflect deeply on the significance of that day, to take the intention of the Parent to heart, and to give thought to the feelings of the early followers, as well as to take a humble look at the way we are performing our tasks today.

In chapter 10 of The Life of Oyasama, entitled “The Portals Opened,” we find Oyasama rigorously urging Her close followers to implement the Service. The followers were certainly aware of Her intention yet could not bring themselves to perform the Service because they were worried that doing so would result in Her arrest and imprisonment, which would endanger Her safety and well-being. This chapter describes the parental love with which She guided those followers step by step, sparing no effort to explain Her intention and convince them to make up their mind to perform the Service.

After reading this chapter, we come away convinced, above all, of the importance of performing the Service. As you are fully aware, the Kagura Service involves ten performers surrounding Jiba of Origin and symbolizing by hand-gestures the principles of God’s workings through which human beings and the world were created where there had only been a muddy ocean. This Service is intended to manifest once again the providence that was shown during creation and represents a prayer that the world, which is in a state of chaos, be reconstructed as the Joyous Life. The Service is indeed the foundation of the path of single-hearted salvation.

This means that, without the implementation of the Service, the path of single-hearted salvation leading to the Joyous Life cannot be accomplished. That is why Oyasama so strongly urged the followers to perform it, even by confronting them with Her own serious physical condition, which eventually led to Her withdrawal from physical life.

To gain a deep understanding of the Kagura Service, we need to take a look at the Story of Creation. The story reveals who created humankind for what purpose, when, where, and how, besides telling us about the providence that has enabled us to reach the present day. This providence, which is explained in terms of its ten aspects, has been constantly at work ever since creation.

The most important theme of the Ofudesaki is the completion of the Service. The Ofudesaki systematically records the entire teachings while focusing them around the arrangements Oyasama was making for the completion of the Service, beginning with sweeping the Residence, assembling the Service performers, purifying their minds, setting up the Kanrodai, and installing the Shinbashira. From this, too, we see that the Service represents a crystallization of the core teachings of this path.

Through urging the implementation of the Service, Oyasama was also teaching what the basis of pondering should be for those of us who follow the path as well as how we ought to order our priorities.

However, given how the first Shinbashira was preoccupied with trying to prevent hardships of arrest or imprisonment from befalling Oyasama, who after all was at an advanced age and in poor health, it was perhaps understandable why he was hesitant about performing the Service. Oyasama’s last hardship of imprisonment had occurred one year previously–in 1886–as a result of a group of followers performing the Dance with Hand Movements at an inn near the Residence. Their performance quickly became known to the police, and officers rushed to the Residence and searched the premises. They found a piece of cloth to be made into Amulets and, with this as evidence, they arrested Oyasama. After being questioned throughout the night, She was sentenced to twelve days’ detention. The basis for this sentence comes from a law that prohibited those who were not priests or monks from performing prayers or incantations or from providing such things as amulets. The same law also forbade, among other things, setting up a place of worship without official authorization and assembling people for such purposes. This law thus made the performance of the Service a target of police intervention. Providing Amulets and engaging in salvation work were also subject to police investigation. It certainly was not surprising that the early followers wished to do whatever they could to gain official recognition for the teachings.

The dialogue the first Shinbashira had with Oyasama at Her bedside during the tense lead-up to Her withdrawal from physical life–on January 13, 1887, to be precise–was particularly poignant. To the inquiries he made while confiding his anxieties to Her, Oyasama responded in a stern yet thorough and painstaking manner, carefully explaining each and every aspect involved.

From his point of view, the first Shinbashira was desperately trying to find a way to postpone the performance of the Service. He asked for an extension, saying such things as: “We shall practice for the performance of the Service every night. Please give us an extension until we learn the proper movements for the Service”; and “We wish to build an institute and practice the Service so we shall be able to perform it in accordance with Your direction at this time.”

When he told Her during the same dialogue, “If You permit us to establish Church Headquarters, we shall do as God directs,” Oyasama gave permission to establish the church but went on to say, in effect, “But what about the Service which I am telling you to do immediately?” He replied, “We cannot defy the law.” Then Oyasama said the following:

Sah, sah, because Tsukihi exists, the world exists. Because the world exists, things exist. Because things exist, your bodies exist. Because your bodies exist, law exists. Although the law exists, to resolve your minds is primary.

The passage teaches that it is Tsukihi, God the Parent, who created this world in which all things exist, including human beings. Law is something that humans have formulated. Thus Oyasama explained the order and course of the world and how it has come about, and She taught that, even in the face of legal restrictions, it was of paramount importance to make a resolution to bring oneself into complete accord with the intention of God of Origin.

This instruction is not intended only for those around Oyasama at the time. Rather, it is meant to indicate what should serve as the basis for our pondering even now as well as throughout our long journey of single-hearted salvation leading to the Joyous Life, for whenever we find ourselves confronted with a dilemma between single-heartedness with God and human thinking, we ought to make a point of returning to the basis taught in the passage at hand. It goes without saying that this passage was not meant to suggest that laws should be ignored, but it instructed the followers to be sure to base their pondering on the fundamental order of priorities even if the law made it difficult to perform the Service. The passage told them that, even if they were to resort to a temporary expedient to conform to the law, they ought to maintain the spirit of always returning to the way they should be.

I believe we can say that this instruction applies not only to the issue of implementing the Service but also to all the ponderings and decisions of everyone trying to follow this path.

As it turned out, the official establishment of Church Headquarters did not necessarily guarantee the freedom to perform the Service. In fact, during the late 1880s and the 1890s, the government was so alarmed by the tremendous growth Tenrikyo was achieving that the Home Ministry issued a special directive to severely tighten control over Tenrikyo.

At present in Japan, we are able to perform the Service without having to worry about anything. However, the dilemma between single-heartedness with God and human reasoning could be seen as manifesting itself in a variety of ways. Even though we are not subject to legal restrictions, we could lose sight of what is fundamental and deviate from the way we should be if we allow ourselves to get caught up in our immediate needs and issues while trying to excuse inaction or justify a certain course of action on one account or another. This is something all of us need to be particularly careful about.

Exactly two years have passed since we observed the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. To help us consider how we ought to perform our tasks in ordinary times following the special season of the anniversary, let us take this opportunity to look at how our early predecessors embarked–in the face of the unprecedented challenge of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life–upon their new journey, which helped to ensure the continuity of the path to the present day. I suggest we do this by focusing our attention on the beginnings of our churches and the establishment of the Besseki system.

Those early followers had been saved by Oyasama, who had responded to their plea, and they had walked the path to make repayment for salvation while asking for and following Her guidance on every aspect involved. Not in their wildest dreams had they expected Oyasama to withdraw from physical life.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say that She withdrew from physical life to urge the followers to use their own initiative to work toward the Joyous Life World based on Her teachings, now that She had taught God’s intention through spoken and written word, spent fifty years demonstrating the path of the Divine Model, taught the Service, bestowed the Sazuke, and revealed the truth of origin, thus completing all the arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation.

However, because they could previously rely and depend entirely on Oyasama regarding any and everything, it is not surprising that, not only were they deeply saddened by the loss of their Parent of the teachings, but they felt utterly at a loss as to how to proceed from there.

To those distressed and traumatized people, the most reassuring and reliable guide was the Divine Directions delivered through the mouth of the Honseki. From that time onward, therefore, they made a point of requesting Divine Directions whenever they felt unsure about how to move forward as they gradually laid out the framework for Tenrikyo as a religious group while building the foundation for the path that has continued to this day. The Divine Directions provided the best evidence to show that Oyasama was, indeed, guiding the people by virtue of Her eternal life.

With the first Shinbashira as the core, the followers worked to organize Tenrikyo as a religious group while receiving the guidance of the everliving Oyasama, and the first concrete result of their endeavor can be said to have been the establishment of Tenrikyo Church Headquarters in 1888, followed by its relocation to Jiba later in the year.

Also in that year, the Besseki lectures were instituted, thereby making it possible for the truth of the Sazuke to be bestowed on more and more people. This had previously been referred to in a Divine Direction saying that Oyasama would “save the world from now.” As the efforts of those who received the truth of the Sazuke to spread the teachings and save others resulted in many instances of wondrous salvation one after another in various regions and communities, the path began to grow and expand at an amazing rate. The miraculous blessings shown as a result of the administration of the Sazuke must have helped the people genuinely feel the everliving Oyasama’s workings and become ever more spirited.

On March 8, or the lunar calendar date of January 26, of 1888, the First Anniversary of Oyasama was performed. Unfortunately, however, the police came to interrupt the proceedings and ordered the many followers who had assembled to leave the premises. The reason for this police action was that Tenrikyo had assembled people without official authorization. This led Tenrikyo leaders to begin taking concrete steps to obtain recognition by the authorities.

Since Tenrikyo’s request for official recognition had previously been submitted to Osaka Prefecture with no success, a decision was made, this time, to apply to Tokyo’s local authority with a view to relocating Tenrikyo headquarters to Jiba at a later date. Tenrikyo’s application to Tokyo Prefecture was submitted in early April 1888 and was approved on the 10th of that month. Tenrikyo was now able to conduct its activities openly.

Looking back, we see that Oyasama had given permission to establish Church Headquarters during the dialogue that took place on January 13 of the previous year at Oyasama’s bedside when the first Shinbashira pledged to implement the Service. Although that dialogue was concerned specifically with Church Headquarters, we must also remember that all our local churches, which receive the truth of headquarters, only have their meaning because they perform the service.

Shortly after Church Headquarters was established in Tokyo, the Divine Directions began urging its relocation to Jiba repeatedly. The church leaders were initially concerned that a hasty attempt at relocation might lead to the cancellation of the official recognition of Tenrikyo, but eventually permission was granted by the authorities on July 23, 1888, to relocate Tenrikyo’s headquarters to Jiba.

The followers had requested Oyasama’s permission to establish the headquarters in order to make it possible to perform the Service without worry. The core of the Service is, of course, Jiba-Kanrodai. It was, therefore, not at all desirable for the headquarters to remain in Tokyo for an extended period of time. We can see that the people were still unable to be thorough in becoming single-hearted with God, no doubt because of their worries about the interference by the authorities. At the same time, we can appreciate how fortunate it was that the everliving Oyasama was providing Her guidance through the Divine Directions. In addition, I think that, here again, Oyasama was teaching the importance of returning to the way one should be after taking a temporary expedient either for want of a better alternative or because of human reasoning.

Following the relocation of Church Headquarters to Jiba, fellowships in various districts and communities began to request permission to organize themselves as branch churches one after another. The year 1888 saw the establishment of the first two branch churches. During the following year, six branch churches and four subordinate churches were established and, by the mid-1890s, there were more than one thousand churches and over three million followers.

Our churches, as can be seen from their early history, started off as fellowships, which were formed after people were blessed with wondrous salvation and started conveying their joy and the wonderfulness of faith to others around them, with the result that the effort to help save others spread in wider and wider circles. The Mikagura-uta says:

Since firmly we are determined to believe,
Let us form a brotherhood.

Mikagura-uta V:10

I believe that God recommends the forming of fellowships or “brotherhoods” in the hope that people sharing the same faith will not only assemble but also help and encourage one another as they work together to provide facilities to spread this path throughout the world. This is because this Teaching was founded in order to save all humankind and bring to realization the world of the Joyous Life, which is the purpose of the creation of humankind. Our fellowships, churches, and mission stations are indispensable local centers to fulfill that purpose. I also believe that taking part in the activities of these centers can help people go beyond the kind of faith that is simply concerned with praying for divine favors and grow spiritually to the kind of faith that accords with God’s intention.

The primary mission of Tenrikyo churches, which should serve as training centers for salvation, is to perform the service. Another aspect of their work is to spread the teachings, which is to say, sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and carry out salvation work. It is to help fulfill that role that the truth of the Sazuke has been made available. The truth of the Sazuke, which is intended to work as a means of salvation from illness, was first given to four people in December 1874, when Oyasama bestowed the Grants of Breath, Boiled Rice, Hand Dance, and Kanrodai-Teodori. However, the truth of the Sazuke began to be given more widely after Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, or more precisely, after a Divine Direction said the following in the wake of Her withdrawal:

Sah, there was a thing I had intended to give to My children but I was not able. I shall bestow this truth on you step by step hereafter.

Osashizu, February 18, 1887

In 1888, the Besseki lectures began to be delivered and, in the following year, a new system was instituted whereby nine Besseki lectures were to be attended over nine months. As a result, anyone who applied was now able to attend the Besseki lectures and receive the truth of the Sazuke. It seems to me, though, that many of the people who attended the Besseki lectures back then already had fervent faith and were devoting considerable efforts to the cause of the path.

Later, the Divine Directions given while the truth of the Sazuke was being bestowed were compiled in the form of what we now call “The Kakisage,” which came to be explained in the Post-Bestowal Lectures. In addition, the Book of the Besseki was compiled in 1898, thus completing the present Besseki system.

The Besseki lecture starts off by saying:

Presumably you are here because you have heard the teachings of the path in your country and, convinced that they must be true, you now wish to settle the truth of the path more deeply in your mind.

This suggests that even now it is presupposed that those who come to the Besseki lectures have some understanding of the teachings of this path and chose of their own accord to attend the lectures. Essentially, the lectures are not intended for total beginners who have not embraced the faith. I hope, therefore, that both those who attend the Besseki lectures and those who recommend others to attend them will bear in mind that the aim of these lectures is to prepare people for the bestowal of the truth of the Sazuke by helping them repeatedly sweep the mind clean and settle the truth of the teachings firmly in their mind.

Let us turn to the Kakisage, which as I said a while ago is a transcript of God’s words that is given to those receiving the truth of the Sazuke. The Post-Bestowal Lectures, which carefully explain the Kakisage, instruct the new Yoboku to repeatedly read this text so that they can make it their own to use as the standard for their mind.

The Kakisage starts with some preliminary words on how this text contains the truth to be upheld for a lifetime by those who have completed the Besseki lectures. The text goes on to set forth the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed,” the most fundamental premise that teaches that the body is something borrowed from God, the mind alone being one’s own. The Kakisage says that God accepts each way we use our mind in daily life and provides for us as befits it. The text then tells us that whether or not we can tap into God’s free and unlimited workings depends entirely on the truth of the heart and that the key to receiving such workings is to live “daily and always” with “sincerity alone.” The Kakisage emphasizes the importance of maintaining a totally sincere mind in the course of daily life, saying, among other things, that sincerity alone is in perfect accord with the truth of heaven and will bring complete harmony to our families. The mind of sincerity, in short, may be described as a mind that is in perfect accord with the intention of God.

The Kakisage goes on to say: “[T]he mind of saving others is the real truth of sincerity alone and, by this truth of saving others, you are saved.” Thus the text stresses that, above all else, the mind of saving others is the use of mind that accords most perfectly with God’s intention and that we are saved by the truth of saving others. This instruction must be borne in mind by all of us who have received the truth of the Sazuke, which is a gift of God that helps us work for the salvation of others.

The Post-Bestowal Lectures also explain the procedures for administering the Sazuke as well as the important points we have to bear in mind when carrying out our work of helping others be saved. Since these lectures can only be attended once and can never be listened to again, there may be some concern that the listeners may not be able to fully absorb all the instructions presented. However, a summary of the main points of the lectures is included in the booklet given to everyone in attendance, namely the Handbook for the Post-Bestowal Lectures, which a few years ago replaced the Yoboku Handbook, which also contained the same summary. I hope that you will refer to the summary from time to time to ensure that you can administer the Sazuke in the exact way that was taught, rather than in your own way.

We read in the Divine Directions:

I have spoken of the Sazuke, the Sazuke. The Sazuke, no one can know how great its value or how precious it is. . . . Even with an expensive instrument, if there is no truth in your mind, it is of no use. Understand the Sazuke, the Sazuke, well. You attend the lecture of each day. After you have completed the lectures, I bestow the Sazuke on you. I bestow it on the mind at the time, the mind to receive it, the truth of the mind determined to carry on into the future.

Osashizu, July 7, 1890

Although there is no inherent difference in importance between the Sazuke of one person and that of another, differences may arise depending on the frame of mind in which we attend the Besseki lectures, the state of mind in which we receive the truth of the Sazuke, and the way in which we perform our tasks, as well as the attitude we maintain, after receiving the truth of the Sazuke.

It would be a shame if, despite going to the trouble of making pilgrimages to Jiba, we approached the Besseki lectures lightly and took the truth of the Sazuke for granted, imagining it to be a mere automatic addition to the ninth lecture. The truth of the Sazuke is a gift of heaven that is provided for the purpose of single-hearted salvation–a precious gift that is given in order to fulfill the Parent’s sole desire to save the children of God, that is, all people throughout the world. It is, therefore, extremely important to attend the Besseki lectures with a full awareness that the purpose of listening to these lectures is to allow the mind to mature to the point where we can receive the precious treasure, which is so precious that Oyasama even says, “[N]o one can know how great its value or how precious it is.”

We must purify our mind during the course of the Besseki lectures, so that we can pledge ourselves to single-hearted salvation with a completely pure and clear mind as we apply for the bestowal of the truth of the Sazuke of our own accord. It will then be bestowed upon us.

Particularly because people are currently allowed to attend the Besseki lectures regardless of whether their faith is deep or shallow, it is indispensable to provide them with appropriate care and guidance even after they receive the truth of the Sazuke. Rather than feeling a sense of relief after they finally receive the truth of the Sazuke, I hope people will see themselves as making a start on the new journey of achieving further growth and building virtue, a journey to lay the basis that enables them to work as Yoboku, useful timber, for the construction of the Joyous Life World–as the kind of Yoboku who can experience and savor the joy of saving others.

We are now two-thirds of the way through holding the Seminar for Successors, which started in late August last year. I am happy to note that many of those who attended this seminar have commented that they are glad to have attended. Although this is a short seminar lasting only two nights and three days, it provides an opportunity for people between the ages of twenty and forty–that is, those who are in their prime–to get together at the Home of the Parent for lectures and discussions. During the course of thus seeking faith together and talking things over together, more than a few participants seem to have been able to take a fresh look at their way of following the path and realize something that they had not noticed before.

I hope that the participants in this seminar will continue to maintain positive feelings after going back to their own parts of the world so that they will be able to make further spiritual growth and become ever more spirited. In order for this to happen, their own effort to this end is obviously very important, but the sincere and continued efforts of the churches to which they belong to provide guidance and care for them are also indispensable. It is also important to make sure that the followers living in the same region work together in this regard while giving one another help and encouragement. What is vital, in short, is to continue working with the seminar participants so that they will not only come away feeling positive about having participated but will go on to build on their seminar experience to play their role as Yoboku from now on.

This point, in fact, is not only applicable to the Seminar for Successors but to all other seminars and courses offered at the Home of the Parent, for they can all be seen as designed to help Yoboku further enrich and invigorate the daily lives they lead as Yoboku. From this perspective, I hope that our churches, which should indeed play a key role in nurturing and guiding Yoboku, will proactively take advantage of all such events and courses offered here in Jiba.

Given the way things are going in the world today, I have a feeling that those of you who belong to our churches will encounter various difficulties in making progress in your own spiritual growth as well as trying to provide care and guidance for others. However, I very much hope that, rather than being swayed by the current of the times, all of you will feel a sense of pride and mission in working on the tasks you are entrusted to perform as Yoboku and as the Tenrikyo church community.

I would like to conclude by asking all of you to continue striving this year for the work of single-hearted salvation in good spirits. Thank you very much for listening.

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