We have just completed performing the Autumn Grand Service for 2019 (Tenrikyo 182) with so many of you who have returned here for this occasion. I want to thank you all very much.
First of all, I would like to express my sincere sympathies to those who were affected by Typhoon Hagibis and pray for a speedy recovery from the disaster. I have heard that some of you are still sheltering in evacuation centers and have returned to Jiba for today’s Service. May I express my heartfelt appreciation to you for the extraordinary efforts you must have made to return to Jiba. I also would like to sincerely thank all the Tenrikyo Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps members who were recently mobilized for their hard work. Fundraising has already started for the disaster relief effort, and I would like to ask for everyone’s help.
I now want to deliver the sermon. May I ask for your kind attention.
While the path of Oyasama’s Divine Model spanned 50 years, today I would like to focus on three important junctures during the period between 1838 and 1875—namely, the passing of Her husband, Zenbei, in 1853, the construction of the Place for the Service in 1864, and Oyasama’s summons to the Yamamura Palace in 1874—in the hope of shedding light on the spiritual basis for our life of faith.
“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 were the first words spoken by God the Parent through the mouth of Oyasama. The Nakayama family, together with their relatives, refused to accept God’s request because it came from a god they had never heard of and was a strange revelation they had never dreamed of. Yet, God the Parent remained steadfast.
On the third day, after repeated arguments that lasted day and night, Oyasama’s husband, Zenbei, fearing it might cost Her life if the situation continued, finally concluded that there was no alternative but to comply. He accepted God’s demand, declaring with firm resolve, “I offer Miki to You.” It was about eight o’clock in the morning on October 26, 1838. The 50-year path of Oyasama’s Divine Model began then.
After becoming the Shrine of Tsukihi, Oyasama hastened to obey God the Parent’s command: “Fall to the depths of poverty.” First, She gave to the needy the personal effects She had brought with Her when She married, then food, clothes, money, and so forth, one after another. Since She gave away not only household goods but also farm fields and forest properties, the relatives and other friends stopped associating with the Nakayama family and the villagers spoke ill of Her and ridiculed Her.
There is something strange here. I wonder how Oyasama’s family members were doing then? Especially what was going through the mind of Zenbei, who was Oyasama’s husband and the head of the Nakayama family? Yamato Province was a region where people strongly adhered to the traditional custom of preserving family inheritance including lands and other properties. Back in those days, moreover, the head of a family had absolute power over his family. Besides, Zenbei was 10 years older than Oyasama. When villagers saw how he lost the things he had inherited from ancestors one after another, they probably laughed at him, saying, “What a weak character he is!” The slanders and ridicules were directed at Zenbei, not just at Oyasama. He was caught up in a dilemma between what was socially accepted as the norm and what Oyasama did, which was completely different from the social norm. What agony he must have felt in such a dilemma!
According to The Life of Oyasama, one night Zenbei stood by Oyasama’s bedside and, holding a drawn sword over Her, confronted Her saying, “If it be an evil spirit, away with it!” Oyasama asked him, “Dear, what are you doing?” To this, Zenbei replied, “It is all too frightening.” I believe that this episode expresses the wavering state of his mind—the mixture of feeling unable to believe and feeling obliged to protect Her.
Why on earth did he endure such an agonizing situation without divorcing Her, despite the opposition from others? Was it because Zenbei was of the soul that was related to one of the instruments used in God the Parent’s creation of the world and human beings? Or was it because Zenbei wanted to keep the promise he had made on October 26, 1838, when he replied to God with firm resolve, “I offer Miki to You”?
In any case, Zenbei, who had gone through the path together with Oyasama, passed away for rebirth in 1853, which was the 16th year after Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi. The year 1853 was the first of the three important junctures I want to take up today. Zenbei was 66, and Oyasama was 56 years old when She lost Zenbei, who was perhaps the only one who protected Her regardless of what happened.
In the same year, the Nakayamas’ main house was sold. The main house is usually used as living quarters and is, therefore, the most important structure in one’s residence. It serves as a shelter from rain, and thus it is a place for the family to feel at ease and take rest. Those two things coincided—the passing of Zenbei, who had protected Oyasama, and the loss of the main house, which had protected the Nakayama family.
The Nakayamas, who had started falling into poverty in 1838, now seem to have sunk to the very depths of poverty.
Nevertheless, what Oyasama did in that year was to send Her daughter Kokan to Dotonbori in Naniwa, in what is now Osaka, to spread the name of God the Parent. In the following year, 1854, Her daughter Oharu returned home for the birth of her first child. Oyasama breathed three times upon the belly of Her daughter and stroked it as many times. This marked the beginning of the Grant of Safe Childbirth.
Eventually, there were some people who received the wondrous blessing of safe childbirth through the Grant of Safe Childbirth. The news spread fast among the villagers and then to neighboring villages, and people finally became aware that Oyasama was not an ordinary human being.
In the Divine Directions, we read:
What is painful is a knot, yet buds sprout from knots. Have a spacious mind that allows you to accept your pain as a knot and a source of delight.
Osashizu, March 5, 1894
We are also taught:
When you find yourself in a situation where you think this may be your end, recall that it is a knot. Make a commitment of spirit and stand firm. If you stand firm, the Truth of Heaven will work for you. This I teach.
Osashizu, August 23, 1904
Especially when Oyasama was faced with the knot of Her husband’s passing, She had Her daughter spread the name of God and began bestowing the Grant of Safe Childbirth. That is to say, She strove for world salvation with a bigger picture in mind.
From time to time, tough things happen to us unexpectedly, often at the worst possible times. When you find yourselves suffering from pain, difficult situations, or sad events, you are facing knots. On those occasions, you do not need to worry about the cause of your sufferings. You do not need to regret anything, blame them on someone else, or complain about the situations. In the Divine Directions, we are taught:
Something is mistaken. Because what you think in your mind is mistaken, things do not go readily. Once you settle your mind, then the matter at hand will be settled.
Osashizu, January 15, 1889
The first point I want to make today is that, when faced with knots, we should focus on what we can do now and what we should do now. It would be wonderful if we could let knots help us do what we were unable to do before. It does not have to be anything spectacular. It can be something small.
The second knot that I want to bring up in today’s sermon took place in 1864, exactly 10 years after the beginning of the Grant of Safe Childbirth. Oyasama was 67 years old at the time. This was the year when Izo Iburi, who later became the Honseki, started following the path. He entered the faith when his wife, Osato, was saved from complications following childbirth. Izo Iburi offered to build a shrine as a token of gratitude for his wife’s recovery from illness. To this, Oyasama replied: “There is no need for a shrine. Start building something small.” Thus, the construction of the Place for the Service got underway. She added, “It is to be one square tsubo.” She also said, “Additions can be made depending on your minds.”
Those present decided to build a structure 21 feet by 36 feet. Chushichi Yamanaka volunteered to bear the expenses, Izo Iburi offered his labor, while Chusaku Tsuji, Saemon [Gisaburo] Nakata, and Isaburo Nishida offered to contribute tiles, six mats, and eight mats, respectively.
Some progress was made in the construction, and the placing of the ridge-beam was held on October 26 in that year. Since the financial situation of the Nakayamas was still poor, the celebration of the placing the ridge-beam was very simple. On the following day, the 27th, the followers were heading for Chushichi Yamanaka’s home in Mamekoshi Village for celebration. On their way there, when they came to the front of the Oyamato Shrine, they began to beat a drum and wooden clappers, singing loudly: “Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto! Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto!”
They did so because Oyasama had told them, “Be sure to pay your respects at the shrine when you pass it on your way.” Yet, what they did led to their investigation by the authorities and their detention for three days on account of disturbing the prayer at the Oyamato Shrine. This was another major knot of difficulties.
Many members who felt uneasy due to this incident dropped out of the faith. Therefore, people stopped coming to the Residence for the time being. This happened at a time when the number of the people who had been saved was finally beginning to increase and the Residence was just getting crowded with people.
To the Nakayamas, who had been through very hard times since the Teaching’s founding in 1838, the raising of the ridge-beam was perhaps the first celebration in many years. What a pity!
One day, Kokan casually muttered to herself that they should not have gone. Oyasama then suddenly told her: “Do not complain! This will be the basis of a teaching in the future.” She taught: “Buds sprout from knots.” This is what Oyasama’s model path is about.
Following the incident at the Oyamato Shrine, in 1866 Oyasama taught the Service for the first time. In particular, She taught the song and the hand movements for “Ashiki harai, tasuke tamae, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” (Sweep away evils and save us, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto). Between that year and 1875, She taught all the songs and the hand movements for the Service.
In the Truth of Origin, we read:
The first children thus born were all half an inch (5 bu) tall. Growing taller gradually, they reached a height of three inches (3 sun) in ninety-nine years. Then they all passed away for rebirth and their father, Izanagi-no-Mikoto, withdrew from physical life. However, Izanami-no-Mikoto again conceived the original number of children by the divine providence already taught her and, after ten months, gave birth to them again. The children, then too, were half an inch tall at birth and, after growing to three and a half inches (3 sun 5 bu) in ninety-nine years, all passed away for rebirth once more.
Then the children were conceived for the third time. They were again born half an inch tall and, this time, grew to four inches (4 sun) in ninety-nine years. At that time, their mother, Izanami-no-Mikoto, said, “Now that they have grown so tall, in time they will reach the height of human beings five feet tall (5 shaku),” and with a smile, withdrew from physical life. Then all her children, too, passed away for rebirth, deeply yearning for their mother.
After that, human beings were reborn eight thousand and eight times as worms, birds, beasts, and the like. Then they all passed away except a she-monkey.
The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, pp. 22–23
The second point I want to make today is this: each time we are faced with knots of difficulty and go back to square one, we are surely guided by God so that we can step up to the next level in our spiritual growth as long as we continue making efforts to grow spiritually.
At the first knot of difficulty, which was presented by the passing of Zenbei as well as by the dismantling of the main house in 1853, Oyasama showed the wondrous blessings through having God’s name spread and bestowing the Grant of Safe Childbirth. Ten years later, when faced with the second knot shown by the incident at the Oyamato Shrine in 1864, Oyasama began to teach the Service. At each knot, She guided people to the next level of spiritual growth.
The third knot I want to consider today occurred in 1874, exactly 10 years after the 1864 Oyamato Shrine incident. Oyasama said to Gisaburo Nakata and Ichibei Matsuo, “Go to the Oyamato Shrine and ask about their deity.” It was Oyasama who set up the situation.
The incident eventually led the Nara Prefectural Office’s section in charge of temples and shrines to summon Oyasama to the Ensho Temple, commonly known as “Yamamura Palace,” on December 23 of that year. On Her way to the Ensho Temple, Oyasama stumbled and fell, hurting Her lower lip. Caring nothing about it, She said to Her attendants, “The lower grounds are gradually pressing upward.”
On December 26, a few days after She returned from the Ensho Temple, She wore red clothes for the first time. The clothes worn by Oyasama were cut into small pieces and given to people as the Proof Amulet, which continues to be bestowed to this day.
In Part III of the Ofudesaki, which was composed in 1874, we read:
Do not complain about your present situation. A broad path will appear ahead of you.
Do not grieve over whatever path you are now on. Take delight in the main path that lies ahead.
If you are truly of a mind to save others single-heartedly, I shall firmly accept you, even if you say nothing.
Even those who were saved by Oyasama in person and were following Her must have felt uncertain about what was in store for the path. But Oyasama told them not to worry. She also said, “Take delight in the main path that lies ahead.” We also do not know our future path. When some difficult situation or knot arises, we are greatly disturbed. What is important for us when faced with knots, however, is to shift our mind’s focus to single-hearted salvation, rather than lament our own misfortune. This is the third point I want to make today.
In the Divine Directions, we are taught:
If you are spirited, God will also be spirited. Delight in the truth of the mind. God will enter any places and provide the blessings.
Osashizu, January 29, 1893
I do not know why but, when we encourage others and make them spirited, we ourselves are spirited, too. We often find ourselves in high spirits when we are telling others: “Don’t worry. You can put your mind at rest. Count on me!” When we become spirited by making others spirited, God the Parent will surely provide us with the blessings.
As you might have expected, Oyasama moved forward after the third knot of difficulty. In 1875, the year after the knot, Oyasama taught the song that contains the line “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai” (The Kanrodai which purifies all humankind equally), and She also identified Jiba. She taught the Mikagura-uta, the Songs for the Service, along with the hand movements, and revealed the place where the Service is to be performed. She also made other arrangements for the Service, such as the kagura masks and musical instruments.
The Divine Directions teach us:
Speaking of “knots,” from “knots” the world settles. Sah, sah, be spirited, be spirited. The world will also be spirited.
Osashizu, May 2, 1894
Oyasama Herself went through a number of knots of great difficulties in high spirits, and She is guiding us through any hardships toward the path of universal salvation so that we can grow spiritually along the path that leads to the completion of the Service.
The Ofudesaki’s Part X, written in 1875, says:
By all means, Tsukihi will complete this path, holding fast to the mind of sincerity.
When this path has reached the high places, I shall do My free and unlimited workings.
About that time, Oyasama said, “Once again I shall go to a fearful place, but you need not worry about it.” While conveying the mind of the Parent, She gave instructions regarding the frame of mind the followers should have and encouraged them as they were disturbed by each knot. Yet She Herself was heading for a period of increasing persecution and oppression by the authorities after 1875.
Today, I have focused on and reflected briefly on Oyasama’s Divine Model between the founding of the Teaching and 1875.
The Divine Directions tell us:
None of you needs to worry. Thinking of the original one truth, I have fully explained the truth before. You need not worry. Worries will activate the truth of worry. You need not worry.
Osashizu, July 13, 1889
I think that the phrase “Thinking of the original one truth” refers to the parental love of God the Parent, who desires to have all of us human beings lead the Joyous Life. Moreover, the phrase “I have fully explained the truth before” seems to mean that the guideposts toward the Joyous Life are provided in the path of the Divine Model that Oyasama went through.
We have the path of the Divine Model that Oyasama Herself demonstrated for us. Compared to the path that Oyasama went through, the path we are following today seems like a broad and smooth path. Whatever happens in our life, we should be grateful for what we have now, compared to Oyasama’s journey.
Just as we are told [in a Divine Direction], “You need not worry,” let us rely on God the Parent and trust in the Divine Model of Oyasama as we perform the Service with bright and joyous minds and strive for the salvation of others by making them and ourselves spirited at all times!
Thank you very much for listening.