Special Interview with President Harue Nakayama: Working toward the 110th Anniversary of the Women’s Association

Looking back on the Pep Rally for the 110th Anniversary of Tenrikyo Women’s Association

―Last year, the Pep Rally for the 110th Anniversary was held in various places. Reflecting on that event, what are your thoughts in the lead-up to the 110th anniversary of Tenrikyo Women’s Association?

Just as we held the pep rally 10 years ago during the year leading up to the association’s 100th anniversary, this time, also, we held the pep rally so that the association members could work together toward the 110th anniversary in high spirits.

I myself visited several venues, and without exception, everyone involved in supporting this event was working very hard with spirited minds. Thanks to their hard work, the pep rally was a success. I am very grateful for that.

I personally asked some association members about their impressions of the pep rally. Also, I read comments written by participants at the venues. Although there were aspects that needed improvement, I felt that many participants enjoyed the event and went home energized and willing to work hard.

So many women were able to attend the pep rally, and I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to association members who made tremendous efforts to encourage as many women as possible to attend.

I want us to maintain this momentum toward the convention commemorating the 110th anniversary so that there will be a turnout even bigger than that at the pep rally on that occasion. I hope that those who were not able to participate in the pep rally will return to Jiba, together with those who participated in it, to attend the convention.

―At each venue of the pep rally, there were faith experience speeches delivered by association members. How was the response?

The faith experience speeches received very positive responses. I was also able to listen to some speeches at several venues, and my impression was that women of the path are really cheerful and positive. Although they had experienced knot after knot, they did not let that get them down. Rather, they somehow managed to find joy in that situation and made efforts to carry on in high spirits. Their way of living was very encouraging. I thought they were wonderful.

A friend of mine, who had lost touch with the path, also attended a pep rally. According to her, both the lecture and faith experience speeches were wonderful. She even said: “Tenrikyo women are cheerful and fun” and “Cheerful TWA!” That made me very happy.

The importance of making small daily efforts

―At the women’s association convention last year, you said, “I would like us to serve as the source of the Joyous Life.” Would you please elaborate on that point?

I spoke with the hope that women of the path aim to become the source of the Joyous Life within their communities such as in their families, churches, and workplaces, as well as with friends. I believe that the atmosphere of the Joyous Life is born out of brightness and warmth emitted from ourselves.

―What is necessary to become such women?

Since the mind is what we are allowed to use freely, what is important is how we handle the mind. We are taught that God the Parent provides us with all blessings according to the way we use the mind. To put it another way, it all depends on the mind of each of us. All things are based on the mind.

In order to become “women who serve as the source of the Joyous Life,” we first need to purify the mind. People are drawn to those who are making an effort to purify their minds.

There are those who can make a difference just by being there—when they walk in, everything falls into place or the room just seems brighter. It is a mental and spiritual atmosphere—rather than words that you use to explain—that people get drawn to. You cannot become like that overnight. It takes time to make spiritual growth. That is why I believe that our small efforts day after day are important.

As we work hard in sprinkling the fragrance, there are times when we think: “The teachings of this path are so marvelous. Why cannot people understand them?” But this all depends on ourselves. Only when we polish the mind to the point of being attractive can we become more convincing.

Settling the origin in our mind

―At the 100th convention held two years ago, you explained the importance of the “Truth of
Origin.” Why?

The Ofudesaki indicates the importance of teaching the origin. It seems to me that the essence of Tenrikyo is to save people through teaching the origin.

For example, let’s consider how we put our hearts into performing the service. By understanding God the Parent’s intention embodied in the service, we are able to perceive the significance of the Kagura Service and the meaning of performing it. Then we can actually put our hearts into performing the service.

Why did God the Parent create this world and human beings? Why has God constantly protected us until now? To understand God’s parental heart and intention will be the “origin” of our faith. If the “origin” is firmly settled in our mind, we will be able to figure out how to use our mind and how to live each day. If the “origin” is truly settled in our mind, we will be able to appreciate the preciousness and wonderfulness of being taught the teachings of God the Parent—who is God of Origin, God in Truth. Then, for example, instead of being told to “go out to sprinkle the fragrance” and passively doing it, we will be able to implement it on our own. Lately, I hear that many people are studying “the Story of Creation.” I am very grateful for that.

Being involved in the activities of the path

―As women’s participation in the workforce continues to rise, there are many women of the path who are working in society. What do you think of this?

Those who work in society have many more opportunities to interact with others. I think, therefore, that they have many opportunities to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings. Whatever their roles and positions in society are, I would like them to always
keep in mind the need to convey and spread the teachings to as many people as possible in the pursuit of the Joyous Life.

I am convinced that there are two important things for us to bear in mind in order to convey the teachings of God the Parent to others. The first is “the mind of helping and saving others.” The second is “the actions that focus on others’ well-being.” I am hoping that our association members will always keep the two in mind and make daily efforts to put them into practice, however small the efforts may be. I would like them to be sure to make such small efforts
day after day.

Even great experienced missionaries did not start out by receiving marvelous blessings from the very beginning. Everyone starts out without any experience. Willingness to do whatever it takes to save someone describes the use of the mind and action that God the Parent most desires. I hope that all association members, including those who work in society, bear this point in mind as they live their daily lives.

―There are times when we are being swept along by the current of the times and worldly common sense without being aware of it. For you, what is the one thing that you want women of the path to value?

In Tenrikyo, we are often taught that we women are endowed with special virtues and qualities such as bearing and raising, providing warmth and brightness, and connecting and joining. I believe that these are very important in today’s society.

For example, when a woman gains more responsibility and status at her workplace, she is expected to become mentally tough, and others start to see that in her attitude and actions. Having a position and excelling in their work is great. At the same time, however, I would like women of the path to remember Oyasama’s mind and to place high value on having a gentle heart. It would be wonderful if they have a modest heart with simple openness rather than an arrogant attitude and try to make sure that their mind and words focus on connecting and joining in the course of their lives.

Another thing I would like to see is association members making time to visit their churches or attend the women’s association events to consciously stay connected to the activities of the path. Whenever there is a convention or a young women’s gathering at Jiba, we always call for members from directly supervised chapters to join a “special hinokishin” group. In November, last year, approximately 200 people engaged in hinokishin for the young women’s gathering.

Participants in these special hinokishin groups are young women alumni, which is to say, women between the ages of 26 and 40. Those who fall in that age group are usually working in society and are not readily able to return to Jiba. They do not have many opportunities to listen to the teachings, either.

During the recent special hinokishin period, participants not only engaged in hinokishin activities, but were able to listen to two lectures—which explained the way of following the path as women and the qualities and abilities women are endowed with.

I was very happy to read the participants’ reflections on the special hinokishin. Many said things such as: “It was really good to listen to the teachings of the path,” “After being away from Jiba for a while, it was nice to come back here and breathe in the air of the Home of the Parent,” and “It was great to talk with fellow followers.”

What this tells me is that it is not easy for those who are working in society to enjoy an atmosphere of the path. That is all the more reason why it is important for them to be connected to their churches or women’s association activities. So even though they are busy, I very much hope that they will make as much effort as they can to stay connected to the path.

―How about women who are in the midst of child rearing?

I am sure those women need to put in a lot of hard work, which involves working with their husbands to raise their children and provide for their families. The most important aspect of child rearing, I believe, is to pass down the faith to their children. Since there are tasks and duties that cannot be performed by men, I would like women to engage in child rearing with a sense of joy.

In reality, however, we face a variety of challenges and difficulties that can be hard to work through. Again that is why I would like child-rearing women to be connected to their churches.

Lately, churches have been holding activities like “Gatherings for Young Mothers.” Also, church head ministers’ wives and other experienced church members can listen to what women have in mind and be good sources of advice in life.

Churches are one of the rare places where we can take our children without having to worry that they may be a handful. There are not too many places where we can take three or four children at once. In that respect, churches make a great place for mothers with small children.

Presently, the Women’s Association is promoting the Lecture for Mothers. Since it is called a “lecture,” one may get the impression that a speaker is invited to give a formal lecture, but it is not exactly like that. It is not as rigid as a typical “lecture.”

The purpose is to create a place for young mothers with small children to grow spiritually. Of course they will study the teachings there. Yet, it is not just that. Participants may learn tips on child rearing, have discussions with other mothers, and engage in hinokishin and recreational activities, etc.

The Lecture for Mothers can be held even with just one or two participants. So I want all churches to proactively hold it so that young mothers can become spirited there.

The meaning of “ensure that each member can be blessed with two new members”

―Last year and this year, the association conducted the Besseki Months to make special efforts to have people attend the Besseki lectures. Would you please explain the intention behind setting aside the periods?

Last year, we had a Besseki Month between October 20 and November 30. This year, a Besseki Month will be held between March 20 and May 10 with the 110th anniversary commemorative convention taking place during that period. Further in the fall, we will conduct another Besseki Month from October 20 to November 30, just like last year. So there will be three Besseki Months altogether.

Guiding someone to attend the Besseki lectures is an indispensable process if we are to put into practice one of the guidelines for association activities, “Let’s nurture ourselves and others into true Yoboku.”

Even though we are meaning to, it is not always easy to actually invite someone to attend the Besseki lectures. Having these periods will help us get motivated and put our efforts into sprinkling the fragrance and helping save others as well as providing them with care and guidance.

―The 102nd Tenrikyo Women’s Association Convention Commemorating the 110th Anniversary, which will be held on April 19, is finally upon us. What are your expectations for association members in the lead-up to the anniversary?

Since four years ago, we have been promoting the goal “Let’s sprinkle the fragrance and help save others, aiming for a million members” in our activity guidelines. The number one million is such a tremendous number. I am fully aware that the goal is not easy to attain.

Before we launched the goal, we counted the actual number of our association members belonging to all directly supervised chapters and branch chapters. The total number of the Women’s Association members now stands at about 320,000. This means that if each member can be blessed with two new members, the total number will become almost a million. That is why, since three years ago, we have been promoting the association’s concrete goal, which is, “Toward the 110th anniversary of our association, let us work together to ensure that each member can be blessed with two new members.”

At the beginning of the Showa era (in the late 1920s), the first president of the Women’s Association, Tamae Nakayama, time and again told the core members that the Women’s Association had the responsibility to ensure that all women in the world become members of the association. Every time I recall her words, I realize how extraordinary her remarks were.

The current population of the world has reached over seven billion. Half of them, that is, over three billion, are women. This is such an enormous number of people. In light of this, aiming for a million members is a small step toward that goal. So I really want to achieve a million members at any cost.

As we put more and more efforts into increasing the number of association members, I earnestly hope that each member will strengthen her awareness of being an association member and work hard to be blessed with new members.

―Would you please explain the qualification of being an association member?

According to the association’s bylaws, the objectives of the association are to follow the Divine Model of Oyasama and fulfill our mission as the foundation of the path in unity of mind. Its membership is defined as “All women who agree to support the objectives of the association.” Therefore, any woman who is fifteen or older, agrees to support the objectives of the association, and pays the annual fee (200 yen) is a member of the association, regardless of whether she is a Yoboku or not.

To put it in other words, any woman can become a member of the association so long as she is filled with joy and gratitude after listening to the teachings or she likes the association for women of the path.

Born and raised in Jiba, I attended Tenrikyo schools from kindergarten through university and made many friends. Among them are a number of women who worked in society after graduation and eventually got married to men who were not Tenrikyo followers. From my point of view, most of those old friends are not really following the path. I suppose they belong to a Tenrikyo church. However, it is probable that they are not really maintaining a conscious awareness of being association members who belong to respective branch chapters.

Last year, during the lead-up to the pep rally for the 110th anniversary, I tried to reach out to them. Fortunately, some of them participated in it. Needless to say, through sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping save others we will be blessed with new members. Meanwhile, we should remember that there must be many women whose connections with the path are weakening but could become new association members if we sincerely reach out to them.

The current number of association members—320,000—includes high school sophomores. I very much hope that even such young association members will put every effort into conveying how great the teachings are to as many people as possible. However, they do not have to overthink it unnecessarily, trying to explain the doctrine. Among the teachings that they have learned until now, they can pick up and share with their friends some parts of the teachings that they have become convinced of, or some anecdotes of Oyasama that they like. I would like the young association members to take confidence and convey what they feel and experience in a straightforward manner, however small it may be.

I heard that there were many young association members who invited and brought their friends who had yet to know the path to the Young Women’s Convention last year. Furthermore, many participants who were invited by their friends to return to Jiba attended their first Besseki lecture. So, if you have the strength to invite and bring more than two newcomers, let’s say three or four newcomers, just strive to accomplish it without hesitation.

In this regard, I am hoping that association members will patiently provide care and nurture for those who were thus brought to our association for the first time and steadily guide them to the path of faith so that they will in due time grow spiritually into true Yoboku.

Always with the smiles that lead to the Joyous Life

―In concluding this interview, could you please give a message to women of the path, including all chairwomen of branch chapters?

In order to realize the Joyous Life within our communities such as in our families, churches, and workplaces, we need women of the path who serve as the foundation to be present and to do their actual work. Whether or not churches can act as befits churches of the path also greatly depends on women’s use of the mind and their actions. So my best wish is for women of the path to become cheerful, bright, and spirited.

I am not just talking about being cheerful and spirited during happy and fun times. I would also like them to feel a sense of gratitude and joy for being able to have faith in the course of everyday life. I am hoping that they will take delight in the roles with which women are entrusted by God the Parent and perform the work of the path in high spirits.

Yet, the situation we are in varies from woman to woman. There are some who are in the midst of great difficulties and hardships. It would be difficult to find joy and become spirited in such circumstances. No matter what situation we face, however, we can make the teachings of God the Parent and Oyasama’s Divine Model the driving force to live our lives. We can settle each of the teachings in our mind one by one and keep our mind bright and spirited by constantly seeking God’s parental love and intention embodied in the origin.

Among chairwomen of branch chapters, there may be some who married into a church with no previous Tenrikyo background and have yet to clearly understand the significance of their roles and positions. If that is the case, it is vital for their directly supervised chapter chairwomen and senior branch chapter chairwomen to reach out to them and provide care and guidance for them.

I sincerely hope that those who are in the position of branch chapter chairwomen (or wives of church head ministers) will become cheerful and spirited and work enthusiastically beaming with smiles.

It is well said that “A smile is the best makeup any girl can wear.” Sometimes, I felt that I was widely perceived as a “stone-faced woman.” I myself need to be careful in this regard.

Smiles illumine our inner warmth and brightness. I am sure that all of us want to be attractive women of the path who can bring about an atmosphere of warmth and brightness with spontaneous smiles. I am convinced that such smiles lead us to the Joyous Life.


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