May I begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for spiritedly performing the tasks of single-hearted salvation in your daily lives. I would like to extend my welcome to all of you who have returned to Jiba for the Spring Grand Service today. I am truly grateful that we have been able to spiritedly perform the Service together with so many of you here today. I would now like to start my sermon. May I have your kind attention?
The Spring Grand Service is performed to commemorate a major knot that occurred on the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, the day of origin on which Oyasama shortened Her term of life by twenty-five years and withdrew from physical life out of the deep parental love for Her children.
It is vital for us to settle in our hearts the intention of Oyasama, who has provided us with training even by withdrawing from physical life. We ought to savor Her parental love and strive for our spiritual growth. I believe that this is the only path we can take to respond to the intention of Oyasama.
Starting a few weeks before the fateful day, there had been an ongoing dialogue at the Residence between our early predecessors and Oyasama. The predecessors were worried about the authorities, who were keeping a close watch on them, and they were very hesitant to perform the Service exactly as it had been taught. Yet, Oyasama desired them to perform the Service exactly as She had taught it.
They could not perform the Service because they were concerned about the physical condition of Oyasama. Although they were sincerely praying for Her earliest possible recovery, they were worried about the possibility of causing further troubles to Oyasama through performing the Service as desired by Her—they were caught up in complex human thinking, indeed. Oyasama patiently taught the importance of understanding the order of things to the first Shinbashira and other predecessors, who agonized over a choice between their concern for the Parent and the decision urged by Her.
In the same way, those of us today may often be torn between a problem we are facing and the straightforward way of living based on the Divine Model. In the case of our predecessors, what was at stake was Oyasama’s physical condition. The thoughts of the first Shinbashira, who was required to make a decision, are beyond my imagination. Oyasama, understanding his agony with parental love, said:
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.
Osashizu, January 13, 1887
The Life of Oyasama explains:
In the beginning was God the Parent, and this world came to be. In this world, various lands came to be. Thereon, human beings came. Human beings borrow their bodies. And laws are what they are to keep society orderly. Even though there are laws, whether to abide by them or not depends on the mind. That is to say, the mind is what is most important. If you understand this order, listen firmly to God the Parent and settle the mind of sincerity, the true mind which communicates with God the Parent. This, above all, is the most important thing.
The Life of Oyasama, p. 232
As we read about the dialogue that continued during the period heading up to the fateful day, we find that Oyasama taught about the truth of the Service and the truth of the order with strong words.
Looking back on the fifty-year Divine Model with a focus on the truth of order, however, we realize that Oyasama did not start by teaching the fundamental teachings such as the Truth of Origin and the truth of the Service. For instance, no matter how you teach difficult things to children who do not know anything, they will not understand. In the same way, Oyasama kindly taught and guided people beginning with simple things in an orderly manner. Yet, people did not understand Her intention, and most of them left Her soon, even though they had been indebted to Oyasama. Then twenty years after the founding of the Teaching, more and more people began to understand how indebted they were and came to stay on the path.
As for the teachings, She started by explaining the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed.” With regard to the mind, which we can use as our own, She taught the “Eight Dusts.” She spoke of dusts piling up in the mind and taught people to sweep away the dusts of the mind as well as to be careful not to make others accumulate the dusts; She taught the mind of true sincerity. As we are taught in the Ofudesaki:
So long as you remain unknowing that the body is a thing borrowed, you can understand nothing at all.
Oyasama also bestowed the Grant of the Safe Childbirth. While saving those who were suffering, She taught the path of salvation in an orderly manner.
In the course of writing the Ofudesaki, Oyasama changed how She referred to God the Parent depending on the level of people’s spiritual growth so as to reveal the existence and the truth of God the Parent in an easy-to-understand way. At the initial stages, She used the word “God,” which was an expression people were familiar with from before. Oyasama explained, however, that She was referring to the true God who was different from the kind of gods known to people from before and who was, in fact, God of Origin. Then She used the expression “Tsukihi” (Moon-Sun) so that people could feel closer to God the Parent as they could directly see the moon and sun with their own eyes. Furthermore, Oyasama used the word “Parent” to help people understand that not only could they admire and revere God, but they could also open up to and rely on God for any matters with a sense of intimacy.
The same goes for the Ofudesaki; the verses were written in an orderly manner from Part I through Part XVII. She started writing the Ofudesaki in 1869, which was a suitable timing for people to read it, in light of their spiritual growth. In parallel with the writing of the Ofudesaki, She taught the Service step by step, identified the location of Jiba, and started wearing the red clothes to make Her position as the Shrine of Tsukihi clearer. She guided people to easily understand that Oyasama’s instructions were all instructions given by God the Parent.
In this way, Oyasama gave the teachings for fifty years in an orderly manner, and people came to understand the fundamental teachings and the true intention of the Parent little by little. She showed them that this path is the secure, broad path toward the Joyous Life World, the path they could follow without worries. She guided and nurtured them with much tenderness and care.
So far, I have repeatedly used the phrase “in an orderly manner.” The faith in Tenri, heavenly truth, is not the kind of faith in which you say, “If You, God, listen to my prayers, I will do as You say.” A Divine Direction tells us:
To resolve or not to resolve? Everything will settle after you resolve. Settling does not precede resolving. Settling follows resolving. You must listen and understand this truth well. . . . Resolve and get started—that is the path of single-heartedness with God, I say.
Osashizu, November 3, 1891
This is the order of the path of Tenri, heavenly truth.
It goes without saying that, in the world at large, it is important to conduct everything in an orderly manner. Yet, it is all the more important for us as we implement the teachings of the path. What is crucial here is that, when we are faced with a situation where things do not go as we expect or where we do not know what to do, we should ask ourselves if we are pondering over the situation in accordance with the Divine Model of Oyasama and reflect on whether or not we have followed the correct order.
These days, we often become confused, thinking that, even though we have settled our mind and are following the path, things do not go as smoothly as in the past. However, I believe that it is vital to ponder over our way of living from many different angles, such as whether we have followed the correct order of things, whether we have truly settled our mind without fail, or whether or not we have misunderstood others around us. Pondering over only ourselves can lull us into complacency.
The order of things refers to how things are put in order, but it can also mean how things are piled up. If we neglect to exert layer upon layer of effort, we may end up following the wrong order of things. At the same time, it is important to follow the path for a long time. The Ofudesaki tells us:
Over steep mountains, through tangles of thorns, along narrow ledges, and through brandished swords, if you come,
Yet ahead through a sea of flames and a deep abyss, you will arrive at a narrow path.
After following the narrow path step by step, you will come to a broad path. This is the trustworthy main path.
Ofudesaki I: 47–49
When we follow the path, we may be faced with difficult situations on our way, such as steep mountains, tangles of thorns, and brandished swords. Soon after we thought that the difficulty was over, harsh situations may still be waiting. When they are gone, we can then find a narrow path. If we continue to walk the narrow path securely step by step, we can find a broad path. Or, we will be able to regard the narrow path as a broad path, which is a sign of our spiritual growth. I think that it will be the result of making efforts over years. A Divine Direction tells us:
Natural spontaneity came out of a number of years. Do you think that a seed sown today will bear fruit today, or not? If you ponder over this, you will be able to ponder over the situation today.
Osashizu, January 12, 1898
The number of years is not everything, but I am sure that it is still an important element.
Human beings need a considerable amount of time to grow compared to other animals. Most animals will be able to stand up soon after they are born. They can be mature in a limited period of time, but it takes a great deal of time before human beings can stand up and speak. Physical growth takes much more time. Human beings need a long time to make spiritual growth.
When I was little, fruits such as persimmons, chestnuts, and common figs could be harvested in the garden of the Nakayama family. The third Shinbashira made a point of delivering the first harvest of the year to Oyasama. He sometimes let me deliver the fruit together with live-in trainees.
Mrs. Masa Nakayama, the former Shinbashira’s wife, taught me the things I should do when I go in front of God, such as praying properly and expressing my gratitude before talking about anything else. She never failed to have me participate in events such as Boys and Girls Association activities. Being a child at a playful age, I sometimes wanted to object to it, but she never allowed me not to participate.
She disciplined me and taught me the existence of God the Parent and Oyasama, the order of important matters, and the fact that I am who I am thanks to many people around me. All of this helped me develop my faith, and I am truly thankful.
Her instruction was not limited to her children; I remember that she was training young male and female live-in trainees by giving direct, verbal instructions, rather than assuming that they would understand without specific instructions.
When we nurture others, we would do well to take a close look at them, understand what they do not understand, and teach them necessary things in an orderly manner, in the same way as Oyasama did. Are we not encouraging Yoboku and followers who have little experience in this path to perform the service or make an offering without sufficiently helping them understand the teachings properly, simply because we feel that we have to convey what we think is important or we want them to be saved? This path is the ultimate teaching, but we must not forget that Oyasama spent more than half of the period of the Divine Model conveying this ultimate teaching.
It is not easy to nurture others, convey the teachings to them, cultivate their faith, and help them grow up to be the kind of Yoboku who can shoulder the tasks of this path. The teachings of the path do not change, and there is only one Divine Model of Oyasama. However, we need to explore ways of conveying them and ways of teaching and nurturing people. To do so, we must not forget to remain fully conscious of people’s needs. Contrary to our expectations, they may not have understood the message or they may have misunderstood it.
When followers give a roadside speech, for example, we often hear them mistakenly elongate the divine name, saying, “God as worshiped in Tenrikyo is named ‘Tenri-O-no-Mikō-tō.’” However, as we are not singing the Mikagura-uta, the Songs for the Service, it is odd to say “Tenri-O-no-Mikō-tō.” The correct pronunciation is “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.” These people often have a flag bearing the name “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto,” and they think that their pronunciation is correct. On the other hand, listeners might be thinking, “The Tenrikyo god’s name sounds funny.” Those who are giving their speech do not realize that they are conveying the important divine name incorrectly. The same goes for the sacred names of the ten aspects of God’s complete providence. There is no such divine name as “Kunitokotachi-no-Mikō-tō.” We may be bringing misunderstanding to others without knowing it. For this reason, it is important to look out for each other.
We should aim to make spiritual growth by walking the true path laid by Oyasama. God the Parent will be watching over us for a long period of time and, from this perspective, we need to do whatever it takes to ensure that our faith is handed down from generation to generation, allowing our causality to be transformed and ever further spiritual growth to be achieved.
We are taught in the Mikagura-uta:
Suffering comes from your own mind.
So you should reproach yourself.
Whenever we encounter an illness or a trouble, we should first accept it as a challenge given to us and find joy in realizing that we have received the blessings that reduced a large misfortune to a small misfortune. We should not hold a grudge against its direct cause. Once we are shown something, we should make a point of reflecting upon ourselves. The power of faith enables us to stand up again, seek the intention of the Parent, become spirited, and strive for spiritual growth from a knot.
Furthermore, we need to convey and spread the joy of faith and the inner strength we find through faith to those around us including our families. I think that it is important to try to be such a person who can give a convincing insight to others. A Divine Direction tells us:
I shall fully provide for you in every matter if you go on the path of single-heartedness with God while maintaining a mind that effortlessly makes the world feel that you provide a convincing example through the way you lead your life.
Osashizu, May 6, 1890
When a Yoboku aims to be a person who effortlessly convinces others, he or she will be given any blessing whatsoever. If the number of such Yoboku, including head ministers, increases one by one, I believe that local churches will naturally become able to shed light on their communities.
When we reflect upon the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service, I think that we tend to focus on the great difficulties that happened. I suppose that this is because of the dialogue between Oyasama and our early predecessors, which I mentioned earlier, the hardships of Oyasama, who was detained at the police station or in jail, and the image of Oyasama going through Her last hardship amid the severe cold. In addition, we know that Oyasama withdrew from physical life on that day of origin—we can imagine that our predecessors were saddened and shocked that they suddenly found themselves no longer able to see Oyasama, who, until then, had always been there for them. If we only focus on this knot, we often tend to regard the path itself as something severe.
However, there is a Divine Direction given six days after Oyasama’s withdrawal, which says:
Sah, sah, you do not understand, you do not understand. You do not understand anything at all. One hundred and fifteen years old, ninety years old…. You do not understand this either. I have taught you My will but you did not understand anything at all. Therefore in order to hasten the salvation of the world I shortened Her life by twenty-five years. I opened the portals and stepped out to level the world. Were I not God, I would not be able to do such free and unlimited workings. No one will be able to stop Me. God never tells you anything untrue. Listen and understand well. From now on, whatever you hear and whatever you see will fill you with delight. Indeed delightful! Understand well.
Osashizu, February 24, 1887
In this way, we are taught that everything will be filled with delight. I believe that we need to learn from this major knot and the stern training to transform our mind so that we can follow the path with delight. What is important is to know that delight and easiness are not the same. Only after going through tough situations like steep mountains can we savor the true delight and enjoy the broad path ahead.
God the Parent created human beings at this place, Jiba, with the intention of seeing our Joyous Life and thus sharing in our joy. Jiba is the fundamental source of salvation as we walk the path of single-hearted salvation that leads to the Joyous Life.
There are local churches around the world that have been allowed to receive the truth of Jiba. The truth of the blessings for salvation work that we conduct in various parts of the world can be received through contributing and dedicating our sincerity to local churches. Therefore, it goes without saying that we must make sure that the truth of Jiba and the truth of our churches are securely connected at all times.
By returning to Jiba, we can receive the truth of Jiba. The Parent will be glad if we, the dear children of God, return to Jiba. However, is returning to Jiba the only thing to do? If all of us could return to Jiba every day, that would be splendid, but it is impossible for most people. That is where local churches play a role. The truth of God the Parent and Oyasama are enshrined at our local churches, so we can bring joy to God the Parent and Oyasama by visiting local churches to worship. If churches are closeby, we can visit them frequently and participate in performing the service and help with their other tasks. We can also use the churches as a place where we rely on and consult with God the Parent and Oyasama, whom we admire as our Parent, about even a small matter. Local churches have many elements that help us make spiritual growth.
Without true sincerity, it will be hard for us to make continuous efforts, however small they are. If we contribute and dedicate our sincere efforts to our local churches every day, God the Parent and Oyasama will surely be delighted to receive our sincerity. In turn, the local churches need to make sure that their truth is connected to the truth of Jiba and, to this end, should make necessary efforts over many years.
The current situation of the path is being shown according to how we have followed this path so far. Today, I have talked about the order of things. Now is the time for each of us and local churches to reflect upon the path we have taken, return to the basics, and deeply ponder over how Yoboku should be and how local churches should be. Now is the time to examine our path of spiritual growth by consulting with Oyasama, who is everliving and is always close to us. We would like to start taking a step forward in an orderly manner, starting from making repayment for what we receive every day.
We, followers of the path, need to take this step forward together, in unity of mind, toward the same goal, and in high spirits. Each of us has a central role. Let us keep that in mind and follow the path together so that we can bring assurance and delight to Oyasama.
Thank you very much for listening.