We have just concluded this year’s Spring Grand Service. Since I should like to share some of my thoughts with you, may I ask for your attention for a short while.
While performing the Spring Grand Service, I somehow have a tense feeling that I do not have when performing the Service on the 26th of other months. This is probably because the image of the Service that was performed on the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887—the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service—is superimposed on my mind as I perform the Service in January. The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo describes the Service on that day as follows:
Shinnosuke said. . . , “Only those should perform who are willing to risk their lives no matter what measures the police use to stop the Service.” Thus prepared, those who were to perform the Service put on two sets of underclothing and two pairs of tabi, in preparation for their arrest. Then at about one o’clock in the afternoon, the Service with the musical instruments included was begun boldly.
Oyasama, who had been contentedly listening to the cheerful sounds of the musical instruments, withdrew from physical life when the last line of Song Twelve was ending.
At the Spring Grand Service last year, I shared with you my thoughts on the parental intention involved in that Service, and I also talked to you concerning the truth of the Sazuke, which Oyasama said She would grant through the workings She provides by virtue of Her eternal life. My sermon today will concern itself with the Service that Oyasama urged Her followers to perform and with the churches which are entrusted with the task of missionary work.
We can say that the origins of churches in local districts are deeply connected to the day of origin of the Spring Grand Service. When God the Parent was training the followers through Oyasama’s physical affliction, the first Shinbashira went to Oyasama’s bedside just before dawn on January 13 (December 20 by the lunar calendar) and made a series of inquiries. In the course of his inquiries, he made the following request: “If You permit us to establish Church Headquarters, we shall do as God directs.”
This request was made in response to Oyasama’s repeated demand that the Service be performed by Her followers, who had remained hesitant to do so out of their concern over the physical affliction of the aged Oyasama amid the severe police control. To the request from the first Shinbashira, Oyasama gave Her permission that he might proceed, saying, “About what you ask, I shall leave it to you.”
After the “knot” of the First Anniversary of Oyasama, the permission Oyasama thus granted led to the submission of the application for establishing Tenrikyo Church Headquarters in Tokyo, which was accepted by the authorities on April 10, 1888. Thereafter, God repeatedly requested that Church Headquarters be moved to Jiba by saying, for example:
People say the headquarters is over there but they do not understand anything at all. Because the one truth exists at the Jiba, peace will reign in the world.
Osashizu, July 2, 1888
Then in July of the same year, Church Headquarters was moved to the Residence where it was meant to be located. On November 29 Church Headquarters was officially opened, and in December the first two branch churches were established under the supervision of Church Headquarters, which was followed by the founding of one church after another.
I believe that this development of events clearly shows important aspects of the process through which churches came into existence. First of all, the followers were allowed to establish Church Headquarters, which is the foundation of all local churches today, only after they had pledged to Oyasama that they would perform the Service. The monthly service is performed at local churches by receiving the truth of the Kagura Service, which is performed around the Jiba with the Kanrodai at center. One of the most important tasks incumbent upon a church is that the service performers perform the service, bringing about a unity of minds as well as the unity of their dance movements, so that God the Parent will be spirited.
Also, churches were established only after their members had applied to Jiba and received permission from the everliving Oyasama. We are taught that all these churches are connected to Church Headquarters as a single breath. Should they lose their ties with the Jiba, they would lose their own truth.
Many churches started with individuals who rejoiced over the miraculous salvation they received or who were impressed by the teachings. They began to spread the teachings and engage in salvation work in order to respond to the intention of God the Parent who desires to save all people in the world. Such activities gradually drew others, and a fellowship came to be organized. Eventually an application was submitted for establishing their church.
The truth of a church name is eternal.
The path is eternal. Also, what is called “church name” at a specific place is a truth of eternity.
Osashizu, January 19, 1901
As indicated by this Divine Direction, this path is eternally focused on realizing the world of the Joyous Life, and our churches have been sanctioned as this path’s centers for single-hearted salvation in order that we might continue working toward that goal with eternally unchanging sincerity. Our churches, moreover, took their first step as churches when we pledged to strive in that manner.
I want you to recall this point now and then and, from that perspective, take a fresh look at where your churches stand.
Today, the oldest of our 17 ,000-plus churches are more than one hundred years old, and those churches have had several head ministers over the course of those years.
Yet, what must not be forgotten is that, in the beginning of each and every one of our churches, there must have been a deep feeling of joy and elation in receiving the blessings of God the Parent, as well as the firm resolution to embark upon single-hearted salvation. Only because there was such a day of origin of faith are we able to be what we are today.
I suspect that some of you might think that you have not personally experienced any miraculous blessing of salvation. Be that as it may, if you trace the history of your family’s faith, surely you will find that there was a day of origin when your predecessors experienced joy and elation which led them to embrace their faith. I want you to ponder the fact that you can only be what you are today thanks to that day of origin.
Again, we are taught:
[V]irtue is more deeply planted in the second generation than in the first one, and deeper still in the third than in the second. By becoming ever deeper, it will become virtue which lasts forever.
Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 90
This passage indicates that as faith is handed down from generation to generation, virtue becomes more and more deeply implanted.
First-generation followers followed the path joyfully and spiritedly because of their experience of being saved from deep anxiety and suffering. They began where there was nothing to build on; yet, even though they met with opposition and encountered various other difficulties, they continued their faith with vigor and determination, bearing Oyasama’ s Divine Model in mind. They laid the foundation for the path in this manner. If this path is followed by second-generation followers, third-generation followers, and so forth without forgetting the day of origin of their faith, it becomes possible for them to savor even the sort of joy that the first-generation followers were not able to.
Thus, even if we have no direct experience of being blessed with miraculous salvation, the fact remains that we are indebted to the path that our predecessors followed. Moreover, we are, in fact, constantly experiencing God the Parent’s complete providence, which is taken for granted by those who have yet to know God the Parent’s teachings. We are able to be aware of how boundless God the Parent’s providence is and how precious it is. We are, therefore, able to live each day with a feeling of gratitude.
Of course, we might encounter trying or painful situations in our lives. Yet, we are taught the stance of the mind we call joyous acceptance, whereby we can accept even those situations as opportunities for further growth, as “knots” from which new buds can sprout. I feel truly thankful that we are, thus, able to maintain joy and gratitude in our minds at all times.
Our predecessors did more than just rejoice in their own salvation. They went on to help others be saved and, consequently, savored the joy of saving others through being shown the wondrous blessings and guidance of God the Parent and Oyasama. No matter what difficulty they encountered, it only served to reinforce their high-spiritedness in striving for single-hearted salvation.
We should not just relate this fact to others in admiration. More important, we should be able to impart to them the sincerity that was behind the fact, and this requires that we personally follow the path in a befitting manner. The point I am making does not apply to church head ministers alone.
Many followers today, incidentally, inherited their faith after it had been handed down through some generations. Even with followers who embraced their faith through their own experience of being blessed with a release from illness or other trouble, their joy at receiving that blessing tends to weaken as time goes by. We should not merely feel glad about being freed from illness and troubles; what is important is to make a sincere effort to grow spiritually to the point where we are able to rejoice in and express gratitude for God the Parent’s constant providence, in which we are embraced every day.
Other important things include administering the Sazuke at every opportunity in our daily lives and nurturing and cultivating the mind’s loving care and readiness to help people who are troubled by personal problems. These practices will serve to deepen our joy of faith ever further, thus leading to our salvation and bringing a settling to our families.
There are many people around us who are suffering from physical and personal problems. Nonetheless, even when we go out to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings to them, eagerly maintaining the conviction that this teaching alone is the true way for them to be saved, it is not easy to get them to listen to us. Those of you who have experience in spreading the teachings are well aware of this without me having to say so.
Though today’s difficulties in doing missionary work differ in nature from those of the past, we do in fact encounter many difficulties even now. If we are to succeed in opening the minds of these people who refuse to listen to us despite their troubles and sufferings, we shall have to gain their trust by exerting our sincerity, visiting them time and again, and by making every effort to help them.
In addition, if we are to set a convincing example for others, whether as churches or as individuals, we must be careful to lead our daily lives in a manner that is convincing to them.
In the Ofudesaki we read:
Though I desire to go forth into the open quickly, I cannot do so because there is no path.
Ofudesaki II: 13
This verse hastens us to commit ourselves to laying a path so that God the Parent’s teachings may spread throughout the world and so that God the Parent’s workings may flow forth anywhere and everywhere.
God the Parent desires that this path of salvation emanating from the Jiba will truly reach every corner of the world. And I believe that our original intention in seeking permission to establish our churches was so that they might serve as steppingstones to fulfill that desire.
At this point in time, our churches have become indispensable to us, not only as footholds from which to spread the teachings throughout the world and as places to conduct salvation activities but also as places to nurture those who will serve the path as Oyasama’s instruments. The duties entrusted to our churches are truly immense, especially considering the enormity of the task of laying a path that will reach out to the entire world. In addition, since the truth of a church name is granted for eternity, constant efforts must be made to ensure that each church lives up to the Parent’s intention through which it was allowed to be established.
To begin with, church head ministers must take to heart that this path was begun by Oyasama alone. They must recall how their predecessors sowed seeds of sincerity in their communities relying solely on Oyasama’s Divine Model. And they must have a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings provided day after day and strive in salvation work with a radiant and spirited mind. To accomplish this will require steady perseverance, but if they concentrate their efforts on this task without giving up, then—even though they might feel that their church is still far from the ideal—the day is sure to come when a path will open up before them and their church will be blessed with greater numbers of people gathering as well as an ever livelier atmosphere.
A church’s mission is to spread the teachings of this path and to perform the service. The one who is to be the core in accomplishing this mission is the church’s head minister, but it is also the mission of every Yoboku who belongs to the church. Indeed, the enrichment of a church’s substance comes into being when the head minister and the followers of a church bring their minds into unison and work together in hand-in-hand unity.
Finally, I should like to ask all of you to maintain a unity of mind with the other members of your churches and to perform your tasks diligently so that all churches may, once again this year, draw even a step closer to being in accord with God the Parent’s intention. Having made this request, I should now like to bring today’s sermon to a close.