We have duly been able to conclude the Spring Grand Service of the 165th year of the Teaching. To all of you who returned to Jiba from near and far to attend today’s Service, I want to express my deep appreciation. As I wish to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you, may I ask for your attention for a while.
As you are fully aware, the Spring Grand Service commemorates the lunar calendar day of January 26, 1887, the day on which Oyasama withdrew from physical life. That day represented the destination, so to speak, of the 50-year path of the Divine Model of single-hearted salvation, which She personally demonstrated through Her example. At the same time, that day marked a new departure for Oyasama as She began to provide guidance for us in Her role as the everliving Oyasama.
I believe that our attitude today should be one of reflecting on that day with a fresh mind and pledging to advance our spiritual growth so as to respond to the Parent’s intention embodied in that day.
At the outset of The Life of Oyasama‘s Chapter Ten entitled “The Portals Opened,” we read, “On New Year’s Day, 1887, in the evening, as Oyasama came out of Her bath, She staggered momentarily.” The passage goes on to say that She remarked at the time, “It is a sign that the world is going to move.” Chapter Ten describes the dialogue and interaction between Oyasama and those close to Her over the subsequent 49 days leading up to the day when She withdrew from physical life, which is to say, February 18, or the lunar calendar day of January 26. Throughout that chapter, we find Oyasama trying to get the followers to perform the Service. We sense the seriousness of the situation from the tense interaction between Oyasama, who was urging the followers to perform the Service even by confronting them with Her critical physical condition, and those close to Her including the first Shinbashira, who, though aware of Her intention, could not bring themselves to perform the Service, for they were concerned about Her physical well-being and safety in light of the close surveillance by the authorities.
That interaction between Oyasama and our early predecessors comes to mind especially around this time of the year whenever I visit the historical buildings preserved in the garden just north of the Foundress’ Sanctuary, such as the Place for the Service, the Resting House, and the Storehouse. I can almost picture those early followers who performed the Kagura and the Dance with Hand Movements nightly for a period of one month until the evening before Her withdrawal. Despite the cold of midwinter, the performers doused themselves with cold water in rites of purification as they prayed sincerely for Oyasama’s recovery.
On January 26, the Service, which Oyasama had gone to great lengths to urge the followers to perform, was boldly performed in broad daylight with the musical instruments included. Oyasama, however, withdrew from physical life as the Service came to an end. Thus, the hastening for the Service performance was the finishing touch that Oyasama put to Her 50-year Divine Model. That’s how important the Service is.
The Kagura Service is performed by ten Service performers who take positions around the Kanrodai (the Stand for the Heavenly Dew), each performer expressing through hand movements one of the aspects of God the Parent’s providence at the time of creation. When they perform the Service in unison with one another, the providence of God the Parent manifested at the time of creation will reappear vividly. Then, human beings will be saved from any diseases and troubles, and this world will be reconstructed into the world of the Joyous Life.
The Service is fundamental to the path of single-hearted salvation. We may also say that the Service encapsulates the teachings of this path. In addition, the Ofudesaki, written by Oyasama, focuses on the completion of the Service.
The Service is not merely an inward prayer but also involves singing the songs for the Service to the accompaniment of musical instruments and performing hand movements to express the meaning of the songs. Above all, it is important to perform the Service in a unity of mind. For, then, we shall be able to bring about a bright and high-spirited atmosphere as befits the Joyous Service.
The Ofudesaki tells us:
When all are assembled and quickly do the Service, as those close to Me become spirited, God, also, will be spirited.
If you wish that the crops grow spiritedly, do the Kagura Service and the Teodori.
As indicated by these verses, God the Parent will accept our high-spiritedness and manifest the blessings for us.
When the Service performers not only play their roles unerringly but also bring themselves into complete harmony, thus allowing God and humankind to become high-spirited in one accord, then the Service will truly be a manifestation of the Joyous Life in which God and humankind dwell in perfect union. It is indeed a model of unity of mind.
Furthermore, the way the Service is performed is, I believe, related to the way our faith in this path ought to be. That is to say, I feel that the structure of the Service embodies the intention of the Parent who wants us not only to settle the teachings in our minds but also to live them out through our words and actions. Moreover, we shouldn’t become complacent about our own practice; rather, we ought to join hands with others in making progress toward the Joyous Life.
What I am saying applies not only to the Kagura Service, which is performed with the Kanrodai as center, but also to the local churches’ services, which are performed by receiving the truth of the Kagura Service.
I mentioned that the Service provides a model for our unity of mind as well as for the way we ought to live as followers. Concerning this, one thing I think about is the relationships among those of us who are following the path, especially in regard to connecting with one another and cooperating with one another.
As for the duties that you have been given through your positions and capacities, I trust that you are performing them diligently, but in addition to that, the important thing is how much attention you are paying to connecting with one another and cooperating with one another in conducting your duties.
It goes without saying that we need to fulfill our individual roles. If we are satisfied with just that, however, we could become self-righteous or fall into self-complacency. That would prevent us from giving full expression to what we can do as a whole.
Today it is increasingly recognized that interpersonal relationships are weakening in society at large. Neighbors used to help and support one another in any matter. Now that society has grown materially affluent, however, not only has the need for mutual help become less important but also more and more people, as you are aware, are feeling that relationships between neighbors have become increasingly superficial and, to some, even bothersome.
It wouldn’t be a problem if mutual help were something unnecessary, but there is a danger that something indispensable will be lost. We must not allow ourselves, as followers of the path, to be led astray by such a tendency. On the contrary, we ought to impress upon others the importance of mutual help ever more powerfully through implementing it ourselves.
In the Ofudesaki, Oyasama tells us:
And though each of you throughout the world has been pondering until now,
To My sorrow, no matter how deeply you have pondered, you have no mind to save others.
Thus Oyasama laments the fact that people are lost in their self-centered imaginations. She then says, “[I]f all of you throughout the world save one another in every matter,” (XII:93) thus indicating Her wish to have the world become a place in which all people help one another in any and every matter.
If we use the phrase “vertical relationship” to refer to the way people play their own roles in order to achieve their shared purpose, then cooperating with one another and joining our efforts together may be called “horizontal relationship.” If we combine these two, we are able to open up new possibilities and generate greater strength to enable us to achieve our goals in a way that we could not individually.
The metaphor of construction is often used to explain how we can work in a unity of mind. In order to construct a building, which stands for the shared purpose, a variety of materials, each suited to its particular purpose, are gathered and assembled in the right order, thus allowing the building to take shape. This process, we may say, provides an appropriate model for our unity of mind.
Each part of the structure must be able to serve its particular purpose and all the materials need to be assembled and combined properly if they are to generate formidable strength as a whole. Conversely, no matter how magnificent each of the materials may be, they will not as a whole serve any purpose unless they are joined together correctly.
The point I’m making is applicable in a variety of contexts–for example, in the relationships among the various departments or sections of Church Headquarters as well as within each of these departments and sections. Further, in the contexts of the various Tenrikyo associations’ activities, church activities, and diocese and district activities, as well as in the context of each church itself, I feel the need to reinforce the horizontal relationship, in addition to the vertical relationship.
I want you to bear in mind that the vertical relationship and the horizontal relationship are mutually complementary. That is, they go hand in hand. By encouraging one another and caring for one another, we can join our efforts in working toward our shared purpose, and through making those efforts we can savor the tremendous joy and sense of fulfillment that cannot be savored through individual efforts alone.
Almost four years have already passed since I was installed as the Shinbashira. Thereafter, I announced Instruction One, calling on all Yoboku to renew their awareness of their role in world salvation and actually implement it. Further, to ensure that the intent of this Instruction was thoroughly understood by all followers, we organized district lectures both at directly supervised churches and in various communities. Then, last year, we held a seminar for head ministers at the Home of the Parent to provide them with an opportunity to enhance themselves as leaders of churches, which are centers for single-hearted salvation.
Time has passed, and now we need to set our sights on the next anniversary of Oyasama, namely, the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, as we conduct our activities.
Our predecessors saw the anniversaries of Oyasama, which come once every ten years, as opportunities to make further spiritual growth, and they worked together to take full advantage of them. Building on their accomplishments, I should like us to take further strides in our spiritual growth by working in a way that will bring joy to Oyasama.
I need hardly remind you that spiritual maturity is something we ought to be constantly working toward, regardless of whether or not an anniversary of Oyasama is drawing near. We should be making an effort to grow into the sort of Yoboku who accord with God’s intention by inquiring into that intention in the course of our daily life.
It is important for all of us who share the great goal of constructing the Joyous Life World to conduct our activities in a unity of mind and in perfect accord with the Parent. Only by building on these steady activities can we conduct meaningful anniversary activities.
The same may be said of the coming 120th Anniversary. I hope that by conducting our anniversary activities with our minds in unison we will be able to show Oyasama our progress in spiritual growth. To be able to do that, however, I believe that each of us needs to work with the mind to make it suitable to engage in the anniversary activities. That is, each of us must do the foundation work in our spiritual construction. We need to begin, I believe, by reflecting deeply on our own mind to see if the state of our mind is capable of bringing Oyasama peace of mind.
Song Eight of the Songs for the Service talks about the way we can advance wondrous construction. As a prerequisite that will allow us to engage in construction, the song says:
Forgetting away the mind of greed,
Set out to determine your mind firmly!
Thus we are taught to sweep away the mind of greed and firmly settle the mind. The mind of greed, as is indicated by the corresponding hand movement, refers to the use of mind that is self-centered.
We human beings all have this mind of greed to a greater or lesser degree and, indeed, Oyasama says, “There is no one free from greed.” Though endeavoring to uphold Oyasama’s teachings and to live in accord with God the Parent’s intention, even we followers of the path cannot rule out the possibility that we may inadvertently be caught up in our immediate self-serving interests from time to time.
In light of the intention of the Parent who teaches us to sweep the heart and sweep the Residence as part of the preparations for spiritual construction and the building of a new world, I believe it is important for us to begin our anniversary activities by working with the mind so as to bring Oyasama peace of mind. I’m talking about sweeping away the dusty use of the mind and nurture and cultivate the mind of true sincerity appropriate for the foundation work in our spiritual construction.
The Kakisage tells us:
The mind of saving others is the real truth of sincerity alone and, by this truth of saving others, you are saved.
Indeed, the mind of saving others is the epitome of true sincerity.
Considering the sense of insecurity pervading the world and seeing the sight of people suffering from illness and troubles or living their lives without purpose, we see that never before has the world more needed us Yoboku to rouse ourselves and really get to work at accomplishing world salvation.
In the hope that we will be able to take advantage of the anniversary of Oyasama to grow spiritually, that is, to make the anniversary a season for fresh and powerful buds to sprout, I should like us all to firmly take to heart the intention of the Parent, who opened the portals of the Shrine to step out and level the ground, saying, “I shall save the world from now.” I want to request, therefore, that, this year once again, all of us take powerful strides forward in order to respond to that intention of the Parent. Having made this request, I now wish to close my talk.
Thank you for listening.