On August 27, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Zensuke Nakata gave a talk on the future course of the path at a meeting attended by resident staff members of Church Headquarters, heads of directly supervised churches, heads of dioceses, members of the Assembly, and committee members of Tenrikyo associations. The meeting was held to bring together followers in leading positions to unite their efforts to rise to the challenges surrounding the path under the banner of sharing the same goal in anticipation of the next “three years, one thousand days” season, which will begin in three years’ time.
Need to Adapt and Respond to Changes in Society
The novel coronavirus has brought our society to a near standstill, and its impact has perhaps been even greater on the Tenrikyo community. Under the current circumstances, I believe that the important thing is to ponder over what is being urged by God the Parent now. Spreading all around the world, COVID-19 became a great challenge for all human beings including us Tenrikyo followers. At this point in time, we should not only ponder over this great knot individually but also share our understanding of it within the larger Tenrikyo community as we seek to tackle the challenge in unity of mind.
Those of you assembled here today are in a position to bear heavy responsibilities in the path. In the face of this great knot, I would like all of you to reflect on the course that the path has followed in recent years and, building on our reflections, to pledge together to make a fresh start in unity of mind.
In July, it was widely reported that this year marks the 75th year since World War II ended in 1945. The war was a huge knot for the path, and our predecessors went through many difficulties, which are all beyond description. As the war came to an end, however, they managed to pick themselves up and make a new beginning in unity of mind to engage in “restoration.”
Perhaps we believe that Tenrikyo has not since experienced any major difficulties as serious as those during the wartime, but is that really true? It is hard to believe that there was no trouble over the last 75 years. There must have been troubles and difficulties. It was only that they did not appear in the form of oppression or interference involving the distortion of the teachings or a ban on the Service.
There are various perspectives to look at our society, but a significant transition occurred from around the early 1990s in Japan. For instance, the Japanese economy slipped into severe recession as the “bubble” burst soon after the Centennial Anniversary of Oyasama was conducted. In parallel with the situation, the birth rate in Japan started to fall resulting in an increasing aging population; the number of nuclear families increased rapidly; and there was a noticeable rise in the share of never-married or divorced adults in society. All these social trends transformed how we define “family” and eventually reversed what was the norm in society until then.
It was around the same time that the world became increasingly globalized while information technology made significant progress, which had a remarkable influence on our way of thinking and accelerated the pace of social change. That is to say, the era was a revolutionary period in history.
Perhaps as a result of these changes, the Tenrikyo community started to show a downward trend. The traditional vertical mission of the path was greatly challenged by the declining birth rate, aging population, shrinking family size, increasing never-married rate and divorce rate, and changing family values. Although we were aware of these changes in society, we have essentially continued to engage in missionary work and nurture followers in the traditional manner, for these changes did not involve the distortion of the teachings or a ban on the Service.
However, our living environment and social conditions—in which we engage in missionary and salvation work—have been transformed and diversified at an accelerated pace. The way people view religions including Tenrikyo changed as well. Because of that, it was a matter of course that our traditional approaches and activities in conveying the teachings and helping save people were becoming less effective. Yet transforming the way we have been accustomed to doing things requires a common understanding of the need to adapt to the changes, decisiveness to deal with the situation, and patience and perseverance to undertake this work.
I assume that each of us now has a sense of urgency, thinking that we cannot just continue with business as usual.
It is about time for us followers of the path to make a resolve for a fresh start with a shared understanding of urgency so as to be able to respond to the changes in society. This was part of the reason this meeting was originally scheduled in April.