2021 Spring Grand Service Sermon by Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Zensuke Nakata (full text)

May I express my deep appreciation to all of you for the efforts you are devoting to the cause of the path in your daily lives. I feel a sense of gratitude and joy that today we have duly been able to hold the Spring Grand Service despite the cold weather and the current tense atmosphere caused by the spread of the coronavirus. While reflecting upon the divine intention behind Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, I used to think that using the word “joy” would not be suitable for the occasion of the Spring Grand Service. However, in light of the current situation, where there was a certain likelihood that we could not perform the Service today, today’s Service brought me a real sense of joy. We learn many things amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity once again to ponder over the path that we are meant to follow by returning our thoughts to Oyasama’s intention while reaffirming the significance of conducting the Spring Grand Service. May I ask for your kind attention for a while.

The significance of conducting the Spring Grand Service

We perform the Spring Grand Service every year to commemorate the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887—when the huge knot of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life took place—to settle Her intention firmly in our minds and rededicate ourselves to responding to it.

On the lunar calendar date of December 20, 1886, about a month before Oyasama’s withdrawal, the first Shinbashira made an inquiry of Oyasama. In response, She delivered a Divine Direction and taught kindly and in simple terms. In the inquiry, the first Shinbashira requested permission to establish Church Headquarters in order to openly perform the Service, saying, “If You permit us to establish Church Headquarters, we shall do as God directs.” He thus expressed his resolution to follow God’s words. Oyasama then clearly permitted him to do so. She then gave the following clear instructions:

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.

As the current Shinbashira mentioned in his New Year’s Address at the beginning of this year, it is of great importance for us to keep in mind that the first Shinbashira’s firm resolution to “do as God directs” is still alive. On the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, Oyasama accepted the sincerity of the early followers who, led by the first Shinbashira, performed the Service at the risk of their lives. She then withdrew from physical life as Song Twelve came to an end.

I learned about the series of events that occurred during that period from The Life of Oyasama as well as our predecessors. I always want to settle in my mind or truly realize the early followers’ resolution, the significance of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life, and the subsequent workings of the everliving Oyasama. I have tried to perceive the feelings and thoughts of those who were close to Oyasama, including Her family members. I have imagined how I would have reacted to the series of events if I had been in their shoes.

Yet, no matter how I look at it, the fact that Oyasama, who had been physically present as She personally provided nurturing, had suddenly withdrawn from physical life would not at all be easy to settle in my mind despite the doctrinal explanation of the truth of the everliving Oyasama. I imagine I could only have despaired even after being told in a Divine Direction: “It is only My figure which cannot be seen. All is the same. It is only My figure which does not exist” (March 17, 1890).

It has been over 130 years since Oyasama’s withdrawal. I amfortunate enough to live in the present timewhereI can fully trust that the everliving Oyasama is continuing to work for us and enjoy the comfort of knowing that I can rely wholeheartedly on Her. Surely, it is all due to the guidance of the everliving Oyasama and the sincere efforts of our predecessors who fervently strove to protect the path, spread the teachings, and advance single-hearted salvation while serving at Church Headquarters and their local churches. I am deeply grateful.

Seeking to overcome the huge knot of Oyasama’s withdrawal as well as their sadness and emptiness, the early predecessors exerted their utmost efforts to engage in salvation work and received marvelous blessings, always keeping in mind the parental love expressed in the Divine Direction that said: “Because of My love for you, My children, the Parent shortened Her life by twenty-five years to step out and save the world from now” (Osashizu, February 18, 1887). By doing so, they were able to follow the path that allowed them to experience the workings of the everliving Oyasama. In this regard, we cannot afford not to emulate our predecessors. If we exert our full measure of sincerity in helping save others, performing the services, and administering the Sazuke, I believe that we can surely experience the parental love and workings of the everliving Oyasama. On this significant day, let us feel grateful for our fortunate circumstances and renew our pledge to respond to Oyasama’s parental love.

The halfway point of the decade to the 140th Anniversary

The Spring Grand Service is held every year at Jiba. Regional churches also perform their spring grand services on designated days in January every year. Every ten years at Jiba, Tenrikyo conducts the Spring Grand Service as the anniversary of Oyasama. Her anniversary not only has the significance of the Spring Grand Service but also provides us with an opportunity to show Her a new level of spiritual growth that we attain in each decade. Let all of us Yoboku, therefore, take great strides along the path toward the next anniversary and show Her a level of spiritual growth that will bring peace of mind to Oyasama. Let us work hard so that She can look forward to our ever further spiritual growth.

Five years ago today, we observed the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. We have five years to go before the 140th Anniversary. This means that today we are at the halfway point of the decade between the two anniversaries. Considering the aforementioned significance of Oyasama’s anniversaries, which take place once every decade, we realize that it does not make much sense to suddenly channel our energies into our anniversary-related activities just before the anniversary begins. We cannot attain our spiritual growth within a short period of time. As we make progress toward the next anniversary, it is also important for us to ponder over what level of spiritual growth we would like to show Oyasama at the time of the upcoming anniversary.

As for the pre-anniversary activities, we have until now set apart a “three years, one thousand days” period for decisive and dedicated activities. If we follow precedents in this regard, we will embark on the “three years, one thousand days” season for the pre-anniversary activities in two years’ time. From this perspective also, it is appropriate, I believe, to ponder over things in terms of the five years left before the next anniversary. Because we are in ordinary times preceding the next pre-anniversary period—and also because we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic—I believe that now is a time for us to make repeated efforts to discuss and ponder over things together. Let us, therefore, begin by cultivating our minds and building the basis for receiving blessings. Then, let us start our efforts by actually doing whatever we can.

Our ponderings on the COVID-19 pandemic

At present, we are going through this global turmoil caused by the pandemic. When COVID-19 infections began to be reported, who could have imagined that we human beings would fall into this situation in just a month or two? It is indeed the workings of God of Origin, who created the world and humankind, and God in Truth.

We followers of the path, therefore, must ponder deeply over the parental love embodied in it and the intention of God the Parent.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, almost all our events and activities, including gatherings at our churches, have been canceled, postponed, or reduced in scale. I suppose that the virus would not disappear from the world in a short period of time. We have to endure this challenging situation for a while. I believe that we should turn this negative situation into a positive one.

There is nothing special about pondering over COVID-19; it is essentially the same as pondering over any illness we experience. Meanwhile, the pandemic has had a serious impact on everyone. The current challenges, whether experienced individually or globally, are intricately intertwined and difficult to separate.

We are very fortunate that we can pray to God the Parent by performing the service for the healing and recovery of those afflicted by the virus in a variety of settings. We should not simply mix global challenges and our individual situations. Rather, it is important for us to distinguish them and ponder over what we can do and what we cannot do on an individual level and a church level. We are in a climate where we may end up suspicious of one another. Thus, let us encourage one another and unite our efforts to ensure that we can respond to God the Parent’s intention. Let us remain cheerful and spirited as we work to overcome the challenges.

Another point is that we can be grateful that we are provided with a great opportunity to reflect on the past and make improvement where necessary as we ponder over the future course of the path. In my case, I regard this knot as God’s instruction to honestly and critically examine my way of thinking and behaving—which is ingrained in me through many years of life experience—and my habits and temperaments based on human thoughts, so that I can go back to the drawing board and make a fresh start. You can review things that are difficult to see when things are going as expected. Since the current situation has been continuing for nearly one year, I suppose that many of you have remembered or realized something important that you had almost forgotten.

Having said that, I do realize that the current situation is serious. We need to face it with a strong conviction that we are at a crucial stage in the pandemic. Moreover, instead of simply focusing on the current pandemic, we should ponder from a long-term perspective that goes beyond the end of COVID-19, pondering deeply on how we can receive God’s workings in ensuring that the path continues through endless generations.

A broad path of single-hearted salvation for endless generations

If we are to realize the Joyous Life through our faith in the teachings, we need to commit ourselves to and put into action single-hearted salvation, for that is the broad path to the goal. Indeed, we Yoboku should follow that path, since it is the mission entrusted to us Yoboku. We are told that Oyasama once said:

God says, “Showing innen to parents, God waits for children to appear.” Do you understand? Therefore, virtue 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. It depends on the mind of a man whether it lasts for one generation only, or for two or three generations, or forever. By the continuation of this virtue even a bad innen becomes a good one.

Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 90, “Deeper in the Second Generation Than in the First”

She also said: “Continue your faith to eternity” (Anecdotes of Oyasama, no. 41, “To Eternity”). Since Tenrikyo has accumulated layer upon layer of history, these instructions are now easy to understand. It is often the case that, even though first-generation, second-generation, and third-generation followers sincerely went through the path and seem to have received the truth of true salvation, their faith is not passed down to the next generations, with the result that the virtue they accumulated is buried. Surely, this is a pity. The way of receiving the true blessings of transforming our negative causality into positive causality is to work to ensure that the faith is handed down through endless generations, with virtue becoming ever more deeply planted, in accord with God’s intention. We would do well to exert our full measure of sincerity and make every possible effort to pass down the teachings to the subsequent generations, whereby the broad path of single-hearted salvation will be maintained through endless generations.

As we vertically transmit the path as well as horizontally spread the teachings, we need to exert our full measure of sincerity in continuing to provide care, guidance, and nurturing for others over many years, so that the path of single-hearted salvation that Oyasama demonstrated for us will continue to be a broad path. As we pray to God the Parent for help in passing down the faith through all generations, our constant efforts to make repayment for the blessings we receive and to contribute and dedicate our sincerity have a very weighty significance.

We need to engage in salvation work ever more. With regard to people suffering from illnesses, for example, the purpose of salvation work would not be limited to curing patients’ physical pains and sufferings. True salvation can only be brought to them if we guide them to the point where they can recognize illnesses as messages from God the Parent, feel grateful for the bodies they are borrowing, sweep away their dusts of the mind, strive for spiritual salvation, realize their own causalities that lie at the root of the illnesses, and transform their negative causality into positive causality. However, the first thing to do is to pray for a settling to be brought to the situation. I want to stress in this regard that we need to increase opportunities for prayers.

Only when God the Parent’s blessings are received can a settling be brought to the suffering from illness or other problems and can the root of the difficulties be severed. We need to help and sincerely convey the truth to those we work with in our salvation work, so that they can receive God the Parent’s blessings. In addition to earnestly performing the service and administering the Sazuke through which we pray for the blessings, it is important to make layer upon layer of efforts to sow seeds of sincerity and build the basis for receiving blessings in our own daily lives.

Instead of just going through the motions, if you can implement salvation work for specific people and gradually receive God the Parent’s blessings, not only will they surely be happy but we will also be overjoyed and grateful. We will then be high-spirited, and we can continue to make progress in our spiritual growth by further engaging in salvation work as well as sowing seeds of sincerity.

We are taught in the Divine Directions:

Sah, sah, where there is sincerity, you shall receive sincerity. You may not know what My sincerity is. It is My providence—fire, water, and wind.

Osashizu, January 13, 1887

We are assured that God will accept our sincere resolution of the mind. Oyasama went on to say:

Sah, sah, you are to purchase My sincerity. Purchase My sincerity with your own sincerity.

Osashizu, January 13, 1887

As we make repeated efforts to base ourselves on the truth that is conducive to salvation, we will surely be blessed with bringing forth the fruit of our endeavors. With God’s parental love always in mind, let us engage in salvation work in high spirits.

Seeking encounters with those who need help

As we follow the path of faith, regional churches play significant roles in terms of the performance of the services, our contribution and dedication of true sincerity to Jiba, our devotion to the path, and our study of the teachings. Regional churches have truth that is “a single breath” with the truth of Jiba. Thus, the churches serve as facilities for our practices of faith through which we can for example build the basis for receiving blessings in our salvation activities and express our sense of gratitude for the daily blessings we receive.

Whenever we seek the foundation of the teachings, we will always reach Jiba of Origin, which is where the truth is found. Jiba is, therefore, the center of our faith and of the world. Meanwhile, regional churches also should serve as facilities for local Yoboku to practice their faith. Churches that we visit in our daily lives are significant places through which we can connect ourselves to the truth of Jiba.

Instead of just going through the motions of faith, therefore, it is necessary for us who belong to churches to put substantial efforts and ingenuity into making the truth of Jiba shine and ensuring that our churches can fulfill their significance by serving as important places for each and every Yoboku and their local communities. We can thereby make regional churches shine as well.

I believe that the most vital thing we need to focus on now, in this regard, is to implement salvation work. Let us work for the salvation of others, while pondering over how to receive the blessings. Let us settle our minds and implement what we need to do. If some of the people we work with start to follow the path, we can lead them along the path of spiritual growth while carefully nurturing them.

Such, I think, are the basics of our church activities. As we follow the basics, all of our practices of faith and church activities that we are taught—such as helping save others, performing the services, doing hinokishin, contributing and dedicating our true sincerity, and sowing seeds of sincerity—will be connected and expanded through the implementation of salvation work.

I request that all Tenrikyo churches begin their efforts by implementing salvation work in concrete situations. We can follow the example of Oyasama, who spoke kindly and gently to everyone. Compared to the past, the world has become more convenient and the standard of living has improved. However, there are still many people who are suffering from illnesses. Among them are those who are experiencing illness and other problems that have always been relatively common, but many people are suffering from illnesses and other problems that did not receive much attention in the past, which include bullying, family breakups, mental disorders, addiction, social awkwardness, and a variety of issues relating to aging societies.

Let us begin by becoming more proactive in seeking encounters with those who need help. Opportunities for salvation work do not come to you when you are just waiting. If you do not take the initiative, nothing will happen.

It is important for us, for example, to know how people living in this day and age, as well as people around our churches, are thinking about things, what they are worrying about, and how society is functioning. If all churches proactively take action in helping save others, we will surely be entrusted with tasks by God the Parent.

If we build up the momentum of salvation work based in our local churches, Yoboku who belong to the churches can not only provide help and support to them but also actually engage in helping save others.

Allow me to share some thoughts on Yoboku’s practice of faith. In order to make churches shine, it is essential for Yoboku to attain spiritual growth. Yoboku, however, do not necessarily live in churches.

When we engage in hinokishin and implement missionary and salvation work, perhaps we tend to visit our churches and participate in Tenrikyo events and activities being held there. That is absolutely fine. I think, however, it is even better for us Yoboku to practice our faith and actually implement our faith-based activities in our own daily life situations. I am not talking about any special action or behavior. We can just try consciously to make sure that our thoughts and language are based on the faith in the course of our daily life, including the time when we are working, spending time with our family, and enjoying our leisure time.

In this regard, I think hinokishin will serve as a good example. Any kind of act, including tasks in your workplace and household, can be hinokishin if you do it with gratitude and a sense of making repayment for the blessings of God the Parent.

Another thing we can do is to always keep it in mind to help those who are suffering from anything. This will then allow us to notice people’s worries and concerns we might usually overlook. I believe that we can experience the joy and preciousness of faith through such small efforts and caring actions. As we do so, we can heighten our awareness of being Yoboku and, with fresh minds, devote even greater energies to our church activities, including performing the services.

We are not Yoboku only when we are in our churches. I would encourage you to focus on increasing the time spent being fully aware of being Yoboku.

Start with renewed minds, looking fifteen years ahead

The path was begun by Oyasama alone and was over many years followed by our predecessors who left behind their great achievements. They are shining in a wide range of fields and areas. The path is truly a wonderful path. Let us take pride in being Yoboku of the path and ensure that the precious path that Oyasama opened is handed down and continues to shine through future generations.

Let each one of us as a Yoboku carry out the tasks of single-hearted salvation that we are given. This does not mean everyone will do the same thing. All of us—young and old, men and women alike—need to seek and carry out our tasks of the path through our respective positions and roles.

Church Headquarters has been asking followers of the path to imagine an ideal state of themselves, their families, and their churches—an ideal state to strive for over the next fifteen years as the Tenrikyo community moves toward the 150th Anniversary of Oyasama. With renewed decisiveness, let us make solid and steady progress in the work of the path.

Fifteen years will pass very quickly. That future is getting closer and closer. We are today at the halfway point between the previous and next anniversary of Oyasama. Let us have a good grasp of the situation we are given, envision a bright future, and fulfill our tasks of the path in high spirits. Thank you very much for your kind attention.

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