Shuyoka 80th Anniversary Special Interview

Developing Human Resources for the Joyous Life Hand in Hand and Nurturing Them in Unity of Mind

This spring marked the 80th anniversary of Shuyoka, the three-month Spiritual Development Course offered in Jiba, which was established in 1941. Over the decades, many people have attended the program in hopes of being cured of illness or finding a solution to problems, or because they have reached a turning point in their life. Shuyoka has contributed to allowing its students to learn and implement the teachings in the Home of the Parent and to grow into Yoboku, fine instruments of Oyasama.

After the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama in January 2016, Shuyoka was reorganized into a new program—which began with the 900th session in April—with the aim of further enriching its contents and responding to the increasing need for nurturing human resources.

In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Shuyoka, a special interview was conducted on April 12, 2021, with Rev. Hiroo Nagao, director of the Education and Nurture Bureau, about Shuyoka’s current efforts and situation.

—What are your thoughts as Shuyoka celebrates its 80th anniversary?

Over the 80 years since Shuyoka was established within Tenri Seminary in 1941, the program has gone through many changes. Yet, its objective has consistently been to nurture human resources. Nurturing human resources refers to cultivating the kind of people who can take the initiative in living the Joyous Life. I believe that this will continue to be pursued into the future.

—It has been five years since the new program was launched. Please tell us about the contents and the current state of the program.

Developing the new program involved various changes such as providing more opportunities for discussions, having Homeroom classes, and reinforcing the ties with dorm counselors. One key was the making of teaching plans.

Until then, much of the content of the Doctrine of Tenrikyo and Life of Oyasama classes was left up to the instructors. There was a great difference in how the classes were taught as some instructors would spend a significant amount of time sharing their own experience and insights. This was something that could not be helped. Many of the instructors, who are mostly church head ministers, have never given a lecture in a classroom although they might be used to delivering sermons. To address this issue, we developed teaching plans and started to hold three seminars for instructors beforehand, aiming to enhance their skills and motivation.

We can learn the teachings for the Joyous Life through The Doctrine of Tenrikyo and The Life of Oyasama, and this should be the basis of our faith. Conveying this point well is essential for nurturing human resources. For instance, there are always some Shuyoka students who do not understand the contents of the Besseki lecture. Since the lecture contains some phrases and expressions we do not normally use, it may be difficult for those who have just started following the path or those who have had few chances to learn the teachings. Nevertheless, the classes in Shuyoka can help such students to understand the Besseki lecture little by little as they progress through Shuyoka. In fact, a student once said, “The final Besseki lecture truly settled in my mind.”

—How about the discussion class and the Homeroom class?

In the discussion class and the Homeroom class, we divide the students into groups of about six people and change members every month. In the discussion class, students reflect on the contents of the lectures. In the Homeroom class, they start with self-introductions and, at the end of the first and second months, they reflect on how they spent the month and share how they want to spend the next month.

Discussions are designed to help students to digest the teachings they learned in lecture classes so that they can reflect on the state of their mind in light of the teachings. They can gain a new insight and an opportunity to reflect on themselves while discussing things together from the same standpoint, as opposed to just listening to their instructors during classes.

Also, I often hear that classmates are able to become friends sooner than before. A head minister who has served as an instructor for both the old and new programs once said, “In the past, students were gradually getting along in the second or third months but, with the current program, they are already becoming friends around the end of the first month.” I also often hear Shuyoka students say things like: “I was always looking forward to the discussion and Homeroom classes,” “It was a positive experience to hear a different opinion than mine,” and “I was able to get to know a lot of people.”

There used to be about 60 people per class before, and not everyone had a chance to talk to each other. Now, however, students can become friends sooner thanks to a smaller class of about 20 or 30 people and the discussion class. Also, having two instructors, a homeroom instructor and an assistant instructor, makes it possible to pay more attention to students.

A student once commented, “It was thanks to our homeroom and assistant instructors that we were able to become united as a class.” It seems that students are consulting with whomever they are comfortable with when they have something to say. Indeed, the homeroom and assistant instructors are able to closely take care of students by collaborating together and discussing ways to nurture the class as a whole and each individual student.

—What do you think about Shuyoka’s cooperative efforts with dorm counselors?

In regard to nurturing students, I think that it can be achieved only if there is trust between Shuyoka and followers dormitories. For this reason, one of the primary things we always ask instructors to do is to be closely in touch with students’ dormitories.

Some students’ attitudes are completely different depending on whether they are in Shuyoka or in their dorms, and sharing information helps us understand more about the students. Also, most dorm counselors’ term is one month. A counselor who is completing his or her term will surely share information with the next counselor, but it may be difficult to cover everything. In that case, it will be helpful if there is close communication between Shuyoka and the dorm, and between instructors and dorm counselors. We can share more information by having Shuyoka and followers dormitories cooperate with each other well, which contributes to the nurturing of students.

As part of this effort, we are thinking of holding the “study session for the education and nurture system at followers dormitories” for the first time in five years this fall—a session targeting directors of followers dormitories. It goes without saying that, during the pandemic, we need to assess the situation and make careful decisions about whether or not to hold the event.

For Shuyoka students, their dorms are like their homes. For this reason, we also hold the “study session for dormitory counselors,” which is intended not only for dorm counselors but also for dorm staff members who live with students under the same roof and who take care of them. We provide them with an opportunity to acquire technical knowledge on such themes as mental illnesses and addiction. It is expected that, through attending this session, they will become able to create an environment conducive to alleviating the stress of students with such issues and provide support to those struggling to adjust to a new lifestyle.

For instance, sleep is very important for patients with mental illnesses. Without this knowledge, however, we might force them to wake up. By deepening knowledge about such illnesses, we will be able to provide appropriate care and support to students.

The DVD of the study session is available for those who could not attend it, and it can be viewed in Shuyoka’s study room for dorm counselors. We can also lend the DVD to directly supervised churches that wish to hold a similar study session.

Furthermore, we also have an advisor system, which is supported by followers who have technical knowledge on mental illness, developmental disorder, addiction, and social problems, most of these followers being instructors of Hinokishin School. There are currently seven advisors. They not only provide advice but also visit followers dormitories along with instructors to have a meeting with the student concerned and his or her dorm counselor, if the situation requires it.

It is crucial for Shuyoka and followers dormitories, or instructors and dorm counselors, to become one through such efforts so that we can nurture students well.

—Are there many students with health issues such as mental illness?

There are many students who wish to be saved from illness. Recent statistics show that more than 40% of Shuyoka students have some kind of illness, about 30% being those with bodily disorders and about 12 or 13% being those with mental illness, developmental disabilities, or other mental health issues.

What I was concerned about when we started the new program was whether or not those suffering mentally could join in discussions. One of the Shuyoka instructors at that time was a head minister who is one of our advisors and who has lived with someone with mental illness for a long time. He wrote in his report: “The discussion and Homeroom classes that began with the 900th session can provide a good opportunity for Social Skills Training. I feel that Shuyoka is beginning to be established as a place for cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Social Skills Training is a type of therapy that helps people acquire essential skills for living and interacting with others in society. The conclusion of his report says, “I am certain that Shuyoka will increasingly become a place for people to receive further blessings as we engage in salvation work for those suffering from depression, panic disorders, or social withdrawal.” I was highly encouraged by reading this. It is surely not going to be easy, but we would like to support students and help them receive blessings.

They are sure to receive blessings by learning the teachings and sowing the seeds of sincerity in Jiba. I believe that our job is to create the kind of environment that is conducive to them receiving concrete blessings.

—Is there anything that you find particularly important in helping students receive blessings?

While about 40% of Shuyoka students have illness, more than 70% of all students are already Yoboku, who have received the truth of the Sazuke. It means that these Yoboku have plenty of chances to administer the Sazuke. In my speech at the opening ceremony of Shuyoka, I always say: “I would like you to make it a habit to administer the Sazuke. God the Parent and Oyasama have guided you here because of a causality. The causality is the original causality where God wants all of us to live the Joyous Life. I would like you to realize a joyous life in your class.”

I then say to instructors: “Please teach your students thoroughly to ensure that they are totally familiar with how to administer the Sazuke. I would like you instructors to take the lead in administering the Sazuke and encourage students who are Yoboku to also administer it.” As the instructors implement this, the class atmosphere gradually changes.

One instructor wrote in his report: “After finishing hinokishin, students gathered in the Shuyoka building’s hall and started administering the Sazuke to one another. Their voices echoed and resonated in the hall, which gave me a solemn feeling as if I was in the Sanctuary.” I also hear that there are more students administering the Sazuke in the Sanctuaries compared to before.

I am also told that a male student who had never administered the Sazuke since receiving the truth of the Sazuke was inspired by the atmosphere of his class to one day administer the Sazuke to his grandchild. Then, the child received a vivid blessing.

One student with a rare, serious disease once said to me: “Because many people administered the Sazuke to me, I naturally began to think that I should administer the Sazuke to as many people as possible. I met someone with a serious illness in my class, and as we talked together and encouraged each other, I began to feel uplifted and more positive. Then the values that had been abnormal in my regular checkups were found to be normal in my next checkup. My condition improved without me knowing it.”

It is crucial to have the mind of saving others in order to be saved from the kinds of illness even doctors give up on. One can receive blessings as his or her mind changes from wanting to be saved to wanting to help save others. There are innumerable cases for this. I believe that one of the pillars of nurturing students is to guide them to grow into a Yoboku who can administer the Sazuke.

On the occasion of the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama, the Shinbashira taught us about the importance of developing human resources. At the Autumn Grand Service later in the same year, he talked about some of the basic teachings such as the ten aspects of God’s complete providence, the eight dusts of the mind, and hinokishin. In other words, what is important is to settle in our minds the teaching of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed,” appreciate the blessings we receive, and make repayment to God. Listening to the words of the Shinbashira, I felt that this is the core pillar of developing human resources. Also, at the New Year’s meeting this year, he talked about nurturing followers. I thought that the key pillar of nurturing followers was the same as that of developing human resources.

Settling in our minds the basic teachings allows us to have a sense of appreciation that changes our attitude to performing the service as well as a sense of making repayment that makes us sincerely administer the Sazuke. The key to nurturing Shuyoka students is to help them change the orientation of their mind in this way.

—Lastly, please tell us what you hope to convey to head ministers who send students to Shuyoka.

In Shuyoka, we are working to nurture all students without exception with the goal of ensuring that they connect with their churches after completing the program.

During the discussion conducted in the final class on The Doctrine of Tenrikyo, students talk about connecting with churches. After that, during the discussion in the class on The Life of Oyasama, they talk about salvation work that they can do. Then, in the ninth session of the Homeroom class, which consists of ten sessions in total, they talk about how to follow the path and, in the tenth session, share their views in front of everyone.

Connecting with a church means to become a member of a church where people practice a joyous way of living. Staff members of Shuyoka are working hand in hand with instructors and dorm counselors to nurture students into such people. Churches play a pivotal role for students who have completed the program. If they live far from their affiliated churches, their head ministers can encourage them to join in a district’s or diocese’s activities. This will help them connect their mind to their churches, allowing the head ministers to continue nurturing them. It is necessary for us followers to work hand in hand, in unity of mind, to nurture someone into a person who can implement a joyous way of living.

Sending a Shuyoka applicant to Jiba cannot be done without reaching out and inviting people. It may be difficult to receive a positive response, but I would like to ask you to reach out and invite people without giving up. You may feel reluctant to do so during the pandemic, but there may be people who are able to attend Shuyoka because of this situation. This may be the season for those people to attend the program.

There is a church that recommends attending Shuyoka for the second time. They say that attending it for a second time has its own merits. As for those who completed the missionary program at Tenri University or graduated from Tenri Seminary, they can directly register for the lay minister qualification. Even so, I would like them to attend Shuyoka, as it is a place where Yoboku can polish their minds further.

It is not as if you cannot reach out and invite someone who is a Yoboku or a lay minister or someone who has attended Shuyoka before. I hope that you invite people, discerning the appropriate season for them.

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