Happy New Year. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to you for devoting yourselves to the work of the path last year despite many restrictions. Even though we are not sure how the COVID-19 pandemic is going to play out or whether or not it will come to an end any time soon, let us continue to work on our tasks with our minds in unison this year.
As for my condition, I think that I have been gradually regaining strength, although I am not fully recovered. Over the past year, I have been able to partake of a decent amount of nutrition orally without depending on nutritional supplements. In addition to regaining strength, I have also been getting more accustomed to this condition.
Since it is the beginning of a new year, I would like to share some of my thoughts, but let me preface my remarks by telling you that what I have to say now will be directed to only those of you who have assembled here, making this talk different in nature from my season’s greetings posted in the Tenri Jiho newspaper, which were intended for the general public.
Time really does fly; it is now 2022, the 185th year of the Teaching. We performed the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama in 2016 (Tenrikyo 179), and if we are to mark Oyasama’s anniversary once every ten years, 2026 (Tenrikyo 189) will be the year to commemorate the 140th Anniversary of Oyasama. It means that next year we will start our “three years, one thousand days” activities leading up to the 140th Anniversary. I believe that in many ways it is important to observe Oyasama’s anniversary in order to develop the path, so it is my intention that we will conduct the 140th Anniversary of Oyasama.
In retrospect, my memory of an anniversary of Oyasama dates back to my childhood. The first time I became involved with pre-anniversary activities, though I was like an observer, was the Centennial Anniversary, when my involvement began in the middle of the activity season. It was from the 110th anniversary season that I was involved right from the beginning of the pre-anniversary activities. I believe that there was a big difference between the anniversaries up to the Centennial and those thereafter.
Looking back, I once again feel that it is difficult to ensure that the meaning of performing the anniversaries of Oyasama is thoroughly understood. The responsibility of those who convey its meaning is indeed substantial.
It is true that we need to update from time to time the ways and techniques to convey the meaning of Oyasama’s anniversaries in accordance with the times we live in. Yet, when it comes to the attitude of those of us who convey the meaning, we should not neglect to put into practice the teachings of Oyasama on a daily basis so as to become capable of effortlessly convincing others, making the truth of the teachings self-apparent through the way we live. Indeed, many things can be conveyed from how one follows the path.
We have been shown many things in the Tenrikyo community lately. I am referring not only to the fact that we have had to return church names but to many other things as well. Whether they are illnesses or troubles, there must be a cause for each of them.
Nevertheless, if we look back further, we may find that we have forgotten the hardships experienced by our predecessors and, as a result, have drifted away from Oyasama. We may have forgotten the day of origin of our families’ faith and taken it for granted that we are splendidly blessed every day. Some of us may even feel reluctant to follow the path unless it allows us to have a fortunate lifestyle. I think that things that have been shown may have occurred for such reasons.
Most of you are fifth- or sixth- generation followers. As five or six generations have passed, everything has changed since the time of your early predecessors in terms of social conditions, lifestyles, and general ways of thinking. We may be assuming that we do not need to understand how things were in the past because it is hard to know anyway. However, God will not accept our assumption. Thus, it is important for us to become humble and understand that God is reminding us and guiding us in a better direction every time something happens.
I hear that the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing little by little. We do not know how the pandemic will progress nor can we even predict when we will become able to work on the tasks of the path without any worries. However, time will fly whether we can work without worries or not. Without putting the blame on COVID-19 for not being able to do something, let us think about how to implement what we have to do in the given conditions and fulfill our respective roles in light of the current season.
Having shared my thoughts at the beginning of the new year, I now want to conclude my remarks. I look forward to working with you again this year.