I am deeply grateful that we have been able to duly perform the Autumn Grand Service for the 181st year of the Teaching today, with so many of you having returned to Jiba from near and far to attend it. Thank you very much. Since I was appointed to give today’s sermon in my capacity as the Director-in-Chief of Religious Affairs, I would like to set about fulfilling this duty now. May I, therefore, have your attention for a little while.
As today’s Grand Service marks the Teaching’s day of origin, I would like to suggest that we look at some key aspects of Oyasama’s Divine Model to help us reflect on how we should follow the path now.
Oyasama had six children. They were Shuji, Omasa, Oyasu, Oharu, Otsune, and Kokan. Of these six, it was only Omasa who was still living in 1887, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. The others had passed away for rebirth before their mother’s withdrawal.
The path of Her Divine Model involved not only Oyasama, but it also had a great impact on people around Her, especially Her family members. In fact, we might rather say that Her family members followed the path of the Divine Model along with Oyasama and, thereby, served to provide themes for the Divine Model.
In 1853—which was the sixteenth year since Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi—Her husband, Zenbei, passed away. Thereafter, it was Shuji and Kokan who always stayed close to Oyasama and shared in the great hardships and difficulties She faced.
Kokan was born in December 1837. She was only ten months old when Oyasama became the Shrine of Tsukihi. Kokan was probably still being breastfed. We can say that the period when she was growing up was the period when the Nakayama family was falling into the depths of poverty.
As I mentioned a minute ago, Zenbei, Kokan’s father, passed away for rebirth in 1853. In that year, the Nakayama family’s main house was dismantled and, in the same year, Kokan, who was only seventeen years old, carried out Oyasama’s instructions to spread the name of God, “Tenri-O-no-Mikoto,” in Osaka, which was then known as Naniwa.
I am sure that it required an unimaginable amount of courage for young Kokan, who had grown up in the tiny country village of Shoyashiki, Yamato Province, to perform missionary work in the huge, bustling city of Osaka while being watched by many people who must have stared incredulously at her.
She was only able to carry out that mission because she had grown up while learning the teachings, not to mention that she was endowed with a pure soul.
In verse five from the Ofudesaki’s Part IX, which was written in June 1875, we read:
I desire that the two persons received as shrines by Tsukihi each be given a separate room.
The phrase “the two persons” refers to Oyasama and Kokan. The next verse tells us:
Then, in whatever you pray, your salvation will be assured. Watch closely!
God the Parent intended to have Kokan stay at the Residence and carry out the work of God. Indeed, Kokan conveyed the teachings to those who had come to the Residence, starting when she was fairly young. This led followers to refer to her as the “young god.”
However, in verses 33–35 from the Ofudesaki’s Part XI, which was also written in June 1875, we read:
If you had only known earlier that she should have been returned home to be saved completely. . .
Unaware of it, you would not return her, but tried to care for her there.
If you had known this earlier, there would have been no suffering or anxiety.
Kokan’s elder sister Oharu, who was Oyasama’s third daughter, married into the Kajimoto family in 1852 at the age of twenty-two. She gave birth to five boys and two girls but passed away in 1872 at the age of forty-two. Thereafter, the Kajimotos wished Kokan, who by that time was in her mid-thirties, to take her sister’s place, and so did other people around her. In fact, it was customary in those days for someone in her position to do so. In addition, it would have seemed a humane thing to do from the point of view of looking after the children who had lost their mother. Oyasama, however, wished Kokan to stay at Jiba to perform the work of single-heartedness with God.
Eventually, Kokan moved to the Kajimoto home. Some three years later, in the summer of 1875, she fell ill and, after struggling between God’s intention and human sentiment, she passed away on September 27. She was thirty-nine years old.
The Ofudesaki verses I quoted a while ago were saying that, had Kokan returned to Jiba promptly, she could have been saved but, not knowing this, the Kajimotos tried to take care of her at their house based on human thinking. The verses lament that, had the people concerned realized God’s intention and followed it, no one would have suffered physically or emotionally.
After being informed of Kokan’s passing, Oyasama, who at the time was being detained in the Nara Prefectural Office, obtained special permission to leave. Upon coming home by rickshaw, She stroked Kokan’s cold, lifeless body and expressed Her appreciation for her work, saying: “What a pity! Come back soon.”
I wonder how Oyasama might have felt as She stroked Kokan’s body. Since Kokan had grown up while the family was falling into the depths of poverty, she probably had few pleasures in life. In the final years of her life, Kokan found herself in a situation where she felt she had no choice but to follow people’s advice and the social customs of the day. From Oyasama’s point of view as her mother, this must have been truly pitiable.
Through this series of events involving Kokan, what was it that Oyasama felt She had to teach and convey to us and that She needed to make sure was included in the Divine Model? The Ofudesaki verses I quoted a while ago are followed by these verses:
From now on, you must firmly lean on Tsukihi in all matters whatever.
In doing anything, so long as you lean on Tsukihi, there will be no danger.
Your unawareness of such a splendid path as this has led to your remorse.
We all have our particular roles and positions to fulfill. They are not the same for everyone. This means that there are different ways in which we can follow the path of single-heartedness with God, depending on our own roles and positions.
The term “single-heartedness” implies complete and total singleness. We should, therefore, ask ourselves whether we have true singleness of mind or whether we have a lack of decisiveness. We need to ask ourselves whether or not we are being swept along by the current of the times and worldly common sense when making decisions and choices. It behooves us to ask ourselves these questions.
Currently I have a role in carrying out the work of Church Headquarters. At the same time, I serve at my own church as its head minister. If we serve at Church Headquarters, can we say that we are single-hearted with God? If our title is church head minister, can we say that we are single-hearted with God?
What matters is not our position or title. We can only consider ourselves single-hearted with God when our states of mind and behavior fit that description. We would all do well to give thought to this. Since you have returned to Jiba to attend today’s Grand Service, which marks the day of origin of the Teaching, I would like to suggest that we take this opportunity to reflect on our own way of following the path of single-heartedness with God.
In our lives, we face challenges and difficulties that can be hard to work through. There are times when we struggle to find a way forward. Sometimes we find it impossible to make any decision. At times, we feel almost overwhelmed by society’s tendencies and human thinking. It is especially in those times that we must rely on these words of God: “So long as you lean on Tsukihi, there will be no danger.”
Let me share the story of someone who used to work as a staff member at Tenrikyo’s Administrative Headquarters after graduating from Tenri University. He was married, and his children were attending Tenri Elementary School. During the ten years he spent as a staff member, he suffered from a chronic health problem, which began shortly after he started work. He had a collagen disease, which I understand is a serious condition where the immune system—which is designed to protect the body—mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and can cause a variety of symptoms. He was frequently in and out of the hospital. Apparently, collagen diseases are commonly treated by strong drugs such as steroids and immunosuppressant medications.
One day, he was hospitalized with a broken bone for a change. Subsequently, after being released from the hospital, he came to see me. I asked how he was doing, to which he replied: “I am really thankful to be working here. Ikoi-no-Ie Hospital is easily accessible, and I can take time off when I need to be hospitalized.”
Since I was rather taken aback by the reasons he gave for his gratitude, I said to him, “Why don’t you take a day or two off to go back to your father’s church and ask him what it is that he is most concerned about?”
A few days later, when he came back, he told me, “My father said that one of the churches belonging to our church has no head minister, and that is what worries him the most.” So I said to him, “Why don’t you think about it?” The following day, he came back to talk to me. He said, “I would like to serve as head minister of the church that my father is worried about.” He and his wife must have talked it over thoroughly because before their marriage she was not even a follower. She certainly had no experience of living at a Tenrikyo church.
The church in question is in a remote rural area. There are no major hospitals nearby. He and his wife must have worried about their children’s education as well. In addition, apparently the church had only two or three followers. I asked him, “Are you going to be all right?” He replied, “I’m not sure, but I’ve already made up my mind.”
Subsequently, when he went to Ikoi-no-Ie Hospital for a check-up before leaving for the church, the doctor told him that he could stop taking his medications—the strong medications that until then he had been unable to come off for a number of years.
A Divine Direction tells us:
Listen carefully and understand the truth of the “Parent.” The parents you can see with your eyes are not the only parents. There is the Parent you cannot see with your eyes. There is also the “present parent,” I say. If you see the truth of the Parent and settle your mind, everything will be clear.
Osashizu, August 3, 1895
I think that the “Parent you cannot see with your eyes” is Oyasama. The “present parent” means our spiritual parent and, ultimately, refers to the Shinbashira.
If we take care of one of the things that worry our parent, then we can have one of our own worries taken care of by God.
In the Ofudesaki, we read:
Whatever I say to you in My tedious appeals, it is solely from My single desire to save you.
To Tsukihi, all of you throughout the world are My children. My only desire is to save you.
Whatever I do, it is solely from Tsukihi’s single desire to save you.
Concerning the Service: never think that I have any other intention. I have only the single desire to save all of you.
What the Parent is most concerned about is how to save all humankind.
The Service of the Kanrodai, which was performed this morning, is intended to help fulfill the Parent’s intention to save all people. Through the performance of the Service, we are to receive all ten aspects of God’s complete providence. Those of us who are Yoboku should use the Sazuke to convey God’s blessings received through the Service to people suffering from illness.
The Ofudesaki tells us:
I shall do marvelous things, the same as My beginning of this world.
I shall begin a Service which has never existed since I began this world, and assuredly settle the world.
In order to allow the marvelous workings of the beginnings of origin to be manifested in the cause of single-hearted salvation, we perform the Service and administer the Sazuke. This is our faith.
In 1866, Oyasama taught the verse that reads, “Ashiki harai, tasuke tamae, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto” (Sweep away evils and save us, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto). In the following year, 1867, She taught the Twelve Songs and, in 1870, Oyasama taught both “Choto hanashi” (Just a word) and the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo. In the meantime, She began to write the Ofudesaki in 1869.
In 1873, She instructed Izo Iburi to make a model of the Kanrodai. In the following year, 1874, She proceeded to Her maiden home, which is to say, the Maegawa home, to receive the kagura masks. On the lunar calendar date of May 26, 1875, Oyasama identified the location of Jiba, thereby making clear where the Service should be performed. Also in 1875, She taught the verse that includes the phrase “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai” (The Kanrodai which purifies all humankind equally). In this way, She made progress toward the completion of the Service.
During the period when She taught the songs and hand movements for the Service, revealed the location for the performance of the Service, and made arrangements for the instruments for the Service, Her greatest difficulty was not the opposition from the villagers or persecution by the authorities but ensuring that those of us who would follow the path could resolve to be single-hearted with God, to perform the Service single-heartedly, and to be single-hearted with Jiba.
That is why in the year Jiba was identified—which is to say, in the year Oyasama taught the verse that includes the phrase “Ichiretsu sumasu Kanrodai”—She also highlighted through the passing of Kokan the differences between the worldly common way of thinking and the way of thinking that is appropriate for those of us who are following the path. This is something we should never forget.
We sow seeds of sincerity at Jiba. Through contributing and dedicating our true sincerity to Jiba and making effort after effort of hinokishin, we can receive the blessings of fire, water, and wind. We are to convey these blessings to help save others.
In the Divine Directions, we read:
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. . . . Sah, sah, you are to purchase My sincerity. Purchase My sincerity with your own sincerity.
Osashizu, January 13, 1887
We can express our sincerity by following the path of the Divine Model, which Oyasama demonstrated. Let all of us contribute and dedicate our sincerity to Jiba in single-heartedness with God and in ways that are appropriate for our individual roles and positions. Let us spiritedly follow and rejoice in this path to help save others even if it entails great difficulties. We can then savor the joy of salvation work.
The Shinbashira is currently recuperating from illness. He is now working hard on rehabilitation. Although he still needs a little more time, he is recovering little by little. We read in a Divine Direction that was delivered on May 26, 1906:
Sah, sah, one word from the Shinbashira rather than a thousand words spoken by others.
Osashizu, May 26, 1906
The Shinbashira’s instructions provide us with guiding principles. We all want to hear “one word from the Shinbashira.” If we are to make that possible, now is the time for all of us to do everything we can to contribute and dedicate our true sincerity to Jiba and take great strides in single-hearted salvation so that, when he returns to his duties, we can show him how we are following the path of the Divine Model spiritedly and in unity of mind.
Thank you for listening.
(Translation by Tenrikyo Overseas Department)