Blessed with lovely spring weather, we have been able to perform the Monthly Service for April--the month that marks Oyasama's birthday--with a great many followers having assembled here from near and far. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for this splendid blessing. As I have been assigned to deliver today's sermon, I would now like to start fulfilling my duty. May I have your attention for a while.
I would like to begin by sharing a rather embarrassing experience that led me to repent. Four years ago, on the occasion of the Autumn Grand Service--which was performed on October 26, 2002--the Shinbashira announced Instruction Two. At that Grand Service, I was assigned to be one of the singers for the Dance with Hand Movements. Unfortunately, however, I had lost my voice almost completely a few days earlier. When the day of the Service came, I had yet to regain my voice, and I took part in the Service in an inexcusable manner. And to think that this was the Grand Service performed on the day the Shinbashira announced Instruction Two, which set forth our guidelines for preparing for the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama! Wondering what God the Parent was telling me through this turn of events, I reflected humbly and critically upon myself. It then occurred to me that I had been lacking in sincerity toward performing the Service. So I decided to perform the service dance to the Twelve Songs every day, starting the very next day.
Some time after I started my daily performance of the dance to the Twelve Songs, I read a thousand-several-hundred-page book, which is a collection of reminiscences about the second Shinbashira. The book says in reference to compiling chapter 8 of The Life of Oyasama, entitled "Parental Love," the second Shinbashira told the compilers to "enter Oyasama's mind and write from Her own perspective." However, the compilers had no idea how to do such a thing. The second Shinbashira then told them: "Oyasama's mind is fully expressed in the Ofudesaki. For example, this Scripture makes it clear that, although followers make a fuss about Her hardships of arrest and imprisonment, Oyasama Herself didn't think anything of those experiences. Her sole concern, rather, was how to complete the Service. Her only intention was to complete the Service for the purpose of single-hearted salvation." This episode was written by the late Honbu-in Yoshinaru Ueda.
Reading the second Shinbashra's remarks was a real eye-opener for me. His simple yet sincere attitude toward Oyasama--an attitude that struck me as truly single-hearted with God--made a profound impression on me.
So, following his example, I decided to seek a single-hearted faith in God the Parent and Oyasama, convinced that this was the attitude I ought to maintain each day while working on the activities leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. The Mikagura-uta, The Songs for the Service, tells us:
Never make an unreasonable prayer!
Whatever may happen, from now on,
The second Shinbashira's remarks prompted me to reflect humbly on how I was getting caught up in discursive thoughts stemming from what might be termed "human thinking."
Another thing that caught my attention recently is a story contained in the Anecdotes of Oyasama, a story that describes an early follower's pure, unclouded faith, which gave me enthusiasm and motivation. Allow me, therefore, to share this anecdote, which is entitled "You Are to Save Others" (no. 100). This anecdote concerns a man named Sadakichi Konishi, who lived in Uda County, Nara Prefecture.
Sadakichi was a hard working man who did twice as much work as others, yet he contracted a serious lung disease. His doctor told him that not even one in a thousand patients in his condition would survive and that he barely had twenty days to live. Understandably he felt a deep sense of despair.
To compound the situation, his wife, who had previously had a difficult delivery with their first child, was now pregnant again. Just around that time, the fragrance of the teachings was sprinkled on the couple, and, despite Sadakichi's condition, they came to visit Oyasama and asked for the Grant of Safe Childbirth. Sadakichi took that opportunity to ask Oyasama whether "this god" was only a god of safe childbirth.
Oyasama replied: "It is not so. This God saves man from any illness." Sadakichi then told Her: "To tell the truth, I am ill with consumption. Can I be saved?" Thereupon, he received the following words, which were filled with parental love:
You need not worry. No matter what your illness may be, you can receive divine protection. You must throw away your greed.
Anecdotes, p. 83
These words penetrated deep into his mind, so he made a firm resolution. As soon as the couple arrived home, Sadakichi gathered all his cash together and handed it to his wife. Then he confined himself in a room in a separate building. He wrote the name of God, "Tenri-O-no-Mikoto," on a sheet of paper, which he hung in the alcove. Then he prayed earnestly, chanting: "Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto." The only time he left the room was when he went to the bathroom. He had his morning and evening meals brought to his room, and he continued to pray day in and day out. Then after some time, the color started returning to his face, and his coughing ceased. Before long, he was completely saved from the suffering of his illness.
Oyasama was very pleased with his recovery and told him: "Because you became single-hearted, you were saved."
This event happened in about March 1882. A history of the church that Sadakichi subsequently established tells us that the amount of money he handed to his wife was about 2,000 yen. In those days, that was a fairly large sum of money.
Anyway, the history of his church goes on to say that Sadakichi made five three-day prayers, which is to say he spent 15 days praying fervently. He felt considerably better on the morning of the 15th day. The next day, therefore, he set out for Shoyashiki Village, while holding on to his wife's shoulder, in order to thank Oyasama. By the time they came to Sakurai Village, which is about half way on their journey, Sadakichi no longer needed his walking stick.
Years later, when he was 94, Sadakichi recalled that, when he first met Oyasama, She explained the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed. Another source suggests that Oyasama explained ten aspects of God's providence as well. In any case, Sadakichi is reported to have said: "I was convinced of the truth of Her teaching after hearing it just once. The teaching She explained was the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed, which you are quite familiar with these days."
Thus, after hearing the teaching of a thing lent, a thing borrowed, only once, Sadakichi understood it and became convinced of its truth. Herein lies the basis, I think, for receiving a wondrous blessing.
Another early follower named Naokichi Takai once said:
Oyasama says that one word of this path's teachings is worth ten words of the ordinary world. Even a life that is to end can be saved if even one word of the teachings settles in one's mind, and even a problem that is not to be solved can be settled. The basis that enables you to be saved lies in being convinced of the truth of the teachings and settling it in your mind.
Oyasama says that listening to the teachings in the course of our daily lives and feeling firmly convinced of their truth will become nourishment for the mind. We eat rice to nourish the body, and, if we don't eat, our body will lose weight and weaken. Listening to the teachings in our daily lives and feeling convinced of their truth can nourish our minds. Our minds will then gain in strength. Therefore, you would do well to listen to the teachings, even the teachings you are already familiar with, over and over again and to take to heart whatever impression you get each time. That will enable you to acquire a settled conviction of the truth of the teachings.
Once your mind is completely convinced, it gains strength. This process is what is referred to as "spiritual growth." However, if even something insignificant is enough to cloud your mind and prevents you from seeing things as they are, that is evidence that your mind lacks strength.
It is essential for us to listen to the truth of the teachings each day and let our minds gain in strength. Indeed, Oyasama says that God waits impatiently for God's children to awaken to the truth, this being the only thought in the mind of God.
A Divine Direction puts it this way:
Every day I teach the eight kinds of dust, the eight kinds of dust. But just teaching it is like a picture painted on a screen; you often look at it and say it is beautiful. But that is hardly sufficient. Each of you, listen. You must settle the truth in your minds. About this teaching, you must do whatever it takes to settle the truth in your minds.
Osashizu, July 23, 1899
At the core of Oyasama's teachings is the teaching that the body is a thing borrowed from God. Thus the Ofudesaki says:
So long as you remain unknowing that the body is a thing borrowed, you can understand nothing at all.
Getting back to Sadakichi's story, just listening to Oyasama's teaching once was sufficient to bring him to a firm conviction of its truth. That is, he became single-hearted with the truth of Her teaching.
Incidentally, the story of creation told by Oyasama describes how God received a fish and a serpent as models of husband and wife after discerning their single-heartedness. God then put the orc into the fish and the turtle into the serpent and established them as models of man and woman. Then God went on to create humankind. This story leads me to believe that the human mind is naturally endowed with the original tendency to become single-hearted in seeking and relying on God the Parent.
On the basis of what we have seen so far, we may say the following. First, Sadakichi placed sincere trust in Oyasama and became single-hearted. Then he let go of greed. Greed, as you are aware, is one of the two most powerful dusts of the mind, the other being arrogance. Thus Oyasama teaches: "Before God there is no greed"; "Forget . . . away the mind of greed"; "If you have greed, cast it away!"; "Greed is fathomless like muddy water"; "Forgetting greed we work in hinokishin"; and so forth. When the 27-year-old Sadakichi genuinely left the "mind of greed" behind, he was saved despite the fact that he had previously been given up on by doctors, who had declared that he did not have long to live. Oyasama told Sadakichi to "throw away" his greed, and he implemented Her teaching exactly as instructed. That was the basis that enabled him to be saved. Moreover, he prayed single-heartedly while chanting the name of God, saying: "Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto." This practice, I believe, can be seen as a forerunner of the morning and evening services that we perform today.
When Sadakichi returned to Jiba to thank Oyasama, he asked Her how he could repay the blessing of his salvation. She replied that he should save others, for that was the best way to make repayment for the blessing he had received.
Sadakichi went on to ask Her how he could save others. Oyasama then told him: "Earnestly tell others how you were saved."
She also gave him about half a pound of the sacred powder of roasted grain and said: "This is a sacred offering. Have people take this with the offered water."
Receiving this, Sadakichi happily went home. He found that there were many sick people wherever he went. Carrying the sacred powder with him, he tried to save others in the manner taught by Oyasama. They were all saved, one after another, and the number of followers increased. The path thus grew in the area where he lived.
I believe it is essential for those of us Yoboku to make a practice of implementing the three points that we have been talking about--namely, becoming single-hearted, letting go of our greed, and helping others be saved. I feel that these three points characterize our journey that will lead to spiritual maturity.
In this connection, it is extremely important to perform the morning and evening services, through which we can express our gratitude to God the Parent while chanting the name of God, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto.
Oyasama taught that the path to the Joyous Life entails sweeping our minds clean, and that we can sweep our minds with God the Parent as our broom. In fact, not only did Oyasama explain, by spoken and written word, how to sweep out our dust of the mind, but She also demonstrated the method of sweeping through Her own example.
If we are to divide the 50-year Divine Model into two equal periods, I think that She devoted the first half solely to teaching the purification of the mind.
Oyasama seems to have spent more than 20 years teaching that we can receive any blessing, whatever it is, if we become single-hearted in relying on God the Parent.
As the Divine Model progressed into its second half, some followers finally managed to purify their minds to the point where they were able to listen to the teachings of the Parent of humanity. Only then did Oyasama begin to teach the all-important Service. In addition, She taught sowing seeds of sincerity at the Residence and, subsequently, instructed followers to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and engage in salvation work, both these tasks being methods of making repayment for blessings they received.
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