Today, being the day for the June Monthly Service of the year of Oyasama's 120th Anniversary, great numbers of people have returned to Jiba, including many who have come from overseas, and we are grateful for having been able to perform the Kagura Service and the Dance with Hand Movements together, in joy and high spirits.
As I have been appointed to deliver today's sermon, I want to share with you some of my thoughts on salvation work, or, rather, some of my reflections on my own attitude toward salvation work. May I, therefore, ask for your kind attention for a short while.
To be perfectly honest, it was not until recently that I actually came to understand what salvation work is all about. Of course, I am quite sure that Oyasama would say that I still have a long way to go before I truly understand, but, in my own way, I suddenly had the feeling: "Ah-ha! So this is what salvation work is all about!" Comparing my preconceived notions about salvation work with Oyasama's actual model of saving others, I realized that there was a gap between the two, and it dawned on me that I had been overlooking a vital prerequisite for saving others. The distinction is substantial, although when you hear what it is, you might wonder why I am making such a fuss about it. Yet, to me, personally, it was a significant insight and a real discovery. Since I have been a head minister for 33 years, it is embarrassing to admit that I did not realize this important distinction until recently. Well, I suppose that I knew it all along in my head, but I had not actually settled it in my heart.
Before attaining that insight, I was under the impression that the reason we do salvation work is to convey God the Parent's teachings to people who are suffering from physical ailments and other troubles; to see to it that they replace their mind so that they can receive God's blessings; and to get them to be spiritually reborn as Yoboku who can join us in working for single-hearted salvation. Some of you may be thinking, "Well, isn't that exactly what salvation work is all about?" Well, yes, it is. But there are times when this fixed concept can hinder our salvation work. When we are struggling to convey the teachings and provide guidance to others, we might end up having thoughts like: "However much I explain the teachings, this person never listens! He's only concerned about himself and, at that rate, he probably won't be saved." However, if we take a careful look at the various examples Oyasama demonstrated while saving others, we will notice that there is an indispensable prerequisite that we need to take into consideration. Many of these examples from Her Divine Model are recorded in The Life of Oyasama and Anecdotes of Oyasama.
One of those examples appears in anecdote 107, entitled "Eczema Is a Troublesome Condition." Please listen very carefully while I read it to you.
The following took place in 1882 when Tane Umetani returned to Jiba. Tane, carrying her eldest daughter, Taka, who was just a baby at that time, was granted an audience with Oyasama. This baby had festering eczema all over her head. Oyasama promptly took the baby into Her arms, saying:
"Now, let Me see."
Looking at the festering eczema, She said:
"What a pity, poor thing!"
She brought out a piece of paper that She had placed under Her cushion in order to smooth out the wrinkles. Then, with Her fingers, She tore off little pieces, licked them and placed them on the baby's head. She then said:
"Tane, eczema is a troublesome condition, isn't it?"
Tane was startled. There was something in what Oyasama said that made her reflect, "I must learn not to be troublesome to others. Always with a pure mind I will do my best to make others happy."
Then, with gratitude, Tane thanked Oyasama and went back to Osaka. One morning after two or three days had passed, Tane suddenly noticed that the affected skin had separated from the baby's head, looking as if it were a cotton cap. The whole mass of skin that had been oozing with pus was stuck to the paper put on by Oyasama, and had lifted up from the baby's head just as if a cap had been removed. Thus the baby had marvelously received a divine blessing. The new skin had already formed thinly over her head.
I believe that this anecdote contains three key points pertaining to salvation work. I will now list those three points, and I want each of you select the one that, at this point in time, you find most appealing or think is the most impressive part of the story. Now, let me give you the three points to choose from.
The first point is this: Oyasama tore off little pieces of paper, licked them, and placed them one by one on the festering eczema all over the baby's head. That is Point Number 1.
The second point is: Oyasama says to the baby's mother, "Tane, eczema is a troublesome condition, isn't it?" and Tane, startled by those words, suddenly realized: "I must not be troublesome to others. Always with a pure mind, I will do my best to make others happy." That is Point Number 2.
The third point is: The baby received a marvelous blessing when, two or three days later, the whole mass of skin, which had been oozing with pus, stuck to the paper applied by Oyasama and miraculously lifted up from the baby's head just as if a cap had been removed. That is Point Number 3.
Well, then, which of these three points impressed you the most? Was it Point Number 1, Point Number 2, or Point Number 3? Let me say right from the beginning that there isn't just one correct answer. These are all valid aspects of salvation work, so please just think of this as a "questionnaire" to help you take stock of where you lay emphasis in your salvation work, or where you find yourself needing to make the most effort when you engage in salvation work. All right, I will repeat the three points in order, so when you hear the one that impressed you most, please pretend that you are raising your hand.
Let's begin with Point Number 1, where Oyasama licked the bits of paper and placed them on the festering eczema all over the baby's head. If this is the point that impressed you, please pretend that you're raising your hand. OK, thank you very much.
Next, we come to Point Number 2, where Oyasama says, "Eczema is a troublesome condition," which gave an insight to Tane and led her to reflect deeply on herself. If this was the part of the story that appealed to you, please pretend to raise your hand. OK, thank you very much.
Then we come to Point Number 3, where the baby is miraculously cured of its eczema within two or three days. If you found this part to be the most appealing, please pretend to raise your hand. OK, thank you very much.
I have conducted this same "questionnaire" at a number of gatherings for church head ministers and spouses, and for others engaging in missionary work, and the results have always been the same. The majority of people always raise their hand for Point Number 2. The next most popular response is Point Number 1, for which about 20 to 30% raise their hand. The people who raise their hand for Point Number 3 are always a tiny percentage.
Nonetheless, I have to say that the people who choose Point Number 3--the one concerning the actual receipt of a miraculous blessing--strike me as being exceptionally honest people. After all, when illness affects either ourselves, our family members, or the people we are trying to help through our salvation work, it is entirely natural for us to want to receive a miraculous blessing as quickly as possible. That is why the people who raise their hand for this point strike me as being honest.
In my own case, I was always placing emphasis on Point Number 2. I focused all my efforts on what I could teach people to give them a profound understanding, or on what I could say to give them some startling insight. However, while examining Oyasama's own example in saving people, I discovered that there was something vital that had to be done before getting to that stage. Before saying, "Eczema is a troublesome condition," Oyasama first took the baby into Her arms, saying, "Now, let me see." Then, licking bits of paper, She applied them one after another to the festering eczema on the baby's head. Seeing this expression of Oyasama's deep parental love, which went to an extent that even parents find difficult to manage, is, I believe, what startled Tane and inspired her to reflect on herself.
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