February Monthly Service Sermon 2006

By Honbu-in Motoyoshi Tomimatsu  (2)

The sight of the unfortunate baby's head covered with eczema filled Oyasama with pity for the poor child. She undoubtedly also felt compassion for the baby's mother, since She was painfully aware of the anxiety that the mother must be feeling at seeing her baby's pitiable condition. And it is here that we find the prerequisite for being successful in salvation work. When we set about helping others be saved, our first concern must be to understand their sufferings and sorrows, and their pains and anxieties. Without that, we cannot really be effective in our salvation work. Only when we have tried to understand their sufferings and sorrows will they open their hearts to us and be courageous in taking a decisive step forward. Showing understanding for people's troubles often serves as a catalyst in getting them to take that first step toward their spiritual rebirth. That is because it enables us to establish a firm relationship built on trust.

Similar examples from Oyasama's Divine Model can be found in many other stories in the Anecdotes of Oyasama.

For example, in anecdote 23, entitled "Saving from Tachiyamai Disease," a woman named Saku Matsumura, who was suffering from a disease, returned to Jiba to pray for a recovery. Oyasama combed Saku's hair while crushing one by one the lice that had bred in her hair during her long illness. In addition, Oyasama had a bath prepared and She Herself washed the dirt from Saku's body.

In anecdote 44, entitled "A Snowy Day," a woman named Rin Masui returned to Jiba on a cold winter's day, in the midst of a fierce snowstorm. When Rin arrived at the Residence, Oyasama grasped Rin's hands in Her own two hands in order to warm them, while telling her, "Oh, I am so glad to see you have come. . . ."

In anecdote 67, entitled "Poor Fellow," a man named Tsurumatsu Nukuto had fallen critically ill, and thus returned to Jiba for the first time, being carried on a stretcher. When he was accorded an audience with Oyasama, Her first words were, "Poor fellow." She took off the red kimono-undergarment that She was wearing and put it on Tsurumatsu, slipping it over his head. All through his life, Tsurumatsu recalled that moment and would say, "Even now I cannot forget that warmth."

Oyasama's soul was that of the model of woman during the creation of humankind and the world. Thus being the mother of all humanity, She understood the sufferings and sorrows of Her beloved children. We Yoboku, who strive to follow Oyasama's Divine Model, ought to do just as She did. When we engage in salvation work, we must first apply ourselves to understanding people's sufferings and sorrows, and pains and anxieties, so that we, too, can build a relationship of trust with them, such as exists between parents and their children. This is of primary importance. And it was my negligence in realizing this that I have been deeply regretting.

When I received my appointment as head minister, I was still in my twenties. At the time, I was really eager to fulfill my tasks, so I resolved that, when people under my supervision fell ill or were hospitalized, I would immediately rush over to do salvation work for them. But whenever the moment to do salvation work arrived, I always found myself hesitant, worrying about what message was being shown through the illness, what kind of spiritual guidance I should give for the person, and what kind of resolution I should ask the person to make. When preparing to go out for salvation work, I always found myself overwhelmed by the worry that I might be considered an unreliable head minister if I couldn't give appropriate spiritual guidance. Nowadays, of course, I realize that I shouldn't have worried about anything. It wouldn't have mattered if I couldn't give them some profound insight. It would have been enough just to get over there right away and comfort them, simply asking if they were all right and reassuring them that they needn't worry about a thing, since God would see to it that they were saved. Just as Oyasama did, we, too, ought to put ourselves in the position of people who are suffering. Surely that should be our initial concern.

Once I was listening to a conversation between the wives of a couple of head ministers, and I heard one of them say to the other: "Our followers have made so little spiritual growth that, when someone in their family gets hospitalized, they even hide it from the church. In that respect, your followers are more spiritually mature since they at least take the initiative to come to your church when they get ill." It was such an odd thing to say, and gave me the feeling that perhaps she was the one who was lacking in spiritual growth. I mean, if followers think that they are going to be told, "See what happens? Don't say I didn't warn you," then it's only natural that they will want to hide it from the church. On the other hand, if followers know that the head minister will rush to the hospital upon hearing that they have been taken ill, even if it's in the middle of the night, and that the head minister will show concern for their condition and earnestly pray for God's blessings on their behalf, then they will always inform the church when someone becomes ill.

To repeat what I have been saying: the indispensable prerequisite for saving others is to understand the feelings of those who are suffering and accept them for what they are. So, how does one go about understanding other people's sufferings and sorrows? Well, that's easy! If you don't know how they feel, get them to tell you about it. And be sure to hear them out till the end! Listening to what other people have to say isn't quite as easy as it may seem. In my experience, elderly women can be particularly long-winded. What's more, they have a tendency to repeat the same thing over and over. Rather than saying, "You already told me that," you ought to show interest in listening to it again, as if you were hearing it for the first time. When you listen to people talk, you might find yourself wanting to disagree with some points or wanting to set them straight on something, but I would suggest that you show restraint and let them finish. You should also be prepared to accept whatever they are saying, without judging it.

Regarding the question of what extent you should listen to them, I would say that you should listen until you begin to feel that you would probably be saying the same sort of things as they are if you were their age and had whatever family troubles, financial problems, or illnesses that they have. Once you have done that, you will be capable of relating to their sufferings and sorrows and will have drawn closer to the parental heart. That, in turn, will give rise to a firm relationship built on trust, which is vital to salvation work. That will put you in a better position to suggest such things as, "Let's pray to God together," "Let's perform the service together," or "Let's return to Jiba together."

Next, you need to focus on praying for their salvation. Focus on it day after day, and pray with all your might. When you have done that, an inspiration--which may be regarded as divine--will spontaneously arise in your mind. When you get this inspiration, you will know what to do. If an inspiration is not forthcoming, your desire to have the person be saved is probably not strong enough. And when you get an inspiration, you must be sure to let go of all human thoughts. Just convey what your inspiration tells you without worrying about whether people will be offended or even leave the faith. It is also necessary to commit yourself to going the whole distance with them, without giving up in the middle.

That's exactly what the first-generation followers did. They struggled with the problems stemming from their causality and eventually managed to climb up onto the path. Having been through sufferings and sorrows themselves, they could easily recognize them in the people they wanted to help. That's why people listened to them and did as they asked. But it is a bit different for those of us who are 3rd-, 4th-, or 5th-generation followers. Well, at least in my own case, I had already memorized the answers right from the beginning, so I mistakenly imagined that my only task was to convey those answers to others. While it is important to convey the true teachings correctly, it may not be enough to startle someone into getting a truly deep insight.

Salvation work is, I believe, something that anyone can do. All it requires is to listen carefully to people's troubles and anxieties and to commit ourselves to go through it together with them. The rest will be done by God the Parent, who--out of the profound divine intention and deep parental love--will assuredly provide the blessings that will make us glad and grateful and guide us to the Joyous Life.

Showing kindness and gentleness when interacting with other people's minds can be seen as the fundamental stance of mind that should be embraced by everyone doing salvation work. Oyasama makes a point of teaching this in Her Divine Model.

In order to understand people's sufferings and sorrows--the prerequisite for saving others--those of us engaging in salvation work must have receptive minds. They must be particularly sensitive to people's agonies. We must be constantly interested in people's minds, not just in their social positions and backgrounds, or their words and actions. That is the quality of kindness and gentleness that comes from caring about others. Oyasama said: "Become a person with a gentle heart. Save other people. Change your habits and temperament." With these words, She teaches the basic stance of mind for all who engage in salvation work.

As you are aware, this entire year has been designated as the year of the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama. Concerning the way we are to fulfill our roles this year, the Shinbashira asked us to give expression to the results of the efforts that we made in anticipation of the anniversary. He went on to say: "Let all of us perform our tasks in such a way as to ensure that the Home of the Parent always has a lively atmosphere with many people returning to Jiba, and that this year will be a significant year that will provide a springboard for a new departure."

This year, we are witnessing a special liveliness in Jiba day after day. Nonetheless, if we think about Oyasama's parental love and the hardships She endured while striving to save all Her children, without having a single day for Her own pleasure, we will have to admit that our efforts still leave something to be desired. Let us, therefore, respond to Oyasama's love by stepping up our efforts and devoting ourselves sincerely to sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and engaging in salvation work, and thereby ensure that as many people as possible will return to Jiba, the Home of the Parent and the home of all humanity. Although great numbers of people will be making pilgrimages to Jiba this year, let us try to make each and every pilgrimage a meaningful and rewarding experience for its participants. "What sort of pilgrimage to Jiba will bring joy to Oyasama?" is a question that each church ought to ponder over and then be creative in finding ways to implement it.

This summer, once again, the Children's Pilgrimage to Jiba will be held from July 26 to August 5. For this year's "Oyasama 120th Anniversary Children's Pilgrimage to Jiba," we have set our sights on having 100,000 more participants than we had last year.

The Children's Pilgrimage to Jiba represents a time for sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and an arena for salvation work. I hope that all head ministers and Yoboku, braving the summer heat and the blazing sun, will go out to invite more and more children to participate in the pilgrimage, while looking forward to the day when those children become promising Yoboku.

Thank you very much for listening.

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