Sermon at the Spring Grand Service

January 26, 2003  (2)

It was during the period leading up to the 70th Anniversary of Oyasama that Tenrikyo, for the first time, designated a "three years, one thousand days" pre-anniversary season in which to make a committed drive in preparation for an anniversary. As part of that drive, the plans for the Oyasato-yakata building-complex were announced, and the construction of its east wings was begun.

Following that period, the Three Guiding Principles for the practice of faith were announced: the spirit of single-heartedness with God, the attitude of hinokishin, and the unity of minds. The activities preceding the 80th Anniversary focused on reinforcing the infrastructure for providing care and guidance for the followers' spiritual growth, as well as on spreading the teachings overseas under the slogan "To All Corners of the World."

The pre-90th Anniversary activities were conducted under the leadership of the former Shinbashira with the goal of "enriching the substance of our churches." The period preceding the Centennial Anniversary of Oyasama, which was designated as the season for a "return to one, a new beginning," saw the construction of the East and West Worship Halls, which were to actualize the Four-fronted Residence. At the same time, much emphasis was placed on spiritual construction, which ought to precede material construction. Finally, the activities leading up to the 110th Anniversary were aimed at promoting the spiritual growth of each and every follower so that it would enrich the substance of our churches.

In this manner, the path has been making progress with each of Oyasama's anniversaries, seen as special opportunities for further growth, and that is how the path has reached the present day. What I have just outlined is not merely about how our predecessors walked the path in the past but describes a journey in which we are also participating while aspiring toward spiritual growth.

The first pre-anniversary activities with which I was personally involved were those leading up to the Centennial Anniversary. The construction of the East and West Worship Halls and the remodeling of the Main Sanctuary's altar, among other projects, were in progress amid growing momentum throughout the Tenrikyo community as it prepared for the once-in-a-century event. Having graduated from college only shortly before, I did not really understand what was going on and, even when I attended meetings, I was merely sitting and listening to my elders speak. Today, having concluded the Grand Service that marks the beginning of the three-year period leading up to the 120th Anniversary of Oyasama, we should not only recall and appreciate once again the great efforts made by our predecessors but also take to heart the fact that the path to world salvation has barely begun. We must take advantage of the current anniversary-related activities to dedicate our sincere efforts to the further growth and enhancement of the path.

We often use the expression "three years, one thousand days" to designate a specific period for decisive efforts, which are not necessarily restricted to activities related to Oyasama's anniversaries. Originally, the expression indicated the length of time we should try to follow the path of the Divine Model. The Divine Direction delivered on November 7, 1889, says:

It will not do that you cannot follow the path of the Divine Model. If I tell you that you must follow a long path, it would be true that you would not be able to comply.

This Divine Direction goes on to tell the followers to try following the path of the Divine Model for at least a thousand days.

This Divine Direction came a little over a year after Tenrikyo obtained legal sanction as a church under the direct administration of Shinto, with the result that Tenrikyo was now able to conduct its activities openly. The Fifth Anniversary of Oyasama was just a year and four months away. This same Divine Direction later says:

In the eyes of the world, it may be a rather large path. A narrow path is easy to go through. A larger path is more difficult.

Now that legal sanction enabled Tenrikyo to conduct its activities without having to worry about any external interference, there was a new danger that the followers would slacken their mind's attention and deviate from the true path. I believe that this passage I have just quoted is cautioning the followers against forgetting the basis or starting point of our faith--which is to follow the Divine Model of Oyasama.

Of all the Divine Directions, this one in particular is extremely important since it is full of pointers on how to ponder the path of the Divine Model. Let me cite another passage from this Divine Direction:

There is no path but the Divine Model. There will be many different kinds of days in following the path of the Divine Model. There are many ways of following the path of the Divine Model.

Oyasama's fifty-year journey cannot be fully described in a short time. When you hear the phrase "Oyasama's Divine Model," what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the image of Her giving all the family possessions away in charity, or is it perhaps the image of Her encouraging Her children while living in the depths of poverty, saying, "When we drink water, it tastes of water"? Again, some of you might summon up the image of Oyasama maintaining Her usual serenity at all times, even while going through hardships resulting from persecution and police intervention. Or, perhaps one of the stories recorded in the Anecdotes of Oyasama might come to mind. All these are part of the Divine Model.

It goes without saying that it is important for us to maintain the attitude of emulating Her actions such as I have just mentioned. Yet, what is really vital is to ensure that our life embodies Her mind of single-hearted salvation, which underlies the fifty-year Divine Model from beginning to end. We ought to emulate the way Oyasama maintained the parental heart that was filled with love for humankind, Her children, ever intent on saving all human beings, even while going through what, for us, would have been a truly difficult journey full of vicissitudes and privations.

Well over a hundred years have passed since Oyasama demonstrated the Divine Model in a part of Japan that was known as Yamato Province. Social situations have changed greatly since the time She was showing the model through Her own example. In this day and age in which it is possible even to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings on people in different countries, we might assume, if we are careless, that certain aspects of Her Divine Model can no longer serve as exemplary models or be emulated.

What is important for us is not merely to look at the surface of the Divine Model but to ponder in every situation what She would do and how She would think if She were here now in our position and to base our actions on that. Each and every aspect of the Divine Model can offer precious pointers for us. I feel sure that as we strive to draw closer to the mind of Oyasama, the sort of attitudes and actions that accord with Her intention will become second nature to us. Even though the times have changed, I think we are still able to follow the path of the Divine Model simply by trying to live in a manner that embodies Her mind of single-hearted salvation.

Right now, Church Headquarters is conducting official visits in order to ensure that the message of Instruction Two settles in the minds of the leading members. I would like those members to not merely convey the message of this Instruction to others but to bring their own minds together to set an example of implementing that message both at their churches and in their communities.

Following these visits by Church Headquarters officials, District Lectures will be held later this year. I am hoping that these lectures will provide a springboard for all Yoboku to orient their minds toward their shared goal of sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and engaging in salvation work through their own positions and roles.

I believe it is possible to find various opportunities to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings and help others be saved so long as one has the willingness to do so. It simply depends on one's mind. Moreover, because this is a special season set aside for decisiveness, it presents us with a golden opportunity to actually implement what we have been wanting to accomplish but lacked the decisiveness to get on with.

As I mentioned a while ago, the period of "three years, one thousand days" was taught as being the length of time we ought to try following the Divine Model. I believe it is essential, therefore, for us to spend these "three years, one thousand days" giving deep thought to Oyasama's path while actually following the path of the Divine Model exactly as shown in the Divine Model.

Our individual roles in the path, however, are not the same; nor are our faith backgrounds or the rates at which we advance our individual faith. Nonetheless, I hope that all of us, whatever our present standing may be, will seize the current opportunity to make repeated efforts to grow spiritually, taking even a step or two forward, so that when the anniversary comes in three years' time, we will know that we have been able to receive the truth of the season in achieving a new level of growth, and above all, we will be able to have Oyasama feel delighted at our progress. I now want to close by asking all of you to spend this first year of the season working together in high spirits and in unity of mind. Thank you for listening.

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