Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service

October 26, 2005  (1)

May I start by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to all of you for coming from near and far to attend today's Autumn Grand Service. At the outset of today's Service, we expressed our gratitude for God the Parent's boundless providence, which we are constantly receiving day after day, and prayed that we might continue to receive God the Parent's providence and guidance in working to reconstruct the world as the world of the Joyous Life. In addition, we took to heart once again the Parent's intention in becoming openly revealed, namely, the intention to save all humankind. We also joined together in rededicating ourselves to powerfully advancing single-hearted salvation.

I would now like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you, so may I have your attention while I deliver this sermon.

The first several verses of the Ofudesaki succinctly tell us why this Teaching was founded. Let me quote a couple of verses:

Looking all over the world and through all ages, I find no one who has understood My heart.

Ofudesaki I:1

At this time, I, God, reveal Myself and teach the truth of all things in detail.

Ofudesaki I:3

These verses say that because no one understood God's intention, God the Parent was now becoming openly revealed in this world at the arrival of the Promised Time in order to convey the truth of any and everything in detail. The Ofudesaki goes on to say:

If you wish to know and will come to Me, I shall teach you the original cause of all things.

As God is revealed and teaches the truth of all things in detail, the minds of all in the world will become spirited.

As I am in haste to save all of you quickly, I set out to make all minds in the world spirited.

Ofudesaki I:6-8

These verses say that anyone who has heard the original cause of all things will become spirited and that God desires to save all humankind quickly and will, therefore, set out to make the minds of all people throughout the world spirited.

The phrase "original cause of all things" refers to the truth about creation--that is, the truth that God the Parent created human beings at the Jiba out of a desire to see our Joyous Life and to share in our joy. This teaching about the creation of humanity serves as the foundation for the salvation of all humankind. It is because people do not know this intention of the Parent of Origin that there is endless human suffering associated with illness and calamities as well as conflict and strife. Because of the persistence of thoughts and actions that run counter to the purpose of our creation--namely, the Joyous Life--the sufferings and anxieties related to illness and other problems keep arising.

Yet people will naturally be able to become spirited and step onto the path leading to true salvation once they realize the existence of God, who is the Parent who created humankind; awaken to the profound parental love that constantly motivates God to provide for us, now as ever; and become fully aware that all human beings are equally brothers and sisters as God the Parent's children, who exist for the purpose of leading the Joyous Life while helping one another.

The very first step on this path leading to world salvation was taken on October 26, 1838.

In fact, the significance of that date, when the Teaching was founded, and the significance of January 26, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life, are one in truth, as the following Divine Direction tells us:

[C]oncerning the twenty-sixth, the principle of the founding and that of the ending are one in truth.

Osashizu, February 29, 1896

The second Shinbashira repeatedly explained that both events emanated from Oyasama's parental love for Her children, human beings, and that, in that sense, these two dates have the same significance.

The day of origin of the Teaching marks the beginning of the path of the Divine Model, that is to say, the beginning of the path of single-hearted salvation, which She personally laid to save all humankind. The day of origin of the Spring Grand Service came after She had made all the arrangements for the path of single-hearted salvation including those for the Service. That was the day She set out to save the world as the everliving Oyasama, who would "level the ground" throughout the world by virtue of Her eternal life.

Both those dates embody Oyasama's parental love that desires to save all human beings, Her children, and to lead them all to the Joyous Life. Thus, both dates have the same significance.

It goes without saying that Oyasama's anniversaries commemorate Her withdrawal from physical life. Like our predecessors, we have also considered Her anniversaries as marking crucial stages in our quest for spiritual growth and mounted committed and concerted efforts to achieve spiritual growth through anniversary-related activities.

We have only three months left before the 120th Anniversary arrives. Our pre-anniversary activities are now in their final stages. After I announced the plans for this anniversary, you must have been striving with determination to do whatever it takes to achieve goals that you set for yourselves in order to bring joy to Oyasama in the current season.

In Instruction Two, I focused on "cultivating the mind of saving others" and "implementing salvation work" as guidelines for conducting our pre-anniversary activities. I have thus been emphasizing the importance of actually sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings and helping others be saved. I have been requesting that all Yoboku make a practice of spreading the teachings and saving others through their own roles and positions.

I very much hope that all of us will spend the remaining three months working to ensure that these activities will come to fruition. Let us, thereby, genuinely respond to Oyasama's parental heart, which is so completely filled with love for humankind, Her children, that She even went to the extent of shortening Her physical life to hasten our spiritual growth.

The Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo, contains a few entries dating from around the time She became the Shrine of God. For instance, anecdote 2, entitled "At Every Revelation Uttered," describes how frightened Her daughters were at the severe tone of Her voice during God the Parent's first revelation. The next anecdote, entitled "The Storehouse," says:

[W]hen in the same year [1838] pain returned to Shuji's leg, becoming so acute that he had to be moved on a stretcher, Oyasama breathed on his leg and applied a piece of paper to the affected area. The pain was gone in about ten days.

During the year preceding the event being described here, Oyasama's family had a Shugendo practitioner perform incantations and ritual prayers every time Shuji had his leg pain. After the founding of the Teaching, however, Oyasama dealt with Shuji's condition Herself, and he received a vivid blessing. That event demonstrated that Oyasama's position had changed completely. By showing a wondrous blessing before the eyes of one and all, Oyasama was trying to convince them that She had indeed become the Shrine of God.

The fourth entry in the Anecdotes of Oyasama records Oyasama as teaching:

Fall to the depths of poverty. Unless you fall to the depths of poverty, you cannot understand what sufferers feel. Even water, once fallen to the bottom, will rise again. I will return ten thousandfold.

The fact that the path of the Divine Model began with Oyasama falling to the depths of poverty seems to contain several profound meanings. Falling to the depths of poverty did not simply mean giving away all the family possessions but indicated rising above all worldly values such as ideas about social standing and common ordinary ways of looking at things. In order to establish a new teaching and lay a path that would save all humankind, Oyasama intended to divest Herself of all things that were based on the traditional, worldly values.

Oyasama says, "Unless you fall to the depths of poverty, you cannot understand what sufferers feel." Although She may partly have been trying to help the poor and needy through charity, She was also teaching that falling to the depths of poverty helps us understand the feelings of those who suffer. From this perspective, we see that Oyasama is saying that we should be careful not to assume an attitude of superiority toward those we are trying to help but rather that we ought to bring ourselves down to the level where they are so that we can lead them by the hand. What this means, I believe, is that the important thing in helping people overcome anxieties and sufferings is to try to understand their feelings and work with them with loving care and a sense of humbleness.

Oyasama could have saved people without changing Her family circumstances at all. I believe, however, that, for the benefit of those who would aspire to single-hearted salvation, She was trying to show that anyone, even those in the lowest economic and social strata, could help others be saved. In fact, I think She was teaching that being caught up in material wealth and social status would make it difficult to implement the true salvation work that God the Parent envisioned. By letting go of all that, She teaches us to return our point of view--which has been shaped and conditioned by values about social standing and material wealth--back to its original, unconditioned state.

If you have nothing else to rely on, you can only look to God the Parent and Oyasama for help. You have no choice but to purify your mind, ponder how you can have God the Parent work for you, and build the basis that will allow for God's workings.

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