Sermon at the
Spring Grand Service

January 26, 2007  (1)

May I express my sincere appreciation for the trouble you have taken in returning to Jiba to attend today's Spring Grand Service for the 170th year of the Teaching. As we have just been able to duly perform the Service, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. May I, therefore, have your kind attention while I deliver this talk.

Exactly one year ago today, we performed the Oyasama 120th Anniversary Service. Seeing last year as the year of the 120th Anniversary, we then strove to ensure that the Home of the Parent maintained a lively atmosphere with many people returning to Jiba throughout the year.

With the new year having begun, we are now going through what we might call ordinary times. However, this is not to say that we can now slacken our efforts. Rather, as opposed to working together and focusing our energies on our special, committed drive associated with the anniversary of Oyasama, we are to pay our total attention to performing the respective essential tasks that our own roles and positions always entail.

Every time we commenced the activities leading up to an anniversary of Oyasama, we have said that a critical juncture was upon us. Yet I believe that the event we bring to mind when observing the Spring Grand Service, namely, Oyasama's withdrawal from physical life in 1887--as well as the days that preceded that event--must have represented the most critical juncture imaginable.

To the early followers who revered Oyasama as God and adored Her as their true Parent, nothing could have been more painful or agonizing than Her withdrawal. From Oyasama's point of view, however, the final days of Her physical life were meant to complete Her fifty-year endeavor to lay the path of single-hearted salvation. Having conveyed God's intention by both spoken and written word, demonstrated the Divine Model through Her own example, and made all arrangements for the path, She was now putting the finishing touches to the followers' training to ensure that they were ready for a new stage where She would guide them in Her role as the everliving Oyasama.

In more concrete terms, She was strongly urging them to perform the Service, even by confronting them with Her own serious illness. In addition, through Her repeated urgings to perform the Service, She was teaching them the stance of mind that everyone aspiring to follow this path should always keep sight of in any situation.

The situation at the Residence immediately before the performance of the Service on the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887, is described in The Life of Oyasama as follows:

This day [the 26th], on which the Service performance had taken place each month, was especially significant because now, through Oyasama's condition, God the Parent was urging the performance of the Service. A great number of worshipers from neighboring villages and districts had assembled. Moreover, the police were keeping strict watch. A single mistake would result in the arrest of the ailing Oyasama. Caught in this dilemma, the disciples could not decide what to do.

So they made an inquiry as to the intention of God. Then they received the following sternly worded Divine Direction:

I instructed you to do it immediately. Sah, now, at this time, I am in haste. Some of you say, "Respond to God's will at once." Others say, "Be prudent." Still others say, "Wait awhile." Sah, sah, concerning the one thing, do you fear the law, the law? Do you fear God or do you fear the law?

This part of The Life of Oyasama vividly captures the tense and agonizing circumstances in which the followers could not bring themselves to perform the Monthly Service as they should out of fear of the authorities' interference sanctioned by law. After receiving the Divine Direction, however, those who felt ready for any punishment put on two sets of underclothing and two pairs of tabi and resolutely set about performing the Service. Their only concern must have been to respond to Oyasama's intention so that She would recover from Her illness. From Oyasama's own perspective, however, She was trying to have the followers fully understand how important it was to perform the Service exactly as taught regardless of any obstacles, for the Service is the foundation of the path of single-hearted salvation. To ensure that they understood this, She was training them even by confronting them with Her own critical physical condition.

Starting in early January 1887, Oyasama's health problem prompted those close to Her to hold many serious discussions and inquire about Her intention on a number of occasions. Oyasama's intention, as She consistently made clear, was that the followers should perform the Service, but they were also concerned about the authorities' strict interference. The tensest of moments arrived before dawn on January 13, when the first Shinbashira presented himself at Oyasama's bedside to ask for instructions. Confiding his anxieties to Her, the first Shinbashira said, "It is difficult to perform the Service because of the civil law." He also said, "Please give us a directive that will uphold both the directions of God and the laws of the country." Later, he remarked, "We cannot defy the law." He made several references to the law in the course of his dialogue with Oyasama on that occasion. In response to his inquiries, She carefully explained the relationship between God's intention and the law as follows:

Sah, sah, because Tsukihi exists, the world exists. Because the world exists, things exist. Because things exist, your bodies exist. Because your bodies exist, law exists. Although the law exists, to resolve your minds is primary.

Thus Oyasama emphasized that the most important thing was to set the mind to accord completely with God's intention. However, this was not to say that we could break the law. The point She was making was that, before getting caught up in how our actions are restricted by the law, we must remember how to order our fundamental priorities in any situation. This passage, I believe, was not merely intended for those who were present at the time but for all people following in their footsteps, as well, including all of us today. Indeed, Tenrikyo was later subjected to restrictions resulting from national religious policy, making it impossible to convey Oyasama's teachings or perform the Service exactly as intended by Her. Such restrictions, in fact, lasted for considerable periods of time. Yet because our predecessors followed the path without losing sight of the spirit of Oyasama's instructions, we are today able to perform the Service and convey the teachings to others exactly as taught by Her.

Another Divine Direction delivered on that day says:

If there are no difficulties, the mind cannot be truly set.

Unless we are faced with a difficulty, it is human to neglect to do what we should be doing, even if it is something very important. Particularly if what we ought to be doing is something not easy to carry out, we tend to come up with one excuse after another to procrastinate or postpone dealing with the task. Only when a serious difficulty confronts us do we squarely face what we have to do and begin to understand the essential nature of the situation so that we can make up our mind to carry out our task. The important thing is to bear in mind what is essential even in ordinary times instead of forgetting about it once the crisis is over. Whether we conduct ourselves in accordance with this basic principle in the course of daily life will make a huge difference when a crucial moment arises.

In Japan at present, we are guaranteed freedom of religion, which means that we are able to perform the Service without having to worry about any interference from the authorities. Yet, because we live in such a fortunate time, it is all the more important for us to always bear firmly in mind the spirit of Oyasama's instructions and earnestly perform the Service so that it can be accepted by God and make God spirited.

A Divine Direction tells us:

A broad path is easy to follow, and a narrow path is difficult to follow. Yet, because you pay attention when you follow a narrow path, you are not likely to injure yourself. When following a broad path, on the other hand, you may trip and fall. The reason you trip and end up injuring yourself is that you are not paying attention.

Osashizu, October 5, 1896

It may sound paradoxical to say that you are not likely to injure yourself when following a narrow path, which should be more difficult to follow than a broad path. Yet this means, of course, that you are unlikely to injure yourself because you are paying attention to make sure you do not take a step off the path. When walking a broad path, however, you do not pay attention, so you are more likely to injure yourself.

Today, there are no legal restrictions imposed upon us. However, we cannot say that there is absolutely nothing that militates against us following the path exactly as Oyasama taught it. One example that comes to mind would be the current of the times. Referring to the general tendencies present in society, it reflects the hopes and desires of the people living in the same time period. Even though the current of the times has no power to force us to do anything, it is easy to imagine ourselves identifying with it, accepting it, and sometimes even getting swept along by it.

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