Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service

October 26, 2008  (1)

I wish to express my deep appreciation for the trouble you have taken in returning to Jiba to attend today's Autumn Grand Service. May I also thank all of you most sincerely for the efforts you are devoting in your daily lives to the work of the path. Having duly been able to perform the Service, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. So could I have your attention while I deliver this sermon?

When we perform the Autumn Grand Service, the first thing we need to do is turn our thoughts to the day of origin of the founding of the Teaching and reaffirm our understanding of the purpose for which this path was opened. We must also take to heart once again not only the Parent's intention embodied in the path but also the Divine Model demonstrated by Oyasama so that we Yoboku may correct what needs to be corrected in our attitude of mind and our way of performing our tasks and, thereby, start the next part of our journey toward the realization of the Joyous Life World with a fresh mind.

For what purpose, then, was this path opened? It goes without saying that the purpose was to save all humankind, as is clearly stated in what is sometimes called "the declaration of the founding of the Teaching." The purpose of the path, in other words, is to save all people suffering from illness and other problems and guide them to the Joyous Life, which is what God intended us to enjoy when creating humankind. To accomplish this purpose, we are taught that we need to help people sweep away the dust of the mind, which is the real cause of all sufferings and pains that have presented themselves. The self-centered mind that says "all is well if the present is well for the self alone" will need to be replaced with the mind that desires the salvation of others. We have also been taught the Service as the core component of this path of single-hearted salvation. In addition, we are provided with the Divine Model, which was personally demonstrated by Oyasama to show an exemplary model of how Yoboku ought to serve.

The first words spoken by God the Parent to humankind were:

I am God of Origin, God in Truth. There is causality in this Residence. At this time I have descended here to save all humankind. I wish to receive Miki as the Shrine of God.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 1

These words were spoken during the last in a series of incantations that had been started a year before in order to pray for the healing of Shuji's leg ailment.

Although Miki's husband, Zenbei, used every possible argument to refuse God's request, God of Origin remained adamant. The dialogue between God and humans lasted three days, during which time Miki had no rest at all. Finally, as Her life appeared to be in danger, Zenbei cast aside all his concerns for himself and his family and agreed to offer Her to God. This happened on October 26, 1838, at eight o'clock in the morning, whereby Miki was settled as the Shrine of God. That was the day of origin of the Teaching.

Zenbei and the others must have been quite bewildered, because, from their perspective, an unheard-of god suddenly chose to speak through a farmer's wife and--while they were still at a loss as to what kind of teaching this god was going to give or exactly what it was that the god would try to accomplish--they were told that the deity wished to receive Miki as the Shrine of God.

In fact, as The Life of Oyasama says, even Ichibei, the incantation officiant, "though experienced in the ways of spiritualism, was utterly dumbfounded when he unexpectedly heard the voice of an unknown god. . . ." Ichibei may have regretted having used Miki as a substitute for his usual medium during the incantation. Yet even that arrangement undoubtedly resulted from God the Parent's profound intention, if viewed from the perspective of the Causality of the Soul of Oyasama and the Causality of the Promised Time. I feel that, during the course of the three-day dialogue, it was already becoming apparent that God the Parent was totally different from the kind of gods that were known to the people at the time. One crucial difference, as was later indicated by the following verses from the Ofudesaki, is that God the Parent does not teach performing rituals or offering worship to ask for divine favors for personal benefit:

This salvation is not brought about by formulas of worship, or by exorcism, or by calling on oracles.

At this place, I shall teach everything. Be single-hearted with God, and from your innermost heart. . .

Ponder from your innermost heart to understand. Through saving others, you will be saved.

Ofudesaki III:45-47

This is a teaching that explains the origin of any and everything and will save us if we ponder and live in full accord with the intention of God. This is what is taught in the phrase "Through saving others, you will be saved." Thus, this path is totally different from the kind of faith that consists in praying for divine favors to one's own advantage or to one's own family's advantage. This teaching could only have been given by humankind's Parent, who desires to save all people throughout the world.

The path of the Divine Model commenced with Oyasama seeking to fall to the depths of poverty. She gave away food, clothes, money, and so forth, until at last She instructed that even the family's main house be dismantled. How distressed and bewildered Her family members and relatives must have been! In particular, the anguish and agony that Her husband, Zenbei, must have felt is beyond our imagination. The Life of Oyasama includes an account of how, one day, he sat face to face with Oyasama before the Buddhist altar and, holding a sword close to his side, severely demanded the immediate withdrawal of the evil spirit, if indeed it were one. Thereupon, Oyasama carefully explained the origin of this world and the future to the most remote of times so that he could be convinced that these words came not from some evil spirit but truly from God the Parent. Saving humankind by explaining the origin of this world and the future to the most remote of times is only possible because this is the "final teaching" provided by God of Origin.

Oyasama's mind must have been clearly aware of not only the painstaking efforts God had made to give birth to and nurture human beings but also the many twists and turns that human beings had gone through as a result of selfishly using the mind, which they had been allowed to use freely as their own. Now that God the Parent had become openly revealed in this world at the arrival of the Promised Time to teach the origin of all things, which had been brought about from formlessness, and to begin to lay the path of single-hearted salvation, Oyasama was undoubtedly envisaging the realization of the world of the Joyous Life in which all human beings would live fully and vibrantly while helping one another.

In addition to Zenbei's anguish and agony, let us consider the thoughts and feelings of Oyasama's four children, the eldest of whom was Shuji, who was eighteen when the Teaching was founded. Although there is not much material on the subject, we can, for example, look at the Anecdotes of Oyasama, where we read that two of Oyasama's daughters, recalling the aforementioned three-day dialogue in later years, said, "We were so frightened at the utterance of every revelation that we threw ourselves into each other's arms, trembling and pulling the quilt over our heads."

Over the three years after Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of Tsukihi, She often secluded Herself in the storehouse, we are told. That probably was part of the reason why, as we read in The Life of Oyasama, some of Zenbei's friends--whenever they visited him in those days--"found Zenbei's children so forlorn and lonely that they could not but pity them from the bottom of their hearts."

Shuji and Kokan, who were both causally related to instruments of God's creation of humankind, served and helped Oyasama throughout their lives, thereby making indispensable contributions to the path during the early days. Yet even they, I would imagine, must have occasionally had feelings of bewilderment and uneasiness as well as found themselves in a dilemma. In the case of Shuji, who was eighteen when the Teaching was founded, he had previously lived a fairly comfortable life, being heir to the head of the Nakayama family, a family said to have been the largest landowner in the village. Thus, he may have felt bewildered at the way his mother had undergone a total transformation and the way the family's destiny had completely changed since October 1838.

At the same time, I think he must have accepted that he was somehow part of what was happening because, after all, the declaration of the founding of the Teaching came during an incantation being performed as a result of his own leg ailment. In the Anecdotes of Oyasama's third story, entitled "The Storehouse," we read that, when pain returned to Shuji's leg later in the same year, 1838, Oyasama breathed on his leg and applied a piece of paper to the affected area, whereby the pain was gone in about ten days. Witnessing this wondrous blessing shortly after the founding of the Teaching, Shuji must have thought that this God, who had taken up residence in the body of his mother, was truly extraordinary and totally different from the gods to whom the prayers had been offered through repeatedly performing incantation rituals.

As instructed by Oyasama, Shuji always wore a montsuki, or a crested formal garment, whenever he went to work in the fields or walked around the countryside selling vegetables and firewood. After his father passed away, Shuji, as the head of the household, did everything he could to shield Oyasama from harassment by the villagers and others and interference and persecution by the authorities. He made painstaking efforts to devise and implement various measures to protect the path in its early days.

Kokan was born just eleven months before the founding of the Teaching, so she had no personal knowledge of how Oyasama and Her family lived prior to the founding of the Teaching. By the time Kokan became aware of what was going on, Oyasama was already serving as the Shrine of God, conveying the intention of God the Parent, and unreservedly giving things away to those who had come asking for alms. Since she always stayed close to Oyasama and served Her, she must have realized that Oyasama was God. Nevertheless, I suppose she may have felt insecure about the way her family lived and the way the path often came into conflict with the local communities.

The reason I say this is that we are told that there were days when Kokan said dejectedly to Oyasama that there was no rice left in the house. Also, you may recall the Oyamato Shrine incident, in which some followers got into trouble with the shrine the day after the framework of the Place for the Service had been completed. Many followers were consequently scared away, with the result that the formation of a fellowship, which had been progressing so well until then, came to a sudden stop. At that time, Kokan apparently muttered to herself that they should not have gone.

Yet we must not forget that Oyasama sought to help Kokan rid herself of her feelings of insecurity and worry by teaching her in a way that she could understand. In the former instance, Oyasama gave her encouragement, saying:

In this world there are those who are suffering, unable to eat or even to swallow water despite food piled high at their bedsides. If we think of them, how blessed we are, for when we drink water, it tastes of water. God the Parent has blessed us with exquisite gifts.

The Life of Oyasama, p. 32

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