Sermon at the Autumn Grand Service

October 26, 2008  (2)

In the latter case, Oyasama said: "Do not complain! This will be the basis of a teaching in the future."

Kokan was always guided by Oyasama's profound parental heart. She went to Naniwa, or present-day Osaka, to spread the teachings as instructed by Oyasama. Kokan also played a very important role as "the young goddess."

As part of Her efforts to explain Her teachings, Oyasama carefully addressed matters relating to Shuji and Kokan in the Ofudesaki's part I and part XI, respectively. Because they were to play indispensable roles, Oyasama instructed them to be sure not to allow themselves to be swept along by human sentiments and, instead, to be thorough in upholding the truth. Through working with them in a careful manner, Oyasama was providing training that was meant to be applicable in future generations as well.

This year marks the 100th year since Tenrikyo achieved sectarian independence. Under the government's severe religious policy that refused to recognize the founding of any new religion, Tenrikyo chose, in 1886, to affiliate itself with the Shinto Central Bureau and, in 1888, obtained permission to establish Tenrikyo Church Headquarters under the direct supervision of Shinto. This enabled Tenrikyo to conduct its activities openly, at least for the time being. Because Tenrikyo was achieving tremendous growth, however, the authorities continued to maintain a constant, close watch on it.

Perhaps the explosive growth that Tenrikyo attained during the late 1880s and 1890s alarmed the general public. There were newspaper and magazine articles that attacked Tenrikyo with defamatory claims. Eventually the Home Ministry issued a special directive to severely tighten control over Tenrikyo.

Later, as Tenrikyo came to account for a majority of the religious instructors belonging to the Shinto Central Bureau, the bureau itself recommended that Tenrikyo seek independence, especially given that its teachings were fundamentally different from those of Shinto. After Tenrikyo embarked on the endeavor to achieve independence, however, it encountered the government's demands that Tenrikyo fulfill a variety of requirements. As one application after another ended up being rejected, it took about ten years to achieve independence.

During that period, there were times when the objective seemed so difficult to attain that Tenrikyo leaders considered enlisting the help of some powerful people or even giving up the attempt to gain independence. Yet, every time they encountered a problem, they requested Divine Directions in order to ensure that they would not deviate from the proper course of the path. The Divine Directions also helped them organize Tenrikyo as a religious group as they patiently continued to apply for official recognition.

When preparing the first application in 1899, the followers were warned in the following Divine Direction against getting swept along by worldly common principles:

You are talking about gaining independence by following procedures based on the world's truths. Even though this matter is tied to the world's truths, the true way to accomplish, settle, or consolidate anything is to use the One Truth, which originated everything in the beginning where there were no forms. . . . Concerning the matter you inquire about, aside from the question of whether the objective can be achieved or not, you will probably not be able to see the clear results you seek within a year or two. Sah, sah, set about it.

Osashizu, May 30, 1899

This Divine Direction instructed the followers to be sure to base all their undertakings on the path of Oyasama's Divine Model, which began with the founding of the Teaching. It also predicted that the effort to gain independence would not proceed smoothly.

Again, a subsequent Divine Direction delivered on June 6 cautioned against ordering priorities in a mistaken way and went on to say:

You did not know north from south, east from west. There were thorns, precipices, narrow paths. It was a path full of hardship. The present path did not appear suddenly. If you keep this firmly in mind and begin what you must, your efforts will be flowers of the path.

Osashizu, June 6, 1899

This passage, too, told the followers to ensure that their endeavor to gain independence was grounded in the full understanding that this path had begun with Oyasama alone and had undergone a variety of difficulties before becoming what it was. If they maintained that understanding, said this Divine Direction, their work would be so reassuring as to be worthy of being called "flowers of the path."

When people engage in negotiations with national authorities, it is entirely understandable for them to allow themselves to be guided by worldly common reasoning and ideas. Perhaps for this reason, the Divine Directions instructed the followers to make a point of using Oyasama's Divine Model as their dependable guide.

The movement to attain sectarian independence, which encountered considerable difficulties, resulted in laying out the framework for Tenrikyo as a religious group, the framework that in large measure continues to this day.

Now that Tenrikyo had grown into one of the major religions of the country, presumably it had to address its social responsibility. The authorities demanded that Tenrikyo compile books of doctrine, train its religious instructors, and exercise proper control over its congregation. Even prior to the movement to gain independence, the efforts to compile The Life of Oyasama and standardize the Besseki lectures had begun. Yet as part of the drive to gain independence, Tenri Seminary was founded, The Doctrine of Tenrikyo began to be compiled, a diocese system was instituted, and rules and regulations relating to churches were formulated. In addition to making progress in organizing Tenrikyo as a religious group in that manner, the effort to improve and enhance the quality of Tenrikyo's religious instructors through organizing seminars and lectures was made. In fact, instructors who were judged to be unsuitable were relieved of their duties. Eventually, all these efforts bore fruit on November 27, 1908, when Tenrikyo attained sectarian independence.

Perhaps we may say that the experience gained during the course of making repeated, painstaking efforts toward independence subsequently helped Tenrikyo to grow and expand in the face of the governmental interference and oppression that were to continue for many years even after it became independent until August 1945--when, with the end of the war, Tenrikyo declared its effort of "restoration." During that period of severe religious control, Tenrikyo managed to maintain the essence of the teachings and proper faith instead of becoming attached to worldly common matters, although reluctantly following a path of expediency. This was possible because the successive Shinbashiras and our other predecessors discussed things together and brought their minds into unity while always bearing in mind the Divine Model demonstrated by Oyasama, whose heart was filled solely with parental love for Her children, all human beings, regardless of any difficulties facing Her.

This year being the 100th year since Tenrikyo gained sectarian independence, I took this opportunity to turn my thoughts to the movement to attain independence. I feel that this movement, far from being a mere historical fact, has a much greater significance.

The framework our predecessors managed to lay out for Tenrikyo as an independent religious group despite tremendous difficulties has essentially continued through the pre-"restoration" period and indeed to the present day. In view of this, I feel that we need to ask ourselves whether or not we are really living up to our predecessors' intention, enthusiasm, and endeavor, living as we do in circumstances where we are guaranteed the freedom of belief and are able to follow the path in full accordance with the teachings.

Part of the social responsibility of an officially recognized religion is to be appropriately organized and structured. Organization and structure can also help the religion to maintain its unity and conduct its activities in a stable manner. However, if we become complacent about our organization and systems and neglect our efforts at the deeper levels of inner substance, we could undermine the achievements of our predecessors, who built the foundation and framework by making painstaking efforts.

The way our religious group is organized and its rules and regulations are formulated is not something that was taught directly by Oyasama. Some of its aspects resulted from social demands, and some came from efforts to make it easier for Tenrikyo to conduct its activities under the particular circumstances of the day. Therefore, if there is anything in our religious group's framework or organization that prevents Tenrikyo from conducting its essential activities or that is not appropriate for our time, we will need to take a fresh look at it and consider the possibility of correcting it. Yet we must remember that the most vital thing here is the inner substance of those of us who practice faith, which is to say, our inner conviction of faith.

As was repeatedly emphasized in the Divine Directions that addressed the movement to gain sectarian independence, this path was begun by Oyasama alone where there was no prior work for Her to build on. This path gradually grew and expanded because those who were saved by Her and wished to make repayment for the blessing of salvation made the effort to spread the teachings and help others be saved in the face of all kinds of difficulties in the hope of realizing the intention of the Parent who desires to save all humankind.

Particularly for those of us who live in this day and age, it is important to make sure that we do not get swept along by the current of the times or worldly common desires. We need to take to heart once again that this path was indeed begun by Oyasama alone and enhance our awareness that we are Yoboku, meaning building materials for the construction of the Joyous Life World. We need to work to expand the circle of the Joyous Life, starting wherever we can.

We live in an age when the world is facing a variety of problems--such as global environmental problems, marital problems, parent-child problems, and various other social problems--which together cast a certain dark shadow over our societies. It goes without saying that we need to consider how to address each of these problems. Yet, for those of us who are following this path, it is of prior importance to implement the teachings with an unwavering conviction that we will never go wrong as long as we live in full accord with what Oyasama has taught us. This will provide the firm foundation that is a prerequisite for making any ideas or measures truly effective in dealing with any specific problems. In this sense also, I believe it is our urgent duty to convey Oyasama's teachings to as many people as possible.

Having shared my thoughts on this occasion of today's Grand Service, I now want to close my remarks by asking all of you to spiritedly perform the tasks of the path through your respective roles and positions. Thank you for listening.

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