What is the Joyous Life?
The Joyous Life refers to living with a bright and spirited mind, the state of mind with which one might associate the image of a bright and warm scene bathed in sunlight. When we grow spiritually, purify our mind completely, and come to perceive whatever happens as God the Parent's gracious blessing, then we will be provided with abundant blessings in accordance with that state of our mind. This will ensure that we can live our life without any difficulties or troubles.
In the world of the Joyous Life, which is free of any conflict or war and free from want, everyone will be able to live a long, healthy life and every prayer will be answered. The key to realizing the Joyous Life is our deep sense of gratitude to God the Parent. Of course, we are such limited beings that it may be difficult to make our lives perfect. The Joyous Life, however, is a harmonious life pervaded by loving-kindness with which people make up for one another's weaknesses and help one another. The Joyous Life is truly an outpouring of the joy of being alive.
When will the Joyous Life be realized?
The Joyous Life is a life lived with a joyous mind. The joyous mind is characterized by brightness and spiritedness, which come from keenly feeling God the Parent's intention and blessings.
Therefore, we can say that the Joyous Life can be realized at any time, depending solely on our state of mind. This is the realization of the Joyous Life on an individual level. In addition, there is the Joyous Life as the ideal world where the minds of all people in the world have become bright and spirited. Its realization depends on the spiritual growth of all people in the world. That is, it depends on the teachings spreading from one person to another, leading more and more people to replace their minds and help one another.
Can the Joyous Life be realized through political power or social change movements?
In order to create a better society, it is important to use the political process and participate in various activities in society. If we neglected these areas, we would not be able to make the world a better place.
The Joyous Life, however, cannot be attained only by political and economic change and reform. In addition to such attempts to improve society, a radical change in the mind of each member of society--that is, the replacement of the individual mind--is essential. History tells us that, no matter how much political and economic conditions are improved, people are unable to achieve true happiness if their minds are clouded and immature. Whenever we try to change or reform something, the most important thing is to improve our inner life, that is, to replace our mind, grow spiritually, and polish our soul. This is the key to success in achieving true happiness.
How does the Joyous Life differ from Utopia?
Utopia is an ideal world thought to be attainable by human power alone, that is, by science and political power.
On the other hand, the Joyous Life, which Tenrikyo teaches, cannot be attained without God the Parent's blessings, though human efforts are also indispensable. The surest way to have God the Parent bless us with the accomplishment of the Joyous Life is to make continued efforts to achieve spiritual growth in response to God's parental love that desires humanity to lead the Joyous Life as soon as possible.
How does the Joyous Life differ from the heavenly Kingdom believed to come at the end of the world?
Some religions teach that, at the end of the world, the Messiah will reappear and decide who may go to heaven, where there will be a spiritual life without the earthly body.
Tenrikyo does not envisage the end of the world or the last judgment. It also has no teaching that only a selected few can go to heaven while the others will go to hell. According to Tenrikyo, human history is intended to be one of continued improvement or one of ongoing construction and creation leading to the new world of the Joyous Life.
Again, unlike the sudden arrival of the heavenly Kingdom which follows the appearance of the Messiah, the construction of the Joyous Life depends on steady efforts that human beings should make while receiving God the Parent's providence.
Moreover, the Joyous Life is not intended only for chosen people but encompasses the salvation of all people in the world. Also, in the Joyous Life, a human being will continue to have a natural body and live a life that has concrete realities.
Some religions teach that the end of the world is approaching, or that the latter days have already come, pointing to disasters and frightening incidents happening in various parts of the world, some even in our own midst. If we just focus on negative things, we cannot help but be pessimistic about the future. Some might even hope that this "evil" world would perish. It is in the nature of the world, however, to have both good and bad aspects. If we have a well-balanced view, we need not be pessimistic or despair.
One's pessimistic and dark view of the future can make others pessimistic as well. It is said that eighty percent of human thinking is naturally negative and that eighty percent of the dreams we have involve misfortunes, worries, and horrors. Even if those who have a morbid fascination with the world's destruction are dismissed as exceptions, we can still say that there is a general human tendency to be pessimistic about the future.
Given that what we think tends to become reality, it is important to think positively and always be hopeful if we are to create a brighter future.
God the Parent is the original Parent of all humankind and, therefore, will never cause the world or human beings to perish. If there were a god who would do such a thing, he would not be the true Parent of humanity. God the Parent created human beings, who are God's children, out of a desire for our happiness. Since then, God has nurtured and provided for us for a very long period of time. God would never put an end to human history or cause us to perish. We can be sure that God, the true Parent of humanity who wishes for the eternal happiness of the world, is providing for us without withholding anything and is trying to save all people in the world. God the Parent desires that all people, who are God's children, grow spiritually as soon as possible and realize the world of the Joyous Life.
All misfortunes come from our lack of spiritual maturity and our misuse of the mind, which do not accord with God's intention, and could be seen as God's way of alerting us to our condition and urging us to reflect on ourselves. All misfortunes could be considered manifestations of the parental love that desires to save all of us throughout the world as soon as possible and to enable us to achieve happiness. Therefore, we can always have positive expectations, regardless of whatever is happening. What is important is to meet the challenge each occurrence represents and work with our minds to grow spiritually, so that the state of the world will improve.
How does the Joyous Life differ from the Pure Land envisioned in Buddhism?
The Pure Land ideology of Buddhism teaches that this world is an impure land where human beings will not be saved and that, therefore, one should pray that, after passing away, one will be reborn in the Pure Land, a faraway paradise pervaded by the love and compassion of the Buddha Amitabha. Although there are some variant views, this ideology essentially teaches that true salvation is attained in another world.
Tenrikyo's vision of paradise is described as living in the very bosom of God the Parent while basking in the warm and loving embrace of heaven and earth. Tenrikyo teaches how to realize this paradise here in this world; it teaches the way of living that will establish the Joyous Life right where we live.
Here is paradise on this earth.
Does the realization of the Joyous Life depend entirely on our state of mind?
Our state of mind is not the only factor because we cannot lead the Joyous Life if we are starving or freezing. Yet it is clear that favorable material circumstances alone will not ensure the realization of the Joyous Life. No matter how great our material abundance may be, we cannot attain the Joyous Life unless our mind is satisfied and is free from moaning and groaning. However, human greed is so limitless that it can only be countered by a sense of gratitude without which we cannot savor the joy of living, however affluent we may be materially.
Our states of mind are relative. Our degree of satisfaction changes according to our expectation and desire. Thus, how much joy or sorrow we feel in our life depends on the state of our mind.
Human beings are given the free use of the mind by God the Parent, but this freedom comes with responsibility and consequences. In this sense, the Joyous Life depends on how we use our mind.
No matter how hard a time we may face, it is of prime importance to remember that this world is permeated with God the Parent's complete providence and that we receive God the Parent's blessings in accordance with our state of mind. It is vital to develop the mind's capacity to perceive the truth behind whatever is happening and to overcome whatever difficulties arise. This capacity lies in what is termed a "spirited mind."
Regardless of how great a "knot" or a difficulty may confront us, the most important thing is our spiritedness in working to have "buds sprout from the knot," that is, working to sweep away our dust from the mind by drawing on God's support as the "broom." This done, God the Parent will show us wondrous, free, and unlimited workings befitting our sincerity in praying for God's help. Then our mind, which previously could not rejoice, will be transformed into a mind of joy. We will be able to feel a deep sense of indebtedness for the boundless providence of God the Parent and try to make repayment for it in our daily life. Our minds will then become purified.
The world of the Joyous Life that God the Parent desires will come about when the minds of all people throughout the world are completely purified. It is a world where all people will be able to savor perfect joy and delight, their lives filled with God the Parent's boundless blessings.
Oyasama has indicated some concrete features of the world of the Joyous Life. Found in such sources as the Scriptures and Anecdotes of Oyasama, the Foundress of Tenrikyo, those features include:
1. The root of rebellion will be cut off. That is, eternal peace will be established.
2. The root of illness will be cut off. That is, there will no longer be any suffering of illness.
3. The natural term of human life is to be fixed at 115 years. That is, all human beings will be able to enjoy a long life of 115 years and, thereafter, stay as long as they wish.
4. We will work just half a day and spend the rest of the time on joyous play.
5. We will be blessed with rain at night and fine weather in the daytime.
6. We will always be blessed with a rich harvest.
7. A couple will be blessed with one boy and one girl.
Can the Joyous Life be achieved by human efforts alone?
We are taught that the Joyous Life will be realized through God the Parent's providence when human beings have attained complete spiritual maturity.
Far from being a utopian ideal whose accomplishment is projected into some unforeseeable future, the Joyous Life, we are taught, can be attained even now, depending only on our state of mind.
However, the question is how we can grow spiritually. It is of importance for us to sweep away the "eight dusts" of the mind and replace our mind in order to attain spiritual growth. Yet, sweeping away the dust of the mind is not an easy task because we tend to accumulate dust without noticing that we are doing so. Although we should each make continual efforts to sweep away the dust of the mind, we cannot accomplish this task by our own power. Therefore, we need God's support, which is metaphorically spoken of as the "broom."
To sweep away the dust of the mind, replace our mind, and change our sense of values will require not only our own efforts but also God's blessings. The Joyous Life can only be realized by a combination of human efforts and God the Parent's blessings.