Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2009 February Monthly Service Sermon

by Takayuki Onoue (Tenrikyo U.K. Head)

Today I would like to talk about "the truth of the everliving Oyasama" and "resolutions or to resolve the mind".

On the 26th January, last month, the Spring Grand Service was observed at Tenrikyo Church Headquarters. As you may know, the service commemorates the day of our beloved Parent, Oyasama's withdrawal from physical life on the 26th January 1887, approximately 120 years ago. Now I said that "withdrawal from physical life". We do not say "Oyasama passed away". This is because although we are not able to see Her in physical form, Oyasama's soul remains forever in Jiba, the original point of human creation, to watch over and guide us. Oyasama continues to work for world salvation day and night exactly as She did before the 26th January 1887. We call Her "everliving Oyasama" and this teaching is referred as 'the truth of the everliving Oyasama'. Let us further considering the meaning.

Her withdrawal must an unimaginable shock to our predecessor of the path around Her at that time. Oyasama taught them that "the natural term of human life is 115 years old" so that they had believed Oyasama would be alive by that age and She was still 90 years old at that time. They could not believe what happened to Oyasama. Later, however, through the series of the Divine Directions, one of Tenrikyo Scriptures, which were delivered by the Honseki, Izo Iburi, they were explained and convinced gradually that even through Oyasama had withdrawn from physical life, Her soul remains alive and she continues to work for the salvation of all humankind just as She has done so far. For an example, a Divine Direction says:

Sah, sah, I am still living here. I have not gone anywhere, not gone anywhere. You must look at the path of daily life and ponder.

Osashizu, March 17, 1890

This clearly tells us that Oyasama remains alive.

There is the Foundress' Sanctuary to the north of the Main Sanctuary at Church Headquarters. That is the place where Oyasama resides and from which She works day and night for the sake of single-hearted salvation. We see a big shrine and a big mirror inside and we can see the red cloth placed in front of the mirror. We serve for Oyasama in the same manner exactly as our predecessors did for Oyasama when She was still physically alive. The Divine Directions instructed us how to serve the everliving Oyasama and we do as we were instructed. We read in the Divine Direction:

Sah, sah, you will have them [the red kimono] completed and then request that I change into them. For summer, they are to be unlined. In cold weather, they are to be lined. You are to make them for each season. I shall wear them and do My work. It is only My figure which cannot be seen. All is the same. It is only My figure which does not exist.

Osashizu, March 17, 1890

When we complete to listen to the lectures called the Besseki Lectures in Jiba, upon our request we can receive the truth of the Sazuke, the Divine Grant, to become Yoboku, which is a useful timber for the construction of the Joyous Life World. This is granted by the everliving Oyasama through the Shinbashira who is the spiritual leader of our faith. Because Oyasama stays there, we can receive the truth of the Sazuke, the Divine Grant. The Grant of Safe Childbirth and any sanctions regarding churches are also granted at the sanctuary. These are all because of the everliving Oyasama and are granted by Her.

When we visit the Foundress' Sanctuary in Jiba, we often see followers sit in front of the everliving Oyasama and make prayers for a long, long time. She is our Parent and She is always together with us. To most of us who live in Europe far away from Japan, it is not easy to return to Jiba and sit in the Foundress' Sanctuary. However, we can do the same in front of shrines at home, Fukyosho and the Centre here. This definitely makes us feel much closer to Oyasama and encourage us to more intimately follow the Divine Model that Oyasama showed us for 50 years.

When we pray towards a shrine at home, at Fukyosho or at the Centre here, we pray three times, namely for God the Parent, Oyasama and the ancestors. Reconsidering the truth of the everliving Oyasama, when we pay respect for Her, let us first imagine Oyasama sit in front of us and then express our gratitude for Her daily protection, pray for anything, rely on Her, and pledge to lead a daily life spiritedly.

In the recent years, the Shinbashira has been encouraging us from time to time to read The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, which is the official biography of Oyasama. Let us read it again, especially "Chapter 10 The Portals Opened" that is vividly tells us of the situation around Oyasama's withdrawal from physical life in January 1887, and feel much closer to Oyasama.

In relation to the content of "Chapter 10 The Portals Opened", now I would like to reconsider the significance of "resolution or to resolve the mind" in the Tenrikyo faith.

At the beginning of this New Year, I assume that some of you have already set some targets or goals for this New Year, by reflecting the past year. Some may decide "to reduce alcohol consumption" or "not to buy unnecessary materials to cope with the global financial problem". Others may decide "to do more exercise for health". In the Tenrikyo teaching, we often hear the term "resolution". It may be defined "to fully understand the intention of God the Parent and to resolve our mind to implement the intention".

There were quite significant dialogues between Oyasama and the first Shinbashira right before Oyasama withdraw from physical life in January 1887. At that time Oyasama urged our predecessors with very harsh words to perform the Service exactly as She taught. But they could not do so because Oyasama might be imprisoned if they did so. They asked Oyasama for a way to satisfy Oyasama as well as the authorities. Among the dialogues, the following famous Divine Direction was delivered:

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 mind is primary.

Osashizu, January 13, 1887

In The Life of Oyasama, Foundress of Tenrikyo, this is explained as follows:

In the beginning was God the Parent, and this world came to be. In this world, various lands came to be. Thereon, human beings came. Human beings borrow their bodies. And laws are what they are to keep society orderly. Even though there are laws, whether to abide by them or not depends on the mind. That is to say, the mind is what is most important. If you understand this order, listen firmly God the Parent and settle the mind of sincerity, the true mind which communicates with God the Parent. This, above all, is the most important thing.

This does not meat that we should neglect our society and its rules. However, what is the most important for us is to understand the truth that God the Parent created us human beings and the world and, without stopping at one moment, provides us with blessings now as ever, and to settle in mind the truth firmly. It is of prime importance to understand that our body is a thing lent by God and that God's desire is only for us to lead the Joyous Life.

All of us have a day when we were so impressed with this wonderful teaching of Oyasama that we decided the mind to lead our life based on the teachings. That can be said the most significant resolution in each own life of faith. To attain the fundamental resolution, we will set various resolutions, in other words, to make promises with God the Parent and Oyasama, to do this or that.

In our life of faith, there can be a variety of resolutions. They may include "I perform the service every morning and evening", "I practice Kokyu harder", "I clean up the neighbouring streets every week", "I read the Ofudesaki every day", "I write a letter to head minister of my church or fukyosho every month", or "I attend the Tenrikyo Seminar in the Europe Centre".

What is essential in the resolution is not necessary the content of a resolution itself. Rather, it is also important to make continued efforts to complete the resolution. We should care how much we can put our energy and mind for it.

In addition, we are often told that the term "resolution" is used when we decide and pledge to do something difficult for us to carry on. We read a Divine Direction:

To resolve or not to resolve? Everything will settle after you resolve. Settling does not precede resolving. Settling follows resolving... Resolve and get started - that is the path of single-hearted with God, I say.

Osashizu, November 3, 1891

Rev Yoshikazu Fukaya interpreted this Divine Direction as follows:

To make a resolution does not refer to deciding to achieve a goal chosen based on its ease of accomplishment. A resolution will help settle things. Do not assume that you can only make a resolution after a settling has come. Rather, begin by making a resolution in a spirit of readiness to do anything necessary and strive to fulfil it by all means. Then things will be settled. Make a firm resolution and work flat out to accomplish it--such is the path of single-heartedness with God.

The following Ofudesaki verses also tell us the reason why resolution and its implementation are considered important in leading a life of faith.

Ponder and come follow Me with firm resolve.
There is a path of hope in the future. Ofudesaki V:24

If you truly resolve your mind and pray to Me,
I shall grant you My free and unlimited workings at once. Ofudesaki VII:43

Since last year, we have faced the global financial crisis. There happen various conflicts one after another in the world. There is no clear clue to solve the global warming issue. We may face various occurrences around us throughout the New Year. When something joyous happens, everyone can be happy easily. When something bad happen, can we feel pleased with it? Oyasama taught us how to consider undesirable things as desirable ones and settle it in mind. But it may not always easy to accept them and even be pleased with them. Resolution definitely helps us in this regard. We may set a target and make a promise with Oyasama so as to settle a problem or a physical suffering. Or the resolution can be set for us to grow spiritually and cultivate a mind so as to accept everything in a more positive way as a message from God. As we see in the dialogues between Oyasama and the first Shinbashira, God the Parent wants us to resolve the mind to settle various issues and problems. Our resolution is essential to move forward.

Then how should we make our resolution? Of course, we can do it as we like, depending each own situation. However, if we resolve our mind to grow spiritually in the Tenriyo faith, I think that we should first settle in the mind the Shinbashira's words, which give us precious guidelines. At his sermon delivered at the Autumn Grand Service last October, he stated:

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.

Let us try to fully understand the intentions of the Shinbashira and consider what we can and should do. In addition to the Shinbashira's words, in a more practical level, the minister of your church or Fukyosho will be happy to give you guidance and support. Of course, you can talk with other followers around you. It is good to discuss and share opinions in the Europe Centre. Regarding the issue of resolution, some of you may feel it as a burden and do not like to set a resolution because you fear not to accomplish it. It can be understandable. However, our efforts, in which we set a target, regardless of the content or the length, and we make to our utmost, are surely accepted by God the Parent and are surely leading us to a better direction in our life.

Various activities and events are scheduled to be held in the Europe Centre this year. Through conducting these activities and events, I would like to grow spiritually together to lead a better life and to "expand the circle of the Joyous Life" in Europe as the Shinbashira mentioned in his sermon.

At the beginning of the New Year, I have reviewed "the truth of the everliving Oyasama" and "the significance of resolution". I would like to conclude my talk by pledging together to God the Parent and the everliving Oyasama for furthering our spiritual growth.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.