Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2011 February Monthly Service Sermon

by Takayuki Onoue (Tenrikyo U.K. Head)

We have just performed joyously in high spirits together the February Monthly Service of Tenrikyo Europe Centre in the 174th Year of Tenrikyo. Thank you very much for your participation. Since I was appointed to deliver the sermon, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts. May I ask for your kind attention?
In the Autumn Grand Service Sermon delivered on 26th October last year, the Shinbashira referred to hinokishin or Selfless and Thankful Action and said "I hope that we redouble our efforts to do hinokishin in our daily lives". In order for all of us to fully understand and firmly settle in mind the Shinbashira's words, from now I would like to consider hinokishin, or Selfless and Thankful Action, together with you.

What is hinokishin?
About hinokishin. Is there anyone who has never heard of the term hinokishin? I think most of you have already heard of or known it very well. The term hinokishin can be broken down into two parts, that is, "hino" means "daily" and "kishin" does "contribution". In Japan it seems that "kishin" originally means to "make a monetary or material donation to a place of worship such as a shrine or a temple". Thus, hinokishin can literally means "daily contribution". However, the term hinokishin has a more profound meaning in Tenrikyo.
The Doctrine of Tenrikyo says:

As our perception of the divine blessings in every event grows keener day by day, our gratitude to God the Parent comes to be expressed in our attitude and in our actions. This is taught by God the Parent as hinokishin. (Chapter Eight, p.59)

The Shinbashira said in his sermon in last October,

Every day is filled with joy and gratitude for those of us who are aware of the preciousness of the providence being given to everyone each day - providence that most people in the world are taking for granted. When we face a challenge situation, we do not see it as a cause of suffering or trouble but as guidance that comes from the parental love so that we can work to have new buds sprout from the knot. hinokishin is a spontaneous outpouring of our feeling of gratitude.

Thus, we can say that the essence of hinokishin is based on the gratitude to God's blessings, and a key point is whether and how much we can be aware of the blessings of God the Parent we receive daily without stopping in a moment. I am afraid, however, it is not always easy for us to perceive the blessings in our daily life.

Perceiving and Feeling Grateful with Blessings
The Shinbashira also said in his sermon,

One of the truly precious things about having faith in this path is that, knowing the great providence that is given to us each day, we can maintain a sense of gratitude as we proceed through our daily life. We do not merely rejoice in our safety and security. The reason we are free of worry is not that we have no problem to worry about but we know that we are enabled to be alive while being embraced in a world that is pervaded by complete and perfect providence.

We borrow our body from God the Parent, the Creator and the Provider. We can see, listen, eat, speak and walk as we like. We can move our body freely because of the blessings of God the Parent. We are taught in The Songs for the Service, which we just sang together "There is nothing so trying as illness; So from now on, I, too, will devote myself to hinokishin" (Song III: 8). We often realize our body is not ours but a thing borrowed from God only after we suffer from illness. We are also taught that we are embraced by God to live our life and the world is the body of God. Not only we human beings but also any other creatures can exist in this world because of the perfect and complete blessings of God the Parent including fire, water and wind. In addition, from the perspective of God, our Creator, we are all children of God and in that sense all people in the world are brothers and sisters. All people in the world are to help one another and lead our life together, while fully recognizing that our body and the nature are based on the exquisite, wondrous harmony of God's providence.
Thus, we would like to be constantly aware that "The reason we are free of worry is not that we have no problem to worry about but we know that we are enabled to be alive while being embraced in a world that is pervaded by complete and perfect providence." as the Shinbashira mentioned.

Moderation, Mutual Help & Mottainai "What a Waste!"
With this perception and awareness, we can cultivate the minds of gratitude, moderation and mutual help. Then, these minds including a feeling of "Mottainai, which is What a waste!" will lead us to a practice of hinokishin.
People's concerns over environmental issue or "eco" have been rising in the recent society. We often hear eco slogans such as "earth-friendly". I think that we are highly encouraged to practice of saving on electricity, conserving water and moderation in food, clothing and housing.
Oyasama taught us:

"Do not do waste even a single vegetable leaf."
"Leftovers will nourish you. It is not gluttony." (Anecdotes 112)

She also said:

"Work (hataraku) makes those close to you comfortable; for that, it is called hataraku (hata: those nearby, raku: comfortable) (Anecdotes 197)

and encouraged us to work for others and help each other.
Yet again, what I think we should note here is how much we can be aware of living in the bosom of God the Parent. We should not merely say "earth-friendly" but further to fully realize that all creatures in the world are embraced by God the Parent and receive all necessary things including food, clothing and housing, which are produced and sustained by the blessings of God.
We try to conserve water and save on electricity not only because it is economical, or restrict car gas emission not only because it is good for environment. Rather, we should not waste but make best use of things because all things are given by God the Parent. I think this is the mind of moderation, a feeling of "Mottainai, What a waste!" that Tenrikyo followers should bear in mind.

Hinokishin Activities
Historically, hinokishin is considered to be first seen in the construction of the Place of Worship in 1864. The wife of a carpenter, Izo Iburi, was saved by Oyasama and with great joy he asked Oyasama what he could do in order to make repayment. Then, She told him to construct the Place of Worship by saying "Start building something small".
We read in The Songs for the Service:

As this Residence is the field of God, every seed sown here will sprout. (Song VII: 8)

I behold more and more people coming from the world,
and bearing straw baskets in hinokishin. (Song XI: 3)

The Residence, or Jiba, is the original place of human creation and the field of God, every seed sown there will sprout so that many people come to Jiba and sow the seeds of sincerity by engaging in various activities. Primarily hinokishin refers to sowing the seeds of sincerity in Jiba. It is extended to refer to doing so at local churches receiving the truth of the Jiba and then to whatever actions we conduct to bring joy to God the Parent.
Now, I would like to look at how we Tenrikyo followers practice hinokishin and reconsider what we can do in practicing hinokishin in our daily life. What kind of hinokishin is familiar with you? There are a lot of different kinds. The Global hinokishin Day could be the one you know very well. This event is observed throughout the world around April every year. As you know, a variety of hinokishin is also carried out in the community.
Hinokishin done in an individual basis may include blood donation and visiting people in nursing homes. As a simpler exercise, greetings can be a fine hinokishin. In The Songs for the Service we are taught:

A single word can be hinokishin.
I simply sprinkle My fragrance around. (Song VII: 1)

I heard before that: a devoted follower suffered from an illness and was hospitalized. He said "I cannot move my hands and legs freely, but I can speak. I have no problem with my ears and eyes, and enjoy every meal. I should be thankful and grateful with it. We tend to mention about something bad or troublesome, even though we have many other good things around. I reflect upon myself that I forget it." And he shared his thoughts with his family and friends who came to the hospital. This is a good practice of hinokishin.
There are also hinokishin for elder people or people with disabilities in wheelchair helper, elderly care, Braille and reading service, though they may need some special knowledge and skills or authorized qualification. hinokishin School has been held at Church Headquarters in Jiba since 1980. It provides a number of courses to deal with various social problems, including specialized courses on senior care and aftercare for people with mental disabilities. It marked the 30th Anniversary last year. It is almost impossible for us to attend the seminars in Jiba. However, I think that there are similar public seminars and sessions available in France. We can acquire knowledge and skills useful for addressing social problems.
Hinokishin is also practiced as a lager group. We have been contributing to public events and activities such as in the occasions of expo and marathon. You may have heard of Tenrikyo Disaster Relief hinokishin Corps to go out to disaster area and help in whatever they can do.
Within the Tenrikyo community, there are also many hinokishin activities. I think most followers in Japan are familiar with hinokishin at their own churches.
In the Divine Directions, we read:

"You should come to the monthly service with joy. That is the foundation, foundation of the Path." (Osashizu, 16 October 1900, trial translation)

"When you observe the monthly service tomorrow, you all have to work spiritedly from the previous evening." (Osashizu, 17 May 1898, trial translation)

Many followers do hinokishin at church around the monthly service day, including cleaning up the sanctuary, tuning musical instruments, cleaning up outside, tiding up the rooms and many other preparations. There are some followers who give others car ride between church and their homes.
As you may know, there is only one church in Europe, which is in Bordeaux, France. However, we do the similar hinokishin at the monthly service of each Fukyosho, Followers' homes enshrining God as well as the Europe Centre. We can devote ourselves to the monthly service hinokishin more.
Thus, we can practice hinokishin in many ways as we have seen so far. As one of the easiest and most important practice of the Tenrikyo faith, we should encourage ourselves to engage in hinokishin daily more and more. This is a way to make a repayment for God's blessings we receive as well as the foundation to deepen our faith, grow spiritually and make our life happier.

Daily Practice
Let me refer to the Shinbashira's sermon in October last year once again. He mentioned:

"Hinokishin can take a variety of different forms and, indeed, any action that flows from a feeling of gratitude toward God the Parent can be called hinokishin. Given that God the Parent's providence does not stop even for a fraction of a second, our sense of gratitude and our attitude of hinokishin must also be constant day by day."

and also said:

"I cannot help thinking that we ourselves still do not fully feel or appreciate God's providence for what it is. I think that we may not be responding properly to the providence. From this perspective, also, I hope that we redouble our efforts to do hinokishin in our daily lives. As we make efforts of hinokishin in our daily lives, however small they are, high-spiritedness will well up within us, thus enabling us to acquire a positive fragrance befitting someone following this path."

I think that it is crucial to fully perceive the blessings of God the Parent and feel grateful with them, and then to take actions every day to express our thanks. We read in The Songs for the Service:

Husband and wife working together in hinokishin;
This is the first seed of everything (Song XI: 2)

Forgetting greed we work in hinokishin.
This becomes the first fertilizer. (Song XI: 4)

We have three Scriptures in Tenrikyo, namely The Ofudesaki, The Songs for the Service and the Divine Directions. We can see the term "hinokishin" only in The Songs for the Service. The other two do not have it. It can be considered that The Songs for the Service enables us to instinctively feel the Parental intention with which God the Parent created humankind and the world, by singing, dancing and playing musical instruments in unison with our body borrowed from God. Then, we can understand the significance of hinokishin only after we take action without thinking too much, forget about greed and work hard together with others. Thus, hinokishin will become the foundation of our spiritual growth.

Sowing the seeds of sincerity
In addition, as we are taught "As this Residence is the field of God, every seed sown here will sprout". (Song VII: 8), hinokishin is a great opportunity of sowing the seeds of sincerity.
When I was a still teenager, I often went to my church in Tokyo. Whenever I did, my mother told me to do some hinokishin, usually clean up toilets because she considered that it helped me understand the importance of sweeping the dust from the mind by cleaning toilets and she wanted me to do something that others did not want to. She also wanted me to learn how to practice hinokishin.
Almost ten years ago, my wife and I faced a problem, which we did not know how to deal with. Having discussed what we should do, we decided to clean up toilets in the main sanctuary of Church Headquarters. We decided not to ask God to settle the matter because we clean up toilets but to make this our hinokishin to cultivate the mind of gratitude. We found time and cleaned up toilets in the main sanctuary every day together. Curiously enough, several months later, the problem we faced was completely solved.
I think, when we try to take actions to thank for Gods providence in our daily life, God will accept our sincerity and provide us with more blessings.
Hinokishin is a practice of our faith, which can be done at anytime, anywhere and by anyone. It includes cleaning the roadside, contributing to disaster relief efforts, showing a touch of kindness, and saying a few words to cheer up people around you. Let us do it everyday in whatever we can do.
People see others doing hinokishin, know hinokishin, engage in hinokishin and make hinokishin daily practice. Then a brighter life of mutual help, which is the Joyous Life, will be created in society. Although we may have already known the term hinokishin, let us reconfirm the significance and bear in mind its daily practice, as the Shinbashira mentioned in his sermon.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.