Tenrikyo Europe Centre
by Masato Fujiwara (Head of Tenrikyo Lyon)
These days I often think about my body, which I borrow from God the Parent. Every day during the evening service, I try to feel God the Parent’s workings and blessings by paying attention to all the sensations in my body.
I am very fortunate that I have no serious illnesses. As I grow older, however, I often feel that my body is not the same compared to when I was in my twenties. I am sure many of you feel the same way.
I would presume that ageing has always been one of the major concerns for many people throughout human history. Today we have very advanced medical science, and the level of life expectancy has dramatically improved, but our concern about ageing is probably no less significant than it was during the medieval period.
Is it a natural inclination for human beings to fight against ageing to stay young? I am not talking about appearances but physical wellbeing. I would think that most people in the world are taking such measures as eating lots of vegetables, doing exercise regularly, trying not to drink too much, and trying not to get stressed out.
And yet, we tend to think that we can do better than we are doing now. If someone tells you that there is something good for your health, you may feel like giving it a try. Why is it that we are always interested in these anti-ageing things? It may be that we all know that it is important to try out these measures, but at the same time we all feel that these measures sound too optimistic. We can never live up to 115 years without problems, even if we live a healthy life.
Is it not more important to think about how we would like to grow older as well as how we like to live our lives whilst embracing the fears and concerns that we have? We are all mortal, after all.
By this salvation given in accordance with the mind of sincerity,
you shall be freed from illness, death, and weakening.III-99
After that, you may stay as long as you wish,
Without illness, death, or weakening.IV-37
When the pillar is set up in Nihon,
you shall no longer fall ill, or become weakened.X-11
Though Tsukihi desires to show proof quickly
against illness, death, and weakening.XII-105
All of you everywhere doubt Me
and take My words as being worldly common.XII-106
Another salvation: I desire quickly to give you the Proof Amulet
that protects you from illness, death, and weakening.XIII-115
As I am hastening universal salvation,
I shall work in all matters according to your mind.XIII-116
What do you think this salvation is?
It is to be free from illness, death, and weakening.XVII-53
In Tenrikyo, we are taught that we may be able to live as long as we want so long as our minds are in accordance with God the Parent’s intention. In other words, it is possible to have eternal life if we wish.
Do you believe this? I do believe this as the teaching, but in reality, I doubt it will ever happen because I do not know what kinds of minds we need to have in order to become completely in accordance with God the Parent’s intention. I cannot aim to achieve something I do not understand. The teaching of Tenrikyo recognises that all human beings are different.
Among those living in the same residence,
know that there are both god and buddha.V-5
If you see this, be convinced, whoever you may be:
I shall distinguish between good and evil.V-6
Ponder over this talk, all of you in the world.
There is no mind the same as another.V-7
Even between parent and child, husband and wife, and
brothers and sisters: their minds all differ from one another.V-8
We are all different. Because each one of us is different, the ideal ways of using the mind should also be different from person to person. God the Parent distinguishes between good and evil based on our causalities, so it is only God the Parent who knows the ideal ways of using our minds. What we are expected to do is use our minds in the best way from our point of view and try to be able to understand the meaning of our lives that are given to us.
In other words, it is best to forget about eternal life. The teaching says it is possible to attain eternal life, but there is a long way to go to achieve it and our lives will probably end without understanding how we can achieve it. Or perhaps it can be that we have not simply reached the stage of life where we can think about it.
Let us go back to the topic of ageing. What is the best way to grow older then? In my view, one of the good ways to grow older is to give positive comments to our body. Mr Jean-Paul Sudre, who is the head minister of Bordeaux Kyokai, often says that we always say something is wrong with our body but we rarely say something is really well with our body. This is perhaps because we often forget that there are more good things about our body than bad things. It would actually take so many hours to point out each part of the body that is functioning well. For instance, you may have to say, “My nose and its mucosa are in good form, my eyes are working brilliantly with perfect eyeballs and cornea, and my mouth and tongue are just fantastic”. It would take much less time to count parts of your body that are not working well. Some of you may have 20 or 30 things that are not in perfect condition in your body, but they are only 20 or 30 of all the tens of thousands of bodily functions. There are considerably more good things in our body than bad things.
I do not know exactly how many bodily functions there are, but I would assume that there is a countless number of them. Each of them is not working independently but rather interacting with other functions, indicating that if something goes wrong with one of them, it will affect others. But as long as we are alive, there should be more good ones than bad ones. We may tend to talk about what is wrong with our body, but looking at those parts of the body that are functioning well will help us realise how marvellous our body is, which will in turn help us feel grateful for our body from the bottom of our heart.
However, human beings are not always strong. When I have a headache, my energy level becomes very low and I do not feel like doing anything. It is indeed easier said than done to try to look away from the bad things and feel grateful for the good things. Speaking for myself, I am very scared of having health problems. I have some health problems, but when one of them shows persisting symptoms, I even think that my health will only deteriorate and my life will come to an end. Fear is indeed very fearful. One of the solutions would be to go to a hospital. In Tenrikyo we are encouraged to restore our health through medical science.
However, this Centre is not a hospital but rather a place to talk about our minds. We followers of Tenrikyo need to make efforts to generate energy through our faith. In other words, our body needs help from the person who uses it. If a person is happy with their body, that happy feeling generates energy for the body. This will allow the well-functioning parts of the body to help the malfunctioning ones. To put it differently, it is important to use our minds in a way that helps develop a positive cycle of interaction between the mind and the body. If we complain too much, our body will lose positive energy and will become increasingly deteriorated. But if we are grateful for our body even if it has some problems, it will try to be more active and solve the problems. We are taught that we can receive blessings from God the Parent depending on how we use our minds. It is therefore best to give positive comments to our body rather than complaining about the problems it has.
Of course, we do complain about something when we have a conversation with someone, and that is just the way we are. When we spend quiet time alone at night, however, it may be ideal as a follower of the path to feel grateful to our body, no matter what kind of conditions it may have. It would be even better if we become able to do it in front of other people.
I am not a medical professional, but in my view, it is meaningless to think about how we can fight against ageing. If we continue to think that way, our body will try too hard to live up to the expectation of the person who uses the body. It may work as long as the body has enough energy to fight against ageing, but when the body has lost such energy it may be better to go with the flow. It is not to say that we should accept the fact that we are ageing, but rather that our body is always doing the best it can to lead us to where we should be going.
God the Parent says that we can receive blessings that allow us live without worrying about death or weakening. I suppose this means that our body is endowed with an ability to fight against ageing and death. It is therefore important to trust our body and create an environment where our body can function to its fullest potential. The goal of our faith is not to simply die eventually, but rather to return the body we had borrowed with joy and peace of mind. God the Parent has indeed provided us with such an ability. Trying to go against ageing or death itself is not a bad thing. However, if we work against the bodily function that allows us to age and die without putting too much burden on our body, it may be against the principle of heaven as it is going against the bodily function that God the Parent has given us.
In this sense, ageing or death are not something we should be afraid of nor are they something we would never like to ask for. They should not be called ageing or death in the first place as they are integral parts of our lives.