Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2011 December Monthly Service Sermon

by Masaaki Tsuruta (Tenrikyo Naogya-Paris Head)

I am very grateful that we have been able to joyously perform the December Monthly Service of the Tenrikyo Europe Centre. As I have been appointed to deliver this month’s sermon, I ask for your kind attention.

Recently in the Tenri Jiho, an article stated that next year would mark eighty years since the inception of Hinokishin Day. In order to have Yoboku and followers encourage many people to participate in the Hinokishin Day activities of this commemorative year, the implementation guidelines for the event were announced. In addition, “Gratitude, Moderation, Mutual Help—Let our actions reflect what we are taught” was announced as next year’s theme.

“Gratitude, Moderation, Mutual Help” are the keywords to the Joyous Life that have been communicated from Tenrikyo to society for several years. To these keywords, the phrase “Let our actions reflect what we are taught” was added, clearly showing the importance of taking action. Our objective is to first feel the teachings of Oyasama in our hearts, to accept them, and then to practice them in our everyday lives. It was with this in mind that Hinokishin Day was proposed. The day grants us an opportunity for all of us to take a step in that direction together. In this Path, what is essential is to practice the teachings.

As soon as I saw this article, I thought back to my hinokishin experience this past summer. At the Nagoya Grand Church, to which I belong, a Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps was formed immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, and it has since been conducting hinokishin activities in the affected areas, particularly in Minami Sanriku, a town in Miyagi Prefecture. Hoping for the earliest possible reconstruction, many people have participated in this effort.

I myself participated from August 10 to 14. It was my first time in the Tohoku region. If you travel for about an hour towards the Pacific Ocean from a subordinate church located in Miyagi Prefecture, you will reach Minami Sanriku, which is one of the worst hit areas. What we saw when we reached the town was worlds apart from the pastoral country view that we had just passed. Although I had seen news footages countless times, I was confronted with a scene so shocking that it was beyond description. If you go a little farther to the coast, the calm, clear, and deep green water stretches out before your eyes, and you will be dazzled by the beauty of the ocean at Sanriku. At the same time, if you turn your gaze slightly towards the land, you will see a town buried in rubble. This extraordinary and drastically contrasting view stretched out before us.

On the first of the three days of hinokishin, at a fishing port not far from the city center, I participated in making sandbags that would be used as weights for oyster farming racks. The objective was to support the livelihood of the fishermen who would be working towards reconstruction. As each bag weighed about 40 kilograms, it was by no means an easy task. Under the scorching sun, and with my back problems, the work was quite arduous for me. When we were taking a short break after finally finishing the morning’s work and cleaning our bodies of dirt, we heard people talking animatedly. When we looked in their direction, we saw the local fishermen cleaning the fish they had caught that day to prepare sashimi for the volunteers. These fishermen had lost their families, their homes, and their jobs in the earthquake. They must have felt as if they had been thrown into an abyss, and yet they gave to us what was to be their food in order to make us happy. When I saw this, I understood that this is what helping one another means, and I was deeply moved.

In reality, although we are called the Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps, there is a limit to what we are able to do. However, our desire to help, even if a little, those in difficulty and to do something for our brothers and sisters who have gone through a devastating experience came together with the sincere minds of the victims who themselves wished to please volunteers who came to help. I felt strongly in my heart that this was the world of mutual help that Oyasama desires.

I was greatly moved through this hinokishin activity. I was able to experience this feeling precisely because I had gone there, and I had a renewed sense of the importance of putting the teachings into practice.

Chapter 8 of the Doctrine of Tenrikyo states,

As our desire strengthens to follow the parental heart thus expressed, we shall not be able to sit idle at the sight of others who suffer. We shall not be able to remain aloof from their pain. We shall find joy in doing whatever lies in our power to help them, striving for their welfare in word and in deed. This desire for the welfare of others will lead us to further efforts of salvation and of sprinkling the fragrance of the teachings, resulting in the guidance of a great number of people. Thus, we shall set aside our own interests, having awakened to the truth that we are all brothers and sisters and, by the teaching of mutual help and respect, we shall accept the sufferings of others as our own. Forgetting our own concerns, we shall direct our every effort to the welfare of others single-heartedly.

Hereafter, if all of you throughout the world save
one another in every matter,
Ofudesaki XII: 93

Know that Tsukihi will accept that mind and will
provide any salvation whatever.
Ofudesaki XII: 94

This excerpt teaches us of the mind of saving others.

Furthermore, the Osashizu (The Divine Directions) states,

Understanding the truth of single-hearted salvation is the one truth. . . . It depends on the mind alone. Your sincerity is the virtue on which I bestow My providence of salvation.
Osashizu August 9, 1888 (July 2, lunar calendar)

teaching us that if we practice salvation work with a sincere mind, God will accept that sincerity.

“Gratitude, Moderation, Mutual Help―Let our actions reflect what we are taught.” We must never forget these words, regardless of what situation we are in, as these are the words that show the basic attitude that we, as followers of this Path, should live by.

I will now share another story with you. Towards the end of November, I went to visit a Yoboku in Namur, Belgium, for a home service. There, I saw a family that I had met exactly one year ago in November 2010. At that time, this family had been going through the depths of sorrow. However, they had received great blessings from God the Parent and are now living a life filled with happiness. Seeing them made me renew my understanding of how remarkable the Divine Grant and the Service are. I would like to talk a bit about this.

Last year, on November 19, when I was at a Yoboku’s home in Belgium for the home service, I met Mr. and Mrs. A, who were friends of the Yoboku, for the first time. At that time, they told me of their son’s illness. On October 23, their seventeen-year-old son suddenly experienced an epileptic seizure that lasted about five minutes. They immediately went to a hospital and had tests run, but they were not able to find the cause. After that, he had several shorter seizures and was finally hospitalized. However, the seizures continued, and they were still unable to identify the cause.

At the beginning of November, it was decided that he would be moved to Belgium’s largest university hospital, and he was transferred there by helicopter. Upon his arrival at the university hospital, a treatment team, which included several professors, was formed and more tests were run. However, as the seizures showed no signs of stopping, he was put into an induced coma.

This was their situation when we met. The parents were desperate to have their son saved. At that time, the family was in great despair—in addition to their son’s illness, the father had lost his job after the bakery he had been working at went bankrupt, and the mother was having issues with her family regarding inheritance.

After listening to their story, I immediately headed to Brussels the next day to administer the Divine Grant. However, visiting hours in the intensive-care unit were very strict, and I was not able to see him that day.

From the day after returning to Paris, we started having prayer service every morning at nine o’clock at our mission station. We were not the only ones to participate—Yoboku who belong to the mission station also came for the prayers. Since I had a meeting to attend, my wife went to Brussels the next Sunday in my place to administer the Divine Grant. We were finally able to directly administer the Sazuke after one week, although we of course could not speak with him as he was in a coma.

Meanwhile, the university hospital, still unable to find a proper treatment, made inquiries to other medical institutions as to whether they had had similar cases. At the end of December, one precedent was found in the United States. The son’s doctor immediately flew there, and the doctors discussed how to prevent seizures and how to awaken him as naturally as possible. Approximately two months after his symptoms appeared and a month and a half after we started the daily prayer service, there was a ray of hope.

However, it is common knowledge in the medical world that being in a coma for too long has a devastating effect on bodily functions, particularly of the brain. Therefore, the treatment to awaken him must have been a great risk even for the doctors. In mid-January, an attempt to awaken him was made, and he woke up according to schedule within the week. At first, the doctors had warned that speech, memory, and sensory disabilities were inevitable because he had been in a coma for so long. However, as soon as he awoke, he looked at his parents’ faces and said, “Dad, Mom.” Although there was somewhat aberrant behavior for a while, it eventually became normal. He had an appetite and gradually started to walk. He was blessed with a miraculous recovery. The doctors all said that this was a miracle and that they wanted the family’s consent to report on his case at conferences. The recovery he showed was unthinkable even in the modern medical world.

In February, he was released from the university hospital. On the day that he was given permission to go home to start physical therapy at a nearby hospital, we were in Belgium for the home service. When we saw him at the Yoboku’s home, he said to us, “Thank you for always praying for me. I remember when you came to pray for me at the hospital in Brussels.” We expressed our gratitude to God the Parent and Oyasama as this blessing was the result of the Divine Grant and the Service.

In April the son turned 18, and we celebrated his recovery and his coming of age. In September, he was able to start school again after almost a year. Moreover, the father realized his long-awaited dream of having his own bakery. The couple runs the business together, and their son helps them after school. They truly received marvelous blessings in one year. Just one year after being introduced to Oyasama, a family that had been at the depths of sorrow a year before was now leading a happy and peaceful life, and I find myself marveling at how vivid the workings of God the Parent are.

Time has flown by, and we have only 20 days left in the year. While reflecting on this year, I hope to be able to make next year a year of putting Oyasama’s teachings into practice in attitude and action.

Thank you for your kind attention.