Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2012 April Monthly Service Sermon

by Noriaki NAGAO (Vice Head of the Tenrikyo Overseas Department)

Last month, Tenrikyo Europe Centre took a new step with the installation of its new head. The new head Rev. Hasegawa and Mrs Hasegawa are still young and may have a little lack of experience so that things may not proceed for a while as you expects. I think, however, the head of the Centre is not the manager of our team, but its captain. And our manager is Oyasama. You should try together to understand the intention of the manager and implement it together with the captain, head of the Centre, as the core.
A position nurtures a person. Indeed, I am convinced that Rev. Hasegawa will do his best to become a man who is well qualified to this important position.
Thus, I hope that you will make day-to-day progress, by uniting your minds with the head as the core, towards the development of the Path in Europe.

We Tenrikyo followers regard ourselves as working towards the Joyous Life. Let us take a fresh look at what we mean by the Joyous Life. The Doctrine of Tenrikyo (p. 58) says, and I quote:

The sights and sounds of the world do not change, but our perception of the world—that which is reflected in our minds—changes. The world, which we had imagined to be a world of suffering, now comes to be perceived as a world of joy. When our minds are bright, the world is bright. This is what is meant by the teaching ‘When your mind is completely purified, then comes paradise’.

When we are wearing red sunglasses, the world appears to be red. If the glasses are blue, the world appears blue. Yet it is not as if the world itself has changed from being red to being blue. Likewise, if our sunglasses are the kind that makes things look like sources of suffering, then the world appears to be full of suffering. However, if our sunglasses make everything look delightful, the same world appears to be filled with delight. Even if the world itself does not change, it can be bright or dark depending on the state of our own mind. The Joyous Life is not so much a matter of physically changing the world itself but a matter of changing our perception of the world so that our mind can become high-spirited. That, I think, is what the Joyous Life is all about.

Yet is it really true to say that the world of suffering can become a world of joy depending only on how we handle our mind? My own answer is yes. I have experience where my world changed after my state of mind changed.

As some of you know, my son was born with Down’s syndrome, which is characterized by learning disabilities etc. When he was born, I could not feel joy. Instead, I spent days worrying and feeling disheartened. One day, a Tenrikyo head minister who was also a medical doctor came to Paris on business. When he saw my son, he said to me, ‘How lucky you are!’ I wondered if he might have misunderstood something. Then he went on: ‘Think about it, Mr. Nagao. Our children are not our own possessions. We are entrusted with them. In a sense, we are borrowing them. If you were God and needed to find a suitable couple to entrust with the care of this child, what would you do? Wouldn’t you take a good look at the minds of prospective parents and choose a couple who you were absolutely confident would nurture and bring up the child in a proper way? What this means is that you have been chosen by God. How lucky you are! In this sense, incidentally, children with disabilities should all be born to Tenrikyo families’. I had never thought about these things in that way before. Having heard those remarks, I felt that my way of thinking began to change. Little by little, my mind regained the ability to be spirited.

Those of us who are married Yoboku strive to follow the path with our spouses. The Joyous Life of the couple can have a positive influence on the rest of the family, and the Joyous Life of the family can in turn influence the local community. If the Joyous Life spreads throughout the country and eventually throughout the world, then the Joyous Life World in the true sense of the term will become reality.

Thirty-odd years ago, around the time of the Centennial Anniversary of Oyasama, I was in the Congo. There is a Tenrikyo church in this former French colony, yet to this day there is very little exchange between this country and Japan. In fact, diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level have not been established yet. There are hardly any Japanese people there even now. In those days, apart from two Tenrikyo followers, there was only one other Japanese, who was a Catholic nun. Although the paths we were following were not the same, from time to time we had opportunities to get together and discuss things, since after all there were just three Japanese people in the entire country.

On one occasion, I said to this nun: ‘I never cease to be impressed by the fact that you, being a woman, are living in the midst of local people in a country with very difficult conditions. Aren’t your parents worried about you? What you are doing is really remarkable’. Then she replied: ‘Is it? You Tenrikyo people have your family members with you while you endeavor to spread the teachings. Mr. Nagao, if something should happen to you here in the Congo, what would your wife and children do? As for me, I am able to be here precisely because I have no family. If I had a husband or a child, I couldn’t have come to a place like this. I am really impressed by you Tenrikyo people’. Having heard this comment, I felt overjoyed at being able to follow this path with my family members, instead of finding it a source of difficulty.