Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2012 June Monthly Service Sermon

by Hironori Kobayashi (Europe Centre Board Member)

I am very pleased to have performed the monthly service of Tenrikyo Europe Centre together today. Since I have been appointed to deliver the sermon, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about “the Joyous Life”. May I ask you for your kind attention for a while?

A “the Joyous Life” sign has often been posted at Tenrikyo church and affiliated facilities and the term is used as a keyword for Tenrikyo. Therefore, you must know it very well.
Let me start my talk by reconfirming where the term comes from. We read in Chapter 3 “The Truth of Origin” of Doctrine of Tenriko:

In the beginning, the world was a muddy ocean. Tsukihi, God the Parent, finding this chaos unbearably tasteless, thought of creating human beings in order to see the Joyous Life and thus share in that joy.

Then, with the providence of God, the world and humankind were created and have existed until now. The purpose of the existence is the Joyous Life.
Therefore, I would like to consider together the Joyous Life, referring to “gratitude”, “moderation” and “mutual help”. These three words are also often used as a keyword for Tenrikyo, like the Joyous Life.

When we are asked what Tenrikyo is, we can answer it is the Joyous Life, and when we are asked what the Joyous life is, we may say that it is gratitude, moderation and mutual help.
Then, what are they? Let us consider mutual help at first. Gratitude is necessary for mutual help and the mind of moderation is indispensable to hold the mind of gratitude. We can also say that the mind of gratitude and moderation will come out from mutual help.
Thus, the Joyous Life comprises of gratitude, moderation and mutual help.

We often say that “through saving others, we will be saved. ” If a person that we want to help saved do not have the mind of gratitude or is not saved, we cannot say that we are saved. On the other hand, even if we do not do something special, people around us feel grateful and saved, we can say that we have helped them without being aware of it and we ourselves are also saved.
Without the mind of gratitude, it is impossible to “save others” or “be saved” and therefore we cannot practice mutual help and then the Joyous Life will not be realized.

It is not difficult to have the mind of gratitude when our dreams come true or we gain unexpected happiness. On the other hand, it is not easy to have the mind of gratitude when something undesirable happens.

How can we keep holding the mind of gratitude anytime and anywhere? The mind of moderation is essential for this. I think it depends on the mind of moderation whether we blame others or circumstances around us, or whether we can try to find a joy even if we face unhappiness. The opposite of moderation is greed and arrogance.

The purpose of faith is that we come to be able to realize the intention of God in whatever situation we may face and strive to proceed forward to the Joyous Life. The purpose is not to realize our dream or satisfy our demands.

When I was at the age of 30, I came to know the teachings of Tenrikyo and I was very impressed with the word of the Joyous Life. At that time I was in Japan and wanted to be a Japanese teacher to teach Japanese abroad.

Having listened to the teaching of the Joyous Life, I also considered conveying the teaching to people abroad while instructing Japanese. Thus, I spend days studying to become a Japanese teacher as well as learning the teaching of the path.

However, after I listened to the Tenrikyo teaching and started visiting a Tenrikyo church, not only I but also my family faced undesirable things one after another. As a result, I came to the situation that I had to give up my dream to teach Japanese abroad.

I reflected upon what I had done so far. At the same time, however, I considered that anything good did not come out even if I believed this faith and visited church, rather I thought that something bad would occur. To tell you the truth, I started doubting God and the faith.

Nevertheless, when I considered the kindness and support of the head minister of the church, his wife, fellow followers and my parents, I thought that I should not stop visiting church and abandon the faith soon because I faced unhappiness. So I managed to keep visiting church.

At that time, I did a part-time job at a restaurant to go to school for Japanese teacher. I also participated in teaching at a Japanese language school as a volunteer once a week to enhance my experience.

In such a situation as something undesirable happened one after another and my family faced the severe trouble and struggled financially, I was wondering every day whether I stop volunteering at the Japanese school even if it was only once a week and I should do something else.

As a year or two years went by while visiting church, however, I noticed some changes happened in my mind.

I realized: Surely I am in a tough situation. I have done my best until now but there is no hope to teach abroad. I take part in a Japanese class to voluntarily teach Japanese to overseas people living in my local area. After I participate in the volunteer work, my mind will lighten for some reasons.

I considered why this happened. I took part in the volunteer work for people from overseas learning Japanese as well as for myself to enhance my experience. However, I realized that it was I who was saved through the volunteer. Then, what did the overseas students do for me?

They did not do anything special. What they did was only to say “thank you” after the class finished. There were not so many students. I taught 4 or 5 people. However, I realized that their smile and mind of gratitude once a week did help me saved.

Then, a way of my thinking was gradually changed: because I was in this tough situation, I should come to the voluntary Japanese class and I am not helping them saved but I am saved.

Thus, I considered that I should just keep going. My dream might not come true. However, even in Japan, I can teach Japanese to foreign people. There are even some people who appreciate me who are in a tough situation. I can feel grateful for staff and students at the Japanese school. Although I cannot foresee the future, it will be alright for me. I realized that the Joyous Life is not for us to fulfill our dream but to appreciate any situation we have.

The severe situation continued. However, I kept going to the Japanese school without any doubts and participated in it with gratitude.

Three years passed. One day, I took parted in a lecture at a local church. When I waited for the lecture at the sanctuary, the head minister of the church came to me and said: “Mr Kobayashi, I think this is good for you. Please think of it.” Then, he gave me a sheet of paper. It said: “Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association recruits young men to work as a Japanese teacher, aiming overseas mission. At that time, I did not know anything about the Association, overseas facilities and its Japanese school. Having looked at the paper, I listened to the lecture.

The lecture was based on the Instruction One delivered by the Shinbashira. Having read the instruction, I got emotion and tears welled up my eyes. Let me read part of the instruction:

The world is still plagued by war, and humanity’s insatiable greed is even endangering the natural environment, the very sustainer of life, thus threatening humankind’s survival itself. There is a growing tendency for people to think that all is well if the present is well for oneself alone, and the weakening ties between husbands and wives and between parents and children are undermining the very fabric of society. Today, more than ever, the world needs a dependable guide.
Now is the time, therefore, to tell people about the original Parent, let them know the truth of the parental heart and the goal of human existence, and impart a spirit of moderation and mutual help to more and more people. We ought to strive for the reconstruction of the world in this manner.
Maintaining a keen awareness of this mission, let all of us Yoboku summon up the courage to knock on the doors of people’s minds and make the effort to illuminate the darkness of their minds. When people hear the voice of the Parent, awaken to the Truth of Heaven, and replace their minds, they can be reborn while still alive. Proceeding further, let us guide them to the point where they will join us in working to build a new world by striving for the salvation of others. For those of us who serve as Oyasama's instruments, this is our sublime mission and the source of our supreme joy.

I was sent to France by Meiwa Grand Church as a missionary and at present teach Japanese at Tenri French-Japanese Cultural Association.

The dream that I dreamed some ten years ago came true. Of course I was pleased that my dream came true. Moreover, people at my church were also very pleased and gave me a lot of supports so that I could come to France with twofold joy and gratitude.

Then, am I leading the Joyous Life now? At that time I felt great joy and gratitude to the once-a-week “thank you”. At present there are people more than a few dozen times who say “thank you” to me. However, when I am asked whether I am leading the Joyous Life more than a few dozen times, I may not be able to say yes. Why?

I am afraid that I am lack of “moderation”. It is good that my dream comes true. However, I take it for granted and desire more and more so that I cannot appreciate a word of “thank you” or two as I did before. In other words, my mind becomes a state with which I cannot receive salvation easily.

If our mind is not saved, we cannot help others be saved. If we cannot help others be saved, we will not be saved. When we are losing the mind of gratitude and moderation, a vicious circle repeats and we cannot practice mutual help. As a result, nobody can be saved.

Recently I think it will be easier for us to have the mind of gratitude in a tough situation, not in a satisfying one, because in the former situation the mind of moderation will be cultivated naturally. If I could have the mind that I had some ten years ago, I am sure my mind would be filled with tremendous amounts of gratitude.

This is just a personal matter, but I met my wife for the fist time some ten years ago at the Japanese school to which I went to when I was in great struggle.

Today I shared my thoughts about the Joyous life, referring to gratitude, moderation and mutual help. Of course, we cannot understand it fully with this very short period of time. We should not only make the Joyous Life that Oyasama taught us our keyword, but also deeply consider it so as not to lose our direction that we should proceed toward.

In July Tenrikyo Europe Reunion and two week Tenrikyo Seminar will be held at the Europe Centre. In August “Palette” will be also held for young people to gather. I would like conclude my sermon by asking you to take these opportunities to share your thoughts.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind attention.