Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2015 July Monthly Service Sermon

by Iris Saito (Honolulu Church Board Member)

When I was first approached in 2012 to deliver a commemorative speech at the 28th Tenrikyo Europe Reunion, I was told that I needed to relate the topic of tasuke to the Instruction Three. While teaching Shuyoka in April, May, and June of 2013, Rev. Hidekazu Kita, Vice-Head of Shuyoka, gave a speech in which he noted that the word tasuke was mentioned 22 times in Shimbashira-sama's Instruction Three. My reading of Japanese is not as good as it was 40 yeas ago when I attended the Japanese Language School in Tenri. However, I laboriously went through the Japanese version of Instruction Three and, indeed, tasuke was mentioned 22 times. I underlined them in red and did the same with the English translation. The word tasuke was translated into English as “save”, “salvation”, “helping”, (mutual) “help, “help: (others to be saved), “helping” (to save others), “saving” (others), and “reach out”. I then understood why I needed to relate the word tasuke to Instruction Three.

When I first read Instruction Three, the paragraph on page 5 of the English translation leaped out at me. Let me read it to you:

Salvation work begins with paying attention to those around us. If we find people who are suffering from illness or other problems, let us first pray for a solution, speak proactively to them, and reach out to them. We can administer the Sazuke with utmost sincerity to those who are ill and listen to what is on the minds of those who have worries. We can give support to those people, convey the voice of the Parent to them, and guide them so that they can change the orientation of their minds. Moreover let us continue guiding and nurturing them until they join us in working for the salvation of others.

It's very easy for me to pay attention to those around me because as an early childhood educator, I have been trained in the art of observation. I need to carefully observe and record children's physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth and development. I need to be aware of any changes in their behavior, figure out the cause, and make adjustments to my care giving if necessary. So I believe that in my spiritual development I will be able to implement this first part of Shimbashira-sama's request in doing salvation work by paying attention to those around me.

I am also a fairly good listener although my children might not think so. I showed this to you the last time and it's the Chinese character “to listen” (show Chinese character written on a piece of paper), which has the Chinese characters for ear, eye, and heart. In other words, it’s important to listen completely with your ears, eyes, and heart. The Shimbashira is asking us to listen to what is on the minds of those who have worries.

Where I need to step up to the plate is to administer the osazuke to people who are suffering from illnesses or other problems. I do pray daily for many people but I need to exert more energy into administering the osazuke. When my children Riley and Conor were younger before they entered preschool, my parents and aunt cared for them at Honolulu Church. Whenever they were ill, their grandparents and grand aunt administered the osazuke. As they grew up and came to me whenever they became ill, I would say, “Oh, be sure to take the vitamin C” or “Take the echinacea.” “Mom,” they would exclaim, “can you make otasuke for me?” How embarrassing that my children had to remind me to administer the osazuke. As their parent, that ought to be the first thing that I offer to do for them. I realized that I need to become more spiritually mature by developing a mind focused on the salvation of others.

When I returned to Hawaii in 2013, I called my friend Ouinetta Wong around the holidays. She and I worked together as a team at Honolulu Community College’s Keiki Hauoli Children’s Center. She was the teacher in the Children’s Center and I was the instructor for the adult students in the preschool classroom. She and I could almost read each other’s mind. That’s how close we were as a team.

When she answered the phone, I was surprised that she could not talk like the way she used to and all she could say was, “Ahh...ahh...ahh huh...” She seemed frustrated that she could not answer my questions. So I asked her if she was unable to talk and she answered, “Uh huh.” I asked if she had a stroke and she answered, “Uh huh.” When I told her I would come and visit her, she replied, “No.” I asked her if I should come after the holidays and she answered affirmatively. So I told her that I would call her again after the holidays.

To make a long story short, I eventually went to her home in Ewa which is a 40 mile round trip several times during the past year and a half. Her husband said that she needed the social interaction to stimulate her brain. It was so sad because we used to talk often for 45 minutes to an hour or more. She had progressed from using a wheelchair to using a walker by the time I visited her after the holidays. She could hardly move her fingers on her right side but now has a greater range of motion range of motion and her legs have gotten stronger such that she uses a four-pronged cane.

When I first asked if I could pray for her, she answered affirmatively and I have been praying for her during the past year and a half. She looks forward to my visiting her and taking her to lunch and going shopping at Walmart. We take turns paying for lunch and she seems to enjoy these outings.

I remember when I first prayed for Ouinetta, she called me and thanked me. She said, “Tank you pray for me,” so clearly. She couldn’t say a lot of words but those words were very clear. Often she would hit her forehead and growl, “Aarrgh,” and then sigh, “Okay, okay” as if to calm down herself. She would write the letters of what she wanted to say to me on her hand or her thigh and I would try to decipher it. Sometimes the words would be very clear like “placard” and other times it was difficult for her to say the word even when it might have been at the tip of her tongue. We laughed so much as we tried to communicate with each other. It was truly a wonderful lesson for me in being patient and really listening so that I could figure out what she was trying to tell me.

I want to invite her to go to Ojiba with me in July 2016. Her husband Gary said that he is unable to go because he has to take care of the dog and his granddaughter but Ouinetta could go. She doesn’t want to go because she doesn’t like to fly on the airplanes. I can't force her to go. Gary said that he will ask the doctor if his wife is healthy enough to travel. I will continue to administer the osazuke during the next year since I will be teaching once a month in Ewa and hopefully I will be successful in convincing her to return to the Jiba with me.

Instruction Three says:

The Joyous Life is a state of the world where, first and foremost, all human beings, the children of God the Parent, live together while helping one another. The following two verses tell us that the Joyous Life is a way of living that calls for purifying the mind.

Greed is fathomless like muddy water.
When your mind is completely purified,
Then comes paradise.Mikagura-Uta X: 4

If only the mind is purified completely, there
will be nothing but delight in everything.Ofudesaki XIV: 50

What matters is our state of mind. In Anecdote #123:

Oyasama told Shirobei Umetani soon after he became a believer in the faith: “Become a person with a gentle heart. Save other people. Change your habits and temperament.” He was hot-tempered by nature.

When he returned to Osaka, he engaged in salvation work although he continued to work as a plasterer. Whenever he heard of someone who was ill, he immediately went to help that person. The following is a quote from Eiji Ozaki's book Mind That Attracts Happiness in which he tells a story from Tomoji Takano's Gozonmei no Koro (The days when Oyasama was physically present):

He would convey such teachings as a thing lent, a thing borrowed; God's providence, which is at work even within our bodies; and causality. He would offer God some water in a tea cup, facing east, and solemnly intone three times, “Namu, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto,” before having the sick person sip the water. It is said that, when Shirobei prayed, anyone could be blessed with recovery from any illness, however serious it was. In less than two months, Shirobei established a fellowship, whose members totaled over sixty.

The above story is an example of maintaining a mind of sincerity while saving others. The Ofudesaki teaches us:

If you are truly of a mind to save others single-heartedly,
I shall firmly accept you, even if you say nothing.

Words of flattery are unwanted.
If only there is sincerity in the core of your mind...Ofudesaki III: 38-39

Tsukihi clearly sees what kind of mind you have
and will at this time make the distinction in all.

Words of flattery are unwanted.
Tsukihi looks for sincerity of the mind.Ofudesaki XI: 7-8

I heard this story from Mr. Chad Hamada from Tenrikyo Kapaa Church on the island of Kauai. He prayed for a premature newborn baby girl named Natalie Kinney. She fit in the palm of his hand. When he first began praying for Natalie, the nurses looked at him “funny“; in other words, they wondered what he was doing there and they probably gave him “the eye”. Chad thinks that it might be because Tenrikyo missionaries pray daily instead of just once. He mentioned that someone from another religion prayed for his girlfriend's mom just once. Chad feels that a person shows his/her sincerity by praying everyday. He prayed for Natalie for four months until she became strong and healthy enough to return to Kauai to live with her parents.

I once prayed for a premature baby named Aiden Pomaikai Kawada. I, too, experienced the nurses' quizzical looks and wonderment about why I was there. I showed up nearly everyday for a couple of weeks. One day the nurse who wondered who I was and why I was there let me hold baby Aiden. He was so tiny and weighed about three pounds. My sons Riley and Conor weighed 8 pounds 4 ounces and 8 pounds 9 1/2 ounces so you can imagine how small Aiden felt in my arms. He was able to return home when he weighed four pounds.

I saw Aiden at a wedding on Kauai last July and he was a healthy looking two-year-old. He was a bit small in stature for his age group but he was running around and having a great time at the party.

Chad Hamada shared another incredible story with me. His friend's 15-16-year-old son Adam had gotten into an accident riding a motor cross bike and was not wearing any helmet when he face-planted himself into a wall. When Adam was fighting for his life, Chad's father Rev. Nobunao Hamada asked him to do a special prayer service as a close family friend. His father, his brother, and Adam's mom Eloise called her friends and relatives to come to Kapaa Church. Over half of the Church was filled with non-Tenrikyo people who diligently copied the hand gestures to the Twelve Dances.

This is the size of my head (hold up oval-shaped piece of paper to showcase the size of my head) and this was the size of Adam's head (hold up a piece of paper the size of a basketball) as a result of the accident. Chad's sister operates an MRI machine and she told him that when there are 1-2 tubes attached to a head, it's a bad situation. In Adam's situation, there were 5-6 tubes attached to his head so she felt that they were wasting their time administering the osazuke.

When Adam miraculously recovered, Eloise said that Chad had saved her son's life but Chad said, “No, not me. I'm just a vessel. It was everyone's sincerity.“

I would like to conclude my speech by telling a story I shared with you two years ago. If you read Japanese, you can access this true story in the 2012 October, November, and December issues of the Harpist magazine published in Honbu. While the Shuyoka students are attending the Besseki lecture, those who completed the Besseki lectures do hinokishin, watch a Tenrikyo-related video, or listen to a lecture. Three of my Shuyoka students and I had the wonderful experience of listening to Rev. Yasukazu Mihama share a personal experience about leaning on God completely.

When Rev. Mihama's third daughter was born at Ikoi no Ie Hospital, he witnessed a bloody birth in which his daughter spurted blood from her mouth, cried once, and stopped moving. The doctors wanted to transfer her to the intensive care unit at another hospital but they were refused because his daughter was not moving.

In the meantime, the nurse suggested to Rev. Mihama to administer the osazuke, which he did. His daughter began to move her arms and legs and the doctors were then able to transfer her to the other hospital. It took several hours for the doctors to complete the extensive examination. The doctors returned with two options but told Rev. Mihama that they were not going to even implement either option because no baby with her same condition had ever survived and even if she did survive, she would be in a vegetative state or have severe cognitive disabilities. The doctors asked if he would like to see his daughter.

When he saw his daughter, he was horrified. She was covered with intravenous tubes and monitors. He shouted, “Doctor, I am a Tenrikyo minister. May I pray for my daughter?” The doctor answered affirmatively. Rev. Mihama prayed for his daughter. He and his wife prayed for their daughter daily at the Main Sanctuary in the evening.

After evening service on the first night, he read at the Staff Room of Church Headquarters (Honbu Tsumesho) the Ofudesaki, 15:8:

However trying your condition may be,
The Parent will work at the utmost. Take heart!

The next morning he had been assigned to sit at one of the two seats in Oyasama's Sanctuary. The practice dances of the day (manabi) were Songs Nine and Ten. While he was dancing, he was comforted more than ever before by the second verse of Song Nine of the Mikagura-Uta:

Against any hardship I will protect you;
So lean closely on the mind of God!

After morning service, he read the Ofudesaki at the Attendants' Room of Oyasama's Sanctuary, and lo and behold, it opened to the same chapter and verse that he had read last evening:

However trying your condition may be,
The Parent will work at the utmost. Take heart!

He was amazed that he coincidentally read the same verse twice at two different locations within a few hours of each other. During the second reading, he felt as if Oyasama were directly talking to him through this verse.

A more surprising thing occurred to him a few days later when he prayed for his daughter at Oyasama's Sanctuary. He heard Oyasama's voice speak to him! It said, “Since you said that you had never seen a marvelous salvation, I will show it for you from now.” Perhaps people may say that the voice was his own that occurred from his own thought or wish. But it definitely was not so because the voice came from the Shrine of Oyasama. In fact, his daughter marvelously recovered!

When his daughter was released from the hospital, all the doctors and nurses clapped and shouted, “The miracle baby of Japan,” because no baby in Japan with the same condition as his daughter ever survived. Today she is a healthy five-year-old child who can do anything a typically developing child would do. When I called her father to seek permission to share this story with you two years ago, she asked her dad, “Why are you speaking in English?” Her father commented that she started speaking earlier than the children her age. Rev. Mihama concluded his story by requesting us to please tell everyone around us about the blessings people have received from Oyasama.

I believe that this is the message that the Shimbashira-sama wants us to convey with decisiveness to the people around us. We have about six months left of the “three years, one thousand days” leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. Wouldn't Oyasama be happy to see us all working together in unity of mind to save others and to guide their spiritual growth? Let us strive diligently to follow the Divine Model as we work spiritedly with courage to reconstruct this world to a joyous life world!

I would like to add one more thing. Even if you have not received your osazuke, you can still pray fervently for anyone, anywhere, anytime. You can make a resolution to perform the Seated Service and/or the Twelve Dances (Mikagura-Uta), which is sometimes called the Tasuke Zutome or the Salvation Service. Even if I am halfway around the world from Hawaii and can't administer the osazuke, I still pray for my friend Ouinetta Wong and my ex-husband who had eight stints inserted into his arteries and my brother-in-law who lives on Staten Island, New York and has Parkinson's Disease. God the Parent and Oyasama will recognize and accept your sincerity for praying for others with or without the osazuke.

Thank you for your kind attention and again mahalo for inviting me back to teach Shuyokai at the Tenrikyo Europe Center.