Tenrikyo Europe Centre
by Michihiro Kiyose (Chief of Europe and Africa Section)
On the day of the Autumn Grand Service on 26 October, the Shinbashira announced Instruction Four. I trust that many of you are already reading it every day. An Instruction is a special message announced by the Shinbashira for all Tenrikyo followers. If we look back on history, the first-ever Instruction was announced in December 1903, and the most recent one is the 45th one. An Instruction is intended to serve as a guideline that helps us think about what kind of frame of mind we should cultivate as we strive to follow the path during the “three years, one thousand days” period leading up to an anniversary of Oyasama. We would therefore like to firmly settle in our heart the spirit of Instruction Four as we strive to walk the path during the “three years, one thousand days” period so as to be able to bring joy to God the Parent and Oyasama when we commemorate the 140th Anniversary of Oyasama. I would like to take this opportunity today to speak about the significance of observing an anniversary of Oyasama as well as pre-anniversary activities by referring to Instruction Four.
One of the phrases in Instruction Four that touches me the most is “to unite the minds of all followers”. When I heard this phrase directly from the Shinbashira’s spoken words, I felt as though I had goosebumps or something warm was welling up in my heart. I trust that many of those who listened to his sermon in person had a similar feeling.
Needless to say, an anniversary of Oyasama is a ceremony that is conducted every ten years to commemorate the date 26 January 1887, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. In the case of us human beings, we conduct what is called a memorial service to remember deceased followers. But an anniversary of Oyasama is different from that of humans. Although Oyasama withdrew from physical life, She remains everliving as ever before and is providing Her workings and guidance every day in many corners of the world by leading us at the forefront. The significance of an anniversary of Oyasama is to respond to Her parental love by making efforts to grow spiritually in an anniversary season.
Instruction is announced three years before an anniversary to officially mark the beginning of the “three years, one thousand days” period leading up to the anniversary. Then, what are pre-anniversary activities?
The three-year period leading up to an anniversary of Oyasama is referred to as the “three years, one thousand days” period. During this period, pre-anniversary activities are conducted in a sense of following Oyasama’s fifty-year Divine Model at least for three years so as to make firm progress in our spiritual growth and world salvation. Regarding this point, there is a well-known Divine Direction that says:
But it was not a thousand years or two thousand years. Just fifty years. You might not be able to take the path if I tell you to follow for fifty years or thirty years. I do not tell you to follow twenty years or ten. Just three of the ten years. It will be good if you follow the path for just three days. I tell you to follow the path for just one thousand days. A thousand days of the path is difficult. But there is no path but the path of the Divine Model.
God the Parent taught us a model path that leads to true salvation through the life of Oyasama. Oyasama spent fifty years demonstrating the path for us, but we are not instructed to follow Her model path for the same length of time nor are we told to follow for ten or twenty years, which are less than half of the fifty years. God the Parent says that we only need to follow for three years, one thousand days compared to Oyasama’s fifty years. The Divine Direction I quoted earlier teaches us that the pre-anniversary activities are inseparable from Oyasama’s Divine Model.
I would now like to speak a bit about the significance of observing an anniversary of Oyasama.
In Instruction Four, we are taught, “The significance of observing an anniversary of Oyasama, therefore, is to respond to Her parental love by making decisive progress in spiritual growth, with each and every Yoboku raising his or her awareness of being Oyasama’s instrument”.
Here, the Shinbashira points to two ways to respond to Oyasama’s parental love. I would first like to focus on the phrase “raising his or her awareness of being Oyasama’s instrument”. The word instrument in this phrase generally refers to instruments that we use in our everyday lives. In this path, we human beings are compared to instruments with which to construct the world of the Joyous Life. This can be grasped more easily if we compare the world of the Joyous Life to a house. To build a house, we need various kinds of instruments such as a chain saw, a plane, or a hammer. These instruments are used at different stages of the construction because of their different designs and purposes. However, they all share in common the goal of building a house. By the same token, we human beings were born into the world to play different roles as instruments to construct the world of the Joyous Life, which is the goal of our existence.
Then, what exactly are Oyasama’s instruments?The word “instrument” appears many times in the Osashizu. I would now like to quote some of them to think about what kind of instruments we are expected to become.
In the Osashizu, we are taught:
Each and every one of you is an instrument for the path, instrument for the path.
You cannot accomplish it without the necessary instruments.
Whether they are used…only once in a lifetime, they are all My indispensable instruments.
These Divine Directions teaches us that all of us human beings are indispensable human resources and that none of us are unnecessary. I find these Divine Directions very heart-warming as they allow us to feel how Oyasama needs every one of us, whoever it may be.
Moreover, we are taught that we will be used for different purposes depending on what our virtues and talents are. In the Osashizu, we read:
You cannot do a big thing by using a small thing. Likewise, you cannot do a small thing by using a big thing.
This Divine Direction teaches us how we are entrusted with certain types of work or salvation work depending on the characteristics of the instruments, which can be likened to our virtues and talents. Seen in this way, it can be said that people who are very good at public speaking may be given a role that entails communicating with other people, or that people who are very touch and strong may be entrusted with work that requires physical strength.
Another Divine Direction says:
There are instruments that I use in the third or fifth year. There are also instruments that I use daily…. Whether they are used for three years or five years or only once in a lifetime, they are all My indispensable instruments.
In this Divine Direction, we are taught that the timing to get an opportunity to be used as an instrument is different from person to person. Being “used” here means that you can help other people or bring joy to them. Building upon these efforts will help us move forward toward the Joyous Life.
We are thus taught various things about instruments.
We are all born into this world because we are indispensable. God the Parent provides us with personal relationships or opportunities at a right time for each of us so that we may be able to use what we are good at or what we love to do in order to help other people be saved.
The timing to get an opportunity to be used as an instrument is different from person to person, so we may want to make sure that we do not miss a sign that Oyasama sends us. We tend to say that we cannot do this and that because we are already fifty or sixty years old and so on, but we are all needed until the very last moment of our life. It is important, therefore, that we first learn about the Parent’s intention and thereby think about how we should put it into practice as an instrument of Oyasama during the period of pre-anniversary activities.
Apart from the significance of observing an anniversary of Oyasama, Instruction Four touches upon the importance of Oyasama’s Divine Model. The “three years, one thousand days” period leading up to an anniversary of Oyasama is referred to as a time to 1) implement the teachings with our sights set on the Divine Model and to 2) actively move forward on the path of single-hearted salvation.
The Divine Model and the path of single-hearted salvation that are mentioned here are elaborated in later paragraphs with three famous quotes of Oyasama. They are, “When you drink water, it tastes of water”; “Buds sprout from knots”; and “Through saving others, you will be saved”. These quotes teach us about gratitude for the blessings, knots and spiritual growth, and salvation work, respectively. When I first heard Instruction Four being read by the Shinbashira, these three quotes left strong impression on me.
Of the three quotes, what touched me the most was “When you drink water, it tastes of water”. I was probably a high school student when I first heard this phrase. This is a phrase that Oyasama said when She was going through the depths of poverty. I did not give much thought to this phrase when I first heard it, but when I thought about this later on, I realised how significant this phrase was. It says that when we drink water, we can taste its flavour. This may be something that we take for granted, but it shows us how it is made possible by God the Parent’s immeasurable providence as well as how we should feel grateful for it.
In the same way, we can breathe when we inhale, and we can see things when we open our eyes. Our body, which is a thing lent by God, is full of God the Parent’s blessings. Even if there is no rice left to eat, for instance, we can still drink water and taste its flavour. This means we are already given sufficient blessings.
We are guided along the path thanks to the free and unlimited workings of God the Parent. We should, therefore, first and foremost be thankful for the blessings. The gratitude you feel will then translate into actions of spreading the fragrance of the teachings and of salvation work. The “three years, one thousand days” period can therefore be seen as a time when we strive to engage in salvation work based on Oyasama’s Divine Model.
Tenrikyo was founded to save all people throughout the world. This means to save each one of us human beings so as to realise the world of the Joyous Life. We are taught that saving people means saving the mind, which is the fundamental aspect of salvation. What does having our mind be saved mean? For one thing, it may refer to a state in which our dusts of the mind are swept clean, which can be said as a state in which the mind is purified. In the Ofudesaki, we are taught:
If only the mind is purified completely, there will be nothing but delight in everything.(XIV: 50)
As this verse says, we are able to enjoy any and everything when our mind is purified. Another condition to be saved is to sweep away the dusts of the mind so as to replace our mind with a mind that is in accordance with the divine intention.
We can think of various kinds of minds with which we replace our mind, but the mind that is in complete accordance with the divine intention is the “mind of saving others”. This mind is completely opposite to a selfish, self-centred way of using the mind. This is exactly what we are taught by the phrase “Through saving others, you will be saved”. A purified mind and the mind of saving others are two things that are required to have our mind be saved. The idea of salvation as represented by the phrase “Through saving others, you will be saved” in Instruction Four suggests that the salvation of ourselves cannot be separated from the salvation of others.
Whenever people who were saved by Oyasama asked Her how they can return their favours, She always told them to go out to save others. This may suggest that administering the Sazuke and engaging in salvation work can be one of the most valuable forms of hinokishin in a sense of making repayment for the blessings we receive.
We often hear that, in the world, there are many people who are healthy and wealthy but are suffering from a sense of emptiness, sadness, or loneliness. Conveying the teaching of the Parent of all humanity as well as the Joyous Life, which is ultimate goal of human existence, to those who are wandering without a dependable guide or purpose of life is a kind of salvation work that will become increasingly important in the future.
In today's society, there are increasing numbers of people who identify as non-religious. But there are also many people who are suffering from problems or conflicts precisely because they are non-religious. It is important to become aware that there are many people who are suffering from illness or other problems that they cannot share with anyone else. Let us pay attention to people around us and reach out to them as we strive to engage in salvation work that we are able to do.
Regarding the “three years, one thousand days” period, there is an important thing that we need to be aware of. It is about making a resolution. In Tenrikyo we often hear a phrase “to make a resolution”. To make a resolution means to set a goal and promise to Oyasama that you are going to accomplish it so as to be able to receive blessings for illness or troubles or make progress in our spiritual growth as we are encouraged to do so in anticipation of the upcoming anniversary.
The content of a resolution is of course important, but what I believe is more important is not to neglect to make constant efforts to achieve your resolution. When you set a goal and make efforts to achieve it, God the Parent will surely accept your mind.
Then, what kind of resolution should we make as we strive to follow the path over the “three years, one thousand days” period?
You can make a resolution by pledging what you are going to do or how you are going to follow the path during the “three years, one thousand days” period. We often see resolutions for a church, such as receiving the blessings of certain numbers of people who have attended Shuyoka, who have received the truth of the Sazuke, or who have attended the Besseki lecture for the first time. This is of course a resolution for a church, so when it comes to individual followers a resolution can take various forms. It can be about something that you have intended to do but have not been able to do. What is important is to raise the bar a little bit higher and make a resolution to do achieve it. For instance, attending the morning and the evening services at a church can be a resolution. If you are already attending the morning and the evening service, you can go for something else, such as spreading the fragrance of the teaching or engaging in salvation work. This can also be a resolution.
I believe that there is perfect timing for everything. Let’s say there is someone who is working every day with ten strengths. Let’s imagine what happens when this person uses double the number of strengths during the “three years, one thousand days” period. If each of us uses double the number of strengths, this will create synergy and develop into tens of times of strength. I am not sure if this is a useful analogy, but suppose that there is a door that cannot be opened with only a bit of strength. You cannot open the door by using ten strengths. But what happens when you apply twenty or thirty strengths? You can open the door. Likewise, if we bring together the strengths of each one of us, we can create a tremendous amount of strength. It does not necessarily have to be double the amount of strength, but let us do the best we can during the “three years, one thousand days” period leading up to the 140th Anniversary of Oyasama. You can perhaps try to increase the amount of time you spend doing salvation work or hinokishin or try to do something you have never tried to do.
As we enter the “three years, one thousand days” period, let each of us make a resolution as strive to follow the path in our everyday lives. We would like to use our body, which is lent by God, to the fullest potential for the work of God as we walk the path with a joyous and cheerful mind in high spirits.
The 185th year of the Teaching will come to an end soon. In the new year, we will begin the “three years, one thousand days” period leading up to the 140th Anniversary of Oyasama. We are taught that the period leading up to the beginning of the pre-anniversary activity period is a run-up period, as it were. How have you spent the run-up period so far? If we use an analogy of long jump, how fast you can run during the run-up will determine how far and how high you can jump. We still have some time until next January, so if you feel that you are not running fast enough you can still pick up speed. I would encourage you to settle in your heart the message contained in Instruction Four by January so as to be able to get off to a good start.
The Shinbashira said that he would like to unite the minds of all followers in anticipation of the 140th Anniversary of Oyasama to be observed in 2026. Let us work with utmost efforts to bring ourselves into accord with the Shinbashira’s intention. I would now like to conclude my sermon by asking all of you to engage in the work of the path in high spirits again next year.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.