Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2019 May Monthly Service Sermon

by Simon Patterson (Head of London Sakurai Fukyosho)

I first came to this Centre in 1985, the year my wife and I were married, 34 years ago, for the Yoboku Reunion, one year before I became a Yoboku. My wife had visited here once before with her sister earlier that year after we got back from our wedding in Japan. In those days we had no social media or email, and meeting face to face was very important to everyone – and actually it still is today. I found the atmosphere here was so positive, and the people were so friendly, it had a big influence on my impression and image of Tenrikyo.

This Centre over the last 34 years has meant a huge amount to me and I have made many friends, learnt many things and enjoyed many social occasions, as well as feeling a strong spiritual connection here.

One of my greatest memories, is played Hyoshigi for the Seated Service at the opening Ceremony of this building, back in 1990. The Third Shimbashira and his wife lead the Service and performed the Seated Service. That day was so special for everyone present, and I felt so honoured to be a Service Performer together with the third Shimbashira and his wife.

Another strong memory was when Oyasama’s Shrine was installed here in 2000. This was a very important moment for us all, and real milestone for the Path in Europe. To have Oyasama’s Shrine here is very special and something I always really appreciate when I come here. It makes me feel closer to Oyasama, and she to all of us. We are so lucky to have Oyasama’s Shrine here.

I was introduced to Tenrikyo by my wife, her mother and her Grand Parents. Before we got married they encouraged me to visit Jiba for the first time. When I first entered the main sanctuary I still remember the smell of new tatami, the enormous space and the feeling of being Home. People I had never met before said “Welcome Back”, it was one of the most amazing experience of my life. I think it is at that point that I became a Tenrikyo Follower. I felt an enormous energy, like a huge embrace. It was a magical feeling. Oyasama welcomed me home!

The first verses of the Ofudesaki we read, and in Yorozuyo we sing:

You are calling this place the Jiba, the home of God in Yamato,
But you do not know of its Origin.

If you are told of this Origin in full,
Great yearning will come over you, whoever you may be.

I am often asked, as an Englishman, what it is I particularly like about Tenrikyo. For me Tenrikyo is a very a pure and unique Religion, and I feel close to it for many reasons. These include:

Firstly; God conveyed to us the Teachings via an elderly Japanese woman. This is something quite outstanding for me.

Secondly; God the Parent, though Oyasama, taught us that we are all the Children of God, and that we are all equal in the eyes of God the Parent. Male or Female, Old or Young, those in the high Mountains and those in the low Valleys, from all over the world.

Thirdly; we are taught that while our Body is lent to us by God the Parent, and only our Mind is our own, and that the way we use our mind affects our own destiny. This is something we should constantly think about.

Fourthly; We are taught that only by saving others are we saved. That we should think about and help others rather than just ourselves. And that we should be a ‘Sage in the Village’, spreading the fragrance of the Teachings in our everyday actions, in our everyday life.

Fifthly, that we should respect other religions and their places for worship. Indeed it was tragic the recent fire at Notre Dame here in the heart of Paris.

Sixthly; that the Universe is the body of God, and therefore we are a part of God and everything around us, and that we eat and drink is all part of God.

Seventhly; that we human beings here on Earth are held in the embrace of the Moon and the Sun, as we are also by God the Parent and Oyasama.

Eighthly; that our original Soul or Mind was Joyous, full of gratitude, caring for others and living in harmony, and that we were created by God the Parent to Lead a Joyous Life so that God the Parent can share in that Joy.

Indeed, Oyasama taught us that our original innen was to be happy, to be joyful and to see the joy in everything.

In the Osashizu we read: (Note: Taken from the Doctrine of Tenrikyo)

Unite your minds and construct a path of hope. You must reflect it to the world so the world will be convinced that it is the true path to follow.Osashizu Sept 6, 1902

Further, in the Ofudesaki we read: (Note: Taken from the Doctrine of Tenrikyo)

If only human beings throughout the world have
purified their minds and live joyously…

When the mind of Tsukihi is truly spirited, so will
be all human beings.

When the minds of all the world are spirited,
Tsukihi and human beings will be one in mind.Ofudesaki VII: 109-111

Helping one another, and other people, spreading the fragrance of Oyasama’s Teachings and making this Centre and our Fukyosho’s and homes Happy places to be, and for others to visit, should be our goal.

My wife and I returned to Jiba for the Spring Grand Service on January 26th to commemorate the physical withdrawal of Oyasama. The climax of the events on that day is at 2pm when we hear the service tune being played cross Oyasato marking the moment Oyasama physically withdrew at 2pm. We can of course hear this everyday of the year at 2pm when we are at Jiba, but hearing it while we are concluding the Spring Grand Service has an additional poignant feeling and emotion.

Having taught that the natural term of human life is 115 years, Oyasama withdrew from physical life 25 years early, at the age of 90 at 2pm on January 26th 1887. Oyasama was determined that we, the followers, should perform the Service at any cost, despite her physical condition. During her Divine Model this determination to perform the Service at any cost had resulted in Oyasama being imprisoned on several occasions, thus reinforcing the importance she gave to performing the Service.

We read in the Doctrine of Tenrikyo:

Oyasama, lying in her resting House, listened to the joyous sounds of the Service. She seemed greatly pleased. With her head to the North and her face to the west, she fell quietly into sleep. She was in her ninetieth year.

We should always keep this in mind when we perform the Service together.

Oyasama variously referred to the Service as the Joyous Service, and the Salvation Service, and she taught us that we should dance the Truth. Indeed, we should, as we did today, perform the Service with a joyous mind, in unity and harmony, and in reverence to God the Parent, remembering that it also brings joy to the everliving Oyasama.

When I started following the faith 34 years ago I was taught that the fundamental way that we can spread the fragrance of the Teachings was to be an exemplary example in our community of what a Tenrikyo Follower and Yoboku is; someone who cares for others, who tries to help other people whenever possible, and make them happy whenever we can. I think that Tenrikyo is a wonderful religion that we sometimes make over complicated. I do not believe that Oyasama ever meant it to be complicated – quite the opposite in fact – I believe that she intended it to be simple and easy to understand. Let us try and keep it simple and friendly so that we can attract other people to join us. Let’s create an atmosphere where people come for the first time and then look forward to coming to the Monthly Service again; where we can all enjoy singing, dancing and playing the musical instruments together, that Oyasama taught us, remembering that it makes God the Parent and Oyasama happy as well.

I also believe that it is really important that all of us strive to show the world that we, the Tenrikyo Community, ‘practice what we preach’; Oyasama taught that we were created by God the Parent to lead a Joyous Life, so that God could share in that Joy. So we must try to live by our slogan of Gratitude, Moderation, and Mutual Help. Life is hard these days and there are many Challenges, so it is important that we can see this Centre as an Oasis of calm and joyousness.

It is also important that we do our best to constantly think about Oyasama’s Divine model whilst Leaning on God, remembering God’s intention and striving to live in that way. We should Sweep away the 8 Dusts every day, doing morning and evening service whenever possible, and remember to appreciate the divine blessings bestowed upon us in the form of the 10 Divine Providences of God the Parent.

As Followers of the Path we should constantly try to lead our daily life in a positive way, helping one another and using Oyasama’s Teachings and Divine Model as a road map to guide us on our Journey through our daily life. Oyasama taught us to be conscious of those around us and try to create a positive and constructive atmosphere at all times. This Europe Centre, the UK Centre, our Fukyoshos and our homes should all be joyful places to be. Whether you are a Tenrikyo Follower or not, everyone should always be able to leave a Tenrikyo place feeling Happier, Inspired and Spiritually Refreshed. This is our challenge!

Tenrikyo UK Centre will celebrate its 20th Anniversary next year, and this Europe Centre will celebrate 50 years. As we approach the 50th anniversary of this Europe Centre let’s take this opportunity to all resolve to try to be better Yoboku every day and try even harder to live a life according to the intention of God the Parent. Let’s continue to make this Centre a happy and joyful place to visit and ensure that it is seen as an exemplary example of what Tenrikyo is, and what it represents to everyone who visits here.

I think of this Centre and the UK Centre as a Community Hub, where all Tenrikyo Followers regardless of their Kyokai or Daikyokai, as well as those interested in the Teachings, can come and share the joy of faith together. We of course should not forget the importance of our parental link with our own Kyokai and Daikyokai and we should endeavour to communicate with and support our Kyokai in Japan in whatever ways we can, on a regular basis. However I believe that we are all very lucky to have this Centre which next year will celebrate the 50th Anniversary. So may I ask all of you to continue to support Mr and Mrs Hasegawa and all the activities here as much as possible so that we can make it a real Yoki Basho!

Thank you very much for listening!