Tenrikyo Europe Centre

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2019 November Monthly Service Sermon

by Yoshiro Shimizu (Head of Tenrikyo Köln Fukyosho)

We are now in the season of falling leaves. Lawns are still green but when covered with fallen leaves, they become mostly brown with sparse greenness. These leaves can be said to give picturesque autumnal tints to the earth. Sweeping up those tints can be a good exercise. When we sweep those fallen leaves soaked in autumn dew, they shine in the sunlight. The green lawn is then visible from underneath, with the green and brown colours combined to form a stunning natural beauty.

As I sweep up those fallen leaves, I wonder if they can be likened to dusts in our mind and the green lawn to a cleaned mind. Cleaning my garden reminds me of how we clean our mind, because when those fallen leaves are removed from the green lawn that they hide, the lawn becomes beautiful again as it originally is. Fallen leaves are something that accumulates. Likewise, dusts accumulate in our human mind as long as we are alive. And like sweeping away leaves, sweeping away dusts is very refreshing and gives us an immense sense of joy.

Oyasama also tells us that dusts accumulate. In one anecdote, She taught that even a new house with its windows sealed up will have dust settle on the floor in a few days if we don’t clean it every day. dusts are the cause of our misfortune. Our wrong use of the mind becomes dusts that cloud our mind, with the result that we receive guidance in the form of illness and other troubles. So it is best not to have those dusts.

While the dusts should not be trivialised as something normal, to live as a human being is to accumulate them without realising. As I swept fallen leaves, I felt that in addition to warning us against accumulating dusts, Oyasama put more emphasis on the importance and joy of sweeping away dusts. We may all have experienced how refreshing it feels after sweeping up fallen leaves. Sweeping away dusts is also refreshing. Oyasama says that these dusts are miserliness, covetousness, hatred, self-love, grudge bearing, anger, greed, arrogance, and that God also dislikes falsehood and flattery. And She gently teaches us the importance of sweeping away these dusts.

I would also like to share another story about dusts. One morning, after cleaning my house, I got relaxed and then left for my office by bicycle. On the way, I suddenly remembered something that had happened a few years before. Back then, the head minister of my Grand Church once got very angry with me. I am not going into much detail here but this had to do with an event at my workplace Tenri Cultural Workshop. I held this event in high spirits because I thought it was the right thing to do and the head minister would be pleased. But when I told him about it, he was furious and said to me, “Are you really a follower of this path? If you are, then learn to consider others’ feelings.”

What I did in order to please someone led to the opposite of what I intended. But I had no idea why he got angry, as that event was designed to please many people. I couldn’t feel at ease in my heart for all those years. Then, on that day, when I was riding my bicycle, something suddenly occurred to me and I realised what had made the head minister angry. It all made sense after nearly two years.

And this brings us back to dusts. The head minister told me off because my character made me prone to accumulating dusts. We all have our own character or tendency, which has both good and bad sides. I have a tendency to dash straight to something in front of me like a carriage horse. This character enables me to do my best when starting something or trying to overcome a difficult situation. But then, once I start to act, I tend to pay little attention to people around me and cannot recognise how other people feel, as I only think about going ahead.

This is how I end up being unable to cooperate with others and discern others’ feelings. We may say that every one of us human beings has that sort of character so we can’t help it. But in some cases, as I have mentioned, having such a character can make us ignore others’ feelings and lead to states of mind that are dusts in God’s eyes. If that happens, we cannot simply accept it because it is a character.

Our character in itself is not a dust or a bad thing. It is what makes us unique, so it is an important part of our mind given by God. We cannot be human without it. As you may know, our character has both good and bad aspects. We are taught that if our character gives rise to a language or an attitude that hurts or displeases others, then that is a dust.

Suppose someone asks you to pass them a book that is within your reach, and you throw that book on to their desk. You may think this person owes you thanks for doing the favour. But the person may feel uncomfortable, thinking, “I did ask you to pass the book and I do thank you for it, but you don’t need to throw it like that. That’s so rude and inconsiderate!” Our action can offend and displease others even if we do it without much thought and never mean to be rude. This is how our character can hurt others. My head minister got angry with me because of the dust I accumulated through such a character of mine.

Back home in that evening, I bowed down before the shrine and offered my apologies to God, saying I had finally realised that my character created dusts in my mind. Then I sincerely thanked God for making me aware of those dusts. When I became aware of the dusts arising from my character, I was able to feel truly sorry for what I had done in the past. Then I felt peace in my mind as I was truly grateful that I had become aware of my dusts. This feeling of gratitude was priceless. Since then, I have been trying to correct my character. To be sure, correcting our character takes time, so we tend to repeat the same mistake. But nowadays, whenever I am about do so, I am able to realise it and stop at once.

Now, how did I recognise my dusts just by riding my bicycle? To become aware of our dusts is to look at ourselves objectively, which I think is just as difficult as looking at ourselves without using a mirror. This sudden discovery I made about myself was due to some events building up to it. Perhaps one of them was when I cleaned my garden. When we feel something is not going well, we should first move our body and do some hinokishin. Cleaning my garden was perhaps a symbolic event that helped me recognise my dusts.

But apart from that, before that day, I encountered three problems that were completely unrelated to each other. One was that I had some misunderstanding and poor communication with someone. Another involved finance, while the other was some physical problem I had. Although these three were unrelated, the very fact that they coincided seemed to me a signal given by God.

Then I drew a diagram of these problems to make some sense out of them. Now, what did this diagram show? It showed that all these problems were connected because I was at their “centre,” the one surrounded by them. I know you may find this ridiculously obvious and wonder how I couldn’t have realised it before. But when we remind ourselves in this way that we are at the centre of our own problems, it gets quite interesting.

When we think about it, a problem we have right now may be actually rooted in something that happened a number of years ago. Also, listing all the unsolved problems we have can help us recall many things. We may realise, for example, that we said something negative to someone at a certain time because we were being emotional. Things that happen before us can remind us of our past behaviour and often make us wonder if this behaviour showed any dust. Then it is often the case that different problems share the same tendency. Drawing a diagram of such problems can make us realise that similar problems occurred in the past and that they were the results of our own attitude that annoyed others.

In other words, we have been repeating similar problems to this day, albeit in different situations. To be sure, simply realising all this does not enable us to think of the solution to the problem at once or change the situation dramatically. However, we can find a clue to the solution by linking our current problem to our own character in the past, rather than considering it in isolation. I think this was how I managed to realise what I realized when cleaning my garden and riding my bicycle.

When we recognize one type of dust in our mind, we may be able to recognise another dust. If we don't suspect that our problem at hand was caused by dust in our mind but understand and solve it through rational and material means, a similar problem will be sure to arise. This is because our problems are often the effects of our character. Si we end up repeating the same problem unless we change the orientation of our character. To become aware of our dusts is to be able to prevent them from repeating the problem in the future. In other words, it is to be able to say that we are saved because we find dusts in our mind. While it is not our dusts that save us, we can say that our awareness of them is essential to our salvation insofar as it motivates us to sweep them away.

Then, how can we sweep away the dusts? How can we correct our character that accumulates dusts? First of all, we should be perform the Service before God, apologize to God, and offer our thanks to God. As we do it every day, the direction of our mind will change, and eventually the dusts will be cleared away. Through a current problem, we can become aware of ours dust accumulated in the past. Then we will realise that the current problem was actually caused by our wrong character, even though you thought you did the right thing when it occurred. By recognising one dust in this way, we can also sweep away another dust. We are taught that dusts are easy to sweep away. Anyone can do it once they are aware of the dusts. However, sweeping away just a small amount of dusts can radically transform our destiny. Changing our whole life and our future – a small action can have such an epic significance.

I would like to consider dusts in more depth. dusts come from what we call “causality.” Oyasama taught about two types of causality, the one related to the Founding of the teachings and the one related to each and every human being. The causality of the Founding of teachings consists of the Truth of the Promised Time, the Truth of Jiba, and the Causality of the Soul of Oyasama. It is God’s promise that when a certain preordained time had elapsed since the original creation of human beings, the Parent of Origin would appear at the place of original creation.

the pathway of life that each human being has followed since we were created by God. It refers to the fact that we are born and alive here, why we live, and which way our life is going.

We are taught that we human beings have something called souls within us. Our body has a limited lifespan, and although we are taught that we can use it freely up to the age of 115, our body eventually ages and passes away for rebirth. But the soul, unlike the body, has an unlimited lifespan. When God first created us human beings, God gave each of us a soul, and since then we have been able to make free use of our mind, that is, our individual personality and character. We borrow our body from God as the container of our soul. Our soul alone belongs to us and we can use it freely. Our individual character derives from our soul, which has borrowed hundreds or even thousands of different bodies from God.

Some of you may have farewell some of your loved ones and I myself have lost my grandparents and both my parents, but it was only their bodies that ceased to exist, and their souls still live on, so they must have been reborn somewhere now. We have become what we are now because our souls have experienced various events while living in different bodies, and our souls record these experiences in minute detail. Every one of you actually has a soul that has survived for hundreds or thousands of years, and the way you have lived is reflected in your present character and personality through your soul.

When we look at our own character, we find that we have been influenced by what we have learned from experience. This is the conscious part of our character. But our character also has the part that derives our soul’s empirical knowledge accumulated over thousands of years. These two parts are what constitute our individual personality. Carl Jung refers to these as the worlds of consciousness and the unconscious. That’s a very clever way of putting it.

This empirical knowledge of the soul is the same thing as what is known as causality in Tenrikyo. Causality is the accumulation of the soul’s experiences and greatly influences our personality and character. Once we understand our own causality, we can find out how we lived in our past lives and what we will be like in our next lives.

So how do we know our causality, that is, our past, present and future selves? We may be able to do so by looking at our parents, as we inherit our character from our parents and so we are like them. We do indeed grow up to be like our parents, so we may understand a part of ourselves by looking at our parents. This is one way of viewing our causality. However, to know our causality, which is the pathway of our soul, we must be aware of the dusts in our mind, as I talked about earlier. This is the first step.

Let's go back to the theme of dusts here. Oyasama named eight types of dust and also two wrong uses of mind. She gave us such a specific teaching of dusts because as our Parent, She wishes every one of us to understand them easily and sweep them away at once. So we all know this teaching of the eight dusts. But even after we read about them and say to ourselves that anger and greed are wrong, in our everyday life, we easily shout at someone or talk about someone behind their back. It is important to recognise every instance of such behaviour and reflect upon it, but when a big problem occurs, we should ponder carefully in light of the dusts in our mind. Then, we may realise that such dusts are due to our character that we have not been aware of.

I may be repeating myself but when a problem arises and we think we are not to blame for it, we can view the situation objectively by calming down thinking about our dusts a little. That is the teaching of dusts. In other words, our personality that has accumulated dusts is reflected in the mirror through God’s guidance. How we look in the mirror can be completely different from what we have imagined ourselves to be. But our dust is undeniable part of what we are. Sometimes, we see parts of ourselves we don’t know. This is when we face a situation that results from our soul’s experience.

Our soul is everlasting. It records what we were in many thousands lives that we don't know. When there is an incident that can dramatically change our destiny, we may panic and think this is not what we intended. What should we do then? Oyasama teaches us how we can be saved from such a situation. Our destiny is the result of the pathway of our soul, but we can change our way of living by changing the pathway of our soul. The pathway of our soul can be changed by approaching events around us with states of mind that sweep away dusts. It is dusts in our mind that determine our destiny.

When we wish to sweep away those dusts, God will embrace us and tell us that we can rest assured and lean on our Parent. God acts as “the broom” to sweep away the dusts. By first becoming aware of our dusts, we can become aware of our causality, and by sweeping our dusts, we can change our causality, that is, our destiny. The Service that we performed together today is the best way to change our causality. Sweeping away evils, please save us, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. This is the way. We can also sweep away our dusts and change our destiny by engaging in hinokishin and focusing on saving others.

This year will be over in about one and a half month. Next year, this Centre will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. I presume that in anticipation of the Anniversary Service, we are all striving to change the orientation of our mind and implementing our resolutions in order to be blessed with peace on earth. If there is anything we still have to do within this year, let us keep working hard to achieve it.

Those of you who are here for the first may not be familiar with what I have been talking about. But I believe you were all brought here with Oyasama’s guidance, so this day will surely be a good turning point in your life. I would like to encourage you to learn more about this path.

Thank you for your attention.