Tenrikyo Europe Centre
by Masamichi Yamanaka (Head of Naoshima-London Fukyosho)
My family's faith began from the generation of my grandfather, and was then continued by my father and then by myself. Therefore, I am the 3rd generation of this faith. The faith was first introduced to my grandfather when he met a missionary at an island of Seto Inland Sea where I grew up. It was this reason that he began to follow the Path. On the other hand, my maternal grandfather also started following the path at the same time, and it was he together with other people who became the foundation of the Tenrikyo branch church of the island. My paternal grandfather, who passed away for rebirth in 1971, served as the head of a subordinate church after closing his own business. During my childhood, I often heard him say that “My belief will protect and give the blessings to you, my grandson.” Now, I finally realized that I really should be grateful to him.
When I was a child, my grandfather served as the head of a subordinate church on an island in another prefecture of the Seto Inland Sea for around 20 days a month, and he would return to our home for the other 10 days to attend the Monthly Service of our affiliated church. Since my grandfather started to follow the Path, he soon formed a single-hearted devotion to the Path.
My parents ran a maritime transport company as a couple, and they followed the Path with a single-hearted devotion to God throughout their entire lives until their passing away for rebirth which was in 1991 for my mother and 2006 for my father. I too, am following the Path with a single-hearted devotion to God while currently running a custom clothing store.
For me, my affiliated church was like a second big family, especially during my childhood. It was a place where I could bond and make friends, and I always looked forward to going to church with my parents. Since I have been brought up in such an environment and heard a variety of things on a daily basis, the teachings had become familiar to me. However, when I look back on my own way of life up to now, I wonder where has it gone?
In the teachings, we aim to achieve the “Joyous Life”, and we are also taught that “through saving others, you will be saved”.
In chapter 10 “The Joyous Life” of the Doctrine of Tenrikyo, we read that
When we are making diligent efforts on the path of salvation, our days are bright and cheerful and our lives are filled with happiness. This is because we lead our lives in the warm embrace of God the Parent and our minds are at peace with the assurance that if we save others, we shall ourselves be saved. This is the state of the Joyous Life.
The greatest source of happiness for humankind is to live each day joyously in this world, receiving the blessings of God the Parent as they are given. If we open the windows of our minds and receive the radiant light of God the Parent, the dark clouds will clear away of themselves and we shall arise in brightness and joy. The Joyous Life is indeed a life full of happiness.
Moreover, in chapter 6, “Divine Guidance” we read that
all illnesses, calamities, and troubles are expressions of the warm parental heart of God to urge our self-reflection and are none other than guidance out of love to lead us to the Joyous Life.
But as I mentioned earlier, my way of life is not in accordance with the teachings. The teaching “through saving others, you will be saved” has disappeared. I cannot not help consider myself first before anyone else. The dust accumulates in abundance in my heart, and I can’t help having bad thoughts such as being irritated at the sight of people around me. For instance, I often drive, and when I encounter a reckless driver whilst driving, I often shout in my mind “What a terrible driver!”
In addition, I tend to accumulate the dust of greed and arrogance enormously. I have now been working as a tailor of men’s clothing for 40 years including the office worker era. Even up until now, just like everyone else, I have strived to increase turnover and profits by working hard on my business. However, with the impact of the pandemic, we have been faced with a situation that has never been seen before. Our main focus is no longer on business, instead it is on how to stay safe and healthy in our daily lives.
Furthermore, as a result of UK’s withdrawal from the European Union last year, my working conditions have changed significantly. The tailoring meetings (including measurement, receipt of orders, fitting and delivery) which I had been taking part for more than 20 years in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium have been cancelled. My business trips that I did once a year to visit Japanese manufacturers in Hungary and the Czech Republic have also been cancelled. I currently focus on my business in the UK and Japan.
However, as a consequence, I can feel improvements in my physical and mental well-being these days because the burden has reduced. It is thanks to this that I can now devote myself more to the activities of the path.
When I think about it, I get the impression that all these incidents are an intention from God the Parent, who tells me “Think of your age, and don’t be greedy anymore”, and who strongly encourages me to “Dedicate even more to the Path” by taking advantage of the time that I no longer need to spend working.
In my business, I have always tried to conduct my work in accordance with the teaching, seeking to provide satisfaction to my clients as much as possible when liaising with them. This is not something that is limited to the path. I am convinced that delighting and fully satisfying the customer is the basis of business, and that it even goes beyond business as it forms the basis of the relationships we have with people.
It seems to me that this is the practice of the teaching corresponding to “the Joyous Life” and “through saving others, you will be saved”.
Please take a look at the world today. We are becoming distant from “the Joyous Life”, as we have been at the mercy of the Coronavirus pandemic for the past 3 years with no end in sight which has claimed a large number of victims. There is also the added drama of the Russian invasion of Ukraine since February, which is sowing confusion and fear around the world. Although I think everyone has their own claims, forcibly invading another country, causing countless injuries and suffering, is not a forgivable act. The spectacle of cities burnt to ashes and people fleeing in tears fills me with infinite sadness.
When faced with such circumstances which significantly differ from the ideal world that God the Parent desires, I cannot imagine how disappointed and angry God is at present. I think it is high time for us to reflect on ourselves greatly, and aim for a way of life that is more in line with the intention of God the Parent.
Incidentally, I recently began to wonder how much longer I should continue running my business. The other day on the plane, as we were returning home, the crew members took care of my wife, and very kindly and attentively asked things such as “How do you feel?” and “Would you like us to prepare a wheelchair for you when we land?” etc. In the end, we did use a wheelchair, and that was a great help to us. Indeed, we had to walk to many locations in the airport for quarantine, and it was very tiring. On the other hand, we didn't think we had changed that much, but we realised again that from the perspective of others, we are actually elderly people.
I always promised to God the Parent that after my retirement, I will seek to devote myself exclusively to the path by attending Shuyoka, the spiritual development course held in Jiba. I was one of the very first participants of the Three-day course (Mikka Koshukai), and after that I attended the Lay Minister’s course (Kyoto Koshukai). For people like me, whose job does not allow me to take part in the 3-month course of Shuyoka, the Three-day course is a great alternative for which I am grateful.
Even though it lasts for only 3 days, it is a remarkable opportunity for participants to deepen their understanding of the teaching. The only drawback of such a short period is that it does not allow us to put the content of what we have learnt into practice in our daily life, so we tend to forget and gradually return to our initial state. As I continue to have more time available in my work schedule, I would now like to devote myself more to my spiritual training on a daily basis.
Thank you for your attention.