Ultimate Question #1: What is the meaning and purpose of life?
Answer: The reason God the Parent created human beings is for us to live the Joyous Life. That is, to live joyously and spiritedly, in harmony with others by mutually helping one another. By watching over God’s children living joyously all over the world, God will share in that joy and become spirited as well. This is the same as a (human) parent finding happiness when watching their own children getting along well with their siblings.
The minds of the world are reflected back to God like a mirror. When the minds of the world are depressed, God, too, will be depressed. But when the minds of the world are cheerful and joyous, God, too, will be spirited and joyous. The joyous life is a happy and fulfilled life where we connect positively not only with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, but also where we feel the love and care of our true Parent.
Our purpose, therefore, is to live each day with joy in our hearts, regardless of the situation or physical condition in which we find ourselves. Being thankful for being kept alive and the blessings we receive, rather than complaining about life, ailments, our jobs, or other people.
However, it is important to understand that if our happiness comes at the expense of someone else’s happiness, this is not true joy. Only when our joy brings happiness to others can it be called true joy.
Question #2: How did life really begin?
Answer: In the beginning, the world was a chaotic muddy ocean. God, finding this condition tasteless, thought of creating human beings to live joyous lives and to share in that joy. From within the “primordial soup,” God gathered instruments of masculinity (support/structure) and femininity (binding/junction), and used them as building blocks for the models of the first couple. The functions of consumption, conversion, excretion, circulation, respiration, growth, and severance were added to the models, and then God entered their bodies providing moisture and warmth, and taught them the divine providence of creating human beings.
Herein we learn that male and female were created together – not one after the other – and that each have equal importance in the creation of life.
The first children born numbered over nine hundred million. They were very minute and grew taller gradually. After all passing away, their souls were reborn over and over again, and they grew taller with each cycle. In the history of this development, our souls were first reborn as sea-dwelling creatures, then eventually as worms, insects, birds, mammals, then as primates. Finally, our souls were reborn as human beings.
Notably, the development of a baby in the mother’s womb is symbolic of our entire evolution from the time of creation to the present. The embryo is conceived in a liquid environment and passes through various stages of growth where we resemble fish, amphibians, birds and other animals, until finally we distinguish ourselves as human babies and emerge from the liquid environment to take our first breath at birth.
Despite the fact that people have migrated and spread across all corners of the earth, we all originated from the same Parent; therefore, we are all brothers and sisters. One world, one family.
Ultimate Question #3: What can you do as an individual to help stop the evil and suffering in the world?
Answer: To answer this question, we must first understand that our bodies are not our own; rather, that we borrow our bodies from God to live joyously with others. Although we borrow our bodies, God has granted us free use of our minds.
However, over the course of thousands of rebirths, humankind has misused the gift of free will by indulging in self-centered thinking – the belief that all is well if the present is well for the self alone. This self-centeredness, characterized by greed, anger, hatred, and arrogance, is contrary to God’s intention and clouds the mind like dust. If left unchecked, the accumulation of our “mental dusts” limits our ability to receive God’s blessings and eventually we may experience illnesses or other troubles in life.
When the minds of entire communities and countries become clouded, it manifests as wars, famine, recessions, or even natural disasters. These undesirable events (whether disease, accidents, conflicts, strained relationships) are not punishments, but are instead the care and guidance by our Parent, letting us know that our minds are traveling down a mistaken path and straying from the original intention, which is to live joyously by helping one another. Every person is equally God’s child and there is no one who is essentially evil; it is only a bit of “dust” stuck on.
Therefore, if we desire to rid the world of pain and suffering, we must first start by purifying our own minds: Cast away our miserliness, covetousness, anger, hatred, selfishness, grudge-bearing, greed, and arrogance. Treat others with respect, dignity, compassion, and love. If we cannot get along with our own spouses and our own family and neighbors, how do we expect entire countries to get along?
By becoming a model of joyous-life living and praying for world peace, we can bring happiness to others. And by sharing this teaching with as many others who do not yet know this simple truth, we can make real progress toward the world of the joyous life. When the minds of the world become spirited, God, too, will become spirited and blessings will overflow in the world. These blessings are freedom from: illness, premature death, and physical weakening. When we attain the goal of the Joyous Life World everything will settle in peace, firmly and forever.
Ultimate Question #4: How can we cast away our fear and anxieties, and start living the joyous life?
Answer: Some religions try to use fear as way of shaping one’s beliefs: If you simply believe, you will be saved, but if you are a non-believer, you will burn for eternity no matter how good of a person you are. It makes little sense for God, who loves all children of the world, to segregate people in such a way. God wants all of us to be saved, in this lifetime!
To help eliminate our fears and anxieties, God taught us that there are no such things as devils, demons, curses, ghosts, or evil spirits in this world. God created us out of love and purity, and this is our original causality and destiny. Any evil that exists originates from our own self-centered thinking and free use of mind: Wanting what others have without putting in effort; desiring more and more even though we have enough; getting upset because of what someone said or did because of how it affects you; thinking we are better than others and looking down on others. These types selfish thoughts result in actions that are deemed evil. Therefore, crimes and wrongdoings of whatever sort (theft, violence, affairs, discrimination, oppression, corruption, murder, wars, etc.) cannot be blamed on the devil or any other demon; they are simply the result of people’s uncontrolled selfish thinking.
Throughout the world, there are many people who are consumed by worry, depression, and a generally negative outlook on life. They fear for what the future holds and believe that the world may be coming to an end. Nothing could be further from the truth: Humankind has come a long way in the past 4,000 years since civilization began, but compared to the billion years it took to get to this point in our evolutionary development, our history as “modern” human beings is extremely short. God has given us the goal and the mission to have the joyous life spread across the globe, and we are making great progress. Through the advances in modern science, medicine, and technology, we are living longer, healthier, and happier. Although fighting still exists throughout the world, such conflicts have decreased dramatically over the past few centuries.
God is working for us, day by day, keeping us alive and our bodies functioning properly – how thankful we should be! By maintaining the mind of gratitude for the blessings of life, our fears and worries melt away. Also, by putting others ahead of ourselves and focusing the attention on making others happy, we quickly forget about our problems and find that bringing joy to others leads us to our own joyous life.
We can even go a step further: By becoming one of God’s “useful timber” in the construction of the world into the world of the joyous life, we can administer a healing prayer (Sazuke) for the sick and troubled people in our communities. If you know of anyone suffering from illness or other problems, please refer them to the nearest Tenrikyo church to have the Sazuke prayer administered. Countless miracles of salvation have been experienced through the power of the Sazuke, even from so-called incurable diseases.
Ultimate Question #5: What happens when we pass away?
Answer: Death is usually perceived as sad or frightening, and birth auspicious. In Tenrikyo, however, death and birth are taught as “passing away for rebirth” and “being reborn into this world,” respectively. Death is not the end. It is a beginning ,or turning point leading to rebirth.
If we think about it, we will realize that there can be no birth without death. Death and birth are of one truth and cannot be separated. Expresions like “passing away for rebirth” and “being reborn into this world” refer to turning points in an endless cycle of life. These expressions imply that death is not an end but a new beginning and that birth is not simply a beginning. They suggest that each and every one of us is part of the great continuum of life. We are walking on the path to the Joyous Life by passing on the baton of life from generation to generation.
Like flower sleeping gently beneath the snow of winter only to awaken in the sunshine’s warmth in spring, all around us new life is sprouting up everywhere to remind us that nothing ever dies forever, and death is only a temporary departure to God’s bosom until such time when we return to the world with healthy new bodies.
Because we will be reborn into this world again as human beings, there is no need to fear death. There is no hell in the afterlife. For that matter, there is no heaven either. That said, depending on the attitude with which we go through life, this world can be a hellish struggle, or a heavenly paradise – it all depends on the mind.
Ultimate Question #6: Will God answer all prayers?
Answer: All prayers will be answered according to the sincerity in our hearts. Although we cannot tell what lies in the hearts of others, God certainly can. Mere words of flattery will not do. Only one’s true sincerity and resolve to save others will be accepted.
God says, “Never make an unreasonable prayer! Come to Me with a single mind.” To clarify this statement, an “unreasonable” prayer has little to do with how seemingly impossible it is. For example, praying for someone with a terminal illness to be completely cured is not “unreasonable.” Also, praying for someone with paralysis to be able to walk again, or for a blind person to have their sight restored is not “unreasonable.” In fact, there are many stories of people in such dire situations or afflicted by so-called incurable illnesses, who become healthy again through prayer and the sincere mind.
What God means by an unreasonable prayer is one that is based on personal gains. To pray for one’s own success or wealth, or to pray for the downfall of those you dislike, these would be considered self-centered, unreasonable prayers.
Tenrikyo followers perform two prayers each day; at sunrise and at sunset. The reason for our daily prayers is to thank God for blessing us with the use of our borrowed bodies, and to pray for world salvation and world peace. A key concept in Tenrikyo is that through saving others, you will be saved.
It is crucial to remember that “salvation” and “being saved” refers not just with the physical body (which we borrow from God), but more importantly, the salvation of the mind. If one is cured of a serious illness but does not change their selfish thinking or behavior, one cannot be said to have been truly saved.
On the other hand, if someone suffering from a disease or condition which does not completely go away, yet is able to understand the truth of God’s intention and is able to go through the rest of their life joyously accepting their situation, ridding themselves of grudges, and striving to help others, then they can be said to have achieved salvation. Even if the physical cure does not occur in this lifetime, their soul and causality will live on, and blessings will surely flow through to their next lifetime.