January 2016 Spring Grand Service Prayer (Oyasama 130th Anniversary)
Appearing before You, God the Parent, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, residing in this shrine, I, Rev. Wesley Mikuni, head minister of Taiheiyo Church, representing the congregation, pray to You with utmost veneration.
God the Parent, You began this world where there was no form, and further created mankind out of Your deep desire to see us lead a joyous life. Sustaining our existence over millions of centuries has been, by no means, an easy task. The blessings we constantly receive as a result of Your love and Your care for mankind is truly more than we can ever expect.
Despite this, through the course of history, the original mind of purity and sincerity has been tainted by the evils of our self-centered imagination. The thought that all is well if it is well for the self-alone, has given rise to entire nations of people fighting against each other over land, resources, wealth, power, and even over differing beliefs. How anxiously You have waited until the preordained time when all was revealed about the truth concerning Your creation, and the purpose for mankind’s existence.
Having been received as Shrine on October 26, 1838, Oyasama spent 50 years teaching us through Her words and writings, the means by which to purify our minds and achieve salvation. Through Her example we were shown that neither poverty, nor ridicule, oppression, nor illness, should prevent one from feeling true joy about the boundless blessings we receive daily and constantly.
This month marks the date, 130 years ago, when Oyasama shortened her natural term of life in order to step out and save the world. Even to this day, we feel Her ever-living spirit, constantly near to guide and protect us. In commemoration of Her parental sacrifice, and in expression of our gratitude for Your unceasing providence, we will now perform the Seated Service and Teodori as taught by Oyasama, with our minds as one.
Please accept the sincerity of our prayers and sweep away the evils from the minds of mankind, so that we can realize a world full of joy, peace, and harmony, even a day sooner.
JANUARY 2016 SERMON
Good morning and Happy New Year to those I am seeing for the first time this year. Thank you for returning to Taiheiyo Church for the Spring Grand Service in this significant year, the year of the 130th anniversary of Oyasama. I’m sure that our unified sincerity has been happily accepted by God the Parent and our Foundress. I would like to ask for your kind attention for a few minutes while I share with you the Divine Directions given in the days leading up to the lunar calendar date of January 26, 1887.
As those of us who have studied the life of Oyasama (the Foundress of Tenrikyo) may know, she physically lived to the age of 90. We also learned that she shortened her term of life by 25 years to step out and save the world. Yes, Oyasama had been teaching that the natural term of life is 115 years. In today’s world with the advances in modern medicine and healthcare, 115 years seems well within our reach. But back in the 1850s, this was regarded as utter nonsense. The average life expectancy in those days was 40 at most. It would be like someone saying today that human beings should live to 200 year.
But let’s go back to the weeks prior to January 26, 1887 to recount the series of events that led up to that fateful day.
On December 8, 1886, Oyasama staggers as she comes out of the bath. She said, “It is a sign that the world is going to move.” At the time, the followers had no reason to believe that this may have been a foretelling of the grave situation looming ahead. In fact, this date by the Gregorian calendar, was actually New Years Day, January 1st. So it’s likely that people interpreted her words in a positive way, meaning the world would change for the better. In the grand scheme of things, this actually proved to be true.
On December 11, 1886, Oyasama suddenly fell ill and became critical. As was customary by then, an inquiry was made through the prophet Izo Iburi in the next room. The followers were told, “Sah, sah, the time is fully ripe and pressing. I have already told you everything but you have not understood at all. No matter how much I explain, there is no one who understands. This is my regret. You must reflect deeply on the life of doubt which you lead.”
Remember that these are the words of God being delivered through Oyasama, or in this case Izo Iburi. What was it that the followers did not understand at all?…It was, of course, the importance of performing the Service. Oyasama stopped breathing and her body became cold. The followers realized their error of not performing the Service, and vowed to do so.
Starting on the next day, the followers performed the Service in apology, but it was done without the musical instruments; in secrecy at night; and behind locked gates, so as not to attract the police. Oyasama’s condition improved, but she would not take meals for the four days that followed.
Then on December 17, 1886: Oyasama’s condition grew worse again. The followers inquired once more through Izo Iburi. They asked, “What should we do about Oyasama’s health? Should we perform the Service during the day as well as at night?” The answer came: “Sah, sah, I have already taught you everything up to now. I shall not tell you to do this or that any longer. Surely you must have understood. Surely you must have been saved…No one understands the circumstances. No longer shall I direct you to do this or that. It will be up to the mind of each person. I shall not direct you any further.”
The followers were startled and asked Shinnosuke (Oyasama’s grandson and the first Shinbashira, Head of the Church) for his consent to perform the Service properly. However, Shinnosuke, fearing consequences by the police, could not accept the proposal.
It is easy to second-guess Shinnosuke’s decision, looking back now and saying that he should have simply agreed to perform the Service as God had been urging. But remember that Oyasama had been jailed 18 times before, just because the followers broke the law by performing the Service. In those days, going to jail was scary business. Abuse, mistreatment, even torture were not unheard of. Although there are no documented accounts of Oyasama being beaten while in police custody, other abuses such as solitary confinement, being forced to kneel while restrained for long periods of time, in the bitter cold of winter is quite probable. Shinnosuke, just 29 years old at the time, could not bear the thought of Oyasama being imprisoned at the age of 90.
On December 20, Shinnosuke finally approached Oyasama and had lengthy discussion with her. Without quoting the entire dialog, I can tell you that basically Shinnosuke was trying to bargain with Oyasama, asking her to give a directive that would uphold both the directions of God and the laws of the country. Oyasama said the answer should be clear; that his attempt to find a way to separate matters is wrong, and that it wouldn’t do. She urged him to carry out at once what she had been telling them to do.
He continued to try to bide time, making excuses that they needed time to practice the hand movements of the Service, that they would build an institute and practice the Service so that they could perform it in accordance with her direction.
But Oyasama held steadfast and explained clearly: “Sah, sah, with each of you, to settle the mind is to settle the Service Performers. If there are no difficulties, the mind cannot be truly set. It depends on your heart, on you mind. Ask me until you fully understand. Once I give the order, I shall not rescind it. You have come through 49 years without understanding my will. Now the time has come when it will spread all over the world.”
Here again, there was a foretelling that something big – global – was indeed about to happen, but Shinnosuke, only thinking about the situation with the shallow human mind, kept inquiring about permission to establish Church Headquarters, so that they could abide by the law and also perform the Service without fear of Oyasama being taken away. He the put the burden on Oyasama, saying “You taught us that the souls of the instruments and models of creation were born at this residence; that you descended to this residence because it is the Jiba where the creation of human beings and the world began, and that the souls of the rulers and our souls are the same. If asked about these points, how are we to answer? We do not know. We cannot defy the law.”
The response this time was to became one of the most famous of Divine Directions, which put everything into perspective: “Sah, sah, because Tsukihi exists, the world exists. Because the world exists, things exist. Because things exist, your bodies exist. Because your bodies exist, law exists. Although the law exists, to resolve your mind is primary.”
Again, the followers performed the Service every night, and Oyasama’s health recovered until February 17, which was January 25th by the lunar calendar. On this day, Oyasama’s condition worsened. Upon inquiry through Izo Iburi, God spoke: “Sah, sah, I shall begin to level the ground completely. Sah, sah, with the portals opened, opened, I shall level the ground all over the world. Sah, I shall step out to level the ground. Sah, sah, shall I open the portals and level the ground? Shall I close the portals and level the ground?”
Everyone replied “open the portals and level the ground.” and at that moment, the fan used for invocation flew open. Then they were told, “The approaching confrontation…you may not know what confrontation it is. I draw everyone to me. I shall open the portals to the whole world, open, open, open. Everything will be entirely changed.”
The following day was the 26th by the lunar calendar. It had already been designated as the day for the monthly Service, which Oyasama had been consistently urging. But that day fell exactly on the one-year anniversary from the date a group of followers performed the Dance with Hand Movements (teodori), which resulted in Oyasama being arrested and jailed. That memory weighed heavily on everyone.
At noon on that day, Oyasama’s condition became critical. That’s when Shinnosuke said, “Only those should perform who are willing to risk their lives no matter what measures the police use to stop the Service.” And at one o’clock in the afternoon, those 19 people with their firm resolve set about performing the Service. The Service ended at about 2 o’clock (fast service!) and as the Service came to an end, Oyasama gently withdrew from physical life so peacefully that it appeared as if she had fallen asleep.
Does this scenario remind you of anything? What are we taught about the soul of Oyasama? Going back to the Truth of Origin, the story of the creation, we are told that Izanami-no-Mikoto said “Now that they have grown so tall, in time they will reach the height of human beings five feet tall,” and thus confident that her children would fully mature, withdrew from physical life with a smile on her face. So Oyasama, who possessed the same soul as that of Izanami-no-Mikoto, knew that her children, her followers, would be able to spiritually mature, absent her physical presence.
But in the immediate aftermath, the followers were undoubtedly shaken. After all, Oyasama told them that the natural term of life was 115 years, so everyone expected her, of all people, to live to that age. Some were so distraught that they said they couldn’t show their faces back home because they were telling their followers that Oyasama would surely live to 115.
Amid their grief, the following direction was delivered through Izo Iburi: “All that I have said was put into a container of truth. But now God has opened the portals and stepped out. Because of my love for you, my children, the Parent shortened her live by 25 years to step out and save the world from now. Observe well what the path has been and what the path will become. When I asked whether I should open the portals or keep them closed you answered, “ Please open the portals and level the ground.” I have done as you wished. Sah, there was a thing that I had intended to give to my children but I was not able. I shall bestow this truth on you step by step hereafter. Remember this well.”
So you see how everything makes sense? Like a movie, you don’t really know what’s going on until the very end. Then all of a sudden comes the revelation and everything is clear. Oyasama desired to spread these teachings and to the perform the Service, but the followers worried about the law & the police. Oyasama told them that the single-hearted performance of the Service was the means to universal salvation, so it was above the law. Still they hesitated, so she shortened her life by 25 years to accelerate the spiritual maturity of her children; and to set out to save the world.
In fact, the years following Oyasama’s withdrawal saw Tenrikyo spread like wildfire throughout Japan. Just to give an idea of how quickly Tenrikyo grew, in 1891 there were only 32 branch churches of Church Headquarters. Five years later in 1896 there were 1,292 churches in every prefecture in Japan. At its peak it is said that 1 in 8 people in Japan was Tenrikyo.
How did it grow so fast? Let’s go back to the last divine direction I just read. It talks about a thing that Oyasama had intended to give her children but was not able. But that the Truth would be bestowed hereafter. What is that Truth? Of course, it is the Sazuke. By the Truth of the Sazuke, we are taught that Oyasama is constantly working, around the globe to save the world as she had promised. This is the reason it is so important for Yoboku around the world to administer the Sazuke on people who need help, as often as possible. This is the way we will be able to convey the teachings; the way we will have people awaken to the Truth through their own salvation; and the way we will make progress toward the goal of the joyous life world.
In this significant year of the 130th anniversary of Oyasama, I urge all of you to deepen your faith, deepen your relationship with Oyasama, and share that feeling with those around you. Thank you so much for your kind attention today.