February 2016 Monthly Service Prayer
Appearing before You, God the Parent, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, enshrined in this altar, I, Rev. Wesley Mikuni, head minister of Taiheiyo Church, representing the congregation, pray to You with sincere devotion.
As the original Creator, You designed the laws of nature that govern our physical existence, and since the dawn of time You have watched as the universe slowly unfolded. Out of your desire to begin a world where life would eventually flourish, the earth was created through the providence of heat, and then cooled with the providences of water and wind. Finally, after the lapse of long years, settled between the sun and the heavens, the time for the creation of human beings had arrived.
That was over 900 million years ago, and through Your divine care and nurturing, we have matured into the human beings we are today. The miracle of life and all its wonder, glory, and passion, is more than we can ever expect. Unknowing of the enormous effort that went into our creation, we have used our minds and bodies for our self-centered pursuits, without regard for others.
Fearing our dreadful and dangerous path, You appeared in this world through Oyasama at the turning point of our existence, and taught us the way to live in accordance with Your intention. One by one as each of us comes to understand the truth concerning Your creation and the path of single-heartedness which will lead us to the goal of the joyous life, we become spiritually awakened, and are overcome by a tremendous sense of gratitude and satisfaction.
Today we brothers and sisters of the path in Hawaii have gathered to perform the monthly service, and to receive the truth of the Kagura, where You will manifest once more the immense energy by which humankind and the world were created and thereby enable us to return to our true and original state.
Please accept the sincerity of our prayers and sweep away the mental dusts from the minds of humankind, so that we can put an end to all suffering and realize a world full of joy, peace, and abundance.
FEBRUARY 2016 SERMON
Good morning and thank you all so much for returning to Taiheiyo Church today. Happy Valentine’s Day to all in the congregation. Show of hands, who purchased or received a dozen roses this year? As a bean counter, it just seems like too much money to spend…I’d rather give Keiko a dozen string beans that I spent the past few months raising in my garden; of course they aren’t as pretty. In any case, for the ladies that did receive their roses this year, congratulations, you picked a really wonderful man! I would like to ask for your kind attention for a few minutes while I share with you some of my thoughts.
As we completed our three-year, one thousand-day season and commemorated the 130th Anniversary, I’m sure Oyasama was very pleased to see the spiritual maturity of all her children. After all, that’s what she had been urging during the 50 years of her divine model. The Instruction Three by the Shinbashira, has served its purpose well in providing us with a daily reminder of the guiding principles of faith, as well as the right dose of motivation to continue our efforts in spreading the teachings and doing missionary work. It’s a timeless document that we can always refer back to whenever we need a boost of spirituality.
But after returning from my trip to Ojiba, which I will talk about later in my sermon, I decided to put away the Instruction Three and go back to reading the Ofudesaki as part of our morning service ritual. Only this time rather than simply reciting the customary number of versus, I decided to do some research and created a timeline that provides a historical backdrop to accompany the versus in the Ofudesaki. Also, we have been reading the verses according to a thematic breakdown of the book, published by the doyusha.
So really, this is a more academic study of the Ofudesaki, trying to understand or relate to the meaning of the verses with regard to what was happening at the time in the life of Oyasama, as well as those living at the residence and the early followers. I can’t speak for everyone, having to listen to me dissect the Ofudesaki first thing in the morning, but for me it’s very interesting, educational, and inspiring learning about the literal and metaphoric meanings of the poems.
I believe this exercise resonates with the Shinbashira’s words in Instruction Three, urging Yoboku to “study and internalize the teachings” so that we can put them into practice each day. I’m intrigued by the way new meanings surface from the scriptures, depending on what is going on in your own life, or based on the daily news. After all, the Ofudesaki, as well as the Mikagura-Uta, are full of revelations about truth of the world we live in; the creation of humankind; and the principles of cause and effect.
The more we study and ponder over the scriptures, the more enlightened and spirited we become. Let me share with you some examples: The first section of the songs for the service is traditionally translated as follows: Sweeping away evils, save us please, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. We learn this from the onset of our faith, for many of us when we were children. But in Japanese, ashiki o harote tasuke tamae Tenri-O-no-Mikoto is ambiguous as to the subject and the object of that sentence. Who is doing the sweeping, and who is being saved? We are taught that the individual does the sweeping using God as the broom.
Of course there is only so much that we can do as human beings in terms of sweeping away the evils of our minds and of the world. God knows this. God knows how weak and undisciplined we are; how we are creatures of habit, and how bad habits are really hard to break. Our characters are really hard to change, too. We are experts in compartmentalization, right? When we step into the church we are super devout, sitting through this extremely long service. But many times the moment we step out of the church, we revert to being ourselves – faults and all….I am an impatient driver. I’m all about efficiency, getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, which is why for many years I avoided putting the One World, One Family bumper sticker on my car. I thought I’d be giving Tenrikyo a bad name when a driver sees the sticker on the car that just cut them off. In fact my friend called me on my phone when he saw me zipping past him on the freeway one day.
God knows how weak we are…I consciously tell myself to slow down, to drive with more aloha; that the way I drive is a sign of arrogance but it’s hard to change. Yes, God knows how weak we are. That is why, in the Osashizu [Oct 1, 1898] it says “Three-tenths will depend on the individual and seven-tenths will be the foundation.” In other words, when we pray, three-tenths of the outcome will depend on man’s own efforts, and seven-tenths will depend on God’s grace. Three and seven come together and we receive ten-tenths, or complete providence. So don’t worry too much about having to make a complete change. Just make the effort to better yourself by three-tenths and lean on God to take care of the rest. Interestingly, 3 x 7 = 21, which is the number of times we recite the first section.
I also read on the internet where someone translated the first section as: Evil sweeping, save them please, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto. Did you catch that subtle yet significant difference? Instead of please save US, it’s please save THEM. In Tenrikyo, one of the basic tenets is to place others before yourself, which is why I really love this translation. When we do the seated service shouldn’t the focus really be on saving others, versus saving ourselves? Think about it from this perspective when you perform the daily services and I am sure you it will completely change the way you feel about the service. You will want to sing louder, and with more spirit, because you’re consciously thinking about the sweeping of the minds of the world, not your own.
Another example I wanted to share with you is a little scientific, and a little far out there, but it goes like this: About a month ago at our narimono practice, I asked everyone about their interpretation of Section Two (choto hanashi), the part that says Kono yo no ji to ten to katadorite fufu wo koshirae kitaru dena. Representing this world’s earth and heaven, husband and wife have come to be made. Many people said that the characters of warmth for the earth and cold of the heavens represented female and male characteristics. I’m not objecting to that interpretation, but then wouldn’t it be stated backwards? Ten would be husband and ji would be wife. Also, what do you make of the hand movements?
This could have bothered me for years, but just last month, UCLA researchers proposed that the moon was created 4.5 billion years ago when a small planet known as Theia, collided with earth. Previously, it was thought that Theia just grazed the earth, but that didn’t explain why the chemical composition of rocks taken from the moon and the earth are virtually identical, and why the earth’s heated core is much larger than would be expected for a body its size. This led scientists to theorize that it was actually a head-on collision that caused Theia to essentially be fused into the earth, and also for its debris to be scattered into orbit and eventually merge to form the moon.
Going back to the hand movements of the service, could this motion be symbolizing the contact and explosion between the earth and Theia? This would also provide us with the meaning of “representing the earth and heaven, husband and wife were created…” The fusion of earth and Theia (forming the moon), used as a model for the joining of the cells of husband and wife in reproduction to produce a child. Section two ends with Korewa kono yo no hajime dashi, or “This is this world’s beginning,” which could refer to the celestial beginning of the earth and the moon as we know it, and also it could refer the beginnings of human life on earth. My sloppy explanation here does not do justice to the fact that the more science, medicine, and our general knowledge about the world advances, the more apparent becomes the truth of God’s teachings.
Of course this is my personal interpretation. I encourage you all to think about this or similar phrases in the scriptures because it’s not about right or wrong, but rather the thought process that allows for the deepening of your faith, the spiritual maturity that Oyasama so urges.
Before I end my talk today, I would be remiss if I did not tell you a little about my recent trip to Ojiba. The purpose of course was to attend the 130th anniversary spring grand service, and I was overwhelmed by the number of followers that were in attendance that day. If you see the aerial photos taken on that day, you can imagine just how packed it was, not only in the main sanctuary, but also in the inner courtyard, as well as outer courtyards of the south, east, and west worship halls. My eldest daughter, Kira, met me in Tenri that morning, and by the time we arrived at church headquarters it was so crowded that it took minutes just to weave through all the people to make it into the inner courtyard. Of course there were no seats open despite hundreds of pipe benches that were set up. Eventually we were able to sit, but it was still pretty cold. In his sermon, the Shimbashira recounted the days leading up to the physical withdrawal of Oyasama, as I had done in my previous sermon. At the end of his talk he again mentioned that although the anniversary event was completed, we should consider this not as an ending point, but a starting point to vigorously go out and spread the fragrance of these teachings to others. I would like to encourage all of you here today to invite just one person to join us at the service each month. Thank you so much for your kind attention today.