May 2016 Monthly Service Prayer
Standing in Your presence, God the Parent, Tenri-O-no-Mikoto, enshrined in this altar I, Rev. Wesley Mikuni, head minister of Taiheiyo Church, representing the congregation, invoke with reverence.
In the vast expanse of the dark universe, You alone resided and conceived of creating a world full of life and vitality. A world that would bring You joy by watching over all your children living merrily alongside one another. We are living each day in accordance with your divine intention, keeping a bright and spirited mind, and sharing the significance of single-heartedness with others.
We are also living each day with gratitude for Your unyielding workings in keeping us alive and our bodies functioning properly. It is only through your grace that we are able to experience the many joys of life, and we are deeply grateful.
Today is the day we have been granted to conduct the monthly service at this church. It was just 141 years ago that the location of the Jiba was identified by Oyasama. In celebration of that momentous occasion, which paved the way for the Kagura Service to be performed in it’s true form at the birthplace of humankind, the service members will now unite their hearts as one, and return our minds to the Jiba of origin as we perform the seated service and sacred hand-dance. It is our hope that our spirited performance will be accepted by You, and reflected back to the earth in the form of blessings for one and all.
As civilization has expanded and diversified over countless generations of rebirth, the original purity of our minds has become tainted. This is due to the self-centered usage of our minds, which alone we have the power to control.
In performing the monthly service today, we humbly pray for Your help to sweep clean the minds of the world and make everyone awaken to the truth of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind.
May our prayers also help those who are now suffering from illness or troubles so that they too can experience the joy of salvation, and join us in working to save others. On behalf of the congregation, I sincerely pray for all of these blessings.
May Monthly Service (Sermon)
Good morning and thank you all for returning to Taiheiyo Church, and a Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers here today. Last month we observed Oyasama’s birthday and today Oyasama is honored again as the “mother of mankind.” What better way to show our love and our gratitude to Oyasama than to perform the Service as cheerfully as we have just done. I’m sure that God the Parent and Oyasama are smiling down on us, and is showering us and the community with blessings. May I please ask for your attention for a few minutes.
So May is known for Mothers’ Day, and May Day is Lei Day, in Hawaii. May 5th is Boy’s Day, or Kodomo no Hi in Japan, and Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. But in Tenrikyo, what is May known for?
Anyone know what happened in May of 1874, and 1875? Two very important events actually, and if you ever studied the life of Oyasama, or was paying attention to the monthly service prayer, then I’m sure you read about it.
For most followers, the important dates that stick in our minds are October 26, 1838, the founding of Tenrikyo when Oyasama was settled as the Shrine of God; January 26, 1887, when Oyasama withdrew from physical life. Also known is April 18, 1798, when Oyasama was born.
But what about May? The first event occurred on May 5th (by the lunar calendar). Let me give you a hint: It involves Oyasama going back home to the Maegawa residence in Sanmaiden. Yes, it was the Kagura masks! Oyasama, accompanied by Shuji, Iburi, and others, went to the Maegawas to retrieve the masks. We know that Oyasama asked her brother, Kyosuke Maegawa to make the masks, and that he passed away in 1872, so the masks were stored at the Maegawa residence for at least a period of two years before Oyasama went to receive them. But why the wait? Why not go get them as soon as they were finished? After all, aren’t the Kagura masks an integral part of performing the Service for universal salvation?
We can only speculate that, like many of the things that Oyasama did during her time as the Shrine of Tsukihi, She waited for the timely season, when the followers were spiritually mature enough to comprehend the significance of the masks. Tenrikyo always talks about “the seasonable time,” most notably, the three-year period leading up to each 10-year anniversary of Oyasama.
Even in our own lives, we can look back and think about when the best time it was for us was to start driving a car, or joining the workforce, or going to shuyoka, or getting married.
Oyasama used many agricultural metaphors in the Ofudesaki (book of revelation) and the Mikagura-Uta (songs for the service), so I’ll give you my own story. When I took over the church in November, I had the bright idea of planting a vegetable garden so that we can grow our own veggies that we could put on the altar for Osonae. I didn’t have any experience with gardens and knew nothing about planting seasons, so I just threw a bunch of seeds in the ground and waited.
To my surprise, the seedlings popped out of the soil in just a few weeks, then I transplanted them into the ground and they began to grow. Especially the tomato plants, they grew very thick and bushy, but despite the amount of green leaves and new shoots, there were no tomatoes. I read that generally tomatoes take anywhere from 60 – 90 days to mature and bear fruit. Here I was, four months in, and still no fruit; barely any flowers either. I was ready to give up, but just the other day I finally saw some green bulbs appear on one of the vines! It took almost 6 months for the first fruits to appear, and it might be another month before they ripen. Just last week, I noticed that a baby eggplant finally started to grow, too. I couldn’t help but think that the delay in bearing fruit had to do with planting too early – it wasn’t warm enough yet, so it wasn’t the right season.
But back to the Kagura masks. When Oyasama saw the masks for the first time that day She exclaimed, “With these, we shall be able to perform the Service joyously.” Her attendants then put on the masks for the first time and tried the hand movements for the Service. I wonder what they were thinking?
It wasn’t until a full year later though, in 1875, that the second significant event also happened in May. This time it took place right at the residence and involved Oyasama, Kokan, and five others. Can anyone guess? Right, that was when the Jiba, the spot of human creation, was identified. In fact, it was the 26th of the month, the same as the other 2 significant 26th dates in Tenrikyo.
Did you know that there are a number of other milestone events that occurred on the 26th of the month?
Jan 26th – Oyasama’s withdrawal
May 26th – Identification of the Jiba
August 26th – First Service performance with all instruments
October 26th – Oyasama settled as shrine – start of Tenrikyo
December 26th – Oyasama starts to wear red clothes and bestows the Truth of the Sazuke for physical healing for the first time.
Back to May 26, 1875. The Kagura masks had already been brought to the residence, and now the location of the Jiba had been identified. Can you imagine the elation and excitement in the minds of the followers? For those that may not know the story, it goes something like this: On the previous day, Oyasama instructed the followers to sweep the residence clean, since the next day was the 26th, which had special meaning due to it’s affinity to the day of origin of the Teachings. Then, around noon of lunar calendar May 26th, Oyasama first walked over the cleaned premises Herself, and came to a stand still when She arrived at a certain spot. She marked the spot, then told Kokan and the others to take turns walking over the premises blindfolded. They all came to a stop at the exact same spot. Masu Tsuji was not drawn to the spot at first, but after putting her daughter Tomegiku on her back, as instructed by Oyasama, Masu also arrived at the same spot and was unable to move from it.
Once could say that the way Oyasama went about identifying the location of the Jiba was kind of a staged performance, having everyone blindfolded and arriving at the same spot, then having Masu Tsuji also stop at the same spot only after putting her daughter on her back, because Oyasama already knew the location of the Jiba and could have simply pointed it out.
However, by identifying the Jiba in that particular manner, people thought of it as nothing short of a miracle and thus the followers were convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that the true spot of human origins had been identified.
Incidentally, it is also said that the location of the Jiba is the same spot where God the Parent’s original revelation had taken place 38 years earlier on October 26, 1838.
In this way, Oyasama gradually guided the early followers along the path of salvation, taking incremental steps toward the complete performance of the Service, which was her ultimate goal to save humankind: First writing down the words, then teaching the songs and the hand movements. Next introducing the story of creation and the workings of Tsukihi within the verses of the Ofudesaki, then retrieving the Kagura masks for the Service and assigning the Service performers. The next step was identifying the spot of the Jiba.
Still, there are a few more steps along the way until the Service could be performed completely, but as we are running short of time, I will continue talking about this progression next month. Thank you for your kind attention.