Good morning everyone, and thank you for returning to Taiheiyo Church, as well as for your daily efforts leading up to this day. We have just completed our Autumn Grand Service and I’m sure that our spirited performance of the service has surely brought joy to God the Parent and the ever-living Oyasama.
The Autumn Grand Service is THE most important service in all of Tenrikyo. It may seem a bit strange to be performing the Grand Service so early in the month since we still have over 2 weeks until October 26th, when the Autumn Grand Service will be performed at Jiba.
Someone pointed out that the lunar date of October 26, 2017 actually corresponds to November or December on the Gregorian or solar calendar that we use today, so even the service performed at Jiba will technically be early. Still, we recognize the date of October 26 as the date commemorating the founding of Tenrikyo: the day Zenbei offered his wife Miki to God the Parent. The rest, as they say, is history…but we’re still writing that history because the path is still so new and fresh – this is really the spiritual beginning of the world.
This year marks the start of the 180th year of Tenrikyo. Before long we will be greeting the 200th year since the founding of the teachings. Where will we be in our spiritual journey 20 years from now? Where will the path in Hawaii be in 20 years? 20 years might seem like a long time, but it comes in a flash. If we think back 20 years, to 1997, we can all probably remember where we were and what we were doing. For me it was the year I moved away to Japan, but unfortunately, it wasn’t to Tenri…
That was when I decided work abroad and see how far I could progress in my chosen profession. I picked Tokyo and thought “What better place to use my Japanese; the sky’s the limit!” As a bilingual CPA, working with Fortune 500 clients, I thought I was pretty special, and soon forgot about my previous 30 years growing up and living at the church.
It’s scary how fast the human mind and the self-centered imagination takes over when you stray away from the path. I became so focused on my career and began to work long hours. My home life began to suffer and yet, it didn’t really bother me as long as I was achieving my professional goals. Even my job title, “Controller,” was symbolic of the dust of arrogance that had consumed me.
Just to clarify, it wasn’t like I was drinking, partying, womanizing, or gambling my money away at pachinko, but I would bring all the stress from work home to my family, so arguments and complaints became a daily routine. I also had no English-speaking friends who lived nearby, so deep down I was depressed and lonely despite putting on the outward appearance of success.
During those years I was shown divine guidance in the form of several serious asthma attacks that left me hospitalized for up to a week with doctors using the strongest medicine they had just to keep me breathing. I experienced the worst suffering when I was fighting for every single breath, for about three days without getting any sleep. It was so agonizing that I was ready to give up, but my dad and brother came to visit and pray for me, and miraculously I pulled through.
But the human mind is frail and within a few months, I was back to my old self, thinking that it was my body and my own merit that got me to where I was.
Then something happened in 1999 that would change my life forever – Jenna was born. At birth there were no signs of a problem, but within several months it became obvious that she was seriously delayed. My marriage went downhill and we eventually separated so I knew it would be a struggle to stay in Japan. My mom was so worried, she urged me to come home saying that Jenna was Kamisama’s way of showing me my causality, and pulling me back to the church. It was only after I returned that I was able to settle my mind and accept responsibility for my misuse of the mind.
As you know, Jenna was raised by the proverbial village: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and friends. There is no way she could have made it this far without the love and the blessings from everyone, praying for her and looking after her. And then, when I met Keiko, it was like God giving me a second chance to re-live my adult years! I’m so grateful because not many people get that opportunity; a complete do-over in life, except this time with God the Parent and Oyasama really connected with our family and our lives.
They say true sincerity is constancy – following through with your resolutions, long after the suffering is gone. I will continue to do my utmost as the Head Minister of Taiheiyo Church, to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors and to see just how far and wide we can open up this path in the next 20 years to greet the bi-centennial of Tenrikyo. Please join me in this quest, and thank you for your kind attention today.