Tenrikyo Pearl Church Monthly Service – 2009 January Grand Service
Happy New Year! Thank you to all of you for being here to attend the January Grand Service here at Pearl Church and thank you for your kind and sincere offerings. I am sure God the Parent and Oyasama is really happy to see you all here today and to have performed the service with joy and in high spirits!
This month being January is the grand service month when Oyasama withdrew from physical life on January 26, 1887. We are observing Oyasama’s 123rd Anniversary so today we will talk about happened during this time in 1887.
THE EVERLIVING OYASAMA
Before I talk about the time of withdrawal, I would like to share a story about Oyasama before She became the Shrine of Tsukihi in 1838.
Oyasama was a very compassionate person. In Rev. Yoshikazu Nakayama’s book, “My Oyasama,”1 he shares the story about the thief who tried to burglarize the Nakayama residence:
One night a villager sneaked into the Nakayama’s granary to steal some rice. The servants caught him in the act as he came out of the granary carrying the rice. They subdued him easily and were about to take him to the authorities when Oyasama said, “He must have been driven by poverty to steal.” She forgave the man and gave him the rice. I would like to reconstruct the events of that night based on the fragmentary notes and memories of (the) early followers, and to reflect on Oyasama’s state of mind, as revealed in this episode.
That night, Oyasama had just finished tidying up for the day as usual, putting everything in good order. The servants had all gone to sleep some time ago. While making Her rounds to ensure that the doors had been bolted and the fires extinguished, She heard loud voices swearing and cursing, apparently coming from the backyard. She went around to have a look, wondering what it possibly could have been at that hour of the night. She saw some servants encircling a man, who was wearing a hood to cover his face. He drooped his head as the servants yelled, “What does he look like? Take his hood off!” No sooner said than one of the men grabbed the hood to pull it off. Oyasama stepped forward quickly and stayed his hand. She said, “You must not do that. You must not take off his hood.”
From the standpoint of the thief, nothing would have been harder to bear than having the hood removed and his face exposed. From the standpoint of the servants who caught him, however, nothing was more important than satisfying their curiosity by removing the thief’s hood to reveal his identity. Each was acting on the basis of his own standpoint and interest which is quite true of society in general. Hence, the predicament of the thief and the curiosity of the servants were in conflict, just as all self-centered interest brings conflict in society.
Here, Oyasama stopped them, saying, “You must not take off his hood. After having done wrong, it would be painful for him to have his hood removed and his face exposed to the light.” Thus, Oyasama had already given complete consideration to the position of the thief.
These gentle words, however, fell on deaf ears, for the hot-blooded youths who had subdued the thief were caught up in the excitement of the moment. They pulled off his hood, and each one was surprised as the other to see his face. This was understandable, since he was not a stranger as they had assumed. He was a villager who had been a tenant farmer for the Nakayama family for many years and who had been permitted free access to the residence. Seeing his face, the servants became even more furious and screamed, “For years you have been indebted to this family and now you sneak into its house to steal. What a miserable ingrate you are!”
If Oyasama had acted considering only Her own position and interests, as all the others were doing, She would have been angrier than the others. After all, She had trusted his man and given him free access to Her house. It was a classic example of “biting the hand that feeds one.”
But Oyasama did not scold him at all. In fact, Her words took everyone by surprise: “Poor thing, I am sure that unavoidable circumstances have led you to do this. Come now, you need not hold back. Please tell me what it is that is troubling you.” Oyasama’s gentle words and magnanimous attitude were unthinkable to the servants who were listening. The thief was overcome with emotion as he listed to Her. Oyasama’s gentleness gave him reassurance, and he told Her all the circumstances leading up to this act. It was much as She had presumed. His father and his wife had been ill in bed for a long time, and he had many children to care for. Looking after his sick father and wife, there was no way he could make a living to feed his family. Though fully aware that it was wrong, he felt he had to steal the rice. He had chosen the Nakayama’s because he was familiar with the layout of their residence, having been permitted to come and go as he pleased. When Oyasama heard his, She replied, “I suspected there were such circumstances behind this. What a pity! Come now, you need not hold back. Take the rice home with you. I will ask my husband later. Now please hurry on home and cook the rice. Your children must be hungry for some warm rice. Since you have two sick ones to care for, you surely wish to give them medicine. Please take this and buy some medicine for them.” Thus, besides giving him the rice he had tried to steal, She also gave him some money to buy medicine.
Oyasama must have been thinking, “I did not know until now that there were people like you nearby who are in such suffering. That I did not know was due to my inattention. Please forgive my lack of attention. In return, now that I know, I will never let you go through such hardship again.” Here again, Oyasama has totally put Herself in the other person’s position.
Gently embraced by a heart as warm as Oyasama’s, even the most wicked villain would repent his wrongs and resolve never to do wrong again. Needless to say, the villager in question made a fresh start in life.
1published by Doyusha
This is one of many stories of Oyasama’s compassion.
In the latter years of Oyasama’s physical life, the Path experienced a rapid increase in number of followers causing the government to become alarmed and gave out a secret order to suppress Tenrikyo. Although we human beings describe it as hardship, She would gently thank the policeman sent to arrest Her, saying to those She left behind that She was “going out” or that She was “going to work.” Oyasama constantly urged the followers to perform the Service. But because of her subsequent arrest the followers were very hesitant in performing the Service. Now I would like to describe about the time of Oyasama’s withdrawal from physical life as written in the book “My Oyasama.”
On the night of (February 17, 1887) January 25 by the lunar calendar – the last night She was to spend in this world in physical form – Oyasama appeared to be in poor health and great discomfort. The followers immediately made an inquiry through Izo Iburi to learn of the divine intention behind this unanticipated turn of events.
The following day, (February 18,) was the 26th of January by the lunar calendar, the day for the monthly Service. The followers realized that they really had no choice but to comply with the divine will by performing the Service joyously on that day, particularly because they recalled how adamantly God the Parent had been hastening them to perform the Service ever since Oyasama’s physical condition had appeared to fail. Nonetheless, since many worshippers would be coming to the Residence on that day, as they did on the 26th of each month regardless of whether the Service were being performed or not, it went without saying that the police surveillance and control would be exceptionally strict. A single mistake would undoubtedly result in the arrest of Oyasama, regardless of Her present physical condition. This thought alone held them back each time they were nearing the point of deciding to go ahead and perform the Service. Unable to resolve this dilemma, they made an inquiry of God through the Honseki, Izo Iburi. The response was:
Sah, sah, on any matter whatever, you must listen and understand well, understand well, understand well. Sah, sah, each and every matter – sah, I have instructed you night after night, night after night, night after night. On this one matter, I told you to do it now, to do it at once. I instructed you to do it immediately. Sah, now at this time, I am in haste. Some of you say, “Respond to God’s will at once.” Others say, “Be prudent.” Still others say, “Wait awhile.” Sah, sah, this is no time for hesitation. The law – do you fear the law or do you fear God? Do you fear the law? It is useless to hesitate. The Service must be performed at any cost. I have told you this many times before. I am not instructing you in something new at this time. Which path will you take? Do not ask Me such a question. You should understand by this one instruction.
With this instruction, the followers realized that they must put into practice that which God had so often commanded of them, that which they had promised God – to cast away their worries and set about single-heartedly to perform the Service.
The followers began to prepare for the Service, mentally bracing themselves in anticipation of being arrested by the police and dressing warmly with two sets of underclothing and two pairs of tabi in anticipation of being arrested and taken to a cold jail. Then they began to perform the service which began in the afternoon at one o’clock and ended at two o’clock.
Crowds of worshippers had assembled at the time of the Service, and it is said that they numbered in the thousands. Such a huge gathering of people at the Residence was not likely to escape the authorities’ attention. In addition, the Service performers, deeply committed to fulfilling this great resolution they had made, performed enthusiastically. As a result, the Songs for the Service and the sounds of the musical instruments resounded loudly throughout the village. To the amazement of all, however, the police did not come. The Service was thus completed without incident, convincing the people that they had truly witnessed a miracle.
Oyasama appeared to be extremely pleased as She listened to the joyous sounds of the musical instruments. Just as the last line of Song Twelve was being sung, however, She peacefully withdrew from physical life.
Oyasama had withdrawn from physical life at the same time the Service had ended, about two o’clock in the afternoon. She was ninety years of age.
Words such as grief and sorrow, however, are not adequate to explain the followers’ feelings of the moment. They had believed that She was God in human form and, taking Her words literally, had believed that She would live until 115. They were unable to accept what had apparently just occurred, since She was still ninety years of age.
Lacking the strength to untangle the confusion in their minds, they realized that they had no choice but to seek guidance through a Divine Direction through Izo Iburi. They received the following revelation:
Sah, sah, I shall level the ground. Has everyone assembled, has everyone assembled? Listen and understand well. All that I have said until now 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 has shortened Her life by twenty-five years. Now, I shall step out and save the world. Observe well. 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 to level the ground, you answered, “Please open the portals and level the ground.” I have done as you asked. Sah, there were things I had intended to give to My children but I was not able. I shall bestow them on you step by step, hereafter. Remember this well.
Later on February 2 another Divine Direction:
Sah, sah, you do not understand, you do not understand. You do not understand anything at all. One hundred and fifteen years old, ninety years old – you do not understand this either. You wonder why I shortened Her life by twenty-five years. This you do not understand either. I have taught you My will but you did not understand anything at all. Therefore, in order to hasten the salvation of the world, I shortened Her life by twenty-five years. I stepped out to level the world through the open portals. It is because I am God that I can do such work. No one will be able to stop Me. God never tells you anything untrue. Listen and understand well. From now on, whatever you hear and whatever you see will fill you with joy. The path will be filled with delight. Understand well. I shall give you timely directions gradually.
This Direction explained the intention of the Parent to help the followers overcome their misgivings and grief. In the course of pondering the truth being taught to them, the followers found themselves rising out of their depression. They came to feel the depth of their Parent’s love for them, which was so profound that She had even withdrawn from physical life twenty-five years early in order to hasten their spiritual growth and to hasten world salvation. They further realized that She would continue to work as before, even though not physically present.
In the Osashizu: March 17, 1890 we read:
“Sah, sah, I am still living here. I have not gone anywhere, not gone anywhere. You must look at the path of daily life and ponder.” Unquote.
In the Life of Oyasama we read:
Oyasama, whose parental heart is dedicated solely to the salvation of all Her children, underwent every kind of difficulty and trial in high spirits to open a path of salvation for all humankind, and, in order to hasten their spiritual growth, cut short Her own physical life by twenty-five years. But the heart of Tsukihi remains alive now and forever at the Residence of Origin, providing for the growth of all humankind to spiritual maturity. Indeed, the miracles of salvation which occur daily stand as proof of the continuing life and work of Oyasama.
Thank you for your attention.
- Thank you to everyone who helped at the mochi pounding at Mission HQ on December 30 and for attending the New Year’s Service held on New Year’s Day.
- Thank you also to those who came out to participate in the monthly Mission HQ community Hinokishin Day last Tuesday at Ala Moana Beach Park. Twelve people from Pearl Church participated.
- This Sunday is Mission HQ monthly service from 9am and the following Monday is Nioigake Day from 9am.
- The BGA will be conducting their annual leadership camp and New Year park cleanup and BBQ picnic on January 24 and 25. Please see me after the monthly service for applications for the leadership camp. The New Year park cleanup and BBQ picnic is open to everyone. Please take this opportunity to invite friends and family, but please let me know one week prior who are going so that we may prepare enough food.