Due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year, the Church Headquarters’ April Monthly Service was conducted only by the Service Performers, and the general followers were not allowed to attend the Service inside of the Main Sanctuary. Furthermore, during the long holiday in May, the Sanctuary was closed except for the morning and evening services. Thinking of that, the first Shinbashira’s diary, written in 1882-1884, comes to mind.
Please allow me quote:
“Nowadays, the police come as often as three times during the day and three times during the night. Moreover, we have been ordered not to allow even relatives to stay overnight. If it is discovered during one of their night rounds that a relative is staying, we are severely reprimanded. If a worshipper is discovered by them during their day rounds, he is summarily taken to the station and reprimanded. Therefore, we posted signs at all entrances: ‘Worshipers are refused entry.’ But followers come to worship. Some even tear down the signs. There is not a single day when worshippers do not come. There is not a day when the police do not come either.”
The first Shinbashira moved to the Nakayama residence from his birthplace when he was 15 years old. From 1882 to 1884, the first Shinbashira was between the age of 17 and 19.
The crack down by the authorities continued to intensify. In 1882, Oyasama and Matsue were summoned to Nara Police and charged a fine in February, two completed layers of the Kanrodai were confiscated in May, and Oyasama was detained for 12 days at Nara Prison in October.
However, looking at the list of fraternities in the same year, 5 in Yamato region, 10 in Kawachi region, 4 in Osaka region, and 2 in Sakai region were established. Although the crack down by the authorities intensified that the first Shinbashira was forced to post signs to refuse worshippers, the faith of the followers at the time also intensified and strived more for salvation work.
This is the faith of our predecessors.
In 1896, after Oyasama had withdrawn from physical life, the Ministry of the Internal Affairs announced the “Instructions from the Internal Affairs Department.”
The contents of this circular were a crack down on the activities of Tenrikyo, which were claimed to be medical interference, aggressive donations requests, and gender confusion.
Matching the trends in the regional newspapers, the printed media in unison were spreading the chant that Tenrikyo was a cult.
The church activities and missionaries’ actions were monitored closely by police authorities. Police officers were dispatched to and closely inspected the church services.
Under these circumstances, church after church were established in 1896.
Even in those strict and controlled conditions, there wasn’t a decline in the enthusiasm of our predecessors.
Let us now take a look at who were those people—our predecessors who devoted themselves to salvation work back then? Were they so called “happy people,” who had honorable position, higher education, abundant wealth, and trouble-free family? Probably not. I believe they were people who were drawn to the path after suffering from illnesses or other problems and then engaged in salvation work fervently.
Today, from time to time, we wonder what is going to happen from now on. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, we cannot return to Jiba, nor we cannot conduct the monthly services like we used to. We wonder, “What is going to happen?”
I think our predecessors also thought, “What is going to happen?” However, their thoughts were more like, “What kind of miraculous blessings or wonders are we going to next after administering the Sazuke?” “What is going to happen?”
In the Divine Directions, we are taught,
If you worry, the principle of worry will be set in motion. You need not worry.（Osashizu M22. 7.3 / Trial translation）
You worry because you do not understand the true principle you are supposed to accept. (Osashizu M22.9.19 / Trial translation)
Although they were also in the midst of crisis or illnesses themselves, our predecessors put aside their own concerns and their family affairs, and engaged in salvation work.
I think, instead of thinking, “what is going to happen?” in regards to their own concerns, their mindset transformed to, “What kind of salvation will I be able to accomplish?” with full of joy and excitement.
There is a Divine Direction Rev. Shirobe Umetani received in response to his inquiry before he left for home in Osaka on August 17, 1888.
“Sah, sah, single-hearted salvation comes from the path of natural spontaneity. On the path of natural spontaneity, it will not do to care only about your family or yourself. The path of natural spontaneity is called natural spontaneity because it is to be followed at length. Following the path of natural spontaneity entails going through a path of hardship, so I speak of the delight that lies ahead. Following a path of abundance will lead into hardships in the future. Sah, sah, the path of natural spontaneity. I teach you this truth and bring delight to all. Sah, sah, wait for the truth of natural spontaneity far into the future.” (Osashizu, August 17, 1888 / Partial trial translation)
There are three points being expressed here.
Firstly, ones heart must not be taken away by personal family affairs.
Secondly, even in the midst of all kinds of circumstances, one must never give up on salvation work.
Then thirdly, salvation work is to experience hardship, and difficulty is an essential part of it. It is because one can experience empathy, and able to feel the same feelings.
I would like to strive to not forget these three points.
From here forward, what kind of salvation will I be able to accomplish? From here forward, I wonder what kinds of matters will occur. It would be wonderful if we could joyously engage in salvation work.
Today, you have performed the Autumn Grand Service for the 183rd year of the Teachings.
In the Divine Directions of October 21, 1900 we read:
“With everything, how can one work without delight? No one would work. Because there is delight, people gather, and although one cannot do this or that all at once, their spirits becomes lifted.” (Osashizu: October 21, 1900 / Trial translation)
If there is nothing to look forward to, no one would make efforts. Because there is something to look forward to, people come together and have discussions. I believe this must mean that things may not go as people hoped for from the very beginning, but they will become spirited because they have something to look forward to.
“Everything will settle if delight is brought to all. (…) Because it brings delight, you work. Because you work, things get accomplished. But work done out of a sense of obligation or duty will bring about no lasting truth.” (Osashizu: October 21, 1900 / Partial trial translation)
I believe this means that the foundation upon which things settle is through bringing delight to all. If people are doing things out of obligation, it does not accord with God’s intentions.
Even during such times of Covid, we, ourselves, must follow this path with delight and bring joy to those around us. It is a difficult time during this Covid—a trying time. However, because it is during such difficult times, we must not be outdone by our predecessors. Let us, together, find joy as we go forward with salvation work.
(Edited by Honjima Tsushin Editorial Staff)