Good morning. I was greatly surprised when the Bishop appointed me as today's speaker. This is my first time. I am not a minister of a church or anything and I have very few life experiences to speak about. But, despite my apparent inadequacies, I welcome this opportunity and am elated with gratitude for being placed before you. I thank God the Parent and Oyasama and I also acknowledge the Bishop's trust in me for giving me such responsibility. Thank you.
By reflecting on my life, I would like to speak today concerning my joy in these teachings. I certainly hope that I can convey purely what is in my heart and that it will be appropriate to this setting.
I was born into this church, literally. It was in the hospital just down the street, that my mother gave birth to me when my father serving as secretary here at this Mission Headquarters. During that time, my father would go door-to-door engaging in missionary work after he had finished with his duties for the day. That meant walking around this neighborhood at night, seeking people who would listen to him or people who would accept his administration of the Sazuke. Obviously, I did not realize what he was doing till many years later when I had heard from my parents of the many episodes regarding his missionary activities. They were days filled with hardships and difficulties as one can imagine. Finally, enough followers had gathered and my father was allowed the establishment of a church. I was just over a year old and my sister, Yoko, had just been born. Therefore, as with all our brothers and sisters, we began to participate in the Service before I can remember. The church was just a part of life, I thought.
However, as I began to advance in school years, I began to notice that I was different, that my house was not like other people's houses. There, in the living room, were three shrines with offerings of vegetables and fruit and two bottles each with sake in them. I was embarrassed of bringing friends over. Perhaps it was because I could not explain to them what was in my house. The sign outside our home read, "Tenrikyo Brotherhood Church” in Japanese. I couldn't understand. This is house, not a church. A church building is supposed to be much bigger in size and it should have a big cross on its roof. Ours was a beat-up, old house with a leaking roof and a variety of different styled chairs to seat about 20 people. Once, a friend who had come over to play asked, "Hey Jiro, what's that? Looking over towards the shrines and service area, I answered, “Oh, that’s part of my father’s hobby. He's into old samurai stuff." My friend was obviously puzzled, but then so was I. My father could not explain to me what the church and his mission was all about. I am certain all children born into churches experience some of the things I did.
And, so my father would force us, without explanation, to partake in the activities of the church, especially the morning and evening Services and doing hinokishin. For the most part, I did not enjoy these activities. I tried countless times to plan my running away from home. I was unsuccessful in carrying this out. I have an older brother who did in fact run away from home. I was so envious of him.
I became more and more resentful towards my father for I had begun to blame him for putting me on this earth and in a church and as its supposed successor. I had much to complain about and nothing to be happy for. I did not like my situation and I only had of the day I would leave the church as well as my father.
An opportunity for me to study in Japan came my way. I was hesitant at first. But when I realized the implications of my going to a totally different country away from my father and away from the church, I decided I should go. It was my chance to escape. Little did I know at the time—I was only fifteen—that I would end up staying six years in Tenri City, the place where Tenrikyo Church was headquartered. I even entered and graduated a seminary school. After those many years in Japan, I became so Japanese that I was actually scared to speak to anyone in English for fear they might laugh at my pronunciation.
I finally returned home, the epitome of a young Japanese straight out of an elite seminary school, ready to engage in full-time missionary work and to change the world. I was going to have every man, woman and child of these entire United States and Canada become a Tenrikyo member. I was on fire!
But then, reality set in. First of all, I could not communicate adequately with those around me, namely my younger brothers and sisters. I could not understand the American way of thinking. We were taught in seminary school that faith begins with obedience and that no questions were to be asked; you just accept the teachings as is and practice it. As you know, it is not that simple. Secondly, the father I finally came to understand and respect because of my new found understanding of the church and my knowledge of Japanese, became, once again, an adversary to me. I did not feel my father was doing it right. If he were, he wouldn't still be in the old, run-down house which I had left years ago. He should have had enough followers to build a bigger, better church—of course without the big cross on top of the roof. I just could not get along nor communicate with my father. My habit of complaining and finding faults in others started once again. And again, I began dreaming for better days or for a better situation.
I entered college and eventually graduated with a degree in Social Work. I began work as a bilingual social worker, hoping to gain some knowledge in how the secular world helps people and to use that knowledge for my work in the church. It was a good experience in that I was able to meet with many compassionate professionals, those who give of themselves to help those who are homeless, who have AIDS, and those who just needed a helping hand. It made me realize that I needed to strengthen myself and moreover, correct my shortcomings.
Without truly understanding the entirety of the teachings and without being able to openly communicate with my father, I quit my social work job and thrust myself into being a fulltime Tenrikyo worker. What did it mean? It meant that I would devote myself full-time for the activities and the operations of the church and since our church does not have a payroll, I would not have an income. I like to call it, "religious slavery." I wanted to throw myself into this church so that I can better grasp the teachings and also in the hopes that I can somehow understand and communicate with my father, the head minister of our church.
It has been close to three years since I became a church person. I have learned greatly during this time and the joy of faith has developed so much that I can hardly believe it. It is due to the warm guidance of God the Parent and Oyasama, giving me signposts along the way and leading me to a better and better path. Especially during the past year which was ridden with events, have I finally found peace within myself and found that I can now communicate with my father. How wonderful it feels to do so.
As some of you may know, it was exactly a year ago last week, that is, October 12, 1991, that I was out on a Saturday night with a group of friends videotaping the night scenes of Boyle Heights. This video was to be used for a skit the following week at the annual Young Men's and Young Women's Association Joint Convention. I was in the passenger seat of one of the cars. We decided to film a house party which was in progress and it was accompanied by mariachi music. As we entered the alley, we noticed that a car was blocking the road and the group of people surrounding that car did not allow us through. Michael, the driver of our car, sensing trouble, immediately began to back out of the alley. on First Street, I felt there was no need to fear any danger.
Then, a huge blast broke out and the window shattered onto my lap. The smell of gunpowder and smoke stung my nose. Before I realized what had happened, I noticed blood dripping down the inside of the windshield and blood splattered all over within the car. I finally knew that I had been shot and the warm but shrieking pain in my leg was proof that a bullet had hit me. Michael immediately pulled the car to the side, summoned a police officer who happened to be at the street corner. I could not believe what was happening. I kept telling myself, "It's a dream. Jiro, wake up. It's only a dream." I was awake. The pain was too real to be a dream. I asked Takako, who was with us in the other car, to administer the Sazuke. I felt extremely comforted by her administration.
After three operations, three weeks in the hospital, hours of physical therapy and countless prayers and well wishes by numerous people, I have come to see the day where I can stand before you and speak. My doctor, prior to the first surgery had told my parents, "We may have to amputate your son's leg, so please by prepared." Apparently, the damage done by the one bullet had blasted a section of my femur, the thigh bone, and had done considerable damage to the ligaments and some of the arteries. I hadn't realized how bad the situation was. I was told I would never participate in any sports activities again.
But today, the doctors are somewhat amazed with my recovery. I cannot sit seiza upon this altar. The knee does not bend far enough. Perhaps, Bishop, it is time to put chairs on this stage. Nevertheless, I can do just about everything else. I am due for one last operation to remove the steel plate and screws which presently hold my leg together and also to take out more of the bullet fragments which are still lodged in my knee. Doctors expect a near 100%recovery.
Another event I must talk about concerning God guiding me occurred back in August I was working at Mrs. Yuge's church which was being prepared for the Inauguration Service. I was there helping to build the Service area. I was working with a table saw, pushing wood with my hands. Suddenly, I slipped. I pulled back but it was too late. The sharp blades of the power saw chewed my left thumb. Blood gushed out and I could see clearly the gash was open right to the bone. I was taken to the emergency room and the doctor summed it up by saying, "Boy, it look's like shredded hamburger meat." It required eight stitches. My father came to the emergency ward and simply said, "You must become more joyous." He then administered the Sazuke for me. What a time to become joyous, I thought. Later that day, I came here to greet the Bishop for I had to catch a plane to Hawaii to participate in the Translation Conference being held at the Mission Headquarters there. The Bishop smiled at me and “Shinpai nai, Don't worry. God is pulling and guiding you along." I tried explaining what had happened, of how the wood had slipped and that I was in a hurry. He just smiled again, saying “It would have happened regardless of the situation. It was supposed to have happened." This was something for me to think about on the five hour flight to Hawaii.
My thumb is fine now. Reverend Nomachi performed the Sazuke every day while we were in Hawaii. As a result, it healed so quickly that I came home a week later and pulled the stitches out myself, so that I could continue working at Mrs. Yuge's church. The Sazuke truly works. Isn't it an incredible Gift?
Along with these guidances shown through my body, I was exposed to many a person’s one-on-one lectures and talks. These talks were more difficult to bear than the actual pain of the physical guidances. Things like, "You must walk in step with your father. You must become one with your father," or, "Your understanding of the teachings is not complete." It was difficult because I thought I already knew the teachings and that my relationship with my father had nothing to dowith the church. If it was a non-communicating type of father-son relation, so be it. I was going to practice the teachings on my own.
But a strange thing began to happen. I began to find time to ponder the teachings in my mind in light of what had been happening to me and all the talks which were delivered to me. I began also to look back at the words in the Scriptures which made great sense to me in the past. But this time, they were coming alive. For instance, the following verse truly struck me. This is the only verse in the entire Ofudesaki which appears twice:
Any and everything of this universe is the body of God. Ponder deeply and understand it well!
III:40 and 135
What a profound statement I'd like to add to this the following verses. It teaches:
You need fear nothing. Because My aim is the true and single-hearted salvation.
The daily concern of the Parent is singleheartedly how best I can advance arrangements to save all of you.
Imagine that. If we can view this entire world, the situations we are placed in, the obstacles which confront us, the social order of society, everything that we hear and everything that we see as God given—as God's body manifested—then there should be no room in ourselves to complain. God is always hastening our spiritual awakening, our spiritual growth. There is nothing in God which desires us to suffer. We make ourselves suffer because we cannot understand what is taught in the above verses. If we but calm our minds and attain that realization, we can clearly see God's intent and true joy within ourlives.
I could have easily been angered at those who took that rifle and shot me. In fact, there were two friends of mine who visited me at the hospital. They came on separate occasions. They both told me they would go after the guys who shot me. They would seek revenge for me. I told them both not to worry about it. I was fine.
Just as well, I could have griped about the table saw for making my thumb look like hamburger meat. But I was able, through these teachings, to view it as God given. As the Bishop had said, I was supposed to have had the accident in order to facilitate spiritual growth.
I spoke earlier about my father and how I have begun to communicate openly and freely with him. It was not he who changed. No way. He's70 years old and is a very hardheaded man. He still teaches judo three nights a week and thinks nothing of driving hundreds of miles of see his followers. He is not about to change now. But rather, it was I who changed. More specifically, it was my mind that dropped preconceived ideas of our relationship and I did away with the cloudiness in my mind. I reviewed once again the verses of the Ofudesaki. And now I am content and filled with joy. I cannot blame the guys who shot me or the table saw which hurt my thumb. It was the doing of God the Parent's warm concern for me to learn. And the best, most appropriate way to learn was through these events. And especially for being born under a man such as my father. I was placed in the most perfect situation. I was never destined to be born as a doctor's son or a farmer's daughter, or to parents living somewhere in the middle of Mongolia. I was placed here because God placed me here. When I realized that realization, everything began to fall into place. My understanding of the teachings came closer to complete. No matter how much I understood the teachings logically, without action, that is , without actively making steps to ponder and understand them and act on them, it had no meaning.
We here in the American diocese tend to point out the faults of the Tenrikyo Church. I know I did. We look at the ornaments and the rituals and the culturally rooted aspects of this church and say, It ain't gonna work here in America." We have tendencies to view the activities of this church as being geared only to the Japanese and that there is nothing here for us English-speaking persons. We might even look at the Bishop and his wife here and say they are in this country for a short time. After their term, they go home to Japan. How can we call this the American Mission, one might say?
We are believers in these teachings. If we truly profess to be, then everything in the Scriptures should make sense. In other words, there should be no doubt that it was written by God through Oyasama and that these Scriptures should be the basis for our quest towards the Joyous Life. Then, why is it that we still find things to complain about? Why is it that we hear so often negative comments made about our fellow brothers and sisters? And why is it that we can find faults in our parents, our head ministers, or even the Bishop?
I did not choose who my father was to be. Nor did he choose who his son should be. I did not have a say on which household I should be born into and I certainly had no say on what type of spiritual upbringing I should have. That goes the same with all of us. They are all under the Divine Control of God the Parent. If we but realize this fact and have the strength to lean on God, knowing that everything is done for our sake and for our spiritual growth, boundless joy will arise in our lives.
The following passage comes from Chapter Eight of The Doctrine of Tenrikyo. This is a favorite of mine and I hope it illustrates the attitude of the mind in view of our surroundings. It reads:
The sights and sounds of the world do not change, but our perception of the world—that which is reflected in our minds—changes. The world, which we had imagined to be a world of' "suffering, now comes to be perceived as a world of joy. When our minds are bright, the world is bright.
Of course, we should have concerns, which is different than complaining. But I believe that if we do away with the clouded mind, it will be clear to us which direction we should take this mission and our concerns will eventually be resolved.
Today, we dedicated this month's Service as the Autumn Grand Service, recognizing that God the Parent was first revealed to humankind through Oyasama on October 26, 1838. God knew that we humans would need these teachings to free ourselves from the darkness of self-centeredness and become awakened. And 155yearslater,we have yet to understand the teachings and utilize them so that we can indeed live joyously as we were created to.
Today, our activities are focused towards the 60th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Mission Headquarters. We may not find much significance in the number 60. But may I say that this, too, is a God given project and that it is prime time for all of us who are associated with these teachings and this church to make a sincere effort to realize God's profound intent and make steps to realizing joy from with in. Let us all stop the complaining process once and for all and develop a model for the Joyous Living within our churches. Let us look at our parents or our spiritual leaders as God given, knowing that they were placed there exclusively and uniquely for each of Us. This is not just to say, "take it and bear it." It is the true affirmation of God's working and God's parental affection. Ponder the statements made in the Ofudesaki and realize its truths. As any of you may remember, the Shinbashira has based his last two sermons at the Shinden at Jiba on the function of the church. Recall that he stated the following:
The expression "the Joyous Life of a church" signifies that a church is a place in which those who seek the Joyous Life—which is the intention of God the Parent—gather together. We are taught that if these people discuss things with one another, refine one another, enlighten one another, and give encouragement to one another, the atmosphere emanating from their minds will, certainly, be that of the Joyous Life itself, whether or not their natures differ, or whether their habits and temperaments differ.
I am happy today because I decided that I will act upon these teachings. I love and respect my father immensely. He knows it because I have told him several times now. And I thank God for guiding me to the point where I can say it sincerely. Jobi will tell you the changes in me as far as my relationship with my father is and how it has become infinitely better.
Indeed, the bullet was placed at the best possible place in my leg. The power saw shredded my thumb with the most perfect of accuracy. And I was given the best father I could ever ask for.
I have many things to learn and much to grow. I have made many mistakes in the past and I am sure I will at times fall from my present spirited state. But to come to the realization that God is doing things for me, I can no longer feel misery or suffering but know how to find joy. And we all know how productive we can be, whether it be in our jobs, school, or just helping someone, if our minds are settled and happy.
By the way, you must be wondering where my mother went in this speech. Well, she's seated over there and I didn't mention her because it's known what a wonderful, hardworking, humble and wise woman she is. She is the greatest. Boy, I am so grateful and so high right now, I can't stand it.
Remember, though, that we are always being provided for. If you are breathing and can hear my voice and see my ugly face, I suppose that is proof enough God exists through you and around you. The term, "God Bless You," is not truly in accord with our teachings. God is always with us, constantly and limitlessly. It's a matter of whether our minds are open enough to see it.
The Ofudesaki in Part V, verse 77, says:
When your mind becomes pure and open to reason, the truth will become visible at once.
I shall close by saying: May your heart always be one with God's.